Does the military have the secret to HR success?

by Janie Smith12 Jun 2014
Could behaving in a more upbeat fashion improve your employees’ performance?

Yes, according to British academic and author Professor Andrew St George.

During the two years that St George spent doing research for his 2012 book, The Royal Navy Leadership Manual, he discovered that the military had a lot to teach businesses about leadership – in particular, about the importance of cheerfulness.

In a piece St George wrote for The Telegraph, he described cheerfulness as a military value.

“Why? Because no one follows a pessimist. In nine months’ officer training for both Navy and the Marines, not once did I hear bitter complaint that life was muddy, wet, exhausting, uncertain.

“Instead, I was inspired and uplifted by quick-fire banter…How did I feel? Known, accepted and properly met. Think of a cheerful team, now a gloomy one: which is the more attractive?” he wrote.

He said that by applying cheerfulness to work, it could improve more than half the UK’s national workforce’s productivity overnight.

“There are 29 million people in work: of them, 14 million are in small and medium-sized enterprises where changes in attitude can have the greatest effect. Add the 1.5 million workers of the FTSE 250 and that is over half our national workforce whose lives could be improved tomorrow, whose productivity could rise immediately, by listening to what the Navy has to teach business.”

RedBalloon CEO Kristie Buchanan told the Sydney Morning Herald that a boss’ mood had a direct impact on the productivity of their employees.

“A happier workplace is a more productive workplace and I believe that the energy of the team echoes that of the leadership,” she said.

Here are St George’s tips for being a more positive leader:

1. Monitor gloomy thoughts and think the opposite
2. Imagine someone else behaving as you do – would you want to follow them?
3. Don't use email to manage or lead staff – only to convey or confirm information
4. Praise people wherever you can, especially in public
5. Practise mindfulness
How much impact do you think cheerfulness has on your team’s productivity?


  • by kevin 16/06/2014 1:50:20 PM

    The thing that amazes me most about the miliary (which was used as the foundation for management structures) is that whilst commerce continues to re-structure on a continual basis, the miliary by comparison has remained basically unchanged in terms of the levels of management and the size of the workforce. Is management using structure as an excuse for success and hopes by changing the deck chairs that all other ailments will fade away - probably. I recall a famous politician once said of others is that he has great distain for new ministers who change the name of their Department and then use this as an example of how effective they can be.

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