What to Consider When Looking to Appoint an Interim Executive
Interim executives moving into critical leadership or strategic roles are certainly not a new concept. There a myriad of reasons why interim positions become available. Some might need an interim placement for a period of time as some form of relief in the form of an extra pair of hands. Others might not be able to access the skills they need internally to fulfil a key role or project. Whatever the reason though, I would encourage people hiring in the interim workforce to maximise the opportunity. With that, there are a few themes that are worth keeping in mind.
Don’t Think “Temporary” ….. Think Value (Counterintuitive to the word Interim!)
Interim has the inference that something (a position in this case) will be temporary. Subsequently, it is human nature to often think of this as “just fill the gap” or “it will do until we get something better (or someone)”. That may be the correct thinking if it is a process, makeshift asset or temporary technology fix. However, when people are involved and they bring their skills, personality traits, experiences and their leadership attributes, to people they will lead, an organisation can do itself a disservice to think only short term.
You might just have the opportunity to work with someone who is truly valuable.
If an experienced and skilled interim leader can bring new energy and ideas, provided they can also execute on these ideas in a realistic and effective way, then that is where the opportunity lies.
However, the first step to unlocking this potential is being open to it. Obviously, just like a permanent appointment, it may not always work out that way.
Leadership Steadies the Ship
The leadership and EQ component of an interim placement (vs the technical competence) can sometimes be a secondary consideration. Yet a strong and effective leader is just that, whether they are there in an interim capacity or not. There have been many cases where an interim leader has effectively calmed an unsettled culture, or re-invigorated or re-energised an organisation’s people, either as a whole or in a particular department. They can a high level of emotional intelligence to the environment; suddenly people are being listened to, behaviours observed, and a new “set of eyes” and ideas can bring real value to your organisation.
From a technical skills perspective, this is naturally also important. It is a given that someone will bring some form of technical competence, depending on the position. It can move projects and changes forward. It can have permanent employees learning new ways of working and ultimately help achieve some progress on things they are responsible for. Yet there is not much point in bringing in these skills if that person does not have the leadership and awareness in how they can be deployed and put to best use.
New Ways of Thinking
Being open to new ways of thinking and new experiences are one of the most valuable returns you can benefit from hiring a skilled interim executive. It is very easy for people within an organisation to stay within their bubble of thinking – it is often cultural (“it’s the way we do things around here”). It is one of the reasons people move into the interim employment market – to utilise their skills and experience to help others. They get to share knowledge and experience new things along the way. An organisation taking on an interim executive has a fantastic opportunity to learn and improve their business.
Beyond Interim and Your Value Proposition
It is not uncommon for an interim executive to become a permanent member of an organisation. The old adage “try before you buy” applies. Granted there is a greater level of due diligence and exploring conducted in an executive position, and rightly so. Yet it is one of the best ways to conduct that assessment, is have them operate in the role as an interim.
Remember though that this is a two-way street! Your organisation’s own shortcomings may be the reason an interim executive decides not to pursue a permanent opportunity with you. That will be an opportunity to reflect on “why” – why didn’t they want to consider an ongoing role, was it for cultural reasons? If the reason is based on the organisation or elements in it, it is an opportunity to understand “what we are getting right and where do we need to improve” to attract and retain strong talent.
At the end of the day, whether it is hiring an interim executive or permanent appointment, make the most of the opportunity.
If you are looking at appointing an interim executive or would like to discuss a specific interim requirement, please get in touch with Ccinterim Practice Leader Andrew Gemmell.