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
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
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
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.