The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Having a mandate

Some of the big questions we encounter involve almost everybody. These can be questions like the climate change, economic problems of a country or linked to a large movement like the “yellow vest” manifestations in France.

Everyone will discuss them, think about solutions and assume that somebody is in charge of solving them.

I was reminded of this as I attended an event with François Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France. He presented his view on the economic perspectives for Europe in 2019. This meant to describe the work of the European Central Bank, as well as the Bank of France, do. It was interesting to see how the explanations he gave remained in a range on which these banks have an impact.

During the follow-up questions and answer session, a lot of the questions addressed worst-case scenarios or the situation in general. These questions served the need of reassurance for the future of the participants. The more complex a situation becomes, the higher the need for reassurance. He succeeded to provide reassuring answers where appropriate and possible. But what stood out for me, was his pragmatism and the guideline he used, i.e. the question “do we have a mandate?”

The Bank of France has a mandate, that is a list of responsibilities and tasks. This mandate is one the government of France asked the Bank of France to do and supervise and one they agreed to do.

This list of task and responsibilities also limits their activity and keeps it within a realm of work the bank can achieve. It doesn’t mean that the bank can’t use its possibilities to have more impact, it only defines the tasks on which the bank has to concentrate.

By remaining clear in his answer about the engagement they have, he was able to show the care they bring to the situation in general as well as describe the achievements they have had within their mandate. What this helped to see is that in a complex system like the French economy achieving goals requires the contribution of multiple partners. It also helped him to differentiate his opinion from the work being done by his teams.

Having such clarity helps any team to perform better. The mastery François Villeroy de Galhau showed in his presentation was reminding the audience of the existing mandate as a delimiter. The things they can do differ from the things they contribute to.

At the base of such a mandate is the contract which exists, as for example, between the government of France and the Bank of France. While comparing the bank of France with a team might seem far away from each other, the idea is the same.

How do learn such clarity? How to be able to know one’s work?

A few simple questions help – if we get into the habit of asking ourselves these questions.

The basic question is “what is the contract I have with the team?”   Or in the case of an organization: “what is the contract the team has with the organization?”

That base question can be split into the following questions:

  • what is the job I need to do?
  • what is my mandate or what are my responsibilities? and
  • what is the mission?

Give yourself an answer to these questions. They help gain a better understanding of what tasks the contract implies and what impact can be achieved.

These questions all link to the “giving” we can do.

But, if we only concentrate on the giving, it is difficult to also see the limits of our own engagement.

It serves us well to also question these.

That is where the following questions come in handy:

  • Did I accept the contract on my free will?
  • Did I accept the contract knowing what it meant and with all its consequences?
  • Am I obliged to continue to fulfill it?
  • What would happen if I renounce fulfilling it?


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