What to look for when hiring an Interim Manager, a sponsor’s perspective.

Hiring an interim manager is a big step. It is a sign that help is needed from outside of the organisation. At some point, you or another member of the executive team have identified the need. So how should you proceed and what should you expect? As a former CEO and Managing Director, and having hired interims, here is “a sponsor’s perspective”.

Gain consensus – every organisation has its own political framework and governance model. There may be directors and shareholders with different perspectives that need to be understood, balanced and addressed. There will also be a hierarchy, formal or informal. So, the decision to bring in an interim ideally needs support. If you are the sponsoring executive, be prepared to justify the need, and to bring people along with you. Bringing people to a realisation that change is needed is not always easy. But if you don’t go through the process and gain consensus you might regret it further down the line. To a degree this will depend on your own delegated authorities. If you are an executive, and the need to bring in an interim has been imposed on you by shareholders, accept the situation and get on with it!

Clarify objectives and desired outcomes – in effect, the brief for your interim. Develop the brief with the executive team. This process can be used to identify and resolve unexpressed concerns. In developing the brief, be clear on authority levels to be delegated to the interim, the degree of autonomy, and the reporting lines.

Skills – be clear on the skills needed and the credentials of your interim.

Selection process – prepare thoroughly for the selection process. Here are some tips;

  • Agree the selection process with the executive team, who will be involved and at which gateways.
  • Offer to involve other executives in the selection process or seek confirmation from them they are happy for you as sponsor to proceed.
  • Hiring an interim is very different to hiring a regular employee.
  • Be prepared for the conversation to be two-way and for the candidates to constructively challenge your thinking in a way a regular employee would not. This is because you should want the interim manager to really get to understand the matter(s) to be addressed. He or she will have operated at a prominent level elsewhere, and should have the skills and experience you need, and a sound grasp of common business issues.
  • Be open and honest in your discussions with the candidate(s) as to the full extent of the task, the problems to be addressed, potential tripwires, anticipated points of resistance, available support, other participants.
  • Discussing the problem and the brief openly and constructively will you give you a very good idea if the chemistry is right. As project sponsor, you will need the chemistry and understanding as between you and your interim to be there. You will need them to be aligned with the objectives and totally committed to the cause.
  • Consider the desired personality traits of the interim and how he / she will fit in with the business culture. Look for emotional intelligence. Look for the ability to lead change. Look for empathy. Look for assertiveness and strength. Look for toughness and resilience.
  • Ask the candidates to play back to you how they would proceed with the assignment. This will confirm their understanding accords with yours.
  • Be clear on your recommendation as to the final choice of interim, and offer the opportunity for other executives to meet him / her, prior to commitment.

Onboarding your interim – prepare for the arrival of your interim. Here are some tips;

  • Involving an interim invariably involves change, and change management skills.
  • Form your “guiding coalition” to support the change project.
  • Communicate the reason why an interim has been hired.
  • Support your interim in initial meetings.
  • Expect some concerns to be expressed, and be ready to address them.

During the assignment – do not throw your interim into a situation and expect to leave them to it, and for things then to go well. Here are some tips;

  • Establish feedback mechanisms and regular meetings to discuss progress and issues.
  • Watch the quality of interaction of your interim with others in the organisation.
  • Maintain close contact during delivery of the assignment. Be prepared to supplement your interims’ skills if need be. Be prepared to flex your own thinking if the circumstances so require.
  • As the assignment approaches conclusion ensure knowledge transfer is achieved. Support your interim so a positive legacy remains.


A final tip – remember, as project sponsor the success or otherwise of the interim manager could reflect on you. The higher you are in the organisation, the more the effect will be magnified. Choose wisely, choose well. For the responsibility for success or failure could ultimately rest with you.

Source; Colin Morrell, Mutarem Management.