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Four tips for starting your interim assignment with a bang

by Shannon Walsh


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People in an organisation are prone to be resistant to change - and the arrival of a new interim manager is no exception. If that person is you, you may be faced with uncertainty among employees about how well you'll perform in your job. Will you integrate quickly, form productive relationships with your new colleagues and hit the ground running, or will you flounder and hesitate, making mistakes and putting noses out of joint in the process?

The unease some are likely to be feeling in this scenario means that you need to impress, right from day one. With that in mind, here are our tips for making the right impact at your new interim assignment:

1. Know your metrics

When starting a new role, preparation is key. Your time at your new interim assignment is limited, so you want to walk into it feeling (and having those around you feel) like you already know what you're doing to every extent possible. This means having a solid idea of what will be expected of you so you can be confident that you won't feel lost when pertinent questions come up.

Specifically, the first thing you need to do is to get clear on the challenge ahead of you. Give careful consideration to a few key questions before you walk through the door. What tasks do you need to complete? What are your measurable targets, and how will you achieve them? What are the deadlines and timescales involved? What's your overall plan of action, and what original ideas will you bring to the table? Being ready with answers to these questions will stand you in good stead to make an immediate impact and impress those in situ by creating a seamless transition into your new role.

2. Learn about the culture at your new client

Every company has its own unique culture – from the processes for getting work done to the coffee break banter. You've been brought in for your expertise and proven ability to get things done, but if you want to impress, even as an interim manager, you're going to have to fit in as well.

This means that you'll really need to take time to learn and understand the new culture – get to know who you need to make an impression with, who the key influencers are, and their areas of responsibility. It's also useful to develop an understanding of the office politics but not be drawn into things. Asking questions during informal conversations is a great way of feeling out who the movers and shakers are in the business.

3. Get an early win

If done right, this is one of the best things you can aim for in your new assignment – getting a success under your belt early on will not only gain you personal capital, it also shows that you're goal focussed, good at prioritising, and ultimately capable of delivering. Additionally, it will allow those you're working with to relax, knowing they can have faith in your ability to get the job done effectively.

It's important that you choose a target that matters to the project in a concrete way – rather than a 'vanity win', which will only get you so far and soon be forgotten. While it's good to be confident in your ability, you also need to be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. If your first achievement at least matches the expectations you've created for yourself, people will know that you're as good as your word.

4. Build a network of trusted colleagues

When you're new to a team, it's valuable to form positive relationships with those around you, but you can't expect to get onside with everyone immediately. That's why it's good to start by forming alliances with a few individuals who can help you succeed whilst seeking out rising stars for your own team. Understand their views about the challenges, opportunities and issues at stake, share your aspirations and ideas with them, and get them on your side by showing that their needs are important to you. If the talent isn’t there then you may need to bring it in – quickly.

When a selection of your new colleagues are championing your cause, it will be much easier to get others on board as time goes by – and they'll be more likely to support you in those moments when the going gets tough.

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