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

The Commando Spirit, as part of the overall Commando Ethos, is introduced to Royal Marine recruits during their basic training and stays with them throughout. This Spirit is subsequently taken from the training environment, proven on operations (whether war fighting or humanitarian), and are an important ingredient of the Royal Marines positive psychological wellbeing and the optimal performance they have sustained since 1664.

This article (the 3rd of 3) highlights how the Commando Spirit leads to sustainable, elite performance, and how it is enabled and reinforced by a culture that promotes positive psychological wellbeing.

The Commando Spirit:

· Courage. Get out front and do what is right.

· Determination. Never give up.

· Unselfishness. Team first; Team mate second; Self last.

· Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Make humour the heart of morale.

When deployed, especially on a particularly hostile task, each Royal Marine, irrespective of rank and experience, will fully engage with the Commando Spirit, knowing that all those involved with the task will be doing the same. Whether it is:

The coxswain piloting a raiding craft in a terrible sea state at night. Managing the craft skilfully into the unknown, making decisions, embracing the hostile weather conditions, showing courage and determination to ensure that he delivers his cargo of Royal Marines to the shoreline. Further, knowing that delivering them on the potentially hostile beach overseen by the enemy is only half the task completed, and that they must go back into the fierce sea alone; unselfishness.

The coxswain is trusted by his management to show his competency in handling the craft, and has been given the autonomy to make decisions, without referring to management. He knows the reason for what he is doing and that it is worthwhile; he is part of the Royal Marines community on the operation, and knows that his suggestions to the section commander of the team that he is delivering will be listened to and valued.

The Mountain Leader showing courage, determination and unselfishness when tasked with climbing up a wet, slippery and dangerous climb at night, potentially under the nose of the enemy. He knows that the fixed climbing lines must be laid for the mission to succeed, making decisions as problems present themselves, blocking out his fear of the climb and failure.

The Mountain Leader knows, as do the men relying on him to successfully fix the climbing lines, that he has the competency to successfully complete the task. He is given autonomy to pick the correct route and in how to ensure the correct safety is in place; his advice will be listened to and valued by the team prior to climbing the obstacle. He will know the importance of success and that what he is doing is worthwhile, and should anything go wrong, he has the backing of the community around him to help.

The young Royal Marine Officer, showing determination whilst taking ownership, and courage and unselfishness in making decisions and controlling his part in the operation. Or the young, slight-built Royal Marine, approaching the fixed climbing line, soaking wet, carrying heavy loads, tired and battered by the insertion. He displays courage and determination prior to commencing his first operation cliff assault at night; knowing that once successfully climbed, all hell could break lose. Both of these inexperienced members will be given the autonomy to complete their task. They know that their effort and opinions will be valued and listened to; that they will be supported and trusted by the community around them. This trust reinforces their competency to succeed, and as part of the community, they will know that what they are doing is worthwhile.

Then, all four joining in the cheerfulness of muffled laughter when reminiscing how the first man, expecting to be ankle deep in water, slid off the edge of the raiding craft only to find himself up to his neck.

All four have shown the Commando Spirit. Each knows that their colleagues will reciprocate that Spirit. The Spirit allows each Royal Marine to feel competent, have autonomy, feel valued, listened to and supported, and to feel part of a worthwhile, high-performance community. Together they perform optimally.

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.

What is the true ‘Spirit’ in your workplace? What does it achieve? What spirit would enable you and your colleagues to work at your best, to perform optimally together?