What makes a good Interim Manager in Food Manufacturing?

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We all know what makes a good manager: prioritising and effective delegating, efficient use of time, understanding both the combined and individual goals of the team, and so on. But we’re asking a different question. We’re asking what makes a good interim manager, and, more specifically, what makes a good interim manager within the food manufacturing industry. The characteristics of a good manager in this instance aren’t always as easy to identify, yet these characteristics are vitally important.

Acting as an interim manager can often prove to be more of a challenge than taking on a role as a permanent manager. Why? Because there are two distinct areas which need to work in harmony in order to be successful: your own experience, and the ability to draw upon this experience within a largely unfamiliar environment. Here’s what makes a good interim manager in Food Manufacturing:

1. Using Existing Experience

As an interim manager, you can be needed any time, any place, and in any department. That’s why a good interim manager has a broad knowledge of the food manufacturing industry as a whole, having had roles in chilled, bakery, dairy, poultry, meat, and so on. It may sometimes feel like your experience isn’t relevant to the specific job at hand, but a good interim manager knows how to translate their existing knowledge to a variety of situations, to bring true value to the team, and to the business.

2. Coming From a Strong Background

For many food manufacturing-specific positions, interim managers have come from food-centric backgrounds. A good interim manager for the food manufacturing industry will always be able to demonstrate expertise of the food industry specifically, with references from previous clients, and for Technical professionals – major retailers like Tesco, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons. Another badge of honour for candidates is having come through Northern Foods’ graduate management scheme, which produced excellent interim managers over the years with a wide variety of skills and exposure to different businesses under the old ‘Northern’ umbrella.

3. Communicating… with the Right People

Top notch communication skills are an essential characteristic of any manager, but for an interim manager in food manufacturing it’s not just about communicating; it’s about communicating with the right people. A good interim manager needs to be flexible in their approach. When parachuted into the business, they need to win the hearts and minds of the team, adopting a hands-on approach while maintaining a good relationship with the stakeholders and senior management. This will help to create harmony between existing processes and new ways of thinking.

4. Ignoring Your Title

General Manager, Technical Director, Operations Director, Commercial Director and so on… while having a fancy title is nice (and looks great on the CV!), it’s not the be all and end all of your experience as an interim manager. In interim management, it’s important to remember that there is less of an association between title and task than there is in a permanent role. Businesses often look for overqualified interims to ensure success, so a good interim manager will not feel constrained by a specific job title.

Overall, what makes a good interim manager is the ability to combine the above skills and characteristics in order to produce clear and exceptional results, at significant pace. No one said interim work was easy, but possessing the right skills, experience, knowledge, and frame of mind are essential elements for success. You must be able to parachute into any business and hit the ground running, instantly building good relationships with the team and the stakeholders. This will help to maintain trust with retailers, and show your client that you’re flexible enough to deliver what they’re paying you for. If they’re happy that they’re getting a return on their investment, everybody wins.