What Is an Interim Manager?
Updated July 21, 2022
When a company needs to fill a management role quickly, they might appoint a temporary—or interim—manager. If you are considering an interim manager role, you may need to develop certain skills and demonstrate your capabilities as a leader to get the job. Even though these roles are commonly temporary, when you showcase your ability to perform effectively in the role, you can prove that you're a good fit for the permanent role.
In this article, we discuss what an interim manager is, how this role differs from an acting manager and manager and the skills necessary to succeed in the role.
What is an interim manager?
An interim manager acts as a temporary leader during periods of change or transition within the company. Typically, employers hire or appoint interim managers in order to fill a position on short notice. Companies may look for external candidates for an interim management position if there are no internal employees that meet the qualifications.
The interim manager may fill the role for up to 18 months or longer depending on the company's needs. Working in the role of interim manager can be beneficial for advancing your career and can sometimes lead to a permanent managerial position.
Related: How To Become a Manager
Differences between an interim manager, acting manager and manager
Interim managers, acting managers and managers may all have similar roles, but there are several key differences that make these titles stand apart from one another. Here are some comparisons between these managerial roles:
An interim manager is assigned to the role when there is no other manager present, usually due to a manager leaving the company. These roles are usually temporary but can become permanent if the employer feels comfortable that the interim manager can succeed in the job. Oftentimes, employers promote internal employees to the role of interim manager to fulfill a specific need or cause within an organization, such as initiating a new project or managing a newly developed department.
Acting managers take on much of the same responsibilities as an interim manager, but this temporary role is a substitute for the actual manager while they are out of the office. While an interim management role can sometimes result in a permanent position, acting managers don't remain in these roles.
Typically, when the regular manager within an organization is on a long vacation or out of the office due to extended illness, acting managers assume the job for a specified period of time. When the regular manager returns, the acting manager goes back into their normal role within the organization.
Acting managers direct teams and staff and take control of delegating tasks and completing projects, just as a regular manager does. Taking on the role of acting manager can show your employer that you have qualities to manage and lead, which can result in career advancements in the future.
A manager is a permanent role within an organization. Managers possess a variety of skills to direct business operations and lead staff in meeting company objectives. All managerial roles—interim managers, acting managers and managers—require leadership skills and the ability to make decisions and motivate employees. Interim managers and acting managers can showcase these abilities and develop the skills necessary to show employers that they are ready to accept a permanent management position.
Read more: What Are the Responsibilities of a Manager?
Essential skills for working as an interim manager
To be successful as an interim manager, it is important to develop your soft skills in addition to your hard skills. Typically, employers appoint interim managers based on several key skills, and when you work to improve your skills, you can show your employer that you are qualified to take on the job. Several essential skills for working as an interim manager include:
Interim managers move into the role because they demonstrate their leadership skills. The ability to motivate and work with your team to achieve objectives and maintain productivity is important for success in the role. Demonstrate your leadership qualities by initiating team projects, inspiring staff to perform above average and contributing to the growth of your department and organization.
Taking on a management role means organizing tasks, schedules and responsibilities. Your organizational skills are important for making you stand out as a leader and can show your employer that you are capable of taking on multiple tasks and responsibilities. Additionally, you can demonstrate your organizational skills as an interim manager by delegating project tasks, maintaining department documentation and keeping the work environment clean and safe.
Success in the role depends on your ability to plan and integrate strategies that move processes to completion. Demonstrating your planning skills as an interim manager means analyzing directives and outlining a structure for completing tasks. If you move into the role for a specific project, or to finish a project that was already started, demonstrate your planning skills by reviewing your team's input, listening to feedback and implementing changes or approaches to project plans.
Interim managers depend on communication to interact and collaborate with staff members. To be an effective interim manager, demonstrate your ability to communicate verbally and in writing with staff. This usually means developing your listening skills and ability to explain concepts and to give and receive feedback. You should also be able to create clearly written instructions that are easy for team members to follow.
Making tough decisions is an important aspect of the interim manager role. Demonstrate your abilities to seek information, ask for input and weigh your options when making decisions. You can further develop your ability to make informed choices by practicing decision-making techniques like analyzing advantages and disadvantages and conceptualizing the outcomes of your choices. Similarly, you must evaluate the outcomes of the decisions you make to make better choices in the future.
Hard skills, like technical skills and the ability to perform tasks on a computer or digital platform, are equally as important as the soft skills you develop to be successful in the role. To develop these skills, research the responsibilities of the role and take steps to learn any software, project management applications or other computer technology required for the position. Use what you learn to develop your expertise in these areas so you can prove yourself an asset as a manager.
Tips for working as an interim manager
As you develop your skills and learn the essential aspects of being an interim manager, you can add to your success and advance in your career. The following tips can be helpful for you to develop in your management role so you're prepared to advance to a leadership role in the future:
Let your employer know you are motivated and eager to take on the position to show you're ready for a management role.
Request feedback from your supervisors, ask what they expect of you and learn about what you need to accomplish on the job.
Set objectives that you can achieve during the time you work as the interim manager, and keep these goals realistic and attainable.
Seek out mentors to help you learn new skills and improve in your weaker areas so you can be successful in the job.
Aim to motivate and inspire your team to improve its overall performance and productivity.
Communicate regularly with your employer to provide updates and ask for additional direction if you have new tasks or responsibilities.
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