An ex-athlete, two business leaders, a top sports coach and a professor will come together to form a relay team with a common goal: to share experiences and insights for the benefit and inspiration of managers on Interim Day 2017. Who has the fastest leg of the race? The smoothest change-over? The best organised race?
On Tuesday 31 January, we held our first ever Interim Day at the celebrated Grand Hotel in Oslo. The programme included professional updates followed by a gala dinner and the Interim Manager of the Year 2016 award – another first. I'll be coming back to this later.
For the inspiration and education of the 60 or so participants, we put together a “relay team” consisting of managers, both with and without a sports background.
Given my former career as an athlete and relay runner, using metaphors from the world of sport is an obvious choice for me. In the context of the Interim Day, with several contributors sharing their experiences in a race (including being timely!), the image of a relay race came so naturally to me that it was almost impossible not to use it in my role as master of ceremonies.
By the way, I am by no means alone in seeing parallels between sport and employment, coaching and management. Many would agree with me that the world of work has a great deal to learn from sport – and vice versa. Which is why it was one of the most obvious thematic hooks for Interim Day 2017.
Knowledge and experience are attributes that can – and should – be passed on. Like a relay baton, if you will. One man with a wealth of experience, who is particularly generous in sharing his own experiences and encouraging others to do the same, is Kaare Frydenberg. Kaare is also well known for initiating and implementing a host of excellent and important races in the business world.
In what was the first leg of Interim Day 2017, he emphasised the importance and benefits of building a sound corporate culture based on appropriate core values. He also took pains to stress the fact that the behaviour of the management (Walk the talk) is absolutely crucial in determining the success of the desired corporate culture.
With his witty, engaging lecture, spiced with humour and personal experiences of a long and exciting career in management, Kaare succeeded, as always, in enthusing his audience. He touched on many of the key points that he has written about on the Interimleder blog (in Norwegian).
Kaare concluded by talking about communication in management, referring, among other things, to research which states that managers who are better at downward than upward communication are generally more successful.
Not so strange considering your job is to persuade people to come with you. Management is not a solo race!
Lars Lemhag was quick off the mark for the second leg after his change-over with Kaare. Lars has worked for many years as an independent interim manager as well as being at the top of his game in the industry. On the Interim Day, he shared his insight into the focus of companies with different forms of governance, and how different forms of governance affect the framework conditions for management in businesses. His conclusions were probably a little surprising for many in the audience: management is largely the same, regardless of the company's form of governance, but must be adapted to the distinctive character of the owner!
Although he ran the fastest leg of the race, Lars managed to share many useful hints and tips for interim and other managers who are new to a business. Among other things, he recommends implementing what he calls a “mini audit” among employees to find out how things really stand in the business. In other words, talk to the people who work there! In his experience, when the brief for an assignment is issued by the board/owners/management, it rarely tallies with reality. To succeed as the new manager, you should make your own assessment of the situation.
Finn Aamodt, former national coach in alpine skiing (among other things) and now chief coach at Olympiatoppen (an organisation that is part of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports) took the baton from Lars Lemhag with a firm grip. He quickly took us behind the scenes of top level sport where results are apparently created by individuals but where the teamwork behind them is what makes it possible for them to excel. According to Finn, there are essentially two factors that create winners in alpine sport: working with a team, and giving 100% – at all times!
From a leadership perspective, Finn talked about top level sports management in general – which is about being strong, visible and continuously working towards your goals – and his own role as a coach which is about enabling the athletes to reach their full potential as part of the team. This involves tough discipline and demanding expectations, as well as the ability to show that you care about the individual.
Integrity without love is brutality.
In the context of the lecture theatre, psychologist and professor of management, Jan Ketil Arnulf, is a sprinter. He runs his leg of the race effortlessly, and we follow him (so to speak) from a distance through the facts, observations, paradoxes and theories he presents on management. Most of which he delivers with great humour.
Managers, for example, do not have a particularly good aptitude for self-assessment. This is not a mere claim – it is a fact that Jan Ketil can substantiate with data and graphs. We nod and smile when he says that it takes employees mere seconds to tell the “clown” from the good manager. Of course, it's the other managers he's talking about, isn't it? Or what..?
By the way, no one is a born manager! Jan Ketil is absolutely clear about that. As in sport, there are those who have been endowed with a greater talent for management, but this talent is nothing without training. Research shows that the right kind of experience can add value to management, but not all managers acquire value-creating experience. Companies that facilitate management training and development do this better than others.
“Only systems that take management training seriously will be capable of offering the experience that managers require as a matter of course.”
The final runner in the Interim Day relay – the anchorman – would undoubtedly agree with that.
When a genuine Olympic running champion is ready to take the baton at the last change-over, there is obviously a degree of expectation that the team will take home the victory.
Vebjørn Rodal is a man who knows all about living with expectations, both his own and those of others. He also knows a great deal about pushing boundaries in order to find out how far they stretch – and so learn from that. He believes that stepping a little beyond your own boundaries is necessary to bring out your full potential.
The boy from Rennebu was originally intended to be a cross-country skier like fellow local Magne Myrmo. But, as we know, Vebjørn found another arena in which to shine, winning a gold medal in the 800 metres at the Atlanta Olympics, the highest point of many great moments in his career.
Perhaps the most important lesson in Vebjørn's lecture, for those of us who are managers, is the importance of setting ourselves (suitably realistic) goals, working actively and in a disciplined way to achieve them – and daring to wrestle with things over which we do not have mastery. Only in this way can we become a winning version of ourselves.
And for those who are wondering: as expected, Vebjørn brought the relay victory home for the team!
While interim management is largely about using experience to do things you have done before, Interim Day 2017 was a completely new exercise for us with several new experiences.
In addition to arranging the day for the first time, we also had the first ever Interim Manager of the Year awarded in Norway! A jury composed of members from different companies and positions in management and management communication assessed several excellent candidates over the winter, and finally named Sven Falcke Interim Manager of the Year 2016.
Our plans are to continue with the race launched this year together with the Interim Day and the Interim Manager of the Year award. We aim to have another strong team on the starting line next year and look forward to honouring more talented interim managers in the coming years! Hired managers are doing a wonderful job in a growing number of businesses in Norway. In many ways, they are “top athletes” in management who fully deserve to be in the spotlight for their achievements!
P.S. If you would like to receive information about next year's event, please register here. Write “Interim Day 2018” in the comments field.