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First in, last out – Lessons on leadership and teamwork from Major Scotty Mills of the Royal Marines

Ben Finnis | 11.11.2022

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the country falls silent to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was therefore fitting that the keynote speaker at this year’s Asset Servicing Times (AST) Excellence Awards was Major Scotty Mills (Ret’d) of His Majesty’s Royal Marines, the highest-ranking black officer in its history.

One fails, all fail.

Some of you may be wondering what the Royal Marines and the asset servicing industry have in common, but as the evening went on it became clear that there was much to learn from the Marines’ approach – for those in my world of PR too.

The Royal Marines Ethos is comprised of three main components. Collectively, these include:

  • Excellence. Strive to do better.
  • Integrity. Tell the truth.
  • Self-Discipline. Resist the easy option.
  • Humility. Respect the rights, diversity and contribution of others.
  • Courage. Get out front and do what is right.
  • Determination. Never give up.
  • Unselfishness. Oppo first; Team second; Self last.
  • Cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Make humour the heart of morale.

Any organisation which strives to adhere to these values is undoubtedly on the right path.

During the selection process, they look for those who can work effectively in a team.  There comes a point when a new recruit realises, they cannot achieve all their set objectives without the help of others.

If one member of the group fails the course, so does everybody else.  The key message: effective teamwork is more important than individual ability.  You may have an office comprised the best and brightest, but if they can’t work as a team, then you’re not going to succeed.  Greentarget continues to grow and now almost numbers that of a platoon.  In the fast-paced, news-driven industry of financial services PR we must function effectively as a team, from the director level to individual account executives, in order to deliver on the expectations of our clients. When we do, the results can be world-class.

But don’t just take a PR man’s word for it.  Sir Clive Woodward took his team down the Royal Marines’ training ground with Major Mills in Plymouth, Devon, to put this into practice shortly before the Rugby World Cup in 2003; and the rest is history.  Learning from history, Gareth Southgate did the same ahead of the 2018 World Cup with his England team.

Inspire to build

For those in the ballroom that evening there was visible respect shown for a gentleman who helped lead the first coalition mission into Iraq in 2003.

For the Marines, it’s not about breaking a person.  It’s about bringing out the best in you and moving up what you consider to be “giving it 100%”.  As Major Mills explained, first you must inspire someone to want to become a member of that team.  Then you’re able to engage them in the training and processes necessary to build them up to the level required and expected of them.

The same can be said for anyone looking to develop and strengthen their own team.  Each successful candidate will be able to tell you what it means to be a Royal Marine.  Firms would do well to inspire similar levels of understanding and commitment in their own people.

Following England’s recent shock defeat to Argentina at Twickenham and with the start of the World Cup in Qatar a little more than one week away, one can only hope Southgate’s men have been to see Major Mills and his friends in Plymouth.

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