Mastering the Art of Planning and Execution for Interim Leaders:
The Most Fundamental Task of an Interim Leader
Interim leadership is a unique and challenging role that demands skills and qualities distinct from those required in a traditional, long-term leadership position. The ability to plan and execute effectively while navigating the inevitable surprises of the day is a fundamental skill that all interim leaders must master. This skill is the cornerstone of their success in leading organisations through periods of transition and change.
In the world of interim leadership, “today’s surprises” are a constant presence. Whether it’s unexpected shifts in market dynamics, sudden changes in personnel, or unforeseen organisational challenges, interim leaders must be prepared to address these issues swiftly and decisively. What sets apart exceptional interim leaders is their capacity to proactively plan and execute, even in the face of these surprises.
The Foundation of Interim Leadership
Interim leaders often assume their roles during upheaval, transition, or crisis. Their primary responsibility is to provide stability, direction, and leadership during these turbulent periods. To do this effectively, they must be skilled at developing and executing a plan that can adapt to evolving circumstances.
Interim leaders often start with a broad plan outline based on their initial situational analysis. This initial plan provides a clear vision for the organisation’s future and establishes a direction for the team. However, this plan is not rigid; it’s a flexible framework that can be refined and adjusted as they gain a deeper understanding of the organisation they are leading.
The Role of Adaptability
Adaptability is a critical aspect of this foundational skill. Interim leaders must remain flexible and open to change. They should be ready to pivot and refine their plans as they uncover more about the organisation, its challenges, and its opportunities. This ability to adapt seamlessly without confusing the team sets apart successful interim leaders.
When interim leaders fail to adapt, they risk becoming trapped in a reactive, firefighting mode. Rather than leading proactively and strategically, they flit from one crisis to the next at an alarming rate. This hampers the organisation’s progress and erodes the team’s confidence in their leadership.
The Importance of Effective Communication
A key component of this skill is effective communication. An Interim leader must maintain clear, transparent communication with their teams. When changes or adjustments to the plan are necessary, they should be communicated to foster understanding and buy-in from the team. This communication helps ensure the organisation can move forward cohesively, even when the plan is in flux.
Developing the Skill
Mastering the art of planning and execution while overcoming “today’s surprises” is a skill that can be developed and honed over time. Here are some strategies to help interim leaders improve this crucial skill:
- Understand the Organisation: Take the time to thoroughly understand the organisation you’re leading. This includes its culture, strengths, weaknesses, and the expectations of key stakeholders.
- Gather Input: Involve key team members and stakeholders in the planning process. Their input can provide valuable insights and buy-in for the plan.
- Flexibility and Agility: Embrace change and be willing to adapt the plan as new information emerges. Keep the team informed about changes and the rationale behind them.
- Continuous Learning: Be open to ongoing learning about the organisation and its industry. This knowledge will help inform your decisions and planning.
- Mentorship and Support: Seek out mentors and support networks within the interim leadership community. Learning from the experiences of others can be invaluable.
- Self-Reflection: Regularly assess your performance and seek feedback from others to identify areas for improvement.
Interim leadership is a dynamic and challenging role that requires a specific set of skills. The ability to plan and execute while overcoming “today’s surprises” is at the core of this role. An Interim leader who master this skill can confidently and proactively lead organisations through transitions and changes with a steady hand. They are the ones who ensure that their teams, even in the face of uncertainty, continue to move forward cohesively and purposefully.
Read the four D’s of the Interim Leader.