Building a Team the Hollywood Way: The 4 Characters You Want

Whether you’re working on a new project, a hard to achieve sale, or just your everyday routine, the work you put out is directly affected by the team you have on your side. Assembling a team to handle the un-predictable circumstances that affect everyday life is always a challenge, but in order to build a great team you need to look at the individual characteristics of the members.

Everyone has their own skills, the things that make them who they are, and as a Manager your job is to make sure that the right people are in the roles that suite their abilities. Simply put, if you want to make great work you need to build a team around the strengths of its members.

For team building in the real world, much like in every aspect of my life, I look for inspiration from the world of film. I know what you may be thinking, “the world doesn’t work like it does in the movies”, and that is true but great stories come from real experiences and the greatest storytellers in history have a lot to teach us about how people work. For team building there is an entire genre to look to in order to see what works best.

When looking towards films for tips on team building you don’t need to look very far, almost every movie has something you can point to in terms of building relationships and teamwork, but nothing encapsulates the idea of team building quite like the heist movie. The heist movie is a genre of film usually based around a robbery, where your heroes are the bad guys. Every heist movie has three main ideas that make it different from most, building a team, planning, and execution, and as you can tell these directly correlate into the real world.

The most important part of any heist movie is also the most important part of your team is – the characters that make the team, so I am going to run down the most important character tropes in heist movies and how these characters are exactly the people that you need on your team.

These are the top 4 characters that you need on your heist crew:

The Leader

The leader is always the man with the plan. He knows what it is going to take to get you from A to B, and is usually the main person that is affected by the
 outcome. The leader has the managerial skills to make sure that the goal is in focus from everybody on the team and is good enough to know that issues will arise, often between team members, and will be able to handle these issues calmly and with authority.

In the movies the leader is usually driven by more than just the money, like in the case of the 2003 remake of the movie by the same name “The Italian Job,” we see the leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) is driven by the betrayal of his friend and former partner. This is an important thing to remember whether you’re the leader, or you are planning on bringing someone else to handle this role.

Finding out what your, or others, motivations are is not always as clear cut as “I like the money,” and when this motive is shared throughout the team, oftentimes you can build trust that goes beyond the job. 

The Tech Genius

The tech genius is always an important character in every heist movie, usually the tech genius is the one person that actually has the skill to make anything happen. Without the knowledge of the tech the entire plan can easily fall into disarray. When it comes to the real world this team member is the person that knows the product better than anyone else, they are able to ramble facts, and issues that they know could cause delays in the future, but they always have a plan in place when it all does fall apart.

The tech genius is a crucial player to every team, like in the 2011 movie “Fast Five,” the movie that transformed Fast and Furious into a heist genre movie and saved the franchise, we see Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) become the person that comes up with the blue prints, knows the safe, and knows the ins and outs of what is going to make the job work. Without his planning the entire team would have failed and ended up in a Brazilian jail.

Hopefully the stakes aren’t that high for your business, but wouldn’t having that tech star on your side alleviate the struggles that could happen?

The Driver

While I know that most of your work isn’t running around the streets at high speeds dodging cops or criminals, The Driver isn’t about the actual driving. The Driver is a pivotal character in any heist movie because he is extremely dependable and always loyal to the team. The driver’s ability to shut out the outside world and focus on the task at hand makes them a great addition to any team you are a part of. Give the driver direction and let them do their job, you can count on the fact that it will get done.

While technically not a heist movie, but does include multiple heist scenarios, there is no movie that better encapsulates the driver persona than in the 2011 film “Drive” where the main character’s real name is unknown, even to the audience, he is only credited as “Driver.” played by Ryan Gosling this dark character has a very simple set of rules that he lives by, “You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own.”

This attitude is what you are looking for in your driver, set parameters, let them work, watch as great things happen.

The Wildcard

The Wildcard is that person on your team that seems as plain as can be. Nothing makes them special but for some reason you know that they are there for a reason. Usually they are brought into the team on a gut feeling, or because they have a history with one or more of the members of your team, and often portrayed in the films as the young kid learning the ropes. These are the people that always surprise you at the end by saving the day. You need a wild card on your team for a number of reason. The first one being because the wildcard always does their work no questions asked. If they are that young gun type character then they will always be hungry for the opportunity, and as always with the Wildcard you never know when they are going to save the day.

When looking at wildcard characters I have to bring it back to Fast and Furious but this time it the 2015 “Fast & Furious 7” where one of my favorite wildcard moves comes from Roman (Tyrese Gibson). In a pivotal moment for the film, Roman, usually nothing more than a wisecracking jokester, starts talking about how he never gets to plan the moves of the team. Calling him out, the team gives him a shot to plan the entry point of an ambush. Put on the spot Roman points randomly at a map, and this happens to actually be the best place to enter the attack. Which leads to one of my favorite film stunts ever, where people skydive in cars.

While it may not be at this scale, when put on the spot you will never know what your wildcard will be able to come up with due to his ability to think outside the box.

While all of these characters play a role in your everyday life, you know these people and you work alongside them, you may even live with them, it is when you get them together to work on a shared goal that the real Movie magic happens. So start building teams based on the individual instead of the ease of building and you will see great improvement from all angles.

Travis Wilson