Bringing in a gamechanger: why hiring an interim executive could transform your business

Bringing in a gamechanger: why hiring an interim executive could transform your business

Glen Johnson, Partner at Odgers Interim, says that bringing in an interim executive is often seen as a stopgap measure while organizations figure out what to do. However, talented interims have the transformational skills to help build a strategy for the future and ignite performance.

As my wise colleague Sayed A Sadjady has observed, there are 3 Ingredients for Successful C-Suite Hand-offs. Treating succession planning as an ongoing discipline sits at the very heart of it all. If you have a “rolling” process for talent reviews in place your organization will be in great shape to elevate talent into key leadership roles when the need arises.

Unfortunately, C-Suite hand-offs do not always work. For whatever reason, perhaps you do not have a well-prepared successor waiting in the wings, ready and eager to step up. If that’s the case, then you need what Tom Legard, an Odgers Interim partner based in the UK, calls Plan B: bringing interim executive talent on board to save the day.

Almost always interims drop into crisis, chaos, change and transformation. Rarely is an interim simply pulled in to be a caretaker, although that is a possibility.

Hiring an interim executive has some tremendous upsides. They come in with a neutral/objective view untainted by prevailing organizational groupthink. And because they are in place for a window of time, they have the freedom to speak their mind in way that is seldom the case for people who plan on staying in your organization for the medium to long term.

Also, interims can really drive performance – you’re not hiring just to keep a seat warm! Let me share a great example of an Interim CEO we placed in the UK who was motivated by the prospect of leaving the organization in better shape than he found it. His initial decisions included “discontinuing an underperforming product line, enhancing governance and compliance across the business, and looking at methods for building a stronger relationship between the Board and Executive team.” That’s a lot of improvement delivered.

Compared to Europe, the US interim market is relatively immature. However, there are signs of a positive shift. The Great Realization, MBO Partners’ 11th annual report into the state of the US independent workforce, published in December 2021, found that businesses are becoming more comfortable working with independents. For several years, MBO has tracked the ranks of what it calls “independent service professionals” and concludes the number in the US rose 9.4% last year, to 8.1 million.

“The number of independents reporting annual earnings of $100,000 or more soared in 2021, from 3 million to 3.8 million, an increase of nearly 30%,” notes the report. “That’s the highest number of high-earning independents in the 11 years of the survey, and nearly twice the number in 2011.” Clearly, the independent executive talent pool is enjoying healthy growth.

It’s important to note that Interim offers talent that might not otherwise be available to a company. If you’re a small or medium sized enterprise, you may not be able to afford such individuals as a permanent or full time member of staff. However, given that an interim executive can usually call upon the extensive experience of a long and successful career, their time may come at a premium. Yet this investment is for a finite period, on average around 11 months. Think of this as akin to renting a Lamborghini instead of the much higher cost of buying a supercar outright.  

The knowledge and value an interim brings may surprise you. The importance of culture within organizations is much talked about. Less well known is how adept interim leaders are at adapting (and sharing best practice from elsewhere) having experienced a number of different cultures. They can bring value to the table you didn’t even know you were missing.

If you're interested in having a conversation about how interim executives can help your organization, get in touch with Glen Johnson.


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