How to “hit the ground running” as an interim

As an interim, you’ve been recruited to fix a problem, fill a gap or provide support in a difficult time, so it’s not surprising that your new employer expects you to “hit the ground running.” You won’t have time to phase into a role – you need to prove yourself, and fast. Thankfully, with your experience and track record, living up to this well-used phrase is fairly straightforward, as long as you follow some simple rules.

  • Do your homework
  • Be a people-person
  • Be diplomatic
  • Listen
  • Communicate
  • Do Your Homework

With a permanent role it’s common to spend your first few weeks, or even months, getting to know your employer, colleagues and staff. On contracts as short as three months, interims don’t have this luxury and must demonstrate results within weeks at the very most. So, you have to do your homework ahead of time.

You can – and should – get to work in your home office even before you land the role. First, utilise any information available to you online about the organisation in question, look out for news articles as well as reading board papers to get a grasp on where there are.

Once you have gathered the relevant resources, it’s time to put on your glasses and get down to some serious reading. You need to be ruminating over and digesting board papers, regulatory reports, auditors’ reports and the organisation’s own website. Make copious notes. Refer to the brief you were given when you accepted the role and review it in light of everything you have found out so far.2

Once you have officially been given the interim role, it’s time to plan a visit to meet and talk with the people you will be working with. This should include your immediate team, along with any other Stakeholders related to your task. This will help you quickly understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (yes, your SWOT analysis starts now).

Be A People-Person

You’re not here to be everyone’s friend, but you do need to get along with people. By being approachable, you’ll get a truer picture of how the organisation works and what you need to do to meet your brief. Don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for people to come to you – it’s only by getting involved that you’ll be able to create a collaborative atmosphere in which you can make rapid assessments of people’s capabilities.

Be Diplomatic

At the start of a placement, people are generally keen to help solve the problem or problems and come forward to help. However, in every organisation there is a contingent of the “this is how we’ve always done it” brigade. Often these are the very people who know the most about the organisation and have a great deal of experience and skills that you can utilise in your work. Get them on-side and you’ll find everything that much easier. But how?


Listen

Possibly the most important skill in the interim’s armoury is listening. Only by listening – to the consultancy which hired you, to the organisation you have been brought in to help and to the staff within the organisation – can you move towards an effective solution. And really listen. Listening is a particular skill that few people possess, but it’s truly vital to being an effective interim. Listen to everything a person has to say and try not to guide the conversation too much. Something that first appears throwaway can be turn out to be the key to unlocking the solution to a much bigger problem.

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Communicate

It’s all very well being a good listener, but if you don’t put communication channels in place, you might never get to the opportunity to listen to the right people. It’s particularly important to make communication channels two-way and not simple a management broadcast medium. Communication needs to flow down and up the chain for change to happen.

Summary

So, how do you hit the ground running in your interim placement? Do your homework and research everything, cultivate a people-friendly persona, be diplomatic at all times, listen properly and create effective communication channels. Follow these simple rules and aim to over-deliver by the end of your contract. Finally, never forget – you’re only as good as your last role, so make this one count.

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