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The musketeers

Whether you are a team member in a start-up, a scale-up, or a larger organization, taking the heat together makes the difference. It is easy to say, but in reality, this requires courage from each team member. It’s like the musketeers standing shoulder to shoulder.

I see situations where people evade their obligations, are mutually competitive, do not encourage vulnerability and open discussions, or do not give each other transparent feedback. These are just a few examples.

“Think for a moment about the team(s) you are part of. What are the strengths and the pitfalls? To what extent do you like working in this team?”

The musketeers a team?

A team is a group of people who pursue a common goal. Group members are dependent on each other to achieve it. The word team comes from the Proto-Germanic word “Taumaz” and means “that was is bound together.” Think of a group of draught animals, like two horses before a carriage, who count on each other to get through or even survive.

We do not realize that survival is deeply embedded in our system. We do not associate this with being part of a team. But being pushed out of a team or not being included in any social group can be a traumatic experience. Long ago, belonging to a group made the difference between life and death. Keeping this in mind, being courageous within a team is not that simple. It could even lead to exclusion.

Looking at the definition, I would say the Musketeers were a team.

Elements of Team Resilience

The next question you can ask yourself: were the musketeers a resilient team?

Resilience is the capability of anticipating and coping with change. Resilience makes organizations, teams, and individuals successful over time. So, what makes a team resilient? And why do some teams fall apart while others become stronger despite setbacks?

I have been working for many years with teams, and from my experience with teams, I see three elements emerging.

1. A shared Direction

The first element of team resilience is a common direction. There are three questions team members must agree upon:

    • What is the reason for the existence of this team?
    • What value does the team create as a team, and for whom?
    • What is the definition of success for the team?

Often, teams lack a common understanding and explicit agreement on the direction.

For start-ups and scale-ups, these are quite existential questions. How can we realize an idea, market it, find capital, attract the right people, and survive? Visualizing the common direction through, for example, Lego Serious Play(R) can make the sense of purpose stronger. People have a clear image of the end goal.

But for larger companies, this is often a challenge. People need to know how they contribute to the bigger picture. What is the contribution of the team? Do people still see the impact of what they do? The sheer size often hinders this understanding, and people get ditched from the purpose.

That is why Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “the tipping point“, states that 150 represents the maximum number of people with whom we can maintain a social relationship. And that when a group, organization, or society starts to reach the number 150, it is advantageous and necessary for the group to split up. Some companies, therefore, split up a unit as soon as they reach this number.

The Musketeers had a clear motto and a value set.

2.  diversity of thought and agreed disagreement

Shouldn’t there be an occasional fight within the team? Absolutely!

If you want to grow as a team, recognizing and acknowledging complementarity and diversity of thought is crucial. These characteristics make a team more powerful. They are the key to maintaining an open dialogue climate where differences of opinion are valued. And of course, storming is a necessary phase for any healthy team. The 4 musketeers were also very diverse in their abilities and personalities, and that also gave rise to regular conflicts.

Diversity in all its aspects helps teams to be better prepared for the future because they broaden their perspective.

3. Relationships with stakeholders

Third, teams need to invest in mutual relationships and relationships with the teams’ key stakeholders. I see 3 dimensions here:

    1. trust (cfr Patrick Lencioni’s the 5 dysfunctions of a team),
    2. the connectedness with each other and the outside world, and
    3. the psychological safety (High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety by Laura Delizonna).

Research shows that high-performing teams show significantly more interpersonal contact than low-performing teams. In other words, communication takes place according to different patterns and the frequency of contacts is relevant. (Hovelynck & Prins).

Equally important is being connected with what evolves in the market and with the key stakeholders. Bring the outside world in.

Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan

And what is the role of the leader? It is important to provide psychological safety so that team members see the team as a place where they can be who they are. A leader must have a vision, perseverance but above all that he or she is seen as someone who can be trusted.

Like d’Artagnan with the musketeers, I suppose because I didn’t know him personally.

To conclude

Does a team need to have all their ducks in a row all the time to be resilient? No.

I see teams where the direction and end goal, the competencies of the members, and the relationships are so strong that they reach high peaks. Taking the heat together helps team members to get to know each other and increase trust.

Teams that go through challenges together and embrace the diversity of opinions, build team resilience and work better together afterward. This results in higher

  1. Effectiveness: have we achieved our goals?
  2. Efficiency: have we done well?
  3. Experience: did we enjoy it?

So, what did the musketeers teach us about team resilience: one for all and all for one, as long as we remain resilient.


Diversity in all its aspects helps teams to be better prepared for the future because they broaden their perspective.

Philippe PersynSenior Consultant

As a Seasoned Human Resources and Change Leader for over 20 years, Philippe has extensive experience of working in organizations in a local and international context. He worked for an IT startup company & JNJ and has built a track record as HR leader. Amongst other topics he has worked on: - the challenge of reconciling high performance and well-being - change in organisations - strategy - team coaching - individual coaching - well-being.

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