3 challenges of interim teams and how to resolve them

Interim managers can form a dream team, but only if brought together carefully. Here’s how to side-step potential issues for maximum success.

Hiring an interim team is ideal when there is a large-scale, short-term task to take on. Each interim bring years of experience and knowledge, and the dedicated team can complete a project very quickly.

However it is not a fail-safe solution. In order for an interim team to be successful, there are a few things to be aware of and avoid. Here we look at three key challenges of setting up an interim team and how to overcome them.

A “them and us” dynamic

Solution: Integrate with existing workforce

An interim team is hired to complete a specific assignment, which can be quite outside of the existing workforce’s day-to-day activity. It is quite possible for the interim team to work wholly independently before rolling out changes that affect the wider business. The disadvantage of this is that it can cause a “them and us” situation to develop. The interim team have little understanding of the the company culture, while long-term staff see the interim team as disruptive task-force.

Disruption isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact it is inevitable in most cases where there is a need for an interim team. However it is likely to cause resistance from current employees if not handled carefully. To minimise fall-out, interim teams should be work alongside permanent staff rather than away from them. Each interim should be properly on-boarded and introduced to the key internal stakeholders they need to co-operate with. It is important that everyone understands they have the same end goal, and the way of achieving it is agreed upon.

Too many big personalities

Solution: Mix personality types and areas of expertise

Interims come is all shapes and sizes, however they do tend to exhibit some common personality traits. On the Myers-Brigg index, they might well be ENTJs (extroverted, intuitive, thinking and judgemental), known for their commander-like dominance and confidence. These qualities are what makes many interims successful at what they do, but don’t exactly lend themselves to teamwork. What happens when there are 10 ENTJs in a room?

There are two ways you can mitigate ego clashes without compromising on quality. The first is to be aware of the personality types being put together: it is useful to have a mix of people who work and think differently. This will not only prevent too many team members fighting for front position, but introduce a broader scope of perspectives and ideas.

The second is to assign each interim to a role according to their area of expertise. Even if there are a lot of commander-types in the team, if each person has an area to focus on, they is less likely to be clashes between colleagues.

No clear leadership

Solution: Assign a team leader at the start

Even if you have a well-balanced team with skills and personalities that complement each other, assigning a leader is essential. The team can be otherwise flat-structured, but a leader ensures timeliness, communication and a single line of direction.

The team leader could be from either within the interim team, or a permanent manager. Either way, they will be particularly close to the organisation and have an in-depth understanding its requirements. It is the role of the leader to clearly communicate the client’s goals, monitor progress and feed back to the senior management team.

In summary

An interim team can be a great asset to a business, so long as they are brought in with care. Paying attention to the mix of personalities, leadership and how the group interacts with the wider workforce is important for its success.