How do you find an interim executive?

My last blog addressed why you would consider engaging an interim executive. In this blog, I will address the process of finding the correct interim for your need.

During the course of my dissertation research on “The Contribution of Interim Executives to Healthcare,” I inquired about how decision makers find interim executives. Part of this inquiry was directed at understanding the value proposition of firms that provide interim executive services to the healthcare industry. I will deal with the question of the value of interim executive firms in a future blog article.

My questions about sourcing Interim Executives gave several options and the ability for respondents to enter their own response. The summary of responses appear in the table below.

Answer                                                            Percentage of Responses                Cumulative Percentage
Recommended by a colleague(Networking)                          28.3%                                 28.3%

Recommended by a firm                                                        24.6%                                 52.9%

Recommended by a trusted advisor                                      17.1%                                   70.1%
The Interim Executive had been used by the firm before        9.6%                                   79.7%
Recommended by the hosptial’s management company       7.5%                                    87.2%
The interim was internal (already in the organization)              5.9%                                   93.0%
All other                                                                                    5.3%                                   98.4%
Recommended by the Board                                                   1.1%                                   99.5%
Recommended by the GPO                                                     0.5%                                  100.0%

The most common course of action when faced with the need to find an interim executive is to ‘phone a friend.’ Indeed, most of us routinely reach out to friends as we have questions and want to discuss a situation with someone that has traveled that road before.

The next most common solution to this problem was to contact an interim firm with nearly 25% of the respondents stating that they had contacted an interim firm for a recommendation regarding an interim executive. The difference between the colleague and firm courses are statistically significant meaning that the colleague recommendation is clearly preferred to all other methods of finding an Interim Executive.

One of the most common errors decision makers make when searching for either an interim or permanent candidate is failure to assess fit. This is a subject I will also address in the future but in the interim, keep in mind that all interims are not alike and the firms that place them are equally different.

If you choose to do what most people do and ‘phone a friend,’ the first question you should ask is whether they have engaged an interim executive before. If the answer is no as it was in the case of 49.5% of my respondents, keep looking. Executives counseling each other on something they know nothing about is analogous to middle school children teaching each other about sex.  You want to find someone that actually has experience with interims and can tell you what to look for and how to go about the process.

Another very important consideration is to align the type of executive being sought.  In other words, reliance upon an individual or firm that is experienced in the C-Suite may not lead to the best result if you are looking for a second or third tier manager. Organizations and networks of interim executives tend to coalesce around the interim’s career path.  I made this mistake when I went looking among my usual cadre of resources for an interim I had never engaged before, a materials manager.  The process was very painful until I started networking among individuals and firms that have a presence in this area.

Once you decide to look for an interim, how you go about it can make a big difference in the difficulty of finding a resource and the ease of the search for the correct interim, the quality of the interim and the success of the interim engagement. Happy hunting!

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general. As the only living human being that has done a dissertation on interim executive services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two you would find value in.

If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

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