Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The argument in favour of mentoring

The concept of mentoring is well known in business – but what precisely is it?
Mentoring is often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the mentoree’s professional and personal growth.

Therefore – by default – a mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust. Or, perhaps, a mentor is a trusted advisor or guide or a person who has a sincere desire to enhance the success of others. So, it’s worth understanding a bit more about the benefits of mentoring……

Mentoring enables an individual at any level in an organisation to increase their network through the introduction to people and areas that they might not previously have had access to. Furthermore, mentoring can help individuals cope with periods of major transition and the mentor can help to navigate people through difficult challenges such as influencing key stakeholders, challenging existing mindsets – the status quo - and getting colleagues on board with change.

A mentor can also assist with identifying skills gaps which may be hampering career progression. At some stage in their career, most people will find themselves at a career crossroads which may manifest itself in them being overlooked for promotion or opportunities or unable to understand why the business saw the need to recruit externally. In these situations, mentoring can offer an open and independent perspective as well as objective feedback. Sometimes, we have to hear things we don’t like or want to hear…..

Managing people can often be an area where people can benefit from mentoring. Good people and inter personal skills are critical to career progression and a mentor can discuss management and leadership styles, ways to effectively engage with the team, improving cross functional working as well as looking at the people agenda through transition and change programmes.

It is important to state that too often people say that if you want to scale the corporate ladder, you need a mentor. Mentoring will not work where it is non-neogotiable – the person must genuinely want it and furthermore, if mentoring is only being undertaken for the purposes of paying lip service, it places an unfair and unrealistic dependency on the mentor.

Mentoring is highly dependent on the personal chemistry between the parties, who must both be committed to the process. A chemistry mismatch can occur for all sorts of reasons but, it must be a professional relationship and the process will lose sight of its goal if it becomes too comfortable where there is familiarity and a lack of challenge.

We all complain that time is our greatest challenge and too many people complain that there are insufficient hours in a day. Mentoring is an investment in time and blocking out time for sessions is essential – technology, particularly Skype, can assist where the parties are geographically miles apart, but nothing replaces real face to face engagement for a mentoring session.

We all like to focus on the positive and whilst mentoring is a process for moving forward, the process gives an opportunity to reflect on the past and sometimes, the mentor can share experiences from their career and the mistakes they may have made because the value in making a mistake is to understand what lessons can be learnt to prevent it recurring.

So in summary, whilst we understand the benefits of mentoring, what are the “absolutes?”
  1. Don’t do it for the sake of it – be committed to the process
  2. Invest time both in preparing for a session and follow up actions
  3. Personal chemistry – it must be right
  4. Be clear what the purpose is
  5. Mutual respect
Article written by Adrian Berwick

Macallam offer a Personal Career Transition service which is a hybrid of coaching and mentoring and assists individuals with the challenges of transition in their professional life.
For more information please call 01423 900804

Cognitive Bias

One of the earlier interim industry benefits (>10 years ago, before the 2008 financial crisis), was an independent interim’s ability to challenge client ‘cognitive bias’, for example, by suggesting betters solutions to ‘the way things are done around here’.

The interim’s ability to tactfully challenge came from experience across many clients and, especially, many sectors.
Client Challenge Example

I recently challenged cognitive bias at a Contracting industry client. Long-standing family and industry mind-sets and practices were tested to create new solutions collaboratively.
Example solutions included technologically advanced (for a ‘basics’ industry), end-to-end digital transformation of core processes and clean data sources for better decision making, having endured paper-based processes and dirty data for many years.

Imagine, if you will, basically educated road workers using mobile devices to capture risk assessment evidence (photos), to track job workflows and to reschedule work priorities; quite a transformation!
The client also turned around from loss-making to profitable in nine months on the back of this, and other cognitive bias challenges.

Commodity Driven Candidate Selection

The Interim Service Provider (ISP) challenge to clients’ mind-sets via their selected candidates appears to have taken a back seat in recent years. It has been replaced by narrowly specified candidate sector experience and CV brokerage introduced from contractor/commodity recruitment practices.
Interims now tend to meet with clients via ISPs selected for client sector fit rather than the ability to champion change and transformation based on broad skillsets and agnostic sector experience.

I think this practice does not well serve UK Plc and the client-ISP-interim industry.
As one respected interim recruiter put it recently: “'More of the same' only results in 'more of the same'.”

IR35 Likely Effects
An evaluation of the proposed 2020 IR35 changes is a likely dramatic impact on the current interim and contractor industries.

There will be a confirmation of independent interims outside IR35; and contractors becoming ‘part and parcel’ of the client and inside IR35, effectively employees.
The New (former) Interim Approach

The commodity-based marketing practices which entered the interim space ten plus years ago will be replaced, if not already, by consultative approaches to client solutions, above, say, £700 per day interim rates.
Multiple CVs emailed to clients will become passé, and ‘chats over coffee’ will make a comeback for both ISPs and interims to more fully explore solutions to critical client problems.

One recently visited IIM Platinum recruiter said he does not send CVs to clients, preferring to book coffee slots for clients to see three interims he knows can do the job.
I encourage clients and interims (when in an assignment, as clients) to take up this approach and ask ISPs to send interims they trust and know can do the job, rather than wade through copious CVs to select people, to then see as well.

Why should clients do all the work?
Perhaps this new approach could also serve clients in contractor selection?

Client Education
Key to a transition away from CV brokerage to chats over coffee with interims known to be able to do the job is client education.

Interims (per the IIM Surveys) find 60% of their assignments themselves, and ISPs the remaining 40%.
In my view, both interims and ISPs must educate clients in new ways of getting the best ideas, talents and capabilities for critical client change and transformation needs.

All three parties in the interim industry will win by preferring a consultative interim industry approach over client CV filtering.
ISPs will need to let go, though, of their fear of losing business by not sending many CVs to clients just in case they might send the right one.

ISP Branding
Another interim recruitment group I recently met has for quite some time separately branded their interim and contractor businesses not to confuse clients, and to focus consultants with the right skills on the right approach that fits the required client solution (interim or contractor).

Risks to Avoid
A risk I see (and two other ISPs recently visited), is the commoditised approach to interim engagement lacks sustainability.

Larger consulting houses (to whom commoditised CV brokering is anathema to their business models), will gain further market share in value-adding change and transformation work; and perhaps the interims too.

Another risk is interims forming interim practices with marketing capabilities to build on their 60% self-sourced engagements.
ISP Recommended Changes

A question for ISPs: how are you discerning, separately branding, marketing, and appropriately resourcing with skilled consultant’s client offerings?
For example:
  • Do you make a distinction between interim and commodity approaches in your recruitment processes – are they clearly defined, or confused – to best serve the client base?
  • Should your interim and contractor/commodity offerings have separate brands?
  • Are your consultants then working with the right approaches and client connections?

It is difficult to challenge client cognitive bias (a major client benefit) in a CV. However, half-hour chats with clients about their challenges and discussing, among other things, ways other industries solve similar problems is where enhanced interim industry value-add will be gained.
All three parties (client-ISP-interim) will then be served better, and the reputation of the interim industry will grow in response because of the progression to a consultative approach.

Of course, consultants do challenge cognitive bias. However, they lack the hands-on and in-depth leadership engagement that interims are renowned, to see what is happening deep inside clients’ businesses.

Article by Simon C Jones, Interim Finance Director/IIM Director









Friday, 25 January 2019

The Interim market, Brexit and beyond…

Time to reflect on 2018 and look forward to the year ahead. We are faced with an even more uncertain world with the continuing twists and turns on the political front, the now bumpy economic climate and the demise of a number of large businesses.   We are used to dealing with change and challenges; from economics to politics and clients to candidates but this is uncharted territory.

The fiasco that is Brexit with its various connotations of remainers / remoaners, hard exit / soft exit, good deal / bad deal, etc. has divided the country.  When you consider the complexities that include Trade, Customs Union, Legislation, Northern Ireland, Security, Education, Science, Energy, Farming, Environment, Healthcare, Transport and so on, it’s no surprise there are divided opinions.  With no one knowing how this will play out and what the ramifications are likely to be, it makes planning extremely difficult especially when the view of stakeholders is likely to be split.

In 2018 there have been casualties, not all Brexit related but a reflection of a tough climate.  The liquidation of construction giant Carillion early in 2018 with the accolade of becoming the UK's biggest corporate failure in a decade has put the construction sector under further strain.  Interserve is hanging on by its fingernails having once been a £3.3B revenue business now worth c£15m.  The high street is on its knees with a number of high profile collapses such as Maplin, Toys R Us, Poundworld and House of Fraser to name a few and many others struggling. Some of these businesses are being bought either wholly or in part from the Administrators which in turn is creating opportunities. Some businesses are embracing this through expansion of facilities and looking for bargain acquisitions.  Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct business is now a multi-billion £ business and I don’t think this has been achieved from being averse to risk.  It’s about seizing the moment but also ensuring that when these opportunities do come along you are in a position to act.  

The rhetoric is a similar scenario of the last recession with worries of another but somehow this feels different.  Brexit is fueling uncertainty and indecision.   How do you plan if you don’t know what you’re planning for?   Managing short-term requirements with longer term business objectives is proving very difficult as you can’t plan for the medium to long term with all these major changes afoot.

This is the very climate that fuels demand for Interim Executives.  Organisations that don’t want to commit long term with a permanent appointment find a short term solution is often the answer.   Many organisations need help with supplier management / rationalisation, customer service, cost control, planning, risk management and talent.

The interim market has additional complexities but paradoxically there are many opportunities.  Changes in IR35 legislation continues to ‘frustrate’ the market and having been already implemented to some degree in the public sector, I’m not so sure how things will transpire should the same happen in the private sector.  Public sector interims have been able to change tack and move to the private sector but if it hits the private sector, it leaves nowhere else to go. 

I believe many organisations are taking a holistic approach to talent acquisition. In the short term, they require immediately available Interims to deliver short term objectives whilst focusing on a longer-term approach by taking a deep dive into business imperatives to create a total strategic plan that has clearly defined goals, but one that can be amended as needs change.  Executing strategic objectives now requires an agile, responsive and flexible approach to meet the changing tide and businesses don’t necessarily have the internal capability or capacity to deliver hence the external help. 

Interim Executives provide a service to organisations in all stages of their development and plans.  It seems to me that now more than ever is the time for ensuring the mechanism remains in place for this to continue. This help is crucial to ensure survival and at other times growth.  It is usually driven by the need for change, transformation, restructuring, turnaround, projects etc. requiring a professional to implement and deliver.   

Organisations should continually be looking to improve and be more efficient.   Ways of growing either organically or through acquisition, improving efficiencies, improving customer services, acting on opportunities and kick-starting change projects could all be helped along through the utilisation of Interims. 

It’s interesting times and is making politics and business quite fascinating.  There’s a lesson here in resilience, persistence and integrity.   Businesses can learn from Theresa May’s approach which should be a lesson to us all regardless of your political affiliation.  Sometime you have to dig deep, be resilient and stick to what you believe. 

With an Interim population consisting of some very experienced, high calibre individuals, there is now more choice than ever with an increasingly diverse and committed professional possessing the tool kit to drive organisations forward.  Now is the very time we all need to dig deep, push the button and take steps forward or run the risk of standing still or even worse, going backwards.  

Steven Wynne
Managing Director
Macallam Interim

TEL: 01423 900804