The Best of the Best

There are three key reasons why the Navy SEALs value trust over talent.

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick says, “Talent will determine the floor. Character will determine the ceiling.”

Having great talent is important for all teams. But having character centered around complete trust allows everyone to improve, grow and understand their roles — and creates a sense of true belonging.

Our trustworthiness is always the foundation, the starting point when evaluating character. Understanding character starts and ends with understanding a person’s ability to be trusted.

Simon Sinek has penned several best-selling leadership books, including “Start With Why,” “Leaders Eat Last” and “The Infinite Game.” Sinek has developed a comprehensive training program for leaders to build great teams — and has spent extensive time researching and creating videos to help those become better leaders.

Recently, he researched the Navy SEALs’ selection process, gleaning insight into the behaviors they value most. Sinek wanted to dig deeper into their process and find what qualifies a member to become a SEAL on the best teams.

SEAL Team 6 is the best of the best, the highest level of achievers. Since passing BUD/s training is almost impossible, being invited to join SEAL Team 6 borders on the improbable, and Sinek wanted to understand how they achieve that prestigious honor.

From researching the candidates invited to join SEAL Team 6, Sinek learned that they were willing to compromise talent for trust. They were willing to forgo the most talented member, who might have a different agenda, for someone who was less talented but completely trusted by their teammates. A lack of trust for someone in one area of their life always spills over to other areas of life. One SEAL put it this way: “I may trust you with my life, but do I trust you with my money or my wife?”

Here are the three reasons why they value trust over talent:

1. Trust must be universal in all aspects of life.

If the SEAL does not trust someone with his money or wife, he won’t fully trust him with his life. Someone who is not trusted because of their character cannot fully be trusted with important functions of the role — yes, no Seal wants to die, but some might believe their way is the only way — and that won’t work on Seal Team 6.

2. Trust increases speed. A lack of trust slows everything down.

With high trust, communication is much faster; people operate at a higher speed and never worry about looking back. When there is low trust, so much time is spent trying to convince those that the plan and the strategy are correct, and even when time is spent in this area, they don’t fully vest in the plan. There is little time for discussion on a mission, so high trust is critical.

3. Pressure shows your level of trustworthiness.

Anyone under the pressure of the job shows their true character. Pressure exposes and amplifies cracks in our character; thus, when responsibilities or pressure increase, cracks (if there) in our character become clearer. There is no pressure; everyone seems fine.

How would you define trust when selecting your team members? Remember, past performance will always dictate future achievements, so when hiring, spend more time understanding the character than the talent.

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