Two lessons on vision from the Three Musketeers

 three_musketeers7491_600Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and d’Artagnan, the Three Musketeers, famous in legend and film repeated a mantra that perfectly illustrates the impact vision has on a team. (Check the end of this article to find out why the “Three” Musketeers were actually four in number. No fair skipping ahead.) If you read the book by Alexander Dumas or seen one of the plays, television programs, or films you have heard the mantra.

“All for one and one for all” was first put forth by d’Artagnan but quickly became the brand identification for them all. So how does that apply to my topic here of vision? Let me explain.

Successful leaders and managers build a team of independent thinkers who enjoy autonomy, possess significant skills, and who work confidently together…all pursuing the same objective. They often, perhaps usually possess unique responsibilities but they all flow together somehow someway. A bit rough around the edges and even rowdy at times, there can be no doubt that every team member is, well, on the same team.

There was a time when the typical organizational structure could be diagramed like this:triangle leader

The top down system still works when it is limited to defining lines of authority. Someone must be responsible and that is almost never a committee. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a love affair with egalitarianism – equal status. As a reaction to the old “I’ll talk and you listen” method of handling people, there was need for revision.

The primary reason for its obsolescence is that it neglects to tap into the tremendous brain and experience power of those who work within the “lower ranks” of the system. However, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll grant that illustration #1 does reflect the way it should be when it comes to the flow of authority. Someone must be ultimately in charge.

If we create a diagram that applies to the subject of vision, it would look like this:triangle leader vision

If you don’t have vision for what you’re doing, then why are you in the leadership position? You cannot lead if you don’t know where you’re going. Effective leaders take the point because they have glimpsed the future and want to make it a reality.

But when it comes to our actual on-the-job function, it looks more like this:triangle leader function

 

All well and good, but what does this have to do with the Three Musketeers? Their motto – “All for one, one for all.” Their’s was a pledge of allegiance to each other and a mutual pledge to the cause. True enough, causes are generall thought of as mobilizing forces behind non-profits. Save the Children’s cause is easily seen. A general retail or service business is not so obvious.

That is where you, the leader and manager comes in. You know that an articulated and defined vision will create an “all for one, one for all” attitude because it lends two essential components to the equation.

First it creates a FOCAL POINT. An articulated and defined vision gathers the attention of everyone and focuses it.  “Where there is no vision, the people just wander around” said the sage. When evreryone focuses their vision, it is reasonable to expect that as eye on the prize attitude can be maintained. Sometimes this must be done practically. The pastor of a neighborhood church in a Buffalo suburb called me because he was having problems with discontentment and grumbling within the church’s leadership body. They wanted to move the church farther out of the city closer to their homes so they didn’t have so far to drive to get there. I asked the man if the vision of the church remained the same as when it was founded – to have a significant impact on the inner city. He assured me that it was the same. So I suggested that he call a board meeting and meet every board member in the parking lot of the church. Then, I said, put them in the church van and drive them throughout the neighborhood ans show them the crack houses, the drug dealers on street corners, the blight and decay and remind them of why the church was where it was, that it did not exist for their convenience or even their comfort, that it existed to make an impact. Also, I said, remind them that they used to live in that very neighborhood but have moved away because their involvement in the congregation led them to forsake lifestyles and habits that had drained their resources and had now made them prosperous. The result? Problem solved.

Granted, an articulated vision for a car dealership or a restaurant  is less dramatic but need not be less compelling to the right people (more about that later). The problem is almost always focus. This is “All for one.”

Second, an articulated vision provides A FUNNEL. It gathers people and their talents together. When vision and the activities that propel the company or department toward it are articulated, defined, and celebrated, a “One for all” understanding emerges. Each begins to see how they fit with the other which is absolutely critical if a unified effort in the SAME direction is going to result.

All for one, one for all – A six word summary of the benefit of the vision you have for your company or organization.

 

 

Why are there four musketeers? Because d’Artagnan, although a musketeer, was not of the same company as the other three. They were attached to de Treville’s, d’Artagnan to des Essarts’. If you want to read more, check out this link.

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