It takes courage to encourage your stakeholders to bring in an external auditor/assurer and have the spotlight shone into all the nooks and crannies of your project. It is so difficult to contain the frustration of having to divert resource to compile comprehensive documentation the reviewer inevitably requires whilst keeping the delivery on track. And then there are so many questions and sometimes mis-understandings that result from being an outsider to the project. Over the years I have had a number of my programmes audited and I have concluded that we have really benefitted from this process 50% of the time whilst the other 50% has been a tick box exercise by people who just don’t seem to get what the project is really about or the context in which it is being delivered or who are simply serving their ‘Will we get our bill paid?’ objective. It feels rare to find a truly challenging ally who really knows how to undertake a professional assurance audit and who really helps the programme or project manager rather than adding to their burden of work.
What’s your experience been? Have you been involved in an audit and how did it help you?
I am often asked how I summoned up the courage to make the choice to leave 16 years of secure employment and great career development in what was then a FTSE100 company and take the plunge to become a professional Interim. Well, I will be honest that a small cushion of savings and a little redundancy pot helped but the transition felt very natural. It did not feel like I was throwing myself out of a plane at 16,000ft, swimming with the sharks or setting off to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat. It was a few simple steps, one in front of the other.
Becoming a professional Interim isn’t for everybody but I’ll explain why I made the leap. When I looked at my career I had moved from one role to another approximately every 18-24 months and each had brought something new to learn, a degree of discomfort when I worried if I would be good enough and new relationships and energy to thrive and grow from. I realised that I treated every role as a project and had to work out where we were, where we needed to get to and how we were going to get there – simple really.
So what could be that different moving from one client to another delivering project after project?
The mechanics. Setting up a Limited company, insurances, tax, VAT and National Insurance are just mechanics with rules, and there are many experts that will take care of this stuff – it’s just stuff. OK, so it is important stuff, and keeping an eye on your cash flow matters, but you just need to be calm and sensible and it is easy. Don’t go crazy hiring offices, designing brands, doing massive PR – feel your way into your new world and discover what’s there first.
So the big scary elephant in the room is how to find ‘that first assignment’. The internet gives you access to so many roles and so many agencies and this works in both directions – it also gives the recruiters access to hundreds, even thousands, of people. So how will you stand out from the crowd? A good CV will help and the courage to be authentic and clear about what you really bring is a must but the thing that will make the biggest difference for you, as it does for me, is the relationships we have with people.
When we really pause to think, we often have a network far larger than we imagine and we know many people who are actually honoured that we seek their advice or help… so use them. And you will discover, like I have, that there are really good people out there who will see you as a person and not just an ID on a database and who will help you on your journey. Reach out to them as you discover where the chemistry works for you.