It was my most amazing project at McKinsey. And yet, just when things were looking great, they went downhill. Here is what happened.

This was the kind of project consulting firms talk about in their advertisement brochures — we were advising the CEO and the brilliant scientists of a biotech company, on which therapeutic areas to get into and which drugs to acquire.

The work was intense and the hours were long, but I loved it.

However, when the real work was finished, the client gave us some extra work for a fortnight, like a light side-project.

Now, since there wasn’t much real work to do, my engagement manager got knee-deep into what each sentence on each PowerPoint slide should look like.

In fact, we kept rewriting the executive summary until on the twentieth iteration, I told the manager, “Why don’t you do it yourself? You know what you want, but I am just guessing.”

When autonomy was replaced by micromanagement, suddenly, what was exhilarating became suffocating.

Here are three lessons I learned:

1. What drains you is not the hard work, but the people and how meaningful the work is.

2. If you don’t have substantial goals to pursue, you get caught in the minutiae.

3. Either delegate or do it yourself — don’t simultaneously do both. Don’t micromanage.

– Rajan

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