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What makes an interim really successful?

One component of my job is taking references for interims. From a reference we can build a better picture of what environment and role an interim would work best in, and what they are capable of achieving. In a market of difficult change and transformation roles, it is crucial we shortlist people who are up to the challenge.

References also let me see a pattern of what clients think makes an interim successful. The same comments come up time and time again regardless of the sector, and show what skills and attributes candidates must have to be a strong interim.

The interim market is not for everyone, whilst you may have some ‘keeping the seat warm’ roles, a lot will involve putting out fires and making change where change might not be embraced by all. This may not sound like a dream job to everyone, but for those with the attributes listed below (to name just a few), it is exactly what makes the market an exciting and fulfilling option over permanent roles.

1. Bringing people along with them
One Chief Executive commented to me that some interims can be so outcome focussed, they can power through with their project without giving any thought to the people and environment that will be left behind when they finish. Chief Executives may have to distance themselves, and whilst the interim may be technically successful, as soon as they finish the assignment things go back to the way they were before. A good interim will identify who in the team may be most resistant to the change at hand, and work hard to bring them along on the journey so the work continues long after they have packed up and left.

2. Cultural sensitivity
An interim may be highly skilled and successful, but if they can’t adapt to the culture of the organisation they have moved into, the assignment will be a difficult one. Whilst many people from the private sector may want a shot at assignments in the public or NFP sector, culture fit is one of reasons clients shy away from taking on interims from different sectors. An interim that can be sensitive and understanding to the culture throughout their assignment will be far more successful than those who think they can simply transplant a method from one sector directly into another.

3. Transferring knowledge
Managing teams can be tricky as an interim, as people know you won’t be around for long and may even resent you coming in the first place. By taking the time to work with your team, upskill less experienced staff or showing people better ways of working, interims gain respect from those at all levels within the organisation.

4. Robust but personable
All the things mentioned above may look like the interim becomes everyone’s best friend, but we know often interims are bought in the make tough decisions and to weed out inefficiencies. An interim must be strong and not afraid to challenge people or methods which are bad for the organisation (if that is what they have been bought in to do!). It must, however, be done in the right way, as an interim who gets on the wrong side of key people will have little success in their project and be branded as a trouble maker early on in the assignment. Having the right soft skills to get difficult jobs done is crucial to being successful as an interim.

5. Added value
A good interim will go and deliver the assignment they have been asked to do; a great interim will also see what other value they can add. Added value is often a way we explain why taking on an interim is a good solution, not only can they do the job at hand but by having an external perspective they can identify other areas they may be able to help with. It is important to note here that interims should not be taking it upon themselves to fix everything and anything they may think is being done poorly, it is more being willing to offer help outside of the exact job spec provided, especially if you have an additional skill that the client may have a shortage of.

References are vital for interim roles, in many ways; you are only as good as your last assignment. For an interim provider, they are not only a part of our due diligence process, but they can also act as that extra selling tool for when we are explaining to a client why you would be great for a position. Whilst subject matter expertise and experience is essential to be able to do the role, these points will be what makes the referee say ‘Yes- absolutely’ when asked if they would recommend the interim for future assignments, and in my opinion what makes an interim truly successful.
Recent Comments
AFAICT you've coevred all the bases with this answer!
John, 20 September 2015
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