CcInterim Interview with Michael Kelly
In the latest Interim Interview series, CcInterim Practice Leader Andrew Gemmell talks to Michael Kelly. Michael is the Interim Executive Director – Performance and Strategy with a NSW LHD and was placed by Ccentric Group in August 2020. Prior to this position, Michael was the Chief Financial Officer at ComsCentre and CFO at Health Support QLD.
Could you outline your current position?
My current position is Interim Director of Performance and Strategy which is a rebranding of a Finance and Corporate Services role. There seems to be a bit of a trend, both in this organisation and elsewhere, to want to highlight a strategic focus on helping direct and improve overall organisational performance. The role encompasses the traditional finance functions as well as all the health information and activity costing, shared IT service with Western LHD, asset management, procurement and contracts management. The primary thrust is firstly to build the strategic and delivery focus for those functions, and secondly then to enhance people capability to do deliver it.
What were the characteristics that primarily attracted you to an Interim position?
One of the reasons I decided to do an interim role was that it was in a very different context. Firstly, I’m interested in health, and secondly, I’ve always mulled over what it would be like to do that type of role in a rural and remote setting, working with a population mix quite different to metro locations. I wanted to understand what the reality was for people on the ground in those settings.
What have been the challenges and opportunities of this interim role?
I’ve found that one of the opportunities is that you get to visit and experience work in a community and location that you might not otherwise have considered. That’s been very interesting and these sorts of communities are welcoming, open and more friendly than perhaps you might experience in a metro setting.
There’s also the opportunity to be educated and learn about some of the things you might not necessarily experience first-hand in a larger city setting. You also get to work across a much broader operational scope, because the availability of people and resources isn’t as deep as it might be in a larger city setting.
An interim role also gives the person the chance to ‘try before you buy’ if there was interest in being in the position long term.
The challenges are primarily that the depth of capability in teams across the organisation is quite limited as a result of teams being smaller, and if a team member resigns or is away for an extended period the impact is significant. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the capability of most of the people that I work with, and they’re certainly very much engaged.
I think you find that they are less bureaucratic and more inclined to have open frank conversations, and by necessity, they are more focused on just getting the job done.
Have you encountered any other challenges within your interim position that you may not have experienced having been in a permanent role?
In an interim role, you’re only there for a short time, so you need to be able to come up the curve and start delivering solutions quickly. That also involves having to determine what outcomes realistically can be achieved in the time available. I said at the outset, one of the key things I wanted to do was to build a platform for someone to carry forward.
For me, the platform comprised strategic direction for support services, key systems and processes, and coaching and helping build people capability. Then hopefully the executive group and the next person in this position will say that it is an excellent platform, and they will continue to work with that and build on it going forward.
As best as I can tell, I seem to have achieved that so far, and people would be very happy for me to stay on. Many other interim assignments could be a little different where there is a permanent solution for the position and the interim role is truly only for a fixed term.
In my case and I would expect in similar situations, people are pretty pleased to have someone who knows what they’re doing, brings new perspectives, and is happy to work with and contribute to the organisation and the team.
Do you believe that an interim role can serve as an opportunity for personal growth?
Absolutely, it can be an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone in a somewhat controllable manner because it is often only for a short period. You might learn a little more about yourself in terms of how you respond in an unfamiliar environment and also what you like and dislike including things you may not previously have even considered.
It’s an opportunity to challenge oneself, to identify required outcomes, work with people, establish relationships quickly and deliver positive outcomes in a short period of time. That’s certainly an opportunity for personal growth.
Also, you might get an interim role that you wouldn’t be considered for if it was a permanent one. It allows you the opportunity to gain the necessary experience, demonstrate your ability and potentially leverage that for other opportunities, either in subsequent interim assignments or permanent roles. If you can handle an interim role and demonstrate an ability to contribute in a short time, that is clearly career development and is an advantage and a selling point for future career opportunities.
What would your advice be to leaders potentially looking at interim roles?
Well, it can be very interesting, an opportunity to challenge yourself, and a great opportunity to develop both professionally and personally. And it can also be the chance to take a working holiday in a new location.