Welcome to the 42nd podcast on the Corporate Strategy & Transformation study.

What I noticed on this, and other studies, is that the associates and business analysts are very competitive, in a way that is damaging to clients, to the firm and to their own careers.

I am fine with consultants being competitive but I think they go about it the wrong way. You can be competitive and work long hours but you should not seem to be competitive when you are working long hours.

I am not saying don’t work long hours. Yet, don’t make it sound like you are competitive and that is why you are working long hours. Cause and effect matters. If you work hard to be competitive, people see you as someone who is working hard only because you want to get promoted and only because you want to stand out from everyone else.

These consultants tend to be so obsessed with telling people how committed they are that they are moving away from the objective of getting the right work done.

No one likes someone who is competitive for the sake of being competitive. Because this is just wasted energy. If you are being competitive for the sake of being competitive, versus focusing on the client and working hard to solve a problem resulting in the by-product of you being competitive, you are basically just wasting valuable time that you could use much more productively.

If people just thinking you are competing with them they will not want to help you, they will not want to work with you.

Yet, if they see you as someone who is like them but for whatever reason needs to work harder because the client needs it they tend to like you more, they tend to relate to you better. And that dynamic becomes good for your career.

In this podcast we discuss in detail how to go about being competitive on consulting projects while projecting the proper image and maintaining the right mindset to deliver the best value for the client and the firm.

Click here to see the full study and here to see the merger study and market entry study.

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being Competitive


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5 responses to Being Competitive the Right Way

  1. 100% correct Brian.

  2. Somehow this all comes down to worrying only about what you can control and not worrying about what everyone else is doing. You can control the quality of your work and, until you have a family(Yes, this is true. Once a spouse and kids enter the picture, your time is not your own), control how many hours you are at work. That’s it.
    It is unfortunate that people seem to think of work as a zero-sum game. Work places are a lot more fun when you don’t have to watch your back all the time.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the clarity. So while you’re making a name for yourself with the firm, it’s better not to gamble. Put the long hours in but also produce results. Down the road hours may adjust. Always do whatever is appropriate.

    I’ve seen an interesting example in CPA firms during tax time. Put in more hours (not always tied to products from the long hours) and you’re bonus will increase purely due to the raw hours invested. I’m not sure this is what these firms are trying to drive with the bonus but it’s often a result.

    Agreed on meritocracy. I define it as you are paid/recognized for results or products produced. For example; I can pump my arms really fast while walking that may cause appearance of strain or effort but changes nothing in the arena of MPH or actual performance. The other option is to judge performance strictly by MPH and not the wincing in the face of the runner or other flailing. I would say a MPH is a measurement of meritocracy.


  4. Hi Corwin,

    In the short term, if you leave early, it may look bad, but in the medium term your image will rise assuming you will get results and clients will want to work with you. I can speak to my own experience. While I worked long hours many times, it was due to the volume and not due to the lack of efficiency. Even so, there were many engagements when I arrived at 8am and left at 4pm or 5pm. Granted this happened only as an associate when I had more control over my time.

    If you do a great job, your reputation will be fine. It just takes time to build that reputation.

    It depends on how you define meritocracy and how you measure results. I think for many employees, what may look like rewarding someone for limited short term performance is just their inability to see how that person being rewarded fits into the bigger picture. In those situations a company is called out as being non-meritocratic (is that a word?) when in fact the company is doing the right thing because it is maximizing a very different metric from that which the general employees consider important.

    So, it starts with deciding how you define meritocracy. Consulting firms are generally meritocratic. Law firms as well and the same as most audit firms.


  5. Great podcast. I don’t have a real frame of reference other than managing employees in my most recent firm. I had a manager I oversaw who would put in longer hours than I would at times but he wouldn’t get important tasks done in a timely manner. The longer hours did anything but impress me because this person wasn’t getting their job done, they were highly inefficient with their time.

    My question is; If a consultant is highly effecient and gets everything required and then some done but calls it a day before others; How can one still manage their image? Also, how to identify firms that are true meritocracies.

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