There are many things to consider when becoming an interim professional for the first time. However, being considered a high-performing interim manager who consistently achieves outcomes, creates trust, builds relationships, offers fresh ideas and strives for continual improvement is what will make you stand out in an ever-growing market.
It is a critical time for all professionals – but here are five tips I feel can help you guide your interim career.
1. Prepare an impactful CV and compliance pack
Your CV is one of the most important tools to secure you a role, so getting it right is vital. It is your shop window, and a chance for prospective clients to quickly understand your value proposition. Your CV should focus on impact and outcomes backed up by measurable, tangible information. When writing about a previous assignment, be clear about what you were brought in to do, how you did it, and what the outcomes were.
Speak to your consultant about the onboarding information for different types of assignment. This will include information such as personal details, referees, limited company information and insurances. By having this organised and to hand, you can avoid delays when beginning an assignment – a key factor in the interim market.
2. Be clear about your strengths
Interim professionals should be a breath of fresh air. This means being open and honest about what you can offer, and where your strengths lie. If hired, the chances are you’ll be parachuted into an organisation to solve a problem. So, landing quickly and being able to get to grips with the immediate challenge is vital. Knowing your strengths and where you can add most value for clients is one key to success.
3. Identify quick wins
Many people consider their approach to the first 100 days in a new permanent role. This period is drastically reduced in interim roles with quick wins and early results being helpful when getting established. You may be familiar with conversations around ‘cultural fit’ however, as an interim, ‘cultural add’ can be more important – what you’ll bring in addition to the values, behaviours and approach of the permanent team.
Overall, you will benefit from being focused on agreed targets and objectives. You’ve been hired to get a client from A to B, and this will require clear vision and effective decision making. Clients value your independent and professional advice, so make sure you offer solutions that ensure they achieve their outcomes.
4. Agree realistic targets and objectives
You are being brought in to solve a problem and hired based on your experience. Sometimes this is to add capacity, but often it is to add capability. Therefore, know what can or can’t be achieved and be careful not to overcommit. Set clear, and realistic objectives with your client and focus your attention on delivering and reporting against them. You must take accountability for the outcomes, be committed to positive change and care about the longer-term impact.
At times, you may need to push back on unrealistic expectations. Dilution of your time against initial priorities, additional projects that divert you from delivering core objectives, or a course of direction that you do not professionally agree with. If it is done in a professional and appropriate way, it will be well received and ensures you can deliver the best value and outcomes.
5. Ensure a good reputation
Ultimately, a good reputation comes down to two things. Firstly, did you achieve what you set out to and leave a legacy? Secondly, did you do it in a way that left relationships intact and teams with their confidence built? If you can answer yes to both, you are doing the right thing.
Your decisions should be made with your client in mind, rather than yourself. So, the focus will be on long term sustainable solutions that meet the brief, leaving the organisation in a better place than when you arrived.
Don’t only take my word for it. I spoke with two experienced interims who gave their view on what makes an interim stand out.
Jan Rowley, an interim regeneration director and Vivien Knibbs, an interim housing director, both offered their thoughts on the subject. Jan comments: ‘When taking on a new assignment, I make sure to select the right role and organisational culture which reflects my skill set and knowledge.
‘My advice is to be clear about the brief and make sure that the client shares the same vision of what success looks like. Spend time with people and listen to the people you’re working with, supporting them in understanding what you’ve been brought in to achieve and explore with them what the challenges are. It’s important to demonstrate positivity and to champion the organisation you are working with. Reflect on the value you bring and know when to move on.’
Vivien adds: ‘Be honest with yourself about your skills and strengths when choosing a role. This will give you the best chance of success both in securing and delivering it.
‘Ensure you have clear objectives – what are you there to deliver and how will success be measured? Often this isn’t provided so write your own and get them signed off early in the placement. Don’t forget to regularly feedback based on progress, success, and outcomes. You may not be asked for this but ensure you take the initiative and ask for feedback too - this will help you to pick up any issues early.
‘The people in the organisation are the resource who will make things happen. Be friendly and positive, seek to engage with people and don’t jump to instant conclusions. Generally, there are lots of good, hard-working staff and it’s often the organisation and systems that have prevented them from delivering.’ n
Dino Christodoulou is a senior consultant at Tile Hill specialising in interim appointments across place