When your company finds itself at a crossroads, the right leader can chart a new path forward. “I’ve seen it a hundred times. Companies have great plans, but the current team is lacking a director or manager with the necessary experience or vision to execute at the speed that leadership or the board expect,” says Anya Baron, Managing Partner, Interim Executives & Professionals.

From new strategic directions to unexpected departures, an interim manager or director can provide the leadership and vision that ensures business continuity. Most importantly, if your business partners with an interim recruiting firm, your new hire could be placed in a matter of days rather than months — saving valuable time and resources when swift action is critical.

What is an interim manager or director?

An interim manager or director serves temporarily as a company or team leader. They usually take on the role when the company is in a transition, such as when another manager departs or a new project is about to kick off.

“We’re seeing companies bringing in interim directors and managers when they need immediate action” says Baron. “These hires have a proven track record of delivering results and strategic leadership, helping companies reach deadline-driven outcomes while minimizing risk.”

How long is an interim leader’s tenure?

Since each situation is different, there’s no set time for an interim position to be open. In many cases, an interim leader will stay on for six to 18 months, though this length will vary based on your organization’s needs.

If the interim manager is on board for a specific project, such as a product launch, they may depart after that project concludes and they’ve ensured a seamless leadership transition. In another interim use case, the manager may be brought on to lead a team after an unexpected departure. Here, the timeframe largely depends on how long it takes to find a suitable, permanent replacement who will lead the company into its next phase. “We’ve also seen times when the interim manager has done an exceptional job, and the company has offered them a full-time position.” adds Lib Lowry, Executive Senior Partner. "Although those instances depend on the company’s broader talent strategy.

What makes a good interim manager?

A good interim director or manager has a passion for leading teams. They’re adept at setting a new strategic direction, uniting people around it, creating a detailed plan to bring it to life, executing the plan and measuring the results. These are the skills that make them great.

Emotional intelligence: As defined by Harvard Business School, this is “an individual’s ability to recognize and manage emotions in themselves and others.” Strong emotional intelligence is essential for all the other skills on this list. It impacts the ability to set a strategic vision, communicate it effectively, confidently make decisions, and bring out the best in others. Since assessing a potential manager’s emotional intelligence can take time, partnering with an interim talent agency for vetted hires can be helpful.

Strategic thinking: A great interim director is driven by their passion for results. Since they’re only with your company for a fixed period, everything they do focuses on generating results quickly and efficiently. “Interim managers and directors are experts at working with companies during intense, mission-critical periods, using an outsider perspective informed by deep experience to assess a company’s challenges and opportunities,” says Lowry. “Where others entrenched in the company’s day-to-day struggles may only see obstacles, they can find a new path forward.”

Clear communication: Interim talent often comes on board during periods of change. Their ability to reinforce the company’s message, values and vision through clear, confident communication is paramount. From the C-suite to junior employees, effective communication keeps teams aligned and focused on key objectives. Communication is a two-way process: the best interim managers are active listeners, ensuring employees feel heard and that their feedback is integrated.

Confident decision-making: Anyone can share ideas, but it takes a special kind of enterprise leader to make the decisions that lead to positive results — and to do so with confidence. “A strong interim director has to make tough choices while making sure everyone understands the reasons behind them to earn the trust of the team,” adds Lowry. “We would also expect they put metrics into place so they can see how the company is tracking toward its goals.”

The ability to bring out the best in others: Effective interim managers do not dictate orders or micromanage. They’re skilled at empowering employees to excel in their roles, improving overall team performance. By helping everyone on the team become better, they’ll leave your company in strong, capable hands once their tenure is complete.

Interim Executives & Professionals

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5 indicators that now is the time to hire an interim manager or director

You know what makes a great interim leader, but how do you know when to bring one on board? These are five indicators our experts identified that show it’s time to create an interim position:

  1. A manager or director is on extended leave. From paternity leave to a professional sabbatical, what happens when a key manager needs to step back for an extended period? You don’t need to replace this person with a permanent hire, but you do need an experienced leader who can guide the team in their absence, which is exactly what an interim manager does.
  2. You’ve maxed out your perm headcount but need support during a busy season. Leaner teams may be less expensive on a P&L sheet, but if your managers become overloaded during a busy period, it’s harder for them to effectively manage their employees and ensure high-quality, on-time deliverables. An interim manager can help relieve some of this pressure by temporarily providing additional management support during seasonal busy periods.
  3. You’re growing, quickly. Being able to scale for growth quickly is key. Whether you’re landing new clients, opening new offices, or adding new capabilities, your current team needs support. An interim manager can step in to keep things running smoothly for your current clients while you reimagine your team’s current roles. They can head up a new office or get a new team up and running at the speed necessary to maximize opportunities. Once workload evens out or permanent teams are in place, the interim manager can step away without any awkwardness.
  4. Your team lacks experience with the company’s new software platform. Technology moves fast. From a new CMS to a project management system, getting the team up to speed won’t happen overnight. Even when an external vendor handles the digital transformation process, employees still need support acclimating to the new technology. An interim manager with experience in this new technology can help streamline the rollout process.
  5. A manager or director is leaving unexpectedly. Even with the best succession planning, unexpected departures can shake up teams. Maybe you plan to promote from within, but your top choice needs a bit more experience before taking the reins. Perhaps you plan to hire a replacement, but realistically the search process could take several months. In both cases, an interim director or manager will keep the team on target to achieve their goals until the right person is ready to take on the role on a permanent basis.

Take the next steps to hire an interim manager

In today’s dynamic business climate, every minute matters. An interim manager or director can give your organization immediate access to valuable skills and experience with the agility and flexibility essential for ongoing success.

Ready to see how an interim director or manager can benefit your business? Reach out to us today.

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