Albert Camus once said, “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” It’s so important to have friends at work who will stand with you when you need them. Here’s what I mean.
I was at a meeting where we were discussing the savings we could generate by decreasing the number of reports we receive. Think about the amount of information that you get that merely takes up your time and doesn’t give you any useful information. Someone took time to write the code for that report, to send the report and then you have to open and delete something that you don’t want or need. If the information is on paper and shipped, you’ve got shipping costs and paper costs. All are a waste if you don’t need the information.
I was part of the team working on this project. Our manager was also on the team. During the lively discussion of ideas, my boss got an important phone call and had to excuse himself to take the call. In his absence, I identified 3 different reports that I didn’t use, didn’t need and didn’t want. During the group discussion, several peers that I worked with agreed with me. After our discussion, they all agreed that they didn’t want the reports either. Then my boss returned to the meeting. He asked what happened in his absence and I reported.
I said “We’ve identified 3 reports that we can save money on because the information is redundant or not needed.” I named the reports. His face flushed red in anger. “What do you mean?” he shouted. “Those reports are necessary.” “Not to me they’re no,” I replied. There was an eerie silence. Then one of my peers (one without a backbone) said, “On second thought, I can use those reports.” Another peer agreed with him. There was a domino effect. Everyone else on the team agreed with the first spineless one. I was shocked at the mutiny. There was one exception. The last person said, “I don’t need those reports either.” That man became a friend of mine for life.
Can you imagine feeling so alone in business? Get ready for it. Know who your friends are. Do you think my friend always agreed with me in business? No, he didn’t. Your friends with backbone still might disagree with your ideas. They will disagree because they’re honest, not because they’re weak and afraid to buck management.
So start looking around. Spot the people who you work with who have spines. They’re easy to spot if you start looking. They’re consistent in public and in private. They’re unafraid to take unpopular positions. (Think John McCain bucking the White House and the Republican party when he opposed the approval of torture for prisoners of war.) You want friends in business who have backbone. In fact, you need them for your support. There’s another anonymous quote that speaks to this. I hope you smile when you read it. “Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.” Those are the friends that women need in business.