Today companies operate in a complex global economy which is more diverse, connected by the Internet, and not very predictable. Many companies still pursue classic business approaches (inside-the-box thinking) with a focus on short-term results. Failure to focus on business improvement and adapting to the new business environment can cause many issues and eventually lead to delisting from a stock exchange, bankruptcy, or liquidation. How many of 1960’s “Fortune 500” companies still exist today?
In a recent NPR story about the rising demand for interim executives, Association of Interim Executives CEO, Robert Jordan shares that a temporary CEO is not a babysitter, but rather a specialized surgeon. “It creates a bias in favor of action and against playing politics,” Robert said, then commenting that Interim CEOs are “trying to solve a problem and work themselves out of the job.”
Association RED Team Member and Interim CEO, Richard Lindenmuth, is also interviewed sharing about his turnaround of Styrotek, an agricultural packaging company in California that contacted the Association in the midst of a 3-month drought and big financial losses. Dick was able to parachute in as Interim CEO and get the company quickly back to profitability. He says “you really have to listen – the solutions are generally within the company.”
I’ve done it for three decades, turning around companies from agriculture (such as Styrotek) to telecommunications giants (such as ITT). As interim leader, I have to parachute in, quickly gain trust and respect from all levels, determine a course of action, and unite everyone to stay that course—all within a limited timeframe.
It takes leadership strategies far beyond business and managerial chops, though certainly those are necessary. You can’t lead effectively without a connection to the people in the company; emotional intelligence is a must. Think of it as ‘strategic empathy’—being sincerely focused on the individual, but always with the big picture top of mind.
Whether you are an interim or a permanent CEO, these 7 tips for using strategic empathy bear relevance for anyone in a leading role.
Association of Interim Executives member, Yoav Cohen, is an interim executive who has successfully helped turn around many struggling companies. In a recent interview with MeetAdvisors, Yoav shares his experiences, and the warning signs owners should look for if trouble’s coming.
“Many people who run companies get comfortable with the familiar and are not managing the changes demanded by the market,” Cohen said.
Many companies are starved for effective leadership, and as a result the demand for great interim executives who will come in and do the work is increasing. Consider this passage from the book Traction:
The inability to make a business vision a reality is epidemic. Consider it a new take on an old quote: Vision without traction is merely hallucination. All over the world, business consultants frequently conduct multiple-day strategic planning sessions and charge tens of thousands of dollars for teaching what is theoretically great material. The downside is that after making you feel warm and fuzzy about your direction, these same consultants rarely teach you how to bring your vision down to the ground and make it work in the real world.
May 27, 2015 marked the first Interim Executive Conference, held in Chicago. The Rapid Executive Deployment Roundtable #1 (RED 1) brought together top executives from as far as Hamburg, Germany to focus on the growth of the interim specialty.
We kicked off the conference the night before at Highline:
We’ve been thinking recently about GT Dave, an entrepreneur who dropped out of high school and founded GT’s Kombucha at age 17. His parents swore by the health benefits of Kombucha tea and while GT’s homemade recipe was the foundation for a new company, what he actually did was create an entirely new category. GT Kombucha holds an estimated 60% of a $600M market, and it’s still growing strong.
Creating a new category requires two things above all else: an unwavering sense of mission, and devotion to quality. The challenge is that paving a new path does not always translate to instant success and understanding. At the Association of Interim Executives we believe in the power of interim executive management and have taken on a mission to be the voice of the specialty and to help companies around the globe succeed because of access to world class executive talent.
When do you bring an interim executive in to a company? In this video two veterans, John Collard, Chairman of Strategic Management Partners and Robert Jordan, CEO of the Association of Interim Executives, give a quick description. Do interims always replace existing management? Decidedly — no. Many times interims complement the existing team
Elusive growth, global market fluctuations, rapidly changing technology, and fragmented buyer behaviors are just some of the dynamics driving the need to have the right marketing leader in place. The question for many organizations often becomes when should such a leader be brought into the organization? Finding the right CMO takes significant recruiting resources and often more time than anticipated. Not all organizations are ready to make this commitment given their stage of development.
As the Red Queen told Alice, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” This is often true with most companies, they must grow or the competition will leave them behind. In order to grow faster they must also make changes in their processes. The key to effectively managing change is to create a culture that is willing to embrace change as the new norm. To be effective, you must ensure the whole organization understands that the status quo will no longer be acceptable. The first step in creating a change-management culture is to get everyone’s head wrapped around some very basic definitions:
Organization and coordination of the activities of an enterprise in accordance with certain policies in order to achieve clearly defined objectives
To cause to be different
A structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state
A person effective at change management