Paula Lawford stood out as highly suitable for the role. Having spent much of her career working internationally, including 10 years in Russia and 4 years in Kazakhstan, Paula also speaks six languages, including fluent French.
The location didn’t faze her either. “I was quite happy to fly backwards and forwards as needed,” she said.
Paula was offered the assignment, and flew out to France in October 2019.
But as with many international relocations, it wasn’t plain sailing.
One of the key characteristics of an interim manager is being able to handle the way any existing staff behave towards interims. This is especially true of global placements, where non-natives are often considered an outsider.
However, Paula, as an experienced international interim, was used to managing tricky colleagues. “You just have to walk into the place and get the job done, because it’s what you’ve signed up for.”
Paula pointed out that culturally, French companies don’t tend to employ from overseas very often. This meant that the existing staff in the head office were difficult to win over.
“Even knowing fluent French did not make it straightforward to integrate into an unwelcoming team. It did mean, however, that I was able to pick up on conversations and issues around the office and delve into the documentation which helped me piece together what I needed to fulfil my role more effectively. Staff at the other Global Forwarding offices were very welcoming and supportive, which was really helpful.”
Matthew concurred that it was a difficult role, requiring both instigating and navigating through a lot of changes within the company, including making redundancies. “A thick skin was definitely required,” he said.
Matthew was looking for a flexible but strong candidate, and he certainly found that in Paula. While the initial brief was to solve a particular financial challenge, Paula quickly realised that there was more work to be done, and had to look hard at the situation and come up with alternative solutions.