Tips on Selecting the Correct Interim Executive. by Edwin Beall

Today’s business challenges and economic conditions are forcing companies to re-examine their leadership team’s bandwidth and ability to positively impact the bottom line. Responding to ever-changing challenges and opportunities in business is not new. However, the speed in which companies must make high impact changes or additions to their leadership teams is becoming more crucial.

Increasing shareholder value in today’s business climate presents significant resource challenges for many companies. Too often, this gap is being filled by high risk external recruitment of permanent staff or consultants.

To address the resource challenge quickly and mitigate risk, companies are increasingly calling on interim executives to fill crucial roles, round out leadership teams, deal with a crisis or assist with a business restructuring. Boards, investors and executive teams are turning to seasoned executives, working on an interim basis, to navigate their companies through turbulent times. Whether a company is merging, acquiring a competitor, re-structuring operations or simply redirecting its supply chain strategy, high impact interim executives are increasing being used by companies to supplement executive teams on a short-term basis.

Finding the interim executive with the right skills, experience, personality and track record can be a daunting task. For companies in the midst of a crisis or an executive absence, hiring the wrong interim is costly and the last thing they need.

The most important criteria for evaluating an interim executive for your company are:

• Specific, relevant skills. Do you need a supply chain expert or a team builder? Will you be pursuing additional financing or making tough workforce decisions? When hiring an outside expert, be sure to get an exact match on the skills you need. Sometimes, the best fit is from with interim executives outside your industry. Relevant skills are frequently more important than industry experience to achieve high impact results.
• Experience Level. The key here is not to get one of the best names in the industry. What’s more important is that the candidate’s experience matches your specific situation and requirements. The right candidate is sensibly overqualified. Better than you need for the job, but not so over- qualified that the engagement will not be challenging for the interim executive.
• Personality. The candidate’s personality/chemistry must complement your existing leadership team. Work style, ego and cultural fit must all be considered when selecting an interim executive.

Before you launch your search for an interim executive you must identify your needs and determine the scope of the assignment. This should include:

• What are you trying to achieve that can be best done by an outsider?
• How do you expect an interim executive to add value to your company?
• Decide the caliber of person you need. Do you need an advisor and report writer? In this case, you might choose a consultant. Or, do you want someone to run things and be accountable? In this case, you should choose an interim executive. An interim should be able to do both.
• What are the qualities you are seeking from an interim executive? Determine the balance of expertise and experience the job requires.
• Define the nature of the assignment or project, the key tasks and the time-frame.

If you and your team have concluded there are issues you cannot fix, engaging an interim executive to make it happen is a logical decision.

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