That was the opening question recently posed to me by Erika Racquet, a renowned journalist working for Belgium’s top financial news paper De Tijd. She had read my top ten attributes required of an interim manager and commented that women generally had most of them in abundance, so why were there so few of them?
To share with my blog readers who have not yet read my book, here is the list:
The ten attributes a good interim manager should have are:
1. A strong desire to solve other people’s problems
2. The conviction that they are the best person to solve them
3. Extreme resilience, the ability to bounce back after any setback
4. A high emotional IQ
5. A good memory for faces and names
6. A clear, structured approach to every task
7. A natural ability to plan
8. A strong sense of priorities
9. The knack to sell anything to anyone
10. A willingness to learn from mistakes
I was taken aback by her question. Unlike her, I had not done my research in advance…(it transpired that this has been a re-occurring theme in her interviews for a few years now). I thought for a while and realized that whatever I replied would, or could, be misconstrued and that I was in dangerously hot water. However, I believed the question was seriously posed, and I was hoping that she genuinely wanted to know the answer and not so much my off the cuff opinion. So I gave it my best. The result was a rather weak answer which was on the lines of; ‘I think it is because although women, in general, may be more intuitive and observe the truth and perceive deeper arguments than men, they are more likely to share their observations with a colleague in the hope that their colleague will act on their behalf. i.e. they don’t want to put themselves in a vulnerable position, to make themselves look foolish, just in case they were wrong. Preferring not to stand up and be counted. (Although this last statement can be said of many men).
But since my interview I have been re-thinking the question and indeed, many women have confronted me with regards to my ‘misogynist’ views. I have been re-asking Erika’s question over and over again, and when you think about it, it is not too difficult to invent other questions that lead you in the same direction. For example: “Why are there so few women entrepreneurs?” A senior (female) manager at a client of mine suggested that possibly it could do with the fact that for many (most) women it is purely down to the fact that they don’t feel the need or ambition to become a senior manager or an entrepreneur. While another female project manager I spoke with put it down to the fact that women, in the majority, are not risk takers to the same extent as men.
In defense of my original answer, where I was genuinely trying to get to the nature of the answer, one has to add that no one is promoted to a position of interim manager. Your boss does not walk into your office one day and say “Lovegrove, I want you to be my next interim manager!” Becoming an interim manager, or even an entrepreneur is a life choice.
Interim Managers are (99%) self employed, they are either ex entrepreneurs who have made some cash and do not want the tedious hassle of running the same company day in, day out. Or, they are ex senior managers that have taken (or been given) early retirement who feel they still have some useful business acumen left in them and don’t fancy sitting around at home all day. These people set up their own businesses, they give themselves fancy titles like ‘Managing Director’ and they print some business cards and become interim managers of their own creation. So logically, the fewer the female senior managers and entrepreneurs, the fewer the female interim managers.
At the Bayard Partnership, out of the +/- 20 strong group, we have three female project managers, all of them are really excellent, often out performing their male counterparts at their client side. Each of the three have the potential to progress to becoming interim managers in the classical sense (i.e. stand in directors) but how many of them will remains to be seen. At Bayard, we are always looking for talented female project and interim managers, they are just hard to find, that’s all.