I overheard this comment from a senior HR manager at a social gathering. “These individuals have no place in our (pressurised) business. Helping them cope? What a waste of resources.”

Alas, I didn’t get the chance to explain that many individuals, particularly those who need to operate optimally for sustained periods of time under extreme pressures, can do so because their culture embeds and encourages positive psychological wellbeing. How? Let me explain.

A Simple, But Noteworthy Example.

In 1991, the Royal Marines, acknowledged as one of the world’s elite commando forces, inserted into Northern Iraq. Their task was humanitarian; to protect the Kurdish population from Saddam Hussein’s feared Republican Guard. This required the Royal Marines Commandos to; dominate the ground, patrol into the mountains, engage with the enemy as required, and then to convince the Kurds that it was safe for the Royal Marines to guide them down to the established safe havens.

Within an hour of landing into Northern Iraq, a section of 8 Royal Marines Commandos were tasked by their HQ to conduct a recce. Their mission was to confirm the effectiveness of the security provided by an allied nation, of the tactically important high ground surrounding the Royal Marine’s field Headquarters. On their return, the eight were to report their findings to their senior management. This, over and above assurances from senior allied commanders, would determine whether and where the unit would be inserted on mass. As typical within a tactical patrol, each of the eight had their own jobs to do, as well as specific tasks to ensure the recce’s success. The section was led by a Corporal (approximate age 25), with an average section age of 22, the youngest being 19. For most, this was their first real exposure to expeditionary operations.

On reaching their objective, the section broke into pairs to complete the recce tasks. These were to:

  • Gain an understanding of the current security situation and security plan by liaising with the Allies’ senior rank at each location (all of whom were senior to the eight Royal Marines).
  • Make notes of any weaknesses and concerns that they had observed.
  • Make suggestions as to what would be required to improve these shortfalls.

This task lasted over 24 hours, with the teams working throughout the night, checking and rechecking, to ensure that they had all the information their Commanding Officer would need to make his crucial decision.

On return, the team was fully debriefed, each pair explaining their findings to a Senior Officer who listened intently, without interruption. The Senior Officer then passed the information gained to the Commanding Officer. With this trusted information of the site’s safety, the Commanding Officer ordered the remainder of the unit to insert.

What Did the Senior Officers Achieve?

A positive psychological wellbeing culture enables individuals to feel competent, autonomous, valued, listened to, supported, and part of a community, with a sense of purpose to contributing to something worthwhile.

  • Did this task make those eight RM Commandos feel competent as individuals and as a team? Yes.
  • Did the senior officer and Corporal on the ground give them autonomy? Yes.
  • Did the 8 feel listened to and valued as they reported the information they had gained to their seniors? Yes.
  • Did they feel they were part of something worthwhile and part of a community? Yes.
  • Did they become more confident in their skills, decision-making capacity, self-worth? Yes.
  • Would they contribute willingly and capably to the organisation next time? Yes, and for their whole careers.

Question: Did the Senior Officers think that nurturing positive psychological wellbeing is pandering to the weak? A waste of resources?

Questions All CEOs, Managers and Leaders Needs to Ask

  • How often do organisations and managers trust their youngest and/or less experienced members with crucial roles in mission achievement?
  • How often do senior management listen so intently to employee information and prioritise it in their decision-making?
  • How often does an organisation’s systems, communications, day-to-day actions, provide the setting for employees to grow today for the future benefit of the individual and the organisation rather than looking to impress the client?
  • How often do organisation’s survive, let alone thrive, whatever the internal and external pressures?
  • How often do they develop, adapt, stand the test of time?

Very few, if any other organisation has managed to achieve this level of optimal performance over such a sustained period. The Royal Marines have achieved this since 1664: There is no ‘Boom and Bust’ in their’ history.

So Who Benefits Most from a Culture that Prioritises Positive Psychological Wellbeing?

Perhaps, as suggested by the Royal Marines and an increasing body of cross-field research, everyone can. Regardless of whether an individual is perceived as strong or weak, a culture that embeds psychological wellbeing enables everyone to perform, and to keep performing, at their best; individually, collectively, the whole organisation – which is what the client expects.

We hope this article has been of interest and benefit to your organisation.

This is an edited version of an article written by Paul Logan for Law Care.

Written by: