“I love it when a plan comes together.” A quote made famous by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, a character played by George Peppard on the 1980s TV series The A-Team. Any time I hear that phrase or something even remotely close to it, I can’t help but think back to the show and what made them a highly functioning team. And earlier this week, when one of my coworkers said the phrase after finishing a project, that sent me down memory lane. It also sent me to YouTube where I watched a few clips of the show. Isn’t technology great?
If you’re not familiar with the A-Team, the premise was built around a small group of ex-Army Special Forces soldiers who were on the run from the military after being charged for a crime they didn’t commit. And, as any group of fugitives would do on TV in the 80s, they decided to help those in need by working as guns for hire. Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s take a look at the actors.
The Leader-John “Hannibal” Smith. He had the vision for where they were headed and dolled out responsibilities to other members of the A-Team. During every episode, he made the tough decisions and celebrated the group’s success by taking a puff of his cigar before saying his trademark quote. He was calm under pressure and instilled confidence in those around him.
The Glue-Templeton “Face” Peck. What always amazed me about his character was how resourceful he was. They could be in a jungle and need a commercial jet. Within 10 minutes, Face would find and secure said plane. He pulled everything together. He was the team member who was always able to find creative ways to address their challenges. If you don’t have enough information or the right resources to make a decision, you need someone like him who will find a way to get it done.
The Muscle-Bosco “B.A.” Baracus. Who can forget the character played by Mr. T? B.A. was short for bad attitude and Mr. T didn’t disappoint. He was the muscle, the strong athlete. He was good at a lot of things. Whether it be welding armored plates onto an old sedan so they could make an escape, or designing a gun that would shoot cabbage at the bad guys, they could always count on B.A. Sometimes your best hire is the person with the raw horsepower to get the job done even if they don’t have the requisite experience. B.A. was that guy. Having muscle on your team also ensures everybody pulls their own weight.
The Specialist– “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock. The specialist of the group. He was good at one thing– flying planes. And unfortunately, that didn’t bode well for B.A. as he had a serious fear of flying. Depending on the scope of the project, every team needs someone who can excel in a specific area or who possess a certain skill set—the analytical person in the group or the creative genius who can blue-sky ideas like there’s no tomorrow.
The A-Team also exhibited other characteristics of a highly functioning team. They shared a sense of common purpose, under Hannibal’s leadership they knew what needed to get done, they knew their roles, and they were all able to contribute to the decision making process. Having cool nicknames didn’t hurt either.
If you don’t have a chance to chose your team, work with your staff to make sure they’re in the roles that allow them to flourish. If you have the chance to hire new team members, think about the roles mentioned above and how they might fit with your current needs.
On your next team project, which A-Team member will you be?
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).