The life of an interim executive is unpredictable. As a result, it’s often exciting, with no two days the same. On the other hand, it can be challenging, throwing you a curveball when you least expect it.
Change is the norm across industries today – and this is especially true in the world of the interim executive. You are on the front line when it comes to dealing with disruption and its impact on businesses and the leaders at their helm. While one placement may be highly structured with clear goals to achieve, another may require a completely different approach than first anticipated.
Therefore, interim executives require a specialist set of skills that will enable them to deal with the common challenges they encounter in their line of work – and to effect successful change within the organisations they operate in.
As an interim executive, it’s important to be aware that you’re likely to have changing goalposts during a placement.
Mark Adamson, Interim Treasury Advisor says: “The challenge is, you go into a situation thinking you know what the expectations are and what your deliverables are – but these can change on a sixpence. That is the world of the interim. It’s part and parcel of the interim lot.”
“You need to have absolute flexibility and you need to have the right levels of cultural awareness and emotional intelligence to change and adjust where appropriate.”
Whether a project needs to be completely rescoped, or it becomes apparent that achieving the objectives will require a longer timeframe, the ability to adapt to change is fundamental to success.
When you’re contracted to do a particular job within a set period, the clock is ticking from the start. Unlike a permanent employee, interims don’t have the luxury of taking time to settle into their role – they have to hit the ground running.
Mark says: “As an interim you have to be conscious that the client is paying you to make an immediate and substantial contribution. You have to make every moment count. You can’t have dead time. You need to be constantly aware of what needs to be achieved and the timeframes involved.”
“I also think regular reporting back to the client on progress is essential. By doing this expectations can be managed, problems and issues discussed, or where appropriate new directions explored.”
However brilliant your skill set, an interim executive can sometimes face a challenge to have the same sway as a permanent employee. That means communicating well with the permanent team, so that you can bring your experience to bear on their decisions.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that your advice will always be heeded. Mark says: “Once you’ve brought [an issue and potential solutions] politely and honestly to [the permanent team’s] attention, you might not actually be able to make any change actually happen. As an interim, you may not be given the formal authority of a permanent member of staff. In this situation it really is up to them to support any chosen solution. You can only take it as far as you can without pushing the boundaries of the interim-client relationship.”
The world of the interim executive is a capricious one. Therefore, this role requires a unique skillset, in order to achieve success. The ability to flex and adapt, to focus intensely on the task in hand, and to work well with an organisation’s permanent team are three vital tools in the interim’s toolbox.
At times, an interim executive can face insurmountable challenges. Equally, real change can be affected by the presence of an interim within a business. Mark says: “If the mandate is correct and the chemistry is right, you can assist the client achieve amazing things.”