How to get the best out of your interim managers

The use of interim management is booming. According to the Interim Management Association, last year saw the fastest growth rates since records began.  More and more employers are taking advantage of interims to lead restructuring programmes or critical transformation projects, to react to competitor activities or enter new markets, to fill gaps in knowledge or simply to keep momentum while sourcing permanent hires

The top end of the market now attracts senior corporate talent, accomplished executives who choose to pursue interim careers to demonstrate their strategic and turnaround prowess. While interim managers can build valuable reputations as game changers, the availability of high calibre talent on a short-term basis means that employers do not have to compromise on quality.

But not all employers know how to extract value from interim managers, ensuring that when they move on from their assignment there is a lasting legacy. Here are some top tips for employers to ensure that their investment pays off:

Integrate interims into the organization

Allow interims to get close to key stakeholders and establish mutual understanding. Shared ownership and goals will help them garner vital support and can make the difference between adoption or rejection of strategic change. Interims need to work hard at building bridges but it is also incumbent upon the HR function to have an onboarding plan in place and create a climate in which interims can achieve success. Due diligence is the mother of good luck.

Focus on delivery of tangible change

Ensure that interims document and measure their output. As well as setting strategic direction, they should put an implementation plan or roadmap in place that can be actioned by others during and after their departure. Make sure that all key stakeholders are aligned, have bought into the plan, understand its impact and have a vested interest in its execution. The quality of expectation determines the quality of action.

Remember that interims are flexible

Interims are required to be impartial advisors. They are driven and resolute in getting the job done. While you do not want to hinder their progress, be mindful that they are also open minded and adaptable.  If the company is undergoing restructuring or organisational change, your brief may be subject to modification. Interims are willing to adjust goalposts, recalibrate plans and extend the duration of contracts to get you the best result.

Encourage mentoring

Experienced interims bring immense value, so capture as much of that value as you can. Empower them to be mentors, sowing seed on fertile ground by upskilling and developing the team around them. Ask them to scope out the role and required skillset of their successor. Even better, enlist their help in recruiting and coaching the successor to harvest the crop that has been planted. That way you will continue to reap value from an interim long after their assignment has completed.

Take a long term view

An interim’s tenure will span a defined period, but set the horizon further. Arrange for them to come back for a series of progress meetings after their departure. This could be done as part of a steering group. For them, it shows commitment, belief and accountability, all of which add to their reputation as an interim. For you, it keeps their legacy alive and kicking and increases the chance of your investment paying dividend.  

Top 10 benefits of interim management

  1. Instant access to candidates with proven track records
  2. Rapid response to unexpected changes or sudden opportunities
  3. End to end project management, from initial feasibility study through to final delivery and implementation
  4. Objective stance, focused on delivery within a set timeframe
  5. Mentoring and knowledge transfer a key element of the task
  6. Senior corporate experience at a highly competitive rate
  7. Far more cost-effective than management consultants
  8. Interims are committed 100% to client needs with no hidden agenda
  9. The employer retains control and ownership of IP, project timescales and costs
  10. Mitigates risk: time lost recruiting permanent hires; setbacks in operational improvement programmes; damaging gaps in knowledge.

Marlin Hawk is a boutique leadership advisory, executive search and interim consulting firm. It provides quality interim executives across all functions within the private sector, with an emphasis on strategic change agendas.

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