I’m guessing that every one of us have been asked this question at one time or the other. When we meet someone for the first time, after requesting the names of one other and exchanging pleasantries, this question follows almost naturally.
Now, you, what do you do? I can almost hear you say, I am an accountant for XY Company, a project manager at XY, a customer care agent at ABC,….a C-level executive at YZ. Yes, I understand that that is what your job description says, but I want you to see it in a different light from today.
I want you to look beyond the boundaries of your daily activities to the actual goal that you are aiming at. The big picture in a sense.
The thing is, we are all doing two jobs, but most of us are only conscious of one of them—the job in hand: managing customer accounts, meeting our sales targets, doing graphics work, conducting HSE drills, whatever. The other job is both larger and vaguer and it is, making the organization work. Making the team win. Bottom-line. The game of football is a good case in point: players on the field are not really there to score goals as much as they are paid to help the team win. To win, not to score goals. That’s why every sane football striker will prefer to win a match by 1-0 rather than lose the same match by 4-5; even though he ends up getting a hat-trick.
The same should in reality, apply to our respective jobs and careers. This analogy is exactly how to lead a successful career in whatever area you ply your trade and it is in fact what distinguishes managers from leaders – while managers are concerned with microscopic performance indicators, leaders see the big picture. In the words of Peter Drucker (the foremost organizational management guru), managers strive to be efficient (they do the job right) while the leaders work at being effective (they do the right job). Two chief executives where interviewed at a time and asked how they had gotten to the top of their careers; “one said he didn’t know, but what he could say was that every job he’d ever done was abolished after he left it. The other didn’t know either, but said that no job he’d ever done existed until he started doing it. Both of them are inspiring exemplars of what happens when an individual chooses to focus on doing the right job.
Do you see now?
Let me end with this two popular anecdotes: President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961 and while he was going round the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was cleaning the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon!” Perhaps you have also heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were working at the site of the building of St. Paul’s cathedral in London, which he had designed. ‘What are you doing?’ he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, ‘I am cutting a piece of stone.’ As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, ‘I am earning five shillings two pence a day.’ And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, ‘I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.’
Now, I hope you have a better sense of what your true job is and I also hope you will commit to making a difference, consciously, in the way you go about that job and in the way you lead your career.
Go make a ruckus!