Building Resilience as an Interim

Building Resilience as an Interim

Zoe Spalding, Resourcer at Odgers Interim, is sharing her top tips on how to build resilience as an interim

Interim managers often work in challenging, fast paced working environments with accelerated timescales, multiple stakeholders and often long or intense working patterns, combined with feeling the need to be on their “A-game” immediately. In between assignments interim managers can also experience anxieties whilst looking and interviewing for the next role. Building resilience can help when navigating the interim market. We asked several of our interim managers about their advice and best practice for building resilience when working as an interim executive.

Prior to the assignment:

  • How you enter the interim market can impact your resilience to it. If embarking on an interim role by chance, or if an interim opportunity is considered as a stop gap or a compromise until a permanent position is secured, then the short term, finite and uncertain nature of interim roles may be a source of anxiety.
  • Acknowledge that interim assignments are not end-to-end jobs. Be prepared for the breaks between contracts rather than constantly worrying about when the next assignment will come.
  • Personal circumstances need to align with this method of working. Interims must be able to cope with and plan for the financial fluctuations.
  • Interim managers will likely interview a lot. They will also likely not get all the interviews that they go forward for. Remember this is not personal, remember your worth and remember that whilst you are very skilled, you may not be what the client is looking for at this time. Do not take this to heart, it is not a reflection on you or your skills.
  • Impostor Syndrome is a real issue for some – see our next top tips later on in the month on how to spot this and work with it.

During the assignment:

  • Interim management is a challenge, the roles are often intense and they can feel daunting at times. Remember the positives - they are also a way to work with new people, new office cultures and to increase skills.
  • Interims may experience uncertainty or nervousness from permanent staff members who may question why they were brought in – try not to take this personally. Explain what you do and why, make people comfortable and try to build relationships quickly.
  • In certain situations, interims may feel that they can be more open to discussing issues whilst working on an interim assignment. They can avoid getting caught up in office politics and whilst they will want to achieve a good outcome, they are not looking for promotions.
  • Interim managers cannot have an independent strategy to the rest of the company. This needs to align with what the client is looking for.
  • Identify the key stakeholders, decision makers and the person in the office who everyone goes to for advice – this may be the team secretary or a PA. This person can help you understand the culture of the organisation and point things out like who to speak to, people's working styles etc.
  • Build strong working relationships, find alliances and listen to those against the agenda.
  • Agree the key objectives for the assignment with your line manager/direct report. Be realistic and honest when managing their expectations about workload capacity and timeframes. If additional work is added on during the assignment, be pragmatic about expectations..
  • Listen and be prepared to listen – it is easier to understand other people’s perspectives, even if you disagree with them, if you actively listen to their point of view/reasoning. This can help prevent things from feeling personal.
  • If faced with negative comments in the press or social media, try to avoid reading the comments below the lines and liaise with the client’s press office if required.
  • If you are staying away from home – take something comfortable with you (e.g. pillow) – getting a good night’s sleep is essential to preventing exhaustion. Batch cooking meals at weekends is another idea.
  • Look after your mental and physical health and wellbeing – interim assignments can be very busy, with a shorter accelerated time frame, you may find yourself working long days or weeks – try to keep set time for yourself whether this is a lunch time walk, evenings or weekends.
  • Interim managers will often not get the instant feedback or understanding on how their work is going from the client. The relationship that the interim has with their recruitment consultant should be able to provide insight into this. It can also act as a sounding board if the interim is having issues with the client on a more personal level.

Planning for the breaks between assignments:

  • Undertaking some consultancy projects may be an option and increase your employability as an interim.
  • Take time to restore and recharge – often interim assignments are very full on, with many contractors working without annual leave/holidays during the set time frame of the contract. Use the breaks to recharge mentally and physically.
  • Upskill – take time to assess where you would like to increase or develop your skills – invest in training or course to develop these areas. This could be something that you noticed that you were weaker on, or something you did on your assignment that you particularly enjoyed and want to do more of.
  • Keep abreast of what is happening in the market, in terms of developments, trends and legislation and use your own network as well as recruitment consultants to see what is out there in the market.
  • Sharing information, ideas, roles with others in your network helps builds strong relationships and trust.
  • Be kind to yourself, take pride in what you have achieved, where you have made a difference and always be humble – remember you are there because you know something the client requires, you have skills they are looking for and you can make an immediate impact.
  • The more interim assignments you complete the more you will know your likes and dislikes, you can be become choosier in your perusal of roles – use this to help decide on future roles.

Methods to increase resilience:

  • Practice thought awareness and cognitive restructuring – practice positive thinking, avoid ruminating on negative thoughts.
  • Learn from mistakes and errors, they happen to everyone, even the best!
  • Maintain perspective and a positive mindset - consider worst case, best case and most likely options.
  • Adopt relaxation techniques.
  • Set SMART Goals – these need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
  • Be flexible – accept may face setbacks and challenges.
  • Develop strong relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – this is not a sign of weakness.
  • Understand the assignment purpose.
  • Don’t give up.

For more information about buidling resilience as an interim, or other matters relating to your interim career, please contact Zoe Spalding


Robert Beasley at 09/06/2021 13:41 said:

I recognise so many of these points in my own experience and practice.
My interim assignments have been varied but almost always in intense, pressured, complex environments and where I've been leading teams who needed support, direction and changes (sometimes big, sometimes quite small).
"Don't give up" has been a consistently helpful mantra.

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