I was recently listening to Dan Hurley’s Talent Magnet Institute podcast interview with Mike Sipple Jr., “Becoming Fully Human.” In the podcast, Dan shares that his “retirement job” is serving as host of a local NPR radio show. However, before “retirement,” Dan was a teacher, historian, Director of Leadership for Leadership Cincinnati, the interim CEO for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and a producer and reporter for WKRC TV. He has an interesting career path, with which I greatly identify since I have also had a lot of different experiences.
During the podcast (at approximately 23 minutes), Mike asks Dan about his time serving as the interim CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Dan shared such valuable insights about serving as an interim, I thought it was worthy to separately detail them. If you are considering an interim leadership position, I highly recommend that you listen to Dan’s podcast. Here is a quick recap, including my extrapolated learnings.
Why Be an Interim Leader?
When asked why Dan chose to fill the interim position CEO position, Dan shared that he already felt passionately about the Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and had been involved with the organization since its inception. He believed in its mission, felt it was important both locally and nationally, and also observed that the community was invested in the organization.
My learning #1: If you are considering an interim position, it is helpful to feel that the work the organization or company does is important.
My learning #2: It is helpful to have prior knowledge of and experience with the organization. The shorter the onboarding runway, the better.
Once he was in the position, Dan realized how tenuous the position was. He didn’t know if he was going to be in the position 6 weeks, 6 months, a year –or more. If he had known how long his tenure was going to be, he might have approached certain situations differently.
My learning #1: If possible, find out the timeline for the search for the replacement.
My learning #2: Find out who will be leading the search.
Consider: Do you want to throw your hat in the ring?
Goal Setting as an Interim is a Balancing Act
Dan streamlined his goals for the interim position. First, he felt it was important to stabilize the situation, bolstering the staff, reassuring them during this time of change. Second, he chose not to make any commitments that his successor would be stuck with –no new initiatives—especially since he wasn’t sure of his timeline. Third, Dan also worked within the larger organization to shore up its internal structure and systems so whoever followed him could hit the ground running.
My learning #1: If working as an interim, set goals for the short term.
My learning #2: Document as much as possible, as you go along. It will help you bring your replacement up-to-speed quickly.
Considering an Interim Position? Take Dan’s Advice
One of Dan’s greatest bits of advice was that it is important for an interim to understand as much as possible who will be making decisions during this time of change, and to be absolutely clear on who you answer to. Know who is really in charge and who has your back.
It is also important to be clear on the organization’s financial situation. You need to know if there is a cash problem. Know what you are facing.
My learning #1: Ask a lot of questions.
My learning #2: Ask more questions.
I found some great articles on becoming an interim leader, which I list below. If you think this position may be in your future, check these out:
Serving in an interim job can frequently make or break your career. Make sure you consider all the pros and cons of accepting such a position before saying “yes.”