interim management

Part 2 of 3: How to get the Most Out of Interim Executives

In Part 1, I discussed the idea of using interim executives/CEO’s to stabilize and maintain operations when there is a leadership vacancy. Here, we look at how best to use this type of talent in your own situation.

So you’ve made the leap and decided you are going to bring in an interim C+-Suite executive to help run things while you seek out a permanent solution to your vacancy. Hoorah. Great move! Now what? What’s the next step? Where do you begin? At the beginning is a good place.

1.     Determine your needs . If you want results, you need to know your goals. First things first. How do you want your company to perform while the interim executive is there? If you don’t know, neither will they. Determining your needs is essential to creating a framework for company and management performance during this window. Knowing what you want the desired results to be—in detail—is the first crucial step.  Remember this is an interim position, so don’t think in terms of long-range or strategic planning, long-term goals, growing the company and so on. Think in terms of how we can best maintain continuity, complete any pending and important issues and accomplish short-term objectives for the period of time you believe the interim will be required.

2.     Choose your interim executive based on these needs. Once you know what your company’s needs are and what you need your interim executive to accomplish, you need to select management who can help fulfill this role. When you’re interviewing candidates, make sure you ask specific questions that relate to these needs. Think about the skill set the manager will need and the team they will be working with. What type of culture do you have at your business? What do they need to be successful? While they’re only in a short-term role, this also means that they need to hit the ground running in order to be successful. Make the process easier on everyone by selecting an individual with the necessary knowledge.  I have always believed that any product is a “widget”, meaning that a good leader or consultant doesn’t necessarily need a great deal of product-specific background. Good business principles and practices can be applied to anything – regardless of the product. In this case, that philosophy may not work quite as well for the interim to “hit the ground running”.

3.     Make your needs clear up front. Now that you’ve selected your interim management consultantexecutive, you need to prepare them for success. No management comes into a situation and works wonders without knowing what to expect, especially since interim executives typically come to a company on their own (unlike consultants who bring a team). Be clear with your interim management consulting executive and communicate your expectations from day one. It will be a smoother transition from the start if you explain their decision-making authority, how to escalate decisions, general hierarchy within the company, and any other innerworkings of which they should be aware. Be clear on how far the autonomy goes. Can he/she have full decision-making capabilities as the permanent individual in that role? What are the limitations? This is a situation where a very supportive Board is needed if it is President/CEO or high-level executive and if not, a very hands-on CEO or President to roll up his/her sleeves and jump in the first week or so to make sure your consultant interim management has the support required to keep the operation humming.

4.     What to expect (or NOT expect).   You can and should make your expectations clear for interim management consultant, but you should also set your expectations at a reasonable level. It isn’t realistic for interim management consulting to come in and be a one-size-fix-all. If you’ve selected right, a strong generalist is a good start and  here’s what you SHOULD expect from a good consultant interim management:

  • A high level of communication – both upward and downward.
  • Manage the staff of the organization and be accepted by the team quickly. Personality is key.
  • Direct the company without too much disruption. Learn the basic processes, find out any immediate and potential bumps in the road and what is needed where to maintain a degree of normalcy.
  • Assist with the transition to the permanent executive, if it is an out-boarding situation. Many interim management consultant openings are due to immediate and permanent departure of CEO’s or key management positions where others could be a move in staffing, unexpected illness or family emergency, etc.

However, with that, your company SHOULD NOT expect interim management consulting executives to:

  • Be responsible for long-term planning
  • Provide a sudden and “quick fix” for problems that have been around long term.
  • Take on new initiatives such as new product to market, opening a new division, releasing an IPO, etc.
  • Pending M&A activity should be postponed, if possible, to keep all parties calm during this short-term challenge.

Getting the most out of your consultant interim management executives includes setting everyone up for success and unrealistic expectations often ruin that. Make your goals clear, pick someone with the right skill set, and communicate well to have positive outcomes every single time. If you, your board (or even the family in the case of a family business) can’t do it on your own, consider using a team of professionals to help you. The cost is minor compared to making the wrong decision with a disastrous outcome.

Let Portfolio Management Group identify and help you screen and select the right individual for your temporary leadership need. We will find candidates that best fit your profile for your operation, whether it is temporary or temp to hire. Contact us today with your need: www.pmg-consult.org.

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