The Commando Values: The Importance of Ethos, Culture & Psychological Wellbeing for Optimal Performance, Part 2 of 3

The Commando Values, as part of the overall Commando Ethos, are introduced to Royal Marine recruits during their basic training and stays with them throughout. Taken from the training environment, proven on operations (whether engaged in war or humanitarian), the Values communicate what the Royal Marines are known for, and the expectation of how each Royal Marine should behave and treat his colleagues and those he serves. The Values are a fundamental ingredient of the optimal performance for which the Royal Marines are world renowned; a level that has been sustained since 1664.

This article (the 2nd of 3) highlights how the Commando Values lead to sustainable, elite performance, and how they are enabled and reinforced by a culture that promotes positive psychological wellbeing.

The Commando Values in Life:

· Excellence. Strive to do better.

· Integrity. Tell the truth.

· Self-Discipline. Resist the easy option.

· Humility. Respect the rights, diversity and contribution of others.

As a Royal Marine encounters new situations, particularly when on military operations, when the demands are harsh and the stakes are high, knowing that each member of the team is guided by the Commando Values as part of their culture, ensures confidence in management and peers, and extraordinary levels of performance.

Self-discipline and humility are shown as responsibility for operational planning is delegated across team leaders. It may be a senior Officer tasking a newly trained, junior Officer, or this junior Officer, superior in rank, but tasking a far more experienced, senior Corporal. The trust afforded by the management shows their belief in the individual leader’s competence; telling them the aims and objective of the mission, but not how to do it, gives them autonomy. The team leader knows; that they can approach other experienced team members and seek council, that they will be listened to and their opinion valued, and that that they will be supported as part of the community. They know the importance of the mission means that they are part of something worthwhile. Effectively, the Commando Values guide the actions of management and the Royal Marine community to promote the team leader’s positive psychological wellbeing. In return, the management trust the team leader to implement the Commando Values through their planning and operation, to install the same wellbeing in others.

When developing a military plan on live operations, the team leader will have the self-discipline not to accept the initial plan as best option, i.e., to take the easy option. Instead, they revisit the plan, striving for excellence to make it the best it can be. If the plan is not good enough, if its missing something, or just for peace of mind, the leader has the integrity and humility to ask for a second set of eyes to stress test their plan or seek advice. They have the emotional intelligence to identify their own concerns and to recognise the potential concerns of those involved, and the humility to offer and ask those team members, who maybe putting either their lives or reputations on the line, for their input. This is irrespective of seniority. Every team leader knows that showing this level of honesty and humbleness, will be embraced and not ridiculed; all to ensure mission success with minimal casualties.

By using the Commando Values as a benchmark during this process, the team leader, by approaching others, whether in or around the team for their opinion/advice, is encouraging the development of his team’s own psychological wellbeing culture. By making individuals feel competent, giving them the autonomy to come up with an alternative suggestion, and by listening to the other members, he is making them feel valued, part of a community and part of something worthwhile. With each member of the organisation embracing these values together as part of a common ethos and culture, they are all subconsciously promoting positive psychological wellbeing within the team and across the entire organisation to maximum performance effect.

As within the Royal Marines, experience and research across sectors, shows the positive effects of positive psychological wellbeing across performance indicators, whilst an embedded, strategic commitment to positive psychological wellbeing is supported as the most effective and cost-effective way to achieve such gains (What Works Wellbeing, 2016). Consequently, this should be a priority for any organisation or team who seeks sustainable, optimal performance.

Specifically, here, Values are guiding principles of what is important to, and held in high esteem by, an organisation and its staff. They communicate what the organisation will be known for, how it will behave, and how it’s employees and stakeholders will be treated. If strategically and operationally embedded, values provide a real opportunity for everyday business to be aligned with individual staff values and to enable their contribution to something worthwhile. Further, they attract and retain those with similar ideals and spurs all on to optimal performance.

Does your company/team have an ethos and culture? Does your organisation/team culture, truly embrace and promote appropriate values? What benefits do its current values bring? Has your culture maintained optimal performance in the past, and is robust enough to ensure optimal performance now and into the future, whatever the climate?