As small and midsize businesses grow and change, they will invariably encounter periods when leadership also needs to grow and flex in order to take their organization to the next level. This is a chicken-and-egg scenario: the organization needs more experienced talent to get to the next level, but they can’t attract or afford that talent until they’re at that level.
Enter fractional executives. Part-time leadership embedded in your business on an indefinite contract basis.
Fractional leadership allows smaller companies to access experienced “been there done that” executive talent who may otherwise be out of reach if those companies were to engage them full time.
A small company that’s ready to step up their game in a specific area of their business–human resources, marketing, sales, operations, finance, or technology–can utilize a fractional executive in order to fill that gap. All without the major expense of a full-time leader.
Accomplished executives are often more attracted to getting involved with these smaller organizations on a fractional basis because:
The circumstances are exciting: the company is heading into change or challenge
They are free to engage with interesting situations at other companies
Two jobs for the price of one
An interim is an internal employee who is basically tasked with doing two jobs at once. Many companies request that a peer of the vacant position or a direct report within the vacancy’s department take over the responsibilities of that position in addition to their own. While this can be a tremendous opportunity for that individual to showcase their leadership abilities by flexing into a new role–and, in some cases, being promoted into the role–more often, this double duty has damaging effects on the engagement of that individual as well as the organization.
When there’s no clear succession plan in place for senior leadership positions, an organization is bound to be left with a vacant seat when a leader leaves.
And, the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the longer the search to identify the right candidate for a permanent leadership position. The more specialized the talent profile of that leader, the more difficult it becomes to fill that role.
The result? Protracted periods where key leadership roles are empty.
Take, for example, the Human Resources VP who takes over as Interim Chief HR Officer upon the departure of his boss during a particularly tumultuous time for the organization.The interim is thrown into the C-Suite as a peer of his superiors–an extremely difficult arrangement for anyone. The search for a new CHRO drags on for the better part of a year. Meanwhile, the organizational challenges that had begun under his predecessor continue to mount. Soon these ongoing challenges begin to paint this interim executive’s leadership. Perception becomes reality, and the company has unwittingly turned the diligent interim leader who has stepped up to assist into a scapegoat for their problems.
This entire morass can be avoided. Bringing in outside interim leadership to help the company navigate through this period of transition does more than simply avoid outcomes like the above, it reduces the strain on your other leaders and the department’s developing talent. It allows your senior leadership team access to a peer on their level. And, most important, it provides a much more objective view into the operations of the department with the vacancy and the challenges facing the organization as a whole.
The extra capacity of fractional or interim leadership during urgent circumstances or transitional periods can be invaluable. Engaging executive talent on fractional or interim bases can break through these challenges, avoid damage to your organization during periods of change, and take your business to the next level.