How to Prepare Your Team for An Interim Executive

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Transitions are fraught with uncertainty, but the arrival of an interim executive often presents unique challenges.

Among them: Employees may view the temporary executive’s mandate with some doubt, making them less inclined to follow her lead or invest needed effort into implementing her direction.

Employees may be less inclined to follow an interim executive’s direction

But your organization can’t afford to tread water, so it’s up to you to smooth the executive’s internal path and make sure all employees are comfortable with – and recognize the importance of – taking direction from their temporary leader.

Here are six ways to prep your team for an interim executive.

1. Ditch the memo.

Formal announcements breed uncertainty. Calm nerves and quell gossip by sharing the news in person. Your announcement should be a conversation, not a presentation. Casual settings, such as a group lunch, are a better environment than the boardroom.

2. Lean toward transparency.

Walk employees through the decision process, explaining why you’re bringing in an interim executive and what you expect him to accomplish during his tenure. Be sure to instill confidence by talking up your choice – his background, expertise and personality.

3. Ask and you shall receive

Many transition announcements are met with silence, followed by gossip. Don’t let that happen. Create an environment in which your team feels free to ask the hard questions about how the appointment will impact current initiatives, projects and their working life.

4. Embrace the WIIFM Factor

Some employees will be more skeptical than others. Their attitude can breed distrust, undermining the interim executive before she’s even started. So, it’s critical to deal with the “what’s in it for me” factor. Initiate one-to-one conversations, allowing employees to discuss the appointment without fear of repercussions. Help them understand how it relates to their own employment and reinforce how you expect them to interact with the interim executive.

5. Empower your employees.

A key responsibility of the interim executive is to transition knowledge to the team when he exits. Reassure employees that they’re an integral part of the larger plan, and that there’ll be shared ownership of projects to facilitate this transition. This is empowering and helps get all oars in the water at the same time.

6. Keep It Social

There’s a distinct advantage to small talk: It builds trust and confidence. Ask the interim executive to meet your team a week before he starts and arrange to do it in a social setting, such as over cocktails or at a company barbeque. This will allow time for personal chitchat, providing employees with the opportunity to discover common interests with the interim executive. By getting to know him on a personal level, it will set your team at ease and make the transition proceed more smoothly from Day One.


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