Interview with Laurence Tanty

Our Principal of Manufacturing Sarah Simpson spoke with Laurence Tanty, a senior professional interim executive who used the services of many interim managers and later decided to become one herself - specialising in general management, turnaround and business transformation.

Over the course of her career, Laurence has held several international CEO roles and is now one of the few women to have chosen an interim executive career in Packaging and Consumer Goods. As a non-executive director on the Board of Fairtrade in Belgium, she supports the implementation of fairer supply strategies. She has a fantastically passionate, influential, engaging and refreshing personality.

I spoke with Laurence about the world of interim, and whether she had encountered any negative views on being a woman in a male dominated environment.  

 

How have you found the journey and do you have any regrets? 

The journey required me to shift career expectations. I became a freelance entrepreneur, alternating periods of “Search and selling” with periods of “Doing” which required some getting-used-to in my personal life. Interim roles are about delivering results in a tight timeframe, this is a learning curve but it gives you a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself. I have no regrets at all about making this move. 

You do come up against negative talk such as ‘You are not there tomorrow so why should we include you in meetings or act in the way you propose’. The role model played by the CEO is key to impact this. 

No regrets, I wish the subject of women in senior interim roles (outside HR and Finance) would move faster!

 

What is the best thing about being a professional interim? 

What works best for me is the combination of having a flexible lifestyle and good remuneration. I also love the diversity of experiences I get and of people I meet with each new assignment, and it’s very satisfying to be able to deliver tangible results at the end of the day.

 

There are and will be a number of individuals who strive to get to where you are. What advice would you give them? 

Building experience or a specific expertise is essential to be credible in whatever space you have decided to become an interim in. So I would not encourage taking the interim path too early in one’s career, whatever this one might be. But when the opportunity comes along and you feel it is right, then don’t be afraid to take the leap. 

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your career to date?

The challenge that puzzles me the most is how resistant the business world remains to recruiting diverse talent with diverse experiences into senior positions - be it for executive and non-executive positions or senior executive interim roles. How many times have I been turned down on the grounds of “not having done this exact role before”, and I am not the only one! Persistence and luck made me secure my first interim role and I was very successful at it. I believe it also key to be aware of this context to help CEOs become more comfortable about bringing in people with different backgrounds and experiences to challenge the status quo and enrich their business.

 

As an interim professional, have you encountered any negative views given you are in a very small minority of senior female interims?

As a woman, it is a challenge every day in the interim world. I won’t sugar-coat it for you, it is the elephant in the room. If you pass the first screening process and make it to the interview, which as a woman is already a hurdle in itself, the next challenge I often face is the intense probing of my ability and willingness to operate in traditionally men-dominated sectors. This is especially true in manufacturing operations where men hold the key positions or where a lot of travel is necessary. All this despite “having done it before”!

 

How can we as a nation inspire and help more women to reach the level you are at?

The key is to persevere in our journey and not get thrown-off by rejections. It’s also about raising awareness and telling our stories (as I’m doing right now) so our stakeholders learn and change. 

I also think that at a C-suite level, Boards should hold CEOs and their HR professionals accountable for growing and bringing a diverse talent force into their business. And senior interim roles are part of this equation. I recently published an article on this subject (Bridging the Leadership Gap) in which I expand on this in the context of non-executive roles.

Professional Executive Interim Agencies also have an important role to play to support women getting onto short lists and help demonstrate the valuable skills these can bring.

 

Finally...

Laurence and I spoke at length about all the reasons why women themselves may not take the opportunity to move their careers forward as aggressively as their male counterparts. Is it because they don’t want to feel rejected? Is it due to confidence? Will she be set up to fail? Laurence is proof that women can succeed, which is why I wanted to share this interview with you today.

 

Sarah Simpson is the Principal of Manufacturing at Interim Partners. 

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