That time I dealt with an overly ambitious Analyst: 5 actionable lessons on career growth
A few years back, there was this Analyst on my team who was quite the character.
I found him fascinating – a bright, young consultant with potential.
If only he'd been a bit more patient and less, let's say, "out there" he might still be part of my crew.
Warren, a recent hire, landed on my plate for a new project I was trying to staff.
I wasn't part of his recruitment process, so he was a bit of a mystery to me. When we met, he immediately struck me as a sharp, witty young man with even some previous corporate experience and excellent communication skills.
Plus, he was an Analyst, and I always value having one or two of them on my team.
They tend to bring fresh perspectives and infectious energy.
Warren was personable and an easy conversationalist. We bonded over our shared love for books and authors.
I genuinely liked the guy, and we hit it off right from the start.
However, a couple of weeks into the project, it became clear that Warren had certain limitations in how he interpreted his role. To add to the challenge, he wasn't the hardest worker either…
Some of his behaviors were particularly irksome, especially for the more senior team members who had to keep a close eye on him.
Warren was afflicted by what I call the wished level disease.
In his mind, he was a Senior Partner trapped in the body of an Analyst.
In your typical consulting engagement, teams battle on multiple fronts: data, clients, context, and time.
Never a dull moment.
Deadlines are always tight, and we need to assemble the best possible team to deliver top-notch results. To make this happen, it's crucial that every team member understands their role and plays it to the best of their ability.
No room for overlap: it's not just unnecessary but counterproductive.
For Analysts, the role is clear: handle specific tasks like research, data analysis, or document editing – all while learning the consulting craft and gaining industry and client knowledge.
But Warren saw things differently.
He was slow to take ownership of tasks and execute them.
He often ventured into tasks beyond his role, leading to confusion and workflow disruptions.
Instead of focusing on his primary responsibilities, he got distracted by activities suited for higher-level roles, resulting in incomplete or subpar work.
Disregarding instructions was another annoyance. It's essential to follow directives and seek clarification if needed, rather than making assumptions. Warren's attempts to lead were disrupting team dynamics and undermining senior team members' authority.
This misdirection wasted precious time and resources on tasks unrelated to the project's goals.
I had to step in.
Honest, open communication. I provided feedback, set clear expectations, and helped Warren understand his role and how it fit into the bigger picture.
I genuinely admired Warren's enthusiasm and ambition; it's a trait that often propels individuals to reach new heights in their careers.
However, his approach was what needed a reset.
So, here's what I emphasized to him:
Value of excellence: I stressed that excelling in one's current role is the most direct path to climbing the career ladder.
You don’t have to be content with the status quo, but rather deliver exceptional results in the responsibilities you have now. I used a simple analogy: "If you're not knocking my socks off here..."
Promotion isn't a miracle cure: many individuals mistakenly believe that a promotion will automatically solve their career dilemmas. I wanted Warren to understand that a new title doesn't magically transform your abilities. If you're not performing exceptionally in your current role, a promotion won't change that. You have to grow into the new position, not just receive it.
Solid foundation: excelling in your current role establishes a robust foundation for future success.
Like with building a house, you wouldn't start constructing the second floor if the foundation isn't rock solid. Demonstrating excellence in your current responsibilities is akin to strengthening that foundation.
Recognition and trust: by showing your capability and commitment in your current role, you gain the recognition and trust of your superiors. This trust is what leads to new opportunities and promotions.
People are naturally more willing to invest in those who've consistently delivered exceptional results.
Continuous improvement: career growth is a journey, not a leap. And that journey can be long! It involves a series of steps where each one prepares you for the next.
Warren needed to realize that continuous improvement in his current role was the key to unlocking the next level of his career.
Ultimately, my message wasn't about discouraging ambition. It was about channeling it effectively.
To be fair, this is a lesson that applies not only in consulting but in many aspects of life and work.
Ambition is the fuel, but you need the right vehicle and road to take you to your desired destination.
This message hit home, at least for a while.
Later on, I heard that after the engagement I managed, Warren faced similar challenges on another project. Eventually, he left the company.
Sometimes, ambition needs to be grounded in the realities of your role, and it's a lesson some learn the hard way.