Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005
Stories of intrigue, treachery, politics, lies, double crosses, and power struggles fill the history books, much like they fill today’s headlines. In the world of the 17th century musketeer, life depended on who you could trust. In the world of the 21st century employee, one’s livelihood may.
I’m not naïve to corporate politics, competition, or sabotage in the workplace. I’ve held my own in corporations where silos, turf wars and power brokers delivered indigestion, sleepless nights, and distrusting cultures. But I still don’t get it. When people are more focused on what’s happening in the cube next to them than on achieving corporate goals, everyone loses. When corporate politics fill emails with mixed direction stalling productivity, everyone loses. And when discretionary effort and new ideas are swallowed in pits of bureaucracy, guess what? Everyone loses. The way I see it, if the company fails, we all fail.
So, I believe the Three Musketeers got it right: “All for one and one for all!" Each understood his fate as an individual was tied to their fate as a group. Trusting each other was unambiguous. One was in trouble, they all were in trouble. One needed help, they all provided help. One succeeded, they all succeeded. The fiction of Alexandre Dumas, set in the 17th century, seems a good prescription for the 21st century workplace.
I know it’s worked for me. Arriving at a new job, I discovered the boss who hired me was away, and no one expecting me. I found no office, no desk, and no information. The person I was hired to replace was in my job, and had no idea I was replacing her. Each week got worse. Information and requests flowed like water through a clogged pipe. I was out of the loop on important issues and viewed like the enemy. Turning to my boss for guidance was like stepping into a sink hole, as I discovered his credibility and the department’s lacking.
I realized if I was to survive, I had to find, win over, and/or develop a handful of people I could trust. It took a difficult year, but the payoff lasted an entire career. Gradually the group of trusted colleagues grew. We never thought of ourselves as musketeers, but by our actions, we became them. Unspoken rules of ethics and integrity prevailed. We looked beyond individual interests. We shared ideas, collaborated on projects, borrowed resources, and worked together easily and enthusiastically. We wanted the best for each other and the best for the company, each of us worrying about more than our own five acres.
Unspoken commitments prevailed. If I was in trouble or asked for help, help was given. I was called upon to step up and provide help too. We all knew our musketeer roles required reciprocity. The bottom line was that helping each other succeed, helped each of us succeed. I don’t know where I’d be today without the musketeer approach. My advice? Become a musketeer!
(c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Sign up to receive Nan's free biweekly eColumn at (www.winningatworking.com). Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and online instructor. Contact Nan at firstname.lastname@example.org.