How Contractors Can Successfully Manage from the Outside
Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli ran into a former student who noticed an increasing number of managers being hired on contract. These weren’t consultants or people angling for full-time work, but contractors who were being handed over control of company employees to execute a project or tackle a problem.
Despite being outsiders with no personal connections or networks, these contractor-managers were doing a terrific job. “They don’t have anything to gain by taking credit from you,” Cappelli said. “You can trust them much more than you can trust your own boss by revealing problems. They’re not going to punish you for that, but do you trust your own manager not to do that?”
If contractor-managers don’t want any credit, and they aren’t interested in getting their foot in the door at a company, what’s really in it for them? Cappelli explained that most of them are retired or in the late stage of their careers, they have amassed a certain amount of knowledge, and they want the flexibility that comes with being an independent contractor.
“It’s an interesting self-selection,” he said. “They are people who aren’t necessarily young and hungry, not desperate for work. What they appreciate is the ability to have some choice over what they do and how they do it.”
Peter Cappelli’s survey reveals that outsiders can be the best managers at a company. More important: An uptick in contract management jobs may be a boon for retired (older!) managers who still want to work. Cappelli also points out the gotchas in such jobs. But if I were a retired manager or an unemployed manager of any age, I’d be looking at consulting firms that fill such jobs. Cappelli names one in the article.
What’s your take? First, can an “outsider” manager really pull off what insiders can’t? To my point, could this be a good career channel for unemployed managers — especially retired ones?