How Companies Win by Making the Most of Interim Leadership

How do you make the most of the interim executive opportunity?

We’re all living in uncertain times: the only constant is change.

Change in a business or market can leave you needing outside help. People at the top may suddenly leave or need to leave, resulting in planned or unexpected gaps in leadership, experience, and expertise. These gaps in your executive team, can lead to significant opportunities when choosing an interim executive leader solution. Change starts at the top, and these independent senior executives are typically hired to address company challenges, drive changes and lead strategic projects for a given time period.

Here are 10 Tips to ensure you get the most from your interim executive leader hiring decision.


TIP 1. Know when you need external resource

Interim leaders offer a compelling and specialist resource that companies usually do not have access to in their existing talent pool. Identify the reason for your leadership gaps, planned or unplanned, and leverage the opening as an opportunity to reposition for future success.

Skills Opportunity: Leverage the interim leader’s experience to create opportunity. They can demonstrate needed skills such as entering global market strategies or improving stakeholder communications to create long-term stability and growth.

Change Management: Leverage the interim leader as a change agent. Often hired to address company frustrations and pain points, interim executives are well positioned to make difficult changes without political repercussion. They are accomplished at driving accountability, breaking down barriers and focusing teams to new more successful paths.

Strategic Alignment: Interim leaders will objectively oversee people, processes, tools and systems to ensure the work is aligned with long-term goals. Their success is based on positioning the work and outcomes in the best interest of the company. It’s a win-win.

TIP 2. Interim Leaders aren’t just for big firms

Small and medium enterprises can gain needed expertise without having to justify employing someone full-time. Interim management opens opportunities to engage highly experienced people on a part-time basis in a cost-effective way.

TIP 3. Will actively pursue their replacement

Regardless of the assigned timeframe, the interim executive will become very clear on the right long-term leader for the role. Key needs and characteristics like timing, experience, skills, salary and industry requirements can all be clarified first-hand before the recruitment cycle begins. Having an interim leader in place will ensure the right fit hire vs. a quick fix with long-term ramifications.

Selecting an Interim Leader?

TIP 4. Start with the end in mind

What do you hope to gain from the temporary leadership, and what are the core competencies /essential qualities to get you there? Do you need industry or product knowledge, or fresh thinking and a new approach that comes from outside your traditional market? Consider all these elements to ensure you pick the right person for the job.

TIP 5. Choose an interim provider carefully

Always use a reputable interim provider. Do they have the business acumen to understand the right balance of management skills, technical know-how and market knowledge required? Do they have an extensive stable of world-class candidates? Can they offer solid success stories?

TIP 6. Act quickly

The best interim executives can get snapped up quickly, so you need to respond to good ones as soon as you’ve made your choice. These are leaders used to jumping in and making quick decisions.

Your company leadership challenges only get worse the longer they go unaddressed. The quicker you put a qualified leader in place, the quicker you are driving to resolution.

Planning for the Interim Leader?

TIP 7. Plan together

Have a clear agreement on the strategy, deliverables, and timelines of the assignment at the outset so the interim knows what objectives to work toward. It’s vital to keep reviewing these as the assignment is progressing to get the most out of your executive.

TIP 8. Make the first days really count

Once a contract is signed, an interim leader has less than five working days to get traction, understanding the role and your requirements, the work involved, and the deliverables expected. Ensure that they understand your needs from the start. Where assignments don’t work as well as expected the problem can often be traced back to those first days.

TIP 9. Clarify the role of the interim executive to your permanent staff

Interim executives are often taken on for a defined timeframe. The additional skills and expertise that they bring is a positive management decision and should be welcomed as such. Used well, interim executives can leave behind a lasting legacy and transfer skills to permanent employees, which will benefit your company in the long-term.

TIP 10. Don’t make pay comparisons to permanent staff

It’s misleading to take an interim daily rate and multiply it to compare to a permanent annual salary. The two are not comparable. An interim leader is chargeable on an inclusive rate – that means no hidden cost around pay, benefits, or vacation time.

Co-authored by Mark Jacobs,and Susan Miller, Program Director of ‘Executive on Demand’ at Core Catalysts, providing short term C-Suite leaders for business transformation. Both have led many successful client solutions through leadership placements and consulting engagements.