Perspectives from Interim HR Leaders: Deborah Brown
Deborah Brown is a Director and Founder of Grey Dove Limited and works on an interim/associate basis with clients. She has been working with organisations in the field of business change and its impact on people and culture for over 20 years. Currently she combines working as an associate with a career transitions company and with a regional Talent team migrating to a new Target Operating Model within a Financial Services business.
She is also a member of the a community for people consultants, coaches and interims.
Here, we speak to her about her career to date, what she’s learned, and what advice she has for both for new consultants and companies looking to hire interim support.
Deborah, tell us about your story?
I started my career in education, but that wasn’t for me so I quickly moved into a more commercial role, starting in sales and marketing with BUPA. Moving from Yorkshire to London gave me greater opportunities and I progressed into a L&D role that led to my first management position.
Finding myself in Hong Kong having decided not to transfer with BUPA I started working for a sales training company this gave me opportunities to work with international companies, travel and learn about Asia, and at the same time introduced me to a more flexible way of working. After four years with the training company, I started a contract with the Open University of HK as an instructional designer and combined this with studying for a Masters.
On my return to the UK, I secured a Leadership Development role with the now Cushman & Wakefield; I really enjoyed the world of real estate and from there I stepped away from being an employee and went back to a flexible way of working, setting up my company in 2008.
Over this time, I have gained considerable experience both in the UK and internationally. In addition to supporting clients in the UK, my interim career has enabled me to continue working for numerous financial services organisations in Asia.
What prompted the move into working as a professional interim consultant?
The knowledge that I valued a flexible way of working and an opportunity that presented itself that was not to be missed.
I also recognised that my experience could be of value to organisations that needed to get things done in the people space where they didn’t have sufficient resources or perhaps the capabilities. It’s generally the case that an interim can bring more to a role than the brief.
What initially helped you get into the field?
Being prepared to have a go at something different, I had already done this in Hong Kong, giving myself the time to build a strong network, work with specialist HR providers and securing my first role within a ‘team’ of interims on a project for 6 months.
Why would an organisation typically engage with your services?
I’m typically brought on to support organisations with projects involving a business change that requires a focus on a refreshed approach to Leadership Development & Organisational Effectiveness.
I am engaged when there is a good fit with the culture of the organisation, I’ve demonstrated that my knowledge, experience and capabilities will ensure that the job gets done and that I will work in a way that compliments and enhances their approach. My approach is both pragmatic and frequently researched based; underpinned by knowledge and experience gained from working with individuals and organisations in Europe, Asia and the US.
In your opinion, what are the differences between being a permanent employee and a professional interim consultant?
Being an independent means that everything is with me, it also means that I can do my best work, which suits me well but there may be individuals who find that operating within a business framework enables them to do their best work.
How do you typically find your assignments?
Both repeat business and my network, which includes HR providers like Frazer Jones. I work quite hard on maintaining a strong profile on LinkedIn, although this may not result in work it keeps you current and in the frame for opportunities.
What advice would you offer to new interims?
Build a strong network both across HR providers and individuals within organisations.
Ensure that both you and your client are agreed on what it is that they have asked you to deliver and give them the right advice at the right time, even though that can sometimes feel like a challenge.
What one piece of advice would you offer to clients considering hiring an interim consultant?
I am fortunate that many of my existing clients ask me back which I think is a sign that they trust my advice and for a client who has yet to hire an interim, look for experience in an individual who is willing to demonstrate thought leadership and also be pragmatic and deliver on time and on budget.
Are you considering hiring an interim professional?
When hiring in HR, it’s important to choose what suits your company’s needs. Interim consultants provide niche expertise, as well as the skills required to drive forward change, at short notice.
Frazer Jones’ interim offering introduces you to consultants who are able to immediately support your business on project work, to cover staff sickness or parental leave, and to drive business critical change. Our global network of 12 international offices enables us to access top talent across all jurisdictions and play a key role in supporting our clients with their global transformations and recruitment strategies.
If you have any questions about this article and if you need support hiring or finding the right role for you, contact Lucy or somebody else from our specialised team of HR interim consultants.