Who Are You? The Importance of Ethos and Culture to Positive Psychological Wellbeing and Sustainable, Optimal Performance.

Regularly you hear people discussing/selling what their organisation does; however, in relation to their organisation, how many, if anyone can explain: Who Are You?

· What does the organisation stand for?

· What is its identity?

· What are its values?

· What is its ethos and culture?

I doubt that if these questions were asked across most organisations, that many could answer them without a long pause, and those that did, would probably have different opinions as to the answer. I doubt very much that anyone could make the link as to how their answer could be linked to a positive ethos and culture, or positive psychological wellbeing, let alone sustainable optimal performance!

This assessment may sound harsh; however, to be fair, there are not many individuals or elite teams/organisations, whether it be Directors, CEO, Management or Players who could answer this question with confidence and unison across the board?

The most successful teams/organisations can. The Royal Marines have an ethos and culture that is at the centre of everything they do. This has been vital to their identity, sustainable optimal performance and success since 1664, and was only tweaked when they were ordered to take on the formal Commando role in 1942 (even though due to the nature of their role they had been conducting Commando style operations long before).

The New Zealand All Blacks place ethos and culture at the centre of everything they do. This has been vital to their world dominance since conception, only being tweaked in recent years, the result of which was their historic back to back World Cup wins.

Team Sky’s’ ethos and culture is at the centre of everything that it does and was introduced and developed during its conception. This was vital when achieving its mission within the allocated time-line, and the consistent optimal performance that it has sustained success in Grand Tours.

The above-mentioned look at an individual’s ability (including management and support staff) to embrace and fit within their ethos and culture, more importantly than individual performance; the most talented, and just because they have talent, doesn’t mean they will be selected.

Other teams have achieved success due to their ethos and culture; however, this success has not been sustainable due the ethos and culture being that of the Manager, and not that of the organisation; hence the success stopped when the Manager left. An example of this is:

England Rugby under Sir Clive Woodward. Sir Clive Woodward understood the importance of ethos and culture. He developed and implemented a new ethos and culture across the team, that over time enabled the team to achieve its aim, winning the Rugby World Cup in 2003. On leaving the role and handing over to a new Manager, England were never the same. Until that is, the relatively recent arrival of Eddie Jones, who again has introduced his own ethos and culture to phenomenal and quick success. However, it is fair to ask, does England rugby have an ethos and culture that is aligned to its identity that promotes sustainable optimal performance? Or does It rely only what the Manager(s) bring in?

Gaining and maintaining the strategic and tactical advantage, and creating a cohesive environment of aspiration, optimal performance and true professionalism, are crucial for teams in today’s highly competitive business and sporting worlds. The teams mentioned above have all shown sustainable, optimal performance despite these pressures. However, our professional experience of operating with elite, high performance teams and detailed academic analysis provides a unique insight, i.e., that all have an ethos and culture that has implicitly promoted its members’ positive psychological wellbeing. Our contention is that the development of an ethos and culture that explicitly seeks to embed positive psychological wellbeing for its members provides optimal performance that is sustainable beyond changes in management, members and external pressures.

Why is positive psychological wellbeing important?

Positive psychological wellbeing is held when individuals feel competent, autonomous, valued, and with a sense of purpose in contributing to something worthwhile. Further, when they feel listened to, supported, and part of a community. The valuing of such perceptions within a team culture enables the intricate balance of team and individual needs, and fuels the professional attitudes and actions required for optimal performance.

More specifically, as a team, a positive wellbeing culture enables members to attain the utmost of personal leadership, and to assume personal responsibility and commitment to; a common mission and goals, normative behaviours of professionalism, and optimal role performance. In return, allowing member ownership, and respecting the individual differences, needs and contributions of all team members and those within the wider support environment, are crucial to breeding a professional, performance culture where optimal cohesion, camaraderie and identity dominate.

Question: How is your organisation performing? What is your organisation’s current ethos and culture, and how does it promote competency and autonomy within the organisation (including staff)? How does it make members feel valued, promote their sense of purpose in contributing to something worthwhile, or feel listened to, supported, and part of a community? Could your organisation’s performance be better, more sustainable, if it did?

I hope you agree, the question, Who Are You? is certainly worth exploring.