Interim executives deliver real results, in real time, real quick. An interim is unique in the depth and breadth of experience they bring to bear. This allows an interim to see hidden value in existing products/processes/systems, implement actionable strategies and gain true alignment necessary to optimize the business. The interim will review the investments the company has made into processes, organizational structure and systems. This will lead to a focus on the areas which can be easily measured and might yield the quickest return on investment such as profits, systems and process efficiency.
In a recent interview with The Philippe Matthews Show, Association of Interim Executives Chairman, Richard Lindenmuth sheds light on the most important component of any company in transition: its people. Lindenmuth, who has been an Interim CEO in a number of industries ranging from high technology to services shows how to gain people’s respect, trust, and engagement.
Interim executives are becoming a popular alternative to using a consultant or leaving a position vacant while a search for the right person is conducted. An interim executive also brings a fresh, unbiased review of factors driving organizational health and operational results. The interim executive does not waste time or company resources trying to secure a full time job, but is driven by the opportunity to make changes which lead to a sustainable value increase for all the stakeholders of the business. The client and their customers can expect immediate improvement in delivery, quality, and cost while a search is conducted to fill the permanent position.
Nearly every one of us has experienced leadership transitions that could be described as “good,” “bad,” or “ugly.” And the percentages of disastrous transitions are astoundingly high. As Australian sociologist Hugh Mackay says, “Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.” So what else should we expect but to experience our share of bad leadership transitions?
What I want to share here are a few of the complexities that make leadership transitions difficult and, more importantly, how to prevent these ugly transitions from happening to you.
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?
What do Bill George (Medtronic), Meg Whitman (eBay), Bob Wright (NBC), Lou Gerstner (IBM), Larry Bossidy (Allied Signal), Ted Turner (CNN) and Howard Schultz (Starbucks) have in common?
They were all outstanding leaders who revolutionized their companies by applying outside experiences and viewing through different lenses. Unshackled by past memories or limited perspectives, their successes were a product of “what can be?” versus “what has happened?”
Does that mean industry experience is overrated? Not necessarily, but I believe a talented leader with an outside perspective, fresh eyes and an open mind will usually outperform an industry veteran when important change is needed. Why?
Once the executive staff has agreed on the Vision and Mission, it is beneficial to develop a short list of values to be embraced by all members of the staff. These value statements will guide the team and provide checks and balances on the development of a healthy corporate culture. Following is a list of value statements I have used in different companies over the course of my career. It is advisable to pick no more than four to six.
CUSTOMERS ARE THE REASON WE EXIST
Without someone to purchase our products and services we would have no reason to continue as a business. Our sole purpose is to satisfy the requirements of our customers and through them provide the highest level of quality and product performance anywhere.
Over the past 3+ decades I have been both an organizational team member, and a serial entrepreneur. That journey has led to successes and failures and many lessons were learned the hard way.
Among my earliest lessons was learning to admit that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. After almost 10 years at a NYSE conglomerate, I had risen to Group Vice President by the ripe old age of 33, managing multiple companies with over 300 employees. When the opportunity was presented, I acquired my division and 2 subsidiaries. My rationale was that I knew these businesses inside and out, had hired most of the senior managers, and overseen the strategic planning for years. The division was a consistent producer of growth and cash flow. I had little problem raising debt on an 8:1 debt/equity ratio (after all, that personal guarantee clause was insignificant and would never be exercised). I slapped myself on the back, took my wife to Hawaii and bought a Rolex. Then I left for Japan and Taiwan to acquire strategic tuck-in companies that would increase our ability to grow market share. The Company was wildly successful; after all, contracts with the “Big Three” domestic automakers would drive our valuation through the roof. In fact, we were offered coveted contracts for the platform life of Ford’s Escort, Cougar, Thunderbird, and Bronco vehicles.
Until her death in 1996, my loving grandmother would often repeat the story about how I would try to command my older brother to finish his dinner. “Brian!” she would mimic my firm, not-quite-so-deep but still very bossy five year-old voice. “Eat your food!” she recalled me exclaiming. Brian, more than three years my senior, would simply reply “You’re not my daddy” reminding me that there was only one alpha male in the Phillips household at that time. Clearly, I was not in charge and had no business telling Brian what to do. However, the point I was making was valid and, if executed, would lead to favorable results (we could go out and play!). At the time I hadn’t yet learned the all-important notion of leading by influence.
This weekend I was talking to my mother-in-law and looked up from where she was sitting to see our attic door dangling from its hinges ready to fall and clock her in the head (not a way to get bonus points with the in-laws). So I called three carpenters to quote on the fix in addition to some other odd jobs around the house. You would think three carpenters, all with good credentials might think the same way, but surprisingly that was not the case…
First-year Change Agent members have access to the Interim Institute’s 4 hour audio program on the Fundamentals of Interim Management, and a one-hour strategy session to help jumpstart their interim career.
*$200 additional charge for Accelerator Program only applies for first-year members. After the first year, membership renews at $485/year.