Lesson 2: (Miketz): “Can you interpret my dream-now!?”- Organizational consultancy


Course: Genesis Part 3
Lesson #2 of 4

Series: The Bible at Work: Career Coaching in the Torah

Teacher: Dr. Benny Benjamin

15Views | Published: December 16, 2022

“To get Game-Changing results, start focusing on Game-Changing thoughts.” — Robin Sharma


[Joseph, addressing Pharaoh, king of Egypt:]As for Pharaoh having had the same dream twice, it means that the matter has been determined by God and that God will soon carry it out. Accordingly, let Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom, and set him over the land of Egypt” Genesis 41:32–33.

“The plan pleased Pharaoh and all his courtiers. And Pharaoh said to his courtiers, “Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is none so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my court, and by your command shall all my people be directedGenesis 41:37–40.

Joseph was no doubt a charismatic individual, successful in all his endeavors. His career began flourishing as an enslaved person when he was appointed manager of Potiphar’s household, and when Potiphar “saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord lent success to everything he undertook, he took a liking to Joseph. He made him his personal attendant and put him in charge of his household”.[1] After being sent to prison after being falsely accused of attempted rape, ironically, Joseph’s fortunes continued to climb. He was appointed supervisor over all his fellow prisoners: “The chief jailer did not supervise anything that was in Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him, and whatever he did, the Lord made successful.” [2] Joseph was more than a warden. He befriended the prisoners, mostly former attendants at Pharaoh’s court, inquired about their welfare, and interpreted their dreams. 

When Pharaoh dreamed his disturbing dreams of seven gaunt cows consuming seven sturdy cows and seven lean cornstalks consuming seven solid cornstalks, none of his attendants could provide a satisfactory interpretation. That’s when the chief butler recalled that the Hebrew youth had successfully interpreted his dream; Pharaoh immediately called Joseph up from prison. 

Pharaoh told Joseph what he had heard about his dream interpretation skills and then proceeded to recount his dreams––but not before Joseph assured him that “God will see to Pharaoh’s welfare.” [3] Joseph likely saw this as an opportunity to gain his release from prison and advance his career. His dream interpretation pleased Pharaoh, but Joseph didn’t stop there. He suggested an operational plan that would require restructuring Egypt’s entire agricultural economy. It called for nationalizing private lands, saving part of the harvest from the coming seven ‘bountiful’ years, and storing them to feed the nation during the anticipated seven ‘lean’ years. He even delineated a job description for the person to be recruited to manage the authority: Let Pharaoh find a man of discernment and wisdom and set him over the land of Egypt,” [4] and the rest is history. Pharaoh appointed Joseph on the spot to administer this massive national strategy, granting him the position of second only to the king (“there is none so discerning and wise as you”).[5]

What can we learn from Joseph’s foray into organizational consultancy? Pharaoh (the CEO) was desperate; he was distraught at his close attendants for being unable to interpret his dreams satisfactorily. Joseph, the budding consultant, was also desperate to put an end to his languishing in prison. Joseph had used his time in prison wisely, learning from the other royal prisoners about the workings of the court. We recall that Joseph used his networking skills to ask the chief butler to remember him to the king. Thus, when called up two years later, Joseph could converse intelligently (“talked the talk”) with Pharaoh regarding identifying the problem, how it could be resolved, and what kind of personnel was needed to administer this radical economic strategy. Joseph’s pitch concluded with the best he could imagine: Pharaoh offered him a powerful and prestigious 14-year appointment as the court’s senior official.

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A critical component of organizational consultancy is a formal agreement with the organization’s representative before embarking on any intervention. The external consultant must abide by the agreement and not overstep its bounds, noting the CEO’s defined objectives and the allocated budget. In Joseph’s case, Pharaoh had already become enraged with his courtiers, who could not interpret his dreams, making him desperate and generating tension in the court. Joseph discerned this opportunity and went for broke, proceeding through the full cycle of consultancy: listening to the CEO’s take on the pressing issues (in our case, his dreams) till the end, accommodating Pharaoh’s request to interpret them, diagnosing the ramifications of the dreams on Egypt’s economy, and suggesting a strategy—including hiring new personnel– to resolve the coming food crisis. Joseph did not merely recommend intervention and depart in a cloud of dust; he delineated an operational plan, outlined the job description for the executive that needed to be recruited, and accepted Pharaoh’s invitation to administer the campaign.

Today’s consultant, seeking to assist the CEO in implementing recommendations, would require a more specific agreement delineating the boundaries of the relationship. When the CEO becomes impressed with the consultant’s professionalism, particularly noting that the latter demonstrates a keen understanding of the organization, some consultants may be invited to switch hats and join the organization to accompany the company through transformational change. Other, more flexible relationships between the consultant and the organization may include a retainer arrangement to save valuable time in learning about the organization and its challenges.

Points to Ponder:

  • A good consultant can learn more from Joseph’s presentation to Pharaoh. Among the many personal attributes that a consultant needs are those suggested by Source One Management Services[6]: 1) Have self-confidence and be aware of your abilities, irrespective of your age; 2) Don’t exaggerate #1 and exhibit humility; 3) Demonstrate good communication skills, especially asking meaningful questions and listening for nuances that highlight the unique aspect of your client’s problem; 4) Showcase your expert knowledge, justifying your selection as a consultant; and 5) Make efforts to cultivate your client’s trust, the foundation of the consultancy relationship.
  • Among the critical communication skills needed for a consultant is matching the client’s pace. Some CEO clients may insist on lecturing the consultant at length on the organization’s historical attempts to resolve knotty issues or describing how their organization differs from all its competitors. Others may prefer a ‘quick fix’ in order to move on. While each consultant will have their own style that has worked for them, the consultant’s matching the client’s pace is vital for trust-building
  • Try this: Often, the challenge of giving advice is to avoid sharing your insights at the very moment the idea flame is kindled within you (especially for men!). Your recommendation will be much more welcome and effective if you hold off until your client has completed their description, shared their initial thoughts and hypotheses, and are now ready to listen to you. Even though you may have heard this scenario scores of times, be sure to listen till the end––clients will often leave the critical elements to the end, especially aspects with which they feel uncomfortable. This calls for deliberately holding back, perhaps fighting your instinct to suggest a ‘proven solution.’ Try to cultivate this vital communication skill––listening till the end––to enrich your consultation (and life) toolbox.

[1] Genesis 39:3–4.
[2] Genesis 39:23.
[3] Genesis 41:16.
[4] Genesis 41:33.
[5] Genesis 41:39.
[6] Horrocks, T. (n.d.). 7 Characteristics of a successful consultant. MRA Global Sourcing. https://mrags.com/7-characteristics-of-a-successful-consultant/

 

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