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How to secure the right interim executive?

by Mike Fisher

July 24 2019 - In these times of economic and political uncertainty, traditional business models are transforming at an unprecedented rate. A commanding combination of disruptive technology and the constant strain of keeping on top of competitors is driving business transformation to the top of the agenda for many.

However, while change can be daunting, transformation can bring as many opportunities as it does challenges. But to stay ahead of the game and to take full advantage of change, businesses need to be in a position where they can easily adapt.

This is often where many traditional organisations come across key stumbling blocks, as their business strategy is not set up to be agile and flexible. In addition, not many have the right leadership advisory in place to effectively drive transformation. While this is an issue that affects both SMEs and larger organisations, business transformation tends to be a bigger issue within larger companies. With more complex business strategies, the larger the organisation the harder it is to drive shift.

As a direct reflection of this gap in leadership, we have witnessed an all time high in demand for interim executives, particularly in the private sector.

Introducing the interim executive

Designed for an individual with significant experience in the field, an interim executive role is always a temporary hire. They work particularly well for organisations going through a period of business transformation, where an interim executive can provide stability and support through a time of change. This may be the departure of a senior leader or to fill critical gaps that have just emerged.

Successful interim executives are commonly business veterans, with years' worth of experience in assisting businesses periods of transformation. Whilst it may seem that they are 'over qualified' for the role, their knowledge of quick thinking and problem solving is what enables an interim executive to rapidly set strategies and deliver goals.

Their aim is to leave their mark on a business for many years to come, leaving behind a legacy of people processes and systems.

Securing the right interim executive

Before considering the option of an interim executive, it is vital to have clear objectives of what you are trying to achieve. There is often confusion about how to manage an interim once appointed as not all organisations are used to temporary hire.

Key things to consider are:

  • Outline objectives from the get go. Be clear on your priorities for the upcoming months and the goals you need the interim to deliver
  • Frequent progress reviews, make it a built in part of the role to be continuously updating the leadership team and demonstrating results
  • Clearly define the role of the interim to the rest of the team, it is vital they all understand the job the interim has been bought in to deliver, as well as how they fit in helping make that happen
  • Treat them as part of your team. Inform them as you would your permanent employees, don't shy away from sharing a warts and all perspective!
  • Allocate time for a handover before they leave, ensuring that you fully understand the knowledge and processes they leave behind.

Businesses should not be afraid to open up and discuss their situation with an interim executive. They are there to assist in a time of change, whether this is a difficult business strategy adjustment or to maintain an ongoing successful development.

When head hunting the right interim, looking for applicants with a successful delivery track record in the sector is key. Measured by results and the ability to 'get things done', the more successful interims are proactive and quietly go about delivery in a professional manner. With this in mind, as high caliber interim executive talent is in demand, moving efficiently and effectively is key since the better candidates will be snapped up.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are still many misunderstandings about interim executives. Most commonly, organisations mistake interims for temporary consultants or contractors. Though a contactor can be an effective resource, they are not there to make strategic decisions. On the other hand, while a consultant will give great strategic insight, they are usually not the ones to execute the strategy. A good interim executive will offer both strategic advice, as well as assist the execution.

Working with a specialist advisor to understand the dynamics of the role and also of the type of interim executive needed before you get the ball rolling is a really important element of ensuring success. However, with the right advice, insight and approach an interim executive can help businesses navigate through periods of change and emerge stronger than ever.

About the Author

Mike Fisher Director at Adastrum Consulting, executive search, interim management and leadership advisory organisation.



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