Numerous studies have demonstrated that successful CEO are effective because they utilize the talents and capabilities of their C-Level teams. These companies are running very lean, with expanded spans of control. Whenever a hole occurs on that team, whether permanent (resignation or termination) or temporary (leave of absence) that is expected to last for an extended and unpredictable period of time (over two months) the leader is faced with a significant management issue. How can they ensure ongoing performance during the disruption?
One solution is to assume personal responsibility for the functional area. However, the CEO probably does not have the time nor the capabilities to absorb the scope of these responsibilities. The same is true for C-Level peers of the open position. Another alternative is to delegate work to subordinates within the functional area. This still presents increased management issues for the CEO. It also often creates friction within the department, especially if there are incumbents with succession ambitions. Often the solution is a combination of all three, choosing the best of all the lousy alternatives. This presents a variety of organizational issues and confusion.
Employing an Interim Executive is a more effective solution because:
- Does not disrupt any other C-Level executive who can continue to focus on their functional areas.
- Does not change the CEO’s span of control.
- Provides organizational continuity and leadership to the effected functional area.
- Ensures normal communication flow.
When the position is open, this should be cost neutral as the salary was budgeted.
In addition to performing the normal workload of the position, the interim executive can act as a consultant and provide additional benefits to the organization including:
- Reviewing processes and procedures, incorporating improvement opportunities.
- Independent evaluation of the skills and capabilities of the employees within the function. This can be critical if any employees are being considered as potential replacements.
- Developing an accurate job description and the job criteria for a replacement.
- Interviewing and evaluating the technical skills and capabilities of replacement candidates.
- Developing a onboarding plan for a replacement that ensures an efficient knowledge transfer.
- Allowing the company the time to select the right candidate.
Interim executives are available in all functional areas and can be retained expeditiously from a variety of sources. Although there are many cases where the interim executive has been retained on a permanent basis (i.e. the company had the added benefit of a free trial period) the model is that there is no long term expectation. Normal employment risks are therefore avoided.
All these benefits should outweigh the typical objection to hiring an interim executive, lack of company or industry knowledge. At the C-Level, this is less important than the strategic leadership qualities a good interim executive should possess