What makes some normal work-related activities be such joy-bringing and joyful activities? Could it be the fact that I, just like the guide next to me, am on a mission, not a job? Could it be that we see what we do… not as a plain, boring, job to do, for some reward of some kind, but as something else, something bigger and more meaningful?
I am on a train, heading from Paris to Fontainebleau, the real home castle of the kings and leaders of France (herein including Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most influential historical figures). While I contemplate the beautiful landscape that harmoniously unfolds outside the window, relaxed as I am, enjoying one of the inspiring trips I take every now and then, some fresh ideas occur to me, regarding some of the tasks I’m currently managing.
These are ideas about the systems I am working with, people and companies. Some concern active tasks, i.e., tasks that have already been outlined, defined, scheduled, planned, started, perhaps even updated a few times already. Some concern new tasks, i.e., initiatives, options, communication that hasn’t yet been delivered, actions that haven’t yet been set into motion. Some of these ideas concern the near future, and they look very clear and detailed, while others concern a more distant time-span, ranging from a few months from now to a few years.
Next to me, a loud conversation in Russian, between two tourists and their guide. Clearly the target destination of my day trip is quite attractive, multiculturally. What catches my attention is the strange synergy between my mood, and the mood of the Russian group next to me. While both me and the guide are, by any official definition, working, him delivering his speech to his clients, me, working some ideas for my projects (ongoing and perspective projects, as well), we’re all positive, enthusiastic, and chill. Those of us who are working, and those we work for (in this case, his clients’ mood is directly observable).
So, what makes some normal work-related activities be such joy-bringing and joyful activities? Could it be the fact that I, just like the guide next to me, am on a mission, not a job? Could it be that we see what we do… not as a plain, boring, job to do, for some reward of some kind, but as something else, something bigger and more meaningful?
A job is something one does out of necessity. When the drive of necessity gets replaced by a different drive, that of meaning-making, the job becomes a mission. This is also the main difference between management consultants and managers. While managers start by getting hired for a job, management consultants start by getting assigned on a mission.
Both managers and management consultants use tools of the managerial kind, only for managers it is more about getting the job done, which usually comprises doing what the superior managers ask of him/her, plus the job requirements themselves. While for management consultants it is more about getting done whatever job needs to be done, his/hers, or someone else’s, so that the consultancy missions moves forward towards its accomplishment.
Subsequently, a manager will focus more on his/her career, and on using the current job to improve on his/her resume, while a management consultant will focus more on successfully completing the current mission, in order to move on to the next, more challenging, more impactful, mission, that only becomes visible once the current mission achieves its intended purposes and results.
This is not to say that I believe managers cannot be devoted to their work, as if they were on a mission, not a job. I am also not implying that, as a rule, management consultants work efficiently in their missions, or significantly better than a manager would do, in a similarly defined job. Like all highly specialized competence-based professions, both management and management consultancy have their champions, their worst, and their average performers.
What I am stating is that it does matter, business-wise, if one hires managers for jobs or contracts management consultants, for missions. The results of the acquisition will be different. Completely different.
The way this dilemma presented itself to Napoleon, as I’ve learned today on my tour of this elegant Fontainebleau chateau (as compared to the opulent official Versailles), is that he used to conclude that, after promoting each of his trusted relatives or acquaintances to kingship positions, a strange thing would happen: the promoted person soon became unreliable, as if, according to Napoleon, once the appointment was made, the person suddenly seemed to consider that he/she doesn’t have to assist and support Napoleon, anymore, in his endeavors, but rather carry on with his/her own various personal agendas.
I wonder how the history of Napoleon would have ended, had he had the option, back then, to contract king’s consultants, rather than hiring/promoting kings…