Interim Directors are often needed to step into businesses during turbulent periods. Whether they’re needed to facilitate a new phase of growth or perhaps just to hold the fort until a permanent replacement can be found. Interims carry a huge amount of responsibility and are expected to have the knowledge and expertise to hit the ground running. From people management to business infrastructure, Interim leaders must call on their years of experience to spot and manage problems, and identify new solutions and opportunities.
How to succeed as an Interim Director
1. Understand the aims of the role
Understanding what’s required of you is the fundamental basis for ensuring you fulfil the requirements of the role. To do this, you will need to thoroughly examine your brief, and take a holistic view of the business to grasp the scope of the work involved. Establish if the company is strong and needs you to facilitate expansion or an acquisition. Alternatively, perhaps they are in a period of crisis and need the expertise of an Interim to restructure the company and help it to survive. Equally, it may be a transitional position whereby you are needed to cover the role of a Manager/Director until a permanent replacement is filled.
2. Be realistic with your aims (smaller gains over larger impact)
As an Interim leader, you will naturally want to make as big an impact as possible. At the same time, it is important to be realistic with your aims, considering their feasibility against your contract length. As an Interim, you are often able to have a large impact on shorter-term goals that can be achieved within your contract duration. That isn’t to say that you won’t be able to implement changes that contribute towards long-term aims but, of course, these are unlikely to be achieved during your term.
3. Accept knowledge gaps
It can be common for Interim leaders, or indeed the team around you, to expect you to have all the answers. In reality, Interim Managers will always have knowledge gaps due to the individuality of each organisation they join. It is vital that you enter into your contract accepting that you won’t know everything, and have the self-awareness to recognise when you need outside assistance. It may also help to make your team aware of your inevitable knowledge gaps during your first week to set the expectations.
4. Absorb as much information as possible
As a result of your knowledge gaps, you must commit to adopting a curious mindset and learning as much as you can. Intensive learning will really form the basis of your first week in your new position. You may find it useful to schedule short meetings with each leader within the business to understand their departmental operation, challenges and aims. Be sure not to overlook the Administrative arm of the business. Usually, this area has a good overall insight into the business as a whole and can therefore offer a unique perspective often unbeknown to other Managers.
5. Leverage key talent
Although you will be responsible for making the final call on key business decisions, don’t make the mistake of thinking you must reach conclusions on your own. Draw on relevant leadership figures within the business to gain their insights on your ideas. They will be able to identify some of the potential problems or challenges that could arise, which you may or may not be able to overcome. It is also important to establish the strengths of each leader within the business early on so you know who is best to call on under different circumstances.
6. Add value beyond your brief
Similar to the role of a permanent Director, you should be constantly drawing on your expertise to contribute new ideas and add value beyond your basic brief. This could be in the form of contributing ideas for the future that will need implementing long after your contract ends, or even as simple as using your platform to highlight the great work that the company is doing.
7. Be fully committed
Although Interim Directors are often hired for short periods of time, you should still treat the role with the same vision, care and commitment as you would a permanent position. This includes making bold decisions, using foresight, and working until the job gets done. Not only will this provide the most benefit to the company, but it will also impact your reputation and whether or not the client calls on your services again in future, or refers you onto their network.
Given the limited timeframe and high expectations of Interim contracts, senior Interim roles are extremely demanding and come with a great deal of pressure and their own challenges. At the same time, Interim leaders have a fantastic opportunity to make a difference to any given organisation so long as they have the ability to learn fast, leverage key talent and draw upon their years of experience to implement meaningful change.