The Top 3 Fakes in the Interim Marketplace and How To Spot Them

While interim execs have come into their own as a highly skilled professional calling, individuals sometimes apply to the Association without valid credentials.

Just like any other specialty, great professionals tend to produce great results. And unskilled labor could easily, well, mess things up. We’re big believers in Michael Collins’ principle from Good to Great: first get the right people on the bus.

Here are the three problematic mindsets in the marketplace and that we seek to avoid for membership:

#1 The Consultant Mindset
There are executives who transition to consulting careers, where they talk a good talk and sound brilliant, but don’t actually implement the advice they dish out. When a consultant enters a company purportedly in an interim role, false promises can result, leaving everyone in the company looking around and wondering, “Ok, now what?” Interim is about doing – you have to be in the mindset that not only agrees on a plan endorsed by the board and management – but then immediately engages in the work at hand.

Consulting has great value in the right setting, and many members perform consulting assignments in addition to their interim practice. But it’s critically important for companies to understand the difference between a consultant and an interim.

#2 The Employee Mindset
Then there are managers whose entire experience has been the corporate world. They climbed the ladder and maybe even arrived on top. “Employment” and “employee” are very common words used inside established companies by people who spend their careers there. There is a deliberate sense of permanence, and rightly so. The problem for companies seeking help from interims is that this mindset of permanent employment is exactly what they are trying to get away from.

Consider these contrasts: managers in the permanent employment arena are focused on meeting objectives within a relatively stable environment; whereas interims are focused on bringing rapid change amid shifting conditions. The deliberate decision-making of the permanent CEO, for instance, contrasts sharply with the objective decisiveness an interim leader brings to the mission.

Managers with a corporate mindset can have a tough time working as interims, not because they aren’t smart, but because they are so used to hierarchy and chain of command, and ultimately have a hard time acting as true change agents. True change agents challenge established hierarchy or orthodoxy, including the board! Employees won’t do that.

#3 The Job Seeker Mindset
The final “fake” application is from the job seeker. They have no interim expertise and are just looking for a job. Whether full or part-time, any port in a storm will do. For companies who are really using interims as an inexpensive try-before-you-buy strategy, both sides can be satisfied. The company could get a dedicated employee and the job seeker proved themselves. But if the company was seeking a change agent, they will be disappointed.

So what differentiates the fakers from real interims? Interims hit the ground running. There is no downtime. There is no time for corporate politics. There is no wasted effort testing the waters of risk. When companies need a real leader capable of tough decisions and fast implementation, they need someone who can save the day: a true interim. Like you.

How do you distinguish a real interim from a faker? And are we being too strict or not strict enough? Leave your comments here.

The Association of Interim Executives has launched to champion real interims everywhere. The world needs to know what interim is and it needs to know how to find the real and best talent around. Do you have a partner or colleague who is qualified to join? Please let Olivia know at and we’ll take it from there.