Nov 29, 2016

Michael Chivers, Chief HR Officer at Maersk Line, gives us his thoughts on leadership and interim management.

What challenges do you see within Leadership and Change Management today?

– In my opinion, there are three big challenges affecting all leaders with a global mind-set. The business climate of global businesses is changing rapidly and we can see that the expected “flat world”, with a breakdown of trade barriers and true globalisation of capital and supply chains, is slowing down or even reversing. I also believe that the rise of populism is a response to our workforce, customers and partners recognising the inequality in wealth distribution. Furthermore, technology is racing forwards with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and increased use of software and services to replace work previously carried out by humans. The sum of these challenges requires employers to move quickly in order to find capabilities that maybe were not needed before as they race to review strategies that will enable them to win in the new environment.

What are the most important factors when hiring an interim leader in regard to competence, leadership skills and cultural fit?

– There are many different reasons why companies are reaching out for interims, but primarily it is because the expertise that they need for a limited period of time is missing in the current talent base. In my opinion, it is critical that interim leaders are courageous enough to give the input that we need, but not necessarily want to hear. The Interim Manager must have great “soft skills” to be able to identify key stakeholders and find ways to influence them, whilst at the same time understanding the culture well enough to navigate the system they are brought into.

What are your expectations of an Interim Leader/Change Manager?

– Courage, capability and conviction. A change leader must gain trust quickly, and if we assume that the skills and technical capabilities that are needed can be easily assessed and measured, the softer skills of building confidence and quickly influencing change, will become more critical.

What value does an Interim Manager bring to your organisation?

– Often the Interim Manager can act as a truth-teller, bringing experience from different environments, and helping the organisation recognise the scale of change needed. This alone is not enough however. The most successful Interim Managers are the ones who can help set a road map for change and be a voice of calm reassurance as the company moves towards its intended new state.

At what point does your organisation need an Interim Manager?

– Primarily, our challenges in Maersk and in my previous roles have revolved around the need for new capabilities in order to meet a changed strategy for success. This could be necessary anytime an organisation requires a reset, sometimes due to disruption (as was the case when Apple disrupted the established mobile communications business model), or when growth requires rapid acceleration or innovation.