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Question: My manager left our organization and I’ve been named his interim replacement. I’ve never been in an interim role before. Do you have any advice for how to lead a team as an interim manager and handle the stress of feeling like I’m in a constant job interview?



Answer: Being an interim manager is a delicate dance. You need to behave in a way that shows you’re in charge, while simultaneously preparing for the possibility that you don’t get the role. Instead of letting the ambiguity get to you, leverage the opportunity to take on increased responsibility that can help the team thrive while adding to your leadership acumen. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this opportunity.

Speak up. Don’t allow imposter syndrome to keep you from feeling that you can meet this challenge. Start by talking with your new manager about what’s expected of you. How does she (or he) see the role and what success looks like? Also, take the initiative to reach out to your new peers to build relationships and gain their confidence.

Build trust with your team. Have one-on-one conversations with each of your team members to break through the awkwardness. For better or worse, they’ve just lost a manager, and you – a former peer – have been appointed his interim replacement. Be transparent about the situation, but don’t allow office drama to creep into the conversation. Focus on what they’re working on and how you can help them succeed.

Don’t overplay your hand. Take some time to assess the team that you’ve inherited before deciding where to concentrate your attention and energy. If you find areas that are underperforming, make modest-sized decisions to fix things that are broken, rather than trying to make sweeping changes. Get some early wins that will help the team function better and demonstrate your leadership skills.

Keep calm. In these circumstances, there aren’t always clear-cut deadlines or communications about what’s next. If you keep your cool during this period, you will drastically increase the ability of your team to focus on doing great work and your likelihood of getting the job.


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