How Interim Leadership can be the Key for Adaptability in Times of Change

Turnover happens – even at the executive level. Whether the company will be significantly impacted depends on how it reacts and adapts.

It should be no surprise that a lack of leadership can lead to a misalignment of vision, leading to a lack of direction, leading to mediocre performance, and potentially amounting to additional turnover with employees feeling stressed or burnt-out from the disruption. While losing employees comes at a great cost, losing senior-level leaders can cost even more in finances, time, productivity, morale, and more.

The decision to bring on an interim leader can be the key adaptability factor in times of change. The interim’s responsibility is to ensure organizational stability and clarity, that existing employees are valued and understood amid the turbulence, and that company culture continues to thrive.

Circumstances that Call for an Interim Leader

There are many reasons why an interim leader may be the best solution, but it usually boils down to one or more of these major challenges in a company:

  1. Lack of Management Capacity or Expertise
    Unexpected high-level projects or initiatives arise that current management cannot handle, such as M&A work, rebranding, increasing revenues or profits, new product development, and international expansion. Filling the position temporarily with someone capable, energized, and knowledgeable might be the answer to keeping the focus on the core aspects of the business and filling the needs without any heavy training costs;
  2. Management Vacancy
    Losing an executive unexpectedly due to sudden death, illness, or employee resignation/termination without a succession plan in place can be particularly agonizing. In such a situation, an interim leader provides a company’s board or ownership the time it needs to consider the company’s longer-term needs and work to find a permanent solution;
  3. The Company is in Transition
    A need arises with very short notice, so being able to fill an executive-level role with highly skilled, experienced staff is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the business. The interim would then be able to maintain day to day ops, develop a vision for the future (as needed) and/or prepare the company or department for the permanent placement to move in; or
  4. Reorganizing/Unpopular Role
    Filling a position on a trial basis to determine if a newly created position is needed can be a popular reason for considering an interim leader. Additionally, if the company is going through a turnaround or a wind-down, hiring someone to perform this intense and specialized activity may be the best choice.

Added Benefits of an Interim Leader

Wouldn’t it be a huge relief to bring in someone who has both the experience and expertise without having to be trained and without having to go through a lengthy hiring process? There are numerous benefits a company can enjoy as a result of interim leadership such as:

  1. Independent Perspective
    Independent interim leaders don’t have a stake in the organization and can assess it objectively, reassuring stakeholders that results won’t be subject to internal or external political influences. Your interim leader has a fresh set of ideas and a new way of looking at things. Perhaps their work in a related but different industry could be relevant to your organization. They may have a broader knowledge base because they have been working in other places. A strong interim leader will come into your organization with no preconceived ideas, no excuses, and no “that’s not the way we do it” mentality.
  2. Calming Emotions
    Regardless of circumstances, an executive’s departure causes anxiety among staff members, who suddenly find themselves forced to make sense of new ways of working, their new status, and what the future might hold for them. During the transition, there can be a loss of morale, discord, and organizational chaos, and staff members may feel abandoned, disappointed, relieved, or even angry. An interim leader can provide much-needed stability during the transition and quell organizational turbulence.
  3. Trying on a New Style
    Every leader has a particular style that becomes woven into the fabric of an organization’s culture, especially if the executive has had a long tenure. Over time, the staff becomes accustomed to the way the executive works. They create workarounds and may even offer excuses for an executive who is tardy, overly gregarious, conflict-averse, disorganized, or prone to micromanagement. An interim executive can allow the staff to try on a new executive style before the “wedding”.

Our Experience at DWH

DWH can assist your company in determining what your actual challenge or need is and what the outcome of the engagement could include. In addition, we have a pool of seasoned C-level interim executives who know how to create and manage growth strategies, deliver merger and acquisition support, protect against business disruptions, and provide financial leadership and direction.

Virtually all of our interim executives have owned and managed their own businesses, gaining the insight and expertise that comes only from first-hand experience. They can quickly integrate themselves into any organization because they’ve managed the challenges – and the opportunities – many times before. It’s a high-value solution that gives client companies immediate management leadership when they need it most – without a permanent increase in cost or headcount. This provides owners and investors with high-level management while longer-term decisions and solutions can be made.

To learn more about our strategies for Interim Leadership, click here.


This post was written by Heather Gardner | LinkedIn

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