Ambition and patience: It’s a balancing act

18 July 2022

Following the news that we’ve once again been listed as a platinum provider by the Institute of Interim Management, we’re shining the spotlight on some of our fantastic interims. 

Chris Wood is a repairs and maintenance expert who has delivered assignments for both housing clients and private contractors including contract mobilisations, insourcing/outsourcing, target operating model design and implementation, strategic reviews and business improvement. Here he shares his thoughts on the importance of balancing ambition with patience as an interim.

“Rome was not built in a day” (John Heywood)… We’ve all heard the saying, but has anyone ever stopped to think, why not?  Did they lack ambition or were they simply too patient? In fact, they were realistic; it was never going to happen, and it reinforces the need to balance ambition with patience.

The same can be said when considering our careers – particularly early in our careers, when we are busy climbing the corporate ladder and, sometimes blindly, focussing on our next move. I was very lucky early in my early career that I had strong leadership who saw my potential, but also managed my ambition. “Sometimes you just need to chew the cud for a while before your next move,” was most commonly heard; basically, get some depth and breadth to your experience before moving onto your next role. It will ensure you not only survive, but thrive.

From my late twenties and the decade that followed, career progress was pretty rapid (by my own standards and albeit I am not talking to you from a c-suite position). From field sales, sales manager, general manager, area general manager to director – even managing to squeeze in completing an MBA for good measure – I was ready to take on the world. And in my own little way, I did. I took the decision to start providing interim management and consulting services through my own limited company and this, for me, changed things quite dramatically where ambition and patience is concerned.

I never go into a role hoping that my client is going to either offer me a permanent or more senior role. I go in with only two ambitions in mind: over deliver against the brief and leave a positive long-lasting legacy. This for me has created peace as my ambitions are now discreet and easier for me to rationalise and work towards.

What it has also done however has made me very impatient. Impatient with those who do not take ownership, who are unresponsive, who never complete things when they say they’re going to complete them, office politics, people who talk over other people, show boating… The list goes on!

Being self-aware has always been important to me, so I have taken the time to try and understand why this is happening at this stage of my life and career as I also need to understand the impact it may be having on those around me. I even googled ‘andropause’, but other than irritability, I am happy to report that I have no other symptoms.

I have therefore concluded that my increasing impatience is simply down to having been so focussed on delivery over the past 17+ years that it becomes frustrating when not everyone is running at the same speed as you, does things in the same way you would do them, or places the same level of importance on what needs to be done. I recognised this needed to be controlled.

Guy Kawasaki once said that, “patience is the art of concealing your impatience,” which I have now decided to adopt as my mantra. I will never stop myself feeling impatient, I can however control it and therefore the impact on those around me.  That said, it is also important to recognise when you need to turn ‘impatience’ back on and I now use it as one of my many tools to get stuff done.

So, why write this piece?

Firstly, I have wanted to contribute something more than a ‘like’ to the conversation for some time, and secondly, it has taken me a long time to both understand the link and need for balance between ambition and patience. Ambition is great as long as it is realistic and with merit and impatience is a virtue when delivery is critical, however knowing how and when to conceal your impatience really is a virtue.

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