NWA’s CEO was retiring after 30 years of leading the organization, which advocates for the WIC public health nutrition program in the US. Paul Throne, board chair of NWA, shares his thoughts on the interim experience.

Watch this brief video to see the highlights from our interview.

Click to read video transcript

TRANSCRIPT: Transition through change with Interim Executives

Every Minute Matters

Paul Throne, board chair of NWA: When our legacy CEO retired, the advice we got from leaders in this industry was to hire an interim CEO first, and that was the best advice we could have received. It gave us the time we needed to do a proper search for a great permanent CEO, and it let us have a good outside look at our organization to see what needed to be cleaned up or changed before the permanent CEO came on board.

Our legacy CEO retired on a Friday. And on Monday morning, we had an interim CEO in place who had experience behind her knew how to run an organization and hit the ground running. When a new permanent CEO comes on board, an organization needs to be ready. And our interim CEO got us ready. Doing a search for something like the president and CEO of the National WIC Association takes time and it takes effort. And we wouldn't have had the time we needed to make, the effort we needed to make, if we hadn't gone with an interim first.

Hiring an interim CEO: a client’s story

NWA’s CEO was retiring after 30 years of leading the organization which advocates for the WIC childhood nutrition program in the US.

To take the NWA into its next chapter, Throne and his fellow NWA board members needed to find a new CEO. Since no one on the board had conducted a CEO search before, they sought counsel from industry leaders who had been in the same boat.

Their recommendations were unanimous: hire an interim. And according to Throne, it was “the best advice we could have received”.

When an organization doesn’t have a leadership succession plan in place, or unforeseen changes occur, bringing in an interim is an obvious way to bridge the gap while it gets its house in order. You can’t always be perfectly prepared for future unknowns, but accessing the flexibility and capability of interims can often guide you to success.

Throne brought Korn Ferry on board to scope out the role and its challenges, and to find the right interim for the job. By working closely with the board at NWA and leveraging our own expertise in leadership succession planning, we were able to build a detailed profile of the kind of interim leader they needed: their leadership traits, their experiences and capabilities.

We then used our network to find interims who fit the profile. We only put forward one candidate to start, because we were confident that she would be a great fit, and the NWA board agreed. She started as interim CEO on the first business day after the departure of the original CEO, ensuring no gaps in the company’s leadership, and she stayed in post for ten months.

Interim Executives & Professionals

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A successful interim CEO hire

After so long with a single person at the helm, it was inevitable that things at the organization needed to be looked at with a fresh lens. Hitting the ground running, the new interim quickly assessed almost every aspect of the business—including policy, structure, financials, employee benefits and PR—and worked on multiple fronts to get things on track.

One of the key reasons to hire an interim CEO is to get smaller challenges tidied up before the new permanent leader arrives. For NWA, that meant the incoming permanent CEO could immediately focus on the strategy and big-picture thinking that would reshape the organization for the future. As Throne told us, “An interim CEO is on your side and will set you up for success.”

Hiring an interim CEO also bought NWA some valuable breathing room. During the eight months it took to find a permanent leader, the interim CEO was there to safely steer the ship. That gave the board peace of mind, removing the pressure to rush through an appointment and the potential risk of hiring an unsuitable candidate.

Find out more about interim CEOs

Want to know more about how hiring an interim CEO could work for your business? Read about the who, what, where, when and why of hiring an interim CEO in our eBook or talk directly with our interim team.