The Benefits of Using an Interim Manager from Outside Your Sector

Valtus

Experience and knowledge is cornerstone to good management. But have you considered hiring outside your sector? Here’s why it could be worth widening your search criteria.

There are two questions we typically ask when considering a candidate for a role. Do they have experience in similar positions and do they have experience in our sector?

The first is fairly non-negotiable for interim managers. Unlike perm hires, interims generally step down into a role rather than up. They are not there for growth and progression, but to complete a specific task or project. Therefore, extensive experience in similar roles is essential.

But how important is it that an interim manager has sector experience? Well sometimes, not so important at all. On the contrary, hiring someone outside of your world can have surprising benefits.

An outside perspective

Some fields call for high levels of technical expertise, making sector experience essential.

However in many cases, interims specialised in programme management, transformation or operational improvement can work comfortably across multiple sectors. Interims are flexible and adaptable, and more often than not, enjoy the variety the nature of their work brings them. A good interim manager sees the big picture, and is able to apply their knowledge to whole host of different organisations.

The most obvious answers aren’t always the right ones. While it might seem sensible to look for an interim with a background in your sector, one from outside will offer a more objective view. Those ingrained in your industry are likely to engage with the same thought leadership, media and training courses as you and your managers. Therefore, it can be harder for them to answer that essential interim hiring question: “What new ideas can you bring to our business?”

Innovation

Full-time staff come with two types of baggage:

  1. Sector-specific knowledge, which is a great asset except for when a fresh perspective is needed
  2. Organisational baggage, also known as office politics

Humans are political. In many ways, this is an asset: those who can play the game often have a lot to contribute to a business. But politics can also get in the way of vision, values, growth and long term objectives.

We have often written on this blog about the way interims break down issues embedded in internal practices. A manager not involved in office politics is always going to be bolder about suggesting changes than one who is.

The same principle applies to sector experience. While an interim with a deep sector knowledge will tend to favour industry-typical ideas, someone who is sector-agnostic can take a wider view.

It is not always necessary to make revolutionary changes, and sometimes a conservative, tried-and-tested solution is useful. But you are going for big transformation and an edge over competitors, bringing in an interim from outside your world pays off.

Transferable skills

When it comes to bringing in those from outside your sector, the key is to look for useful transferable skills.

Transferable skills can either come from a similar type or size of organisation or from working on similar projects, such as managing a change programme.

When it comes to understanding these skills, potential employers should dig into the narrative of the person they are considering hiring. Specifically, try to understand why they switched careers, sectors or professions. Aim to get a sense of how these transferable skills will benefit your organisation.

In summary

An interim from outside your sector can bring a perspective not affected by your industry’s echo chamber. It is hard to find new ideas when you always hire the same sorts of people and look in the mirror for advice. Focus on how a candidate’s transferable skills and individual traits could positively impact your business. They could be the key to a highly successful transformation.