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Interim Insights - Mark Pinnell

by Shannon Walsh


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Mark Pinnell is the Director of Property at Dacorum Borough Council. As an interim leader, he brings a wealth of experience and insight to the table. We sat down with Mark to delve into his experiences and glean insights into his dynamic role. Here's what he had to share:

What led you to a career as an interim?
I had been at an organisation for 20 years, starting as an Emergency Building Surveyor and eventually becoming Executive Director of Assets and Development. After being in the Executive Director role for 5 years, I felt I had achieved all I could, and the role had become very business as usual. I faced a choice: stay where I am, continue to do the role I was employed for and wait for the pension, look elsewhere for another permanent role, or do something else?
Although I had achieved a lot over the course of my career, I wondered if I could achieve the same level of success elsewhere—a question I would never know the answer to if I didn’t try. After a few months, I decided to take the plunge and resigned from my position. I had nothing in the pipeline other than a few conversations and the desire to do something different.
The choice to become an interim was driven by the desire to do something different. Another permanent role could result in my doing the same thing but in a different place, not necessarily the change I was looking for. I was also looking for the adage of an improved work-life balance.

What do you enjoy most about being an interim?
For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects is the expectation placed on you from day 1. The organisation either has a gap that the role you are doing is going to fill, or an issue that your experience can assist with.
You are there because you know what you're doing; you are expected to deliver and are pretty much fully assessed on that delivery. To a certain extent, you can avoid the politics driven by past experience or performance, set your own stall out, and bring others along with you.

What are the challenges you face as an interim, and how important is leadership style?
In my case, the challenges faced relate to having to prove myself, something that came with time served in my previous post. As a newbie to the organisation, you need to build relationships quickly, not only with your direct reports or peer group but also more widely to include IT colleagues, contractors, etc. There can be a sense that an interim has a magic wand; manage that expectation from the start.

Leadership style is pivotal to success. You may need a supportive mentoring approach when dealing with a team that has experienced a lot of challenges or changes. On the flip side, you may have to be firm and direct or empathetic, all of which could play a part. It's important to accept that one style will not fit all and, like it or not, you will be perceived as a new member of the team, which comes with the need to prove yourself.

What difference have you made in the organisations you’ve worked for?
I set out to bring stability to an area of key importance to the business that carried a huge burden of responsibility and reputational risk. By providing open and honest reports, dialogue, etc., processes have been introduced and embedded; expectations raised but also managed in line with what is achievable, by whom, and by when. While still turbulent, we have developed a culture of success driven by accountability.
There is a real sense of achievement across the organisation, however, there is still much to do within the confines of what can be delivered with the available resources.

What makes a good interim in your eyes?
For me, a good interim is a time-served professional looking for a challenge, who wants to use their skills and experience to make a difference. In my current role, I came to do a specific task but have expanded my sphere of influence several times, leading to extensions of contract and longevity in post.

Could I put a title on the role I am doing that would encompass all aspects of what I do? No, and that’s what makes a good interim—the ability to flex as and when required.

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