Who Pulled the Trigger on bin Laden

Mark Owen (Not his real name) explained his firsthand view of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on 60 minutes Sunday night. Scott Pelley interviewed the former Navy SEAL who gave a blow by blow of the operation, even his visit to Taco Bell after he arrived home.

Owen is under fire from the U.S. Pentagon for violating his oath to protect the secrets of SEAL operations. He says, “I’m not talking secrets.”

Regardless of your opinion of Owen’s book, No Easy Day, he said something that triggered my thoughts about teams and teamwork.

Owen explained how President Obama privately asked the SEAL Team who killed Osama bin Laden. Who pulled the trigger? The Navy Seals refused to say. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger. Everyone from support staff to helicopter pilots, to indivdual SEALs made it happen. It wouldn’t have happened without the team.

Great teams honor the team.

Some team members have “glory” jobs but that’s not the point. Without the team the job doesn’t get done.

Leaders who mouth the words, “We believe in teamwork,” but who only recognize individual contributors reveal hypocritical inconsistency. They use terms like “team” and “teamwork” to manipulate in order to gain compliance.

It’s foolish to neglect honoring individual acts of achievement. However, team recognition and reward needs more attention. Choose what and who you honor carefully.

You get what you honor.

Recognizing individuals strengthens individuals; it motivates people to become individual contributors. On the other hand, team recognition strengthens teams and teamwork. We need both but in many organizations we need more of the latter, much more.

Who pulled the trigger on bin Laden? A member of the team.

Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

What does honoring, rewarding, and recognizing teams look like?