Our Interim team has extensive experience in both successful interim searches and in holding interim posts themselves. Within this team, we are fortunate to have two highly skilled interim leaders, Yolanda Weldring and Josje Reinartz. We interview them below on the challenges and skills required for these specific and complex roles.
1. What is your interim experience?
Both Yolanda and Josje have significant expertise in holding interim positions; across Southeast Asia from Indonesia and Thailand; South Asia from Nepal and East & Central Africa from Nairobi. Yolanda acted as Interim Regional Director, Interim International Programme Director and Interim Network Advisor to the Board, for Education Development Trust, Practical Action, Hivos and HelpAge International. Josje’s experience was at Medecins Sans Frontieres, where she took on roles such as Interim Country Director and Interim Change Manager/Head of Department. Most recently, Yolanda was Interim International Director at Practical Action and Josje is currently the Interim Head of Operations at the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation.
2. What would you say are the biggest challenges of being an interim?
Josje mentions that one of the biggest challenges as Interim Country Director is building the bridge between the outgoing Country Director and the incoming Country Director and keeping a good balance between short-term and long-term goals. She notes that in this respect, good observation and collaboration with senior staff members are of vital importance. As an interim in a global office, determining the desired outputs of an assignment and setting priorities accordingly is crucial. Yolanda adds to this by saying that interims often enter into situations where there are inherited issues from former post holders, and the interim needs to normalise the situation before a new candidate joins. The combination of being a good communicator at all levels and being decisive is important. Challenges can arise if the mandate and expectations of the organisations are not clear.
3. What are the organisational benefits of using an interim manager?
Usually, interim managers have good experience in taking up challenging tasks, as they come with 10-20 years of experience and have done these types of tasks before. “They are less busy with positioning themselves in the organisation than with doing the task ahead of them within the given timeframe, meaning they are very task-focused,” says Yolanda. She mentions that in her experience, she would take two to three weeks to talk to the relevant stakeholders, make an analysis of the situation and a plan of action, and discuss that with the team and line manager before implementation. This is much faster than people who come into a longer-term job. Josje adds to this, and notes that having an interim manager in place also gives the organisation the opportunity to let the incoming, long-term director start with a clean slate as issues have been cleared by the interim.
4. What are your top tips for applying for interim posts?
- Be clear on your strengths and be confident about what you can offer the organisation
- Don’t over/undersell yourself; good performance in a role is needed for future assignments, and be aware that expectations are usually high for interim managers
- Good communication skills are essential, as well as the ability to be decisive and be self-aware
- Be available in two weeks’ time, as interims are usually needed yesterday
5. What traits make a good interim leader?
Interim leaders play a crucial role in organisations during periods of transition, change, or crisis. To be effective in this role, they should possess a combination of traits and qualities that help them navigate the challenges and uncertainties that often come with temporary leadership positions. For example, adaptability and flexibility, strong communication skills, problem-solving skills, decisiveness,
results-oriented, strategic thinking and tactical action. Furthermore, emotional intelligence, networking and team building skills, cultural awareness and ethical and interpersonal integrity.
Ultimately, a good interim leader combines these traits and qualities to provide stability, direction, and effective leadership during transitional phases within an organisation. They should be adaptable, strategic, and capable of delivering results while maintaining ethical and interpersonal integrity.
6. What can you bring to Oxford HR clients with your Interim Placement practice?
Interim leaders can provide immediate value to organisations by offering stability, expertise, objectivity, continued leadership during times of transition and change, or time for executive search to fill crucial staff gaps. They can bring expertise, strategy, and leadership development, change management, crisis management, mentorship, increased operational efficiency, conflict resolution and high-level strategic leadership, either in a specific area, or more generally.