One of my primary reasons for choosing Parthenon over other firms that mandate a long apprenticeship period was that as a principal, you manage associates from day one. In consulting, you have to be equally good at analytics and management to be successful, and I saw no reason to wait to practice a key skill.
Sure, managing associates definitely is challenging at first. In fact, I often found myself managing associates with years of consulting experience who were just a year or two younger than me. When you’re a new principal, it’s not crazy to ask yourself: “What do I bring to the table?” Fortunately, the answer is invariably that new principals add enormous value as managers even in their first week.
My first assignment involved supervising two task forces in a major integration case. I was assigned to manage one associate. I leaned heavily on her in areas where she had deep experience such as Excel, Power Point and secondary research skills. I learned a lot from her in the process. On the flip side, my experience from business school and hands-on industry knowledge with regard to client management, formal presenting, modeling and just general big picture thinking were critical to keeping our task forces focused and productive.
The key to the whole thing initially is that even as you’re learning to manage, you can and should always find ways to add value as a manager. Rather than be intimidated by managing associates who have superior consulting experience, the best move is to learn everything you can from them and solicit their feedback. It is a true team effort. They’ve been through plenty of managers and know a good one when they see one. Take their feedback seriously and you’ll be in good shape!