Guest Blog: Interim Reflections

As part of our look back over a year of the Interim Executive Service, we have a guest blog from one of our placed Interims, James MacBain. Below James' reflects on his 8-week placement earlier this year...

Earlier this year I completed an 8-week interim placement. It was a thought-provoking assignment with a focus on keeping matters on an even keel and helping colleagues through a challenging time. It also provided an interesting contrast to a previously completed and much longer interim placement for a charity down south which had been about significant operational change and re-enforcing good governance.


Having had an opportunity over the last 5 weeks to reflect on both my interim experiences and having recently started a new permanent charity role down south, I thought I’d record my thoughts now before the new role claims all my time! Here goes:


  • Don’t be surprised if the key tasks you are initially assigned then change and fairly rapidly at that. Much depends on circumstances, how fully the trustees understand what they have initially asked you to do and how much you are prepared to point out that your time might be better spent on other priorities.
  • Go in with an open mind and don’t pre-judge any aspect of the organisation and those who are a part of it.
  • It is very possible that you will experience challenging behaviours and attitudes from anywhere within the organisation. Change, in whatever form, is often perceived as unsettling and provoking. Your being there represents change.
  • Be patient. You are there temporarily and everyone involved knows that. You are unlikely to be able to introduce meaningful or lasting change and it is unreasonable to raise false expectations.
  • Be understanding and be prepared to listen, advise and, in some cases, to counsel/console.
  • Be as impartial as you are able to be. If you wish to highlight areas of concern make sure you know your facts and understand the organisation’s history and mores.
  • Don’t expect to be thanked by all involved for your time with them. The organisation and those associated with it will have their eyes firmly on the next, post-you, stage.


At the end of my 8-week placement my overwhelming sense was that I had learnt much about other ways in which a charity can operate; been able to look again at governance and from a different perspective; and had had the good fortune to spend time with a wonderful and very committed group of colleagues who proved truly welcoming. Despite my best endeavours, I strongly suspect that I learnt far more than I was able to contribute.


Would I be an interim again? Yes – I definitely would! It is a rewarding experience and keeps your mind open to fresh challenges, new people and different circumstances.


For more information about the Interim Executive Service, please see here, or contact programme coordinator, Phili Wetton on 0131 510 8940 or