Interim Insights: A conversation with Nick Maishman
Interim management can provide the opportunity to work in a variety of sectors, roles and with different people and business cultures. It can be fast paced and demanding, but it can also be extremely rewarding. We have spoken to several of our interim executives about their own experiences of interim management including Nick Maishman, who is currently working as an Interim Chief Scientific and Operations Officer for a pharma company. Nick was placed by our principal consultant, Ross Gordan.
Nick, why did you decide to become an interim manager?
There are three key elements that took me in the direction of interim, these were:
- Personal Circumstances – having moved locations and from full time employment, I decided to look at working for myself.
- Career Stage – I was at a stage in my career where I was looking for the kind of work where I could use the experiences I had to contribute at senior levels in a company. I was interested in roles where I could use my experience in a guiding and supportive way.
- Personal Style and Orientation – I like learning new things and I pick up things quickly. The idea of moving from one place to another, joining different organisations and not staying too long in each one actually appeals to me.
A conversation I had with a colleague who was working with me as a consultant interim manager, really prompted me to take the plunge into interim. I had previously discussed with this colleague about what it was like working as an interim, how they had approached this and the things that they enjoyed about it. I also then talked to an interim agency, they explained the pros and cons as well as discussing the kind of things that may or may not make interim work for me and I found it fitted my circumstances well.
What qualities do you believe are essential to be a successful interim manager?
It is essential to pick things up quickly and be able to take and occupy a role with confidence – often interims will start an assignment without knowing everything that has happened to date on a role. It helps to be comfortable with ambiguity.
The kind of roles I undertake tend to be management roles, with a relatively broad span of responsibilities. Other interim roles are much more specialised. In both cases, depth of experience can be key to fulfil what is needed with confidence.
If the interim role has a people management element it is important to have a style which that is supportive. I hadn’t realised how important the ability and desire to support, coach and impart confidence on a team was. As an interim you are not there permanently, so it is important to leave the team stronger and better functioning than when you joined it. For me this is one of the most rewarding things about interim management.
I have also learnt that it is important to exit well. The roles are temporary, and you have to avoid being “hooked in.” It has to be easy to move on without leaving colleagues dependent on you and without feeling you have to fix everything before you go.
What steps did you take when setting up as an interim manager?
When setting up as an interim I decided to set up a limited company. I did my research on this and took advice. It was important to get a good accountant and I chose to work with a company that provide accountancy support to individual companies.
What do you think is required to deliver a successful interim assignment, including building successful client relationships?
I try to undertake assignments where I at least know someone, whether this is through a contact that I know within that company, or it is via an agency, like Odgers Interim, giving me a point of contact just in case there are any difficulties.
What can really make or break an assignment is having good relationships with the people you work with; It is important to build good relationships from the start, and to understand what is needed from you.
The roles I undertake, typically result in weekly travel, Prior to COVID I was often traveling to Europe. It is important to understand the logistics required to undertake the assignment and ensuring that you can work to these and deliver the requirements of the role, without burnout.
Are there any mistakes or learnings that you have experienced in your time as an interim manager, or is there anything you would do differently if starting out again?
There is always an element of unknown in interim assignments, and you often don’t get much lead time, but I find it’s important to find out what your new boss needs from you before starting a role to assess if this is the right assignment for me.
To help weigh up factors before committing to a new role, I use a simple checklist to compare different options, based on the factors important to me. These include understanding travel requirements, the fees and how well does the role fit my skills.
The situations I have found most difficult are when it is not clear what is expected of me, and I don’t have a close relationship with my manager because they are not located where I work.
What are the positives and negatives you have experienced as an interim manager?
- The variety of locations, business types, and the new people I worked with
- Learning new skills and about new businesses
- The most rewarding aspects have been feeling that I have helped the team with improving their function in the business, enhancing their capabilities, and enabling them to grow into their roles.
The administration can be demanding. Different companies and agencies can require different forms of paperwork, including timesheets. Then there is the administration associated with working for yourself - tax submissions expenses and the IR35 status of assignments.
As an Interim it can be easy to fall into constantly thinking of the next assignment. Experience and increased confidence show that there will be other opportunities and it is helpful to learn not to worry if you do not immediately find something. It’s good to have a relationship with an agency who knows me, and to keep an active network with colleagues.
What are your top tips for those starting out on their interim careers?
Be open minded to the roles you are offered. Throughout my interim career I have been bolder and more adventurous, saying yes to several jobs that I previously would not have dreamt of undertaking. The first role I was offered was to work in Greece, which was further away than I wanted, and the nature of the company was a little outside where I had previously worked. This opportunity opened a lot of doors for me, it was a really rewarding role and I am so glad I said yes to it.
Whilst I do think it is important to be open minded – it still helps to understand as much as you can about what’s required before you commit.
Don’t underestimate the travel and make sure the logistics work for you and your personal circumstances.
Flexibility is key, being able to move from one role to another, hit the ground running and have the confidence to deliver.
For more information, please contact Zoe Spalding.
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