Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
If you're like me, you love a direct report with ambition. People with Ambition get shit done. Do they get shit done because they believe in you as a leader or they believe in themselves?
If you're asking that question, you're concerned with the wrong things. Just celebrate the execution that comes with ambition and stop thinking so much. (the answer, btw, is that they believe in themselves and are motivated by moving their careers forward)
One problem that is universal related to direct reports with high ambition levels is that they can become hated by their peers - the folks they work with. It's pretty simple to see why. The folks with ambition treat life like a scoreboard and more often than not are low team (on a behavioral assessment). Their peers want to do good work for the most part but don't have designs to rule the world. Friction ensues. The team views the high ambition direct report like an opportunistic freak. A brown-noser. Someone that would run over his own mother for the next promotion.
So how do you coach your high ambition direct report to play nice with the lower ambition locals?
The key in my experience is to confront the reality with the high ambition direct report - you're looking to do great things. You're driven. You want to go places and you're willing to compete with anyone you need to in order to get there. Start with that level set.
Then tell them they have to get purposeful with recognition of their peers.
If a high ambition direct report starts a weekly, informal pattern of recognition of their peers, a funny thing happens. They start to look human to those around them.
But in order to make it work, you have to confront them and convince them that work life is not a zero sum game - just because you give kudos doesn't mean a high ambition FTE won't get the promotion or the sweet project assignment. It actually makes them stronger, because in addition to all the great individual work they do, they start to be perceived as a good to great teammate, which unlocks some doors to management/leadership roles in a way that great individual work can't.
But that doesn't happen for the high ambition direct report unless you are honest with them about this:
1. You're high ambition and would run over grandpa to win/survive/advance.
2. You're peers think you're a dick, and that's going to limit you.
3. You're going to fix it by recognizing those around you on a weekly basis for great work, and you're going to reinforce that recognition by sharing your thoughts informally beyond the email you send, the shout out you make in a meeting, etc.
Don't be a dick, high ambition direct report. Share the love and you'll actually get to where you want to go sooner.
Signed - KD