Catching up on email while riding an exercise bike, I came across an article about the popularity of interim executives. At the same time, I was thinking about how the socks I was wearing were rubbing my heel. I was going to get a blister, and I needed a band-aid. You may already see where this is headed, but there is a twist, so please stay with me.
Bandages are typically used to cover a wound and keep bad stuff from happening to it while it heals. They typically are not meant to solve the root cause of the wound or aid in the healing process. Thus, the idiom around “putting a band-aid on it;” stopping the bleeding in a bad situation and getting through to another day. In the past, hiring anyone on an interim basis felt the same way. You were bridging through the pain while you found someone to permanently fill the role. You were covering up the wound and keeping bad stuff from happening.
Bandage innovation has taken off in recent years after remaining rather stagnant since the creation of the original Band-aid® in 1920 by Earle Dickson. Now, antibiotics are incorporated into the gauze to promote healing. Liquid skin seals together skin cracks to start the healing process. Blister seals help heal raw skin while the seal also protects the skin around the blister. All three of these ideas are rather new bandage innovations. What if hiring an interim executive was like a new bandage innovation? This solution could turn “putting a band-aid on a problem” into a positive turn of phrase instead of the current quick, superficial, temporary meaning. Instead, an interim executive, like a new-age bandage, can heal the underlying problems an organization may be experiencing.
Why does hiring an interim executive work today?
- No ties to organizational politics or a previous agenda. An interim executive can be the perfect resource to help transform or transition a current function or business. Without ties to the past, an interim executive can speak truth to power without fear of repercussions in the longer-term. The interim can provide the spark needed to kick-start a project or a change that may have been necessary for some time.
- Achieve short-term goals. If something must be done yesterday, bringing in an executive with only a few high priority, short-term goals lets them focus and achieve success more rapidly. A search for a permanent executive can allow a team to languish. Focus is necessary for this interim period when a deadline or project timeline must be met. An interim executive can be just the one to deliver.
- Retain a team. In today’s employment climate, your organization cannot stand to lose high caliber people during a leadership change. If you find yourself without a key leader over a long period of time, the team may get restless, lack direction, and ultimately look to greener pastures. An interim executive can quickly establish credibility with team members and provide the necessary leadership to continue to move the group forward. Finding an interim with excellent leadership experience and team building credentials will keep your great people together and achieving for the organization. Which leads to the last point–
- Significant expertise. The time is right to find interim executives with fantastic experience that don’t want the commitment of a full-time role. They want to continue to give back and use their honed skills gained over multiple companies and years of experience. They enjoy the work with organizations and helping to achieve goals, but they don’t want to be with an organization forever. This can be a perfect opportunity for your organization to gain the experience from the executive, but also to not have the long-term commitment to an expensive resource.
Once you commit, how do you go about making the interim executive work in your organization?
- Onboard intentionally. Your interim executive needs an onboarding experience like your permanent executive experience. They need to understand how work gets done in the organization. They need to know the important meetings, the executive calendar, and how the board of directors works with the executive team. They need to have introductions made to team members, other key executives, customers, and partners for which they will work. Make sure their technology is available and connected so they can start right away. A good onboarding plan is the code book for success for any new executive, so make sure you provide it to your interim executive as well.
- Cultural awareness, not necessarily fit. When you hire a permanent executive, you typically hear about “culture fit.” To be effective as a permanent hire, one must understand and ultimately operate well in the culture of the organization. In the case of an interim executive, it does not have to be a perfect fit, but they do need to be “culturally adjacent.” Exact opposites from an organization’s culture may be what you think you need to jump-start a team or a project. That usually does not end well. While you don’t need the interim executive to align with every cultural norm, bringing in someone who understands the norms and operates closely to those norms will help your organization transition from the interim to the permanent executive most easily. By being “culturally adjacent,” work will get done in a way that is pretty consistent with your culture and values.
- Constant conversation. An interim executive needs to have constant conversation with their leadership to make sure they are performing what needs to be done during the engagement. If this is an interim CEO, then they constantly need to hear from the board of directors what the expectations are and how the activities the interim is doing are meeting those expectations. If it is another C-level executive, they need to be in constant communication with their CEO for the same reasons. The timing of the assignment also needs to be a part of these conversations. Interim assignments have different objectives depending upon the length of the engagement. Once an interim moves past 100 days, there are a different set of objectives a leader is trying to achieve. It needs to be clear how long the assignment will last. If one knows it is a yearlong engagement, then different decisions around hiring a new team, as an example, can be made versus a three-month assignment where an interim is identifying talent gaps on the team.
An interim executive can provide more than just a band-aid. They can be the antibiotic for the organization that needs to heal; they can be the new skin that brings a fragmented team together; and they can be the blister seal that provides the experience and expertise to heal the main, raw issues and allows your organization to continue to perform under pressure. The next time that you have a problem that needs a solution, and not just a band-aid, flip the script. See if the band-aid could become the solution to your problem.
If you are considering making a change in your executive team or have a current talent gap, and you need interim Human Resources support, we would love to partner with you. We now have HR experts who provide strategic and operational services to organizations on both a project basis as well as a retained service. Please contact us for a complimentary consultation at admin@InnovativeConnectionsInc.com or call us at 970-279-3330.
Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to come alongside you to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.
Interim Executives-an Innovative Band-aid Solution was originally published on LinkedIn by Madeline Cashdollar, November 2, 2022.