Upset your client and spoil your career…

What’s the saddest thing you’ve see happen o someone you’ve been working with? Bereavement is excluded; the answer must be something the person has inflicted on themselves. A youngster, chatting to the Badger socially, asked this very question the other day. Surprised, the Badger played for time and asked what had prompted the question. They shrugged their shoulders, and simply said that a couple of their project team lacked common sense and sadly seemed oblivious that this was spoiling their career prospects. The conversation was interrupted by someone else, and so the Badger didn’t get to answer their question, but if he had, it would have been along the following lines.

One instance of the saddest thing someone inflicted on themselves comes to mind because it illustrates what can happen when a personality with embedded behaviours gained at one company, proves to be mismatched at another company in a different sector.  The circumstances were as follows. A senior delivery leader was recruited by the Badger’s IT sector employer from a large international defence company to run a major, fixed-price, high-profile IT contract of strategic importance to the client. The printed contract documentation filled numerous lever arch files and the person recruited, who joined the company before contract signature to lead mobilisation and then delivery, insisted on having an A5-size printed copy for their briefcase.  

Grumblings soon emerged as delivery got underway and the individual became the focal point with the client. Tensions within the individual’s team, due to their self-important, patronising, ‘I know best’ personality and an approach to delivery ingrained at their previous employer, also quickly became evident. The team started disengaging from their leader because of their arrogance, failure to listen, and inept people skills. Ever louder grumblings from the client came because the individual reached into their briefcase at the start of every client meeting, theatrically put the A5 copy of the contract on the table, and then referenced or checked it as part of every conversation. Client requests, and those from company executives when the client escalated, not to do this were ignored. A contract is never an irrelevant document, of course, but there’s a time and place for waving it about and it’s not in every meeting! Eventually the client refused to have any dealing with the individual.

Seeing the individual damage their career by failing to recognise that their modus operandi was upsetting the client and damaging the effectiveness of their own team was very sad. They were moved, never ran a delivery again, and never accepted that the spoiling of their career was self-inflicted.  There are always exceptions, of course, but upsetting your client and your team by letting arrogance and self-importance dominate your modus operandi, is almost certainly going to spoil your career. Keep this in mind if you don’t want to spoil your career and be someone else’s saddest thing anecdote…


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