HOW TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING AS AN INTERIM
CREATED BY: ABI SMITH, CURRICULUM EXPERT
Getting off on the right foot with a provider will set the tone for the rest of your assignment. So here are six top tips to help you to hit the ground running.
TIP 1 - GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
The first and most useful activity is undoubtedly the 15-minute micro meetings with all the people that you will be working with on a day-to-day basis. But don’t follow a fixed agenda, rather a 'getting to know you' one. Often, an open agenda will lead to information that you wouldn't otherwise get; culture quirks, underlying resentments (if there are any), how people like to be managed, relationship dynamics and of course information about what staff would like to see changed. This initial meeting will give you a chance to work out what various people's expectations are of you as an interim manager.
Don’t forget to write down what's being said, so that you're able to triangulate between the number of meetings that you have. You will, of course, be able to refer back to notes at a later date.
This activity, without doubt, is the most important time that you'll spend up front, in order to get working quickly and efficiently.
TIP 2 - MAKE FRIENDS WITH ADMIN SUPPORT
The most knowledgeable and helpful people that you will meet on any assignment will be the administrative support. These people can make your life so much easier, and often support you behind the scenes when you most need it. Make them know that you realise their importance! Your admin support will also be able to give you additional information about the provider's culture, and will give you essential information about whose toes not to tread on!
TIP 3 - GET TO KNOW THE CULTURE
The tips above will help you get to grips with the people that you'll be working with. But you still need to find out what the REAL expectations of you are. Whilst you might be told that the provider needs X, Y and Z, from your pre-placement brief, you need to remember that there will be permanent staff within the institution that may see you as a threat, particularly if you're carrying out an audit of some description. It’s important to be able to make recommendations that are well received by the manager that you will be working with. Often, these managers will have tried to secure improvements themselves, but will have failed in some way - so they won’t always take kindly to you pointing this out. Being politic with your recommendations will ease this potential situation. That said, it is important that you are effective, and therefore frank recommendations will of course be needed at times. In these situations, it is important to negotiate an action plan with your manager at the college (the person who has asked for your help at the most senior level) to ensure that their expectations are managed.
TIP 4 - MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
It is important that you negotiate precisely what improvements you will ensure whilst you are in your placement. Be realistic with these and agree an action plan in writing. Once you have this agreed action plan, over deliver where possible. There is, of course, a balance to be struck. If you’re able to make recommendations for further support you should let the provider know, delight your customers and build your reputation!
TIP 5 - SECURE QUICK WINS
If you follow tip one, you'll be able to gain invaluable information about key personnel. Try to pick up on quick and easy improvements that can be secured, and get them done. The sooner that you do this, the quicker your reputation as someone who is effective will grow!
TIP 6 - ENSURE THAT YOU'VE GOT EVERYTHING THAT YOU NEED
This final tip is about looking after you! When you're working away from home, it can be tiring. Make sure that your journey to and from your placement is as comfortable and straightforward as you can make it.
Plan ahead! You're likely to be stopping in a hotel away from home. So make sure that you have your creature comforts with you! You'll need a laptop and internet access. Check out the hotel on Tripadvisor. You don’t want to stop in a hotel with poor reviews, which is uncomfortable whilst away from home, as this will make you more tired! If possible – take a hobby with you. It’s important that you are able to switch off a little in the evening, so that you’re fresh for the next day ahead. The temptation is to work well into the evening, but this isn’t sustainable.
After all you need to look after yourself in order to do the best job possible for your client!