Public Service Leadership conference, 13 March, Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London: Interims are hired to tackle problems long-term managers cannot fix

Public Service Leadership conference, 13 March, Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London

Interim directors are often brought in to tackle problems that long-term managers with vested interests cannot fix, according to Sean Sullivan, turnaround director at the East of England Strategic Health Authority.

“I use interims to broach those subjects that the people who have been there for 15 years and have a decent pension package can’t,” Sullivan told delegates.

“And there is usually a collective sigh of relief that someone has come in to sort out the problem,” he added.

Stuart Cain, director at provider BIE Interim Executive, agreed that long-standing employees could have a conflict of interest when discussing contentious issues with senior staff. “It’s a huge advantage if your pension isn’t tied up with what you’re going to say,” he said.

Jane French, a former interim HR director at HM Revenue & Customs and drinks supplier Britvic, said organisations only introduced interims during massive periods of change.

“There is usually an open door to enable interims to debate issues and gain access to decision makers,” she said.

“During change you’re always going to come up against some resistance. But I wouldn’t take an assignment without having sponsorship from senior level.”

French added that interims needed to start planning their exit from day one.

Conference quotes

“As you penetrate the onion to get to the issues, you need to have an idea of what the organisation needs to be fit for purpose.”
Peter Gray, director, Defence Leadership and Management Centre

“Interims are special people for special situations. It’s not a try-and-buy service.”
Stuart Cain, director, BIE Interim Executive

“Whatever level of management you are at, your primary objective is to achieve results for others.”
Phil Hayes, executive coach, Management Futures

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