The Secret to Building an Unstoppable Team

Have you ever noticed that there are some teams who just know how to win? Companies that outpace their rivals, sports teams that dominate their competition, or military units that seem to do the impossible. There is something special about these teams that make them unstoppable.

“Do your job” – Bill Belichick

Consider the New England Patriots in Superbowl LI. Midway through the third quarter, they were losing 28-3. No other team in Superbowl history had ever come back from this level of deficit. Despite that, quarterback Tom Brady was sure they would win. Later, when asked why he was so confident, he said, “We’re in the locker room with each other every day and we know what we’re all about. That’s what it comes down to. We believe in one another, every one doing their job.”

“The great teams find a way to win.” – Allan Ray

As leaders, our job is to build and lead our teams. I’ve written a lot about the leadership aspect but what about building the team? How do you build an unstoppable team? What makes a team special? How do you build a team that will be resilient, persistent, and consistently effective?

Let me suggest that there are 4 important things to consider when building an unstoppable team.

Select individuals who have complementary skill sets. This is especially important in small teams. Everyone should have a specific expertise that is required to accomplish the team’s objective. Take, for example, Navy Seals. In each team, there are specialists like medics, snipers, breechers, jump masters, dive masters, or language experts. Even though there are some overlapping skills, the experts are relied on by the team for success in specific areas of the mission. Look at the team you are assembling. Do they have complementary skill sets? Do they have the combined skills to complete the objective?

Select individuals who have achieved a high level of competency. As a former Naval Officer on nuclear submarines, I appreciate the brilliance of the Navy’s qualification program. To be promoted or to assume certain duties, you had to go through a rigorous qualification process. This meant everyone you served with had achieved a high level of competency. This established mutual respect across the team and built a high level of trust. You knew your teammate had your back. While more difficult to do in business, you should carefully consider the competency of each team member.

Select individuals who have proved themselves under adversity. As I wrote in a recent article, The One Trait your CEO Wants You to Have, persistent people are extremely valuable to the success of any team. Look for those special employees who can step up and deliver results regardless of the adverse circumstances. Look for people who don’t quit and have a proven history of perseverance. Look for the engineer who worked two jobs and went to night school for six years to graduate, the veteran who served two combat tours, or the plant manager who worked their way up from the shop floor. These are the people who are going to make a difference when things get tough.

Select individuals who are unselfish and have a “mission first” mindset. The success of unstoppable teams resides in the singular focus on the mission. “Mission first” employees understand the objective takes priority over individual goals and career aspirations. In the example of Tom Brady, he took a pay cut to allow his team to have the budget to bring in other top talent. This mindset creates a culture where individuals hold each other mutually accountable to the team’s goal. There’s little room for office politics and egos when the priority is winning.

The objective of leadership is to direct a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.  The most important part of that objective is choosing the right people who will make up the team. Selecting employees with the right characteristics, experience, and mindset can make the job of winning easier. Unstoppable teams are uncommon because building the team isn’t easy. You need to find the right people with complementary skills sets, a high level of competency, who have proven themselves under adversity, and have a “mission first” mindset.

What do you think? Are these 4 attributes the most important? Are there others that are more significant? What makes unstoppable teams so good? Are there other ways to build an unstoppable team? How can you create an unstoppable team when you don’t get to hand-pick your team members? Let me know your thoughts below.

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