The Navy Seals’ Bin Laden Operation – The Ultimate in Teamwork

As the news continues to come out about the operation that led to the capture and killing of one of the world’s most notorious terrorists I can’t help but be engrossed in learning about the teamwork it took to pull off an operation of this magnitude.

In writing about teamwork and leadership and workplace communication much of the things we’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis are so minuscule in the big picture of the universe, especially when compared with this recent Navy Seals mission, and others we probably will never even know about.

I do believe, though, that there are lessons to be learned from this operation that business leaders can apply in the workplace.

There are tremendous similarities and some big difference between the teamwork it takes for a successful Navy Seals operation and day-to-day business teamwork success.

In general, the rules for success are all the same but it’s so much easier for business leaders to develop successful teams, yet you would never realize it.

It is so much easier in the business world to build a high-performance team with high levels of morale and motivation in the workplace  than it is for the Navy Seals, or it should be.

I mean, in the business world, we’re not dealing with looking at life and death, ours and our adversaries, on a daily basis with every “mission.” Although, by the reaction of some employees in many situations you’d be hard pressed to believe otherwise.

The #1 secret ingredient that allowed teamwork to work flawlessly on this mission was PURPOSE!

Everyone on that team was committed to the PURPOSE of the operation.

And, although it took a dozen or so Navy Seals to do the physical activity to complete the mission, there had to be hundreds of others behind the scenes, investigating, planning, deciding, researching, drawing, playing devil’s advocate, supporting, and much more we’ll never know to make it successful. But, the absolute #1 secret ingredient that allowed this mission to be successful was PURPOSE.

Everyone on the team was committed to the PURPOSE of the mission. So committed that they stayed focused on their unique and specific role to do it flawlessly because the success of the mission depended on each person executing flawlessly. Without it, lives were in the balance.

This is why I continue to harp on the fact that successful teamwork in the business world should be a no-brainer and should also work flawlessly.

In my estimation in athletics and in military operations there are only 2 reasons for failure:

  1. despite flawless commitment and execution on our side, the opposition just outperforms us
  2. there is a breakdown in communication and execution by one or more individuals on our side

If we can agree that those are the only two ways we can fail, in business the first reason does not, or should not, obtain.

Therefore, we have only #2 to focus on. And, that seems to obtain much more than it should.

And, I would argue the cause of that breakdown is a lack of commitment to the team’s purpose. And, that lack of commitment I believe usually comes because the purpose is ambiguous. In my work I find that organizational leaders at all levels do a poor job of defining the purpose of their mission.

When the purpose is clear, and all team members are on board and committed to that mission, success can be achieved. Without, it can’t. Without it egos get in the way. And, to pull off a successful mission like the Navy Seals just completed, egos are put aside and everyone is comfortable with their role and their unique contribution to the success of the mission. When that is in place, there is nothing left for individuals to focus on.

More on this in future blog posts as I have other thoughts to add, but this is enough for today.

What do you think?


4 thoughts on “The Navy Seals’ Bin Laden Operation – The Ultimate in Teamwork

  1. KEN DWYER says:


    Your are absolutely correct with PURPOSE.In business, at times, we fail to communicate the PURPOSE of why we do what we do. But we also need to include the following as well

    – Commitment: Are our employees totally committed to the PURPOSE of the business.

    – Communication: Do we as managers communicate the PURPOSE of why we exist as a company or organization. We have lost the art of just talking to each other.

    -Courage: The ability to respectful correct a wrong or do the right thing for the PURPOSE of the mission of the company.

    Candor: Be upfront about reality, sometimes too much sugar just gets you fat.

    Caring: Do our employees genuinely care about the PURPOSE of our company and are they motivated by the management to care.

    These are some of the few ideals that the military instills in its leaders but it may help our business leaders as well.

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by and adding value to the discussion. I love the comment about sugar coating reality and too much sugar making us fat, absolutely.

    In Jack Welch’s book Winning he talks alot about Candor being key to a leader being successful and having their team succeed.

    And, as you note, none of “C’s” you mention of Commitment, Communication, Candor, Courage and Caring can occur to the level we need without first clearly articulating our PURPOSE

    I even wrote an article about how I believe organizations should throw out their Mission Statements and replace them with a PURPOSE STATEMENT, because every Mission has to have a Purpose to be successful! Guess I’ll have to resurrect that old article and republish it here.

  3. Atul says:

    Dear Skip,

    I agree with your point that defining purpose statement is the first step. I only wonder about the ways it is defined. In some companies it may be issued by Corporate and in some it may be derived by leaders of business unit. I have strong conviction that more the involvement of people in defining the purpose statement with guidance from top management, connectivity will be high.

    Purpose is common goal and connectivity to common goal has to create effective team.


  4. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    You are absolutely correct that the more participation the greater the buy-in. The challenge is that with larger organizations its not practical, effective or even necessary to have everyone at all levels participate in creating the Purpose of the organization.

    And, in large organizations, often times, what is more important is for the smaller entity, division/department/team to create its own Purpose as it relates to the larger organization to which it belongs. Such as, in athletics, in your world I’m assuming football (soccer as we call it in America) resonates at some level with you so I’ll use that as an example.

    The ‘team’ that makes up the “defensive” side of the field, the fullbacks and goalkeeper, have one purpose to stop the opposition from scoring. Whereas, the “team” on the offensive side of the field, the midfielders and forwards, have the purpose of scoring goals. Together they fulfill the over arching purpose of winning games or the ultimate purpose of winning a “championship.”

    And, I think organizationally, in business it can (and should be encouraged to) be applied similarly.

    Thanks for commenting and adding value to our discussion. I appreciate your regular contributions to my blog.

    All the best,

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