Colonel Tim Collins’ business masterclass

Renowned soldier Colonel Tim Collins OBE provides advice on surviving business minefields


If you’re scruprulously fair you have got nothing to fear at all. You’ll never go far wrong in that respect if you follow Plato’s exhortation that ‘men fear injustice, but do not fear justice’.

Also, in an increasingly mobile workplace, one of the ways in which you can encourage workers to make more of a commitment to your business is to offer frank and open dialogue where no one fears hidden agendas.

People can see where they are going wrong and put it right, and, on the other hand, know when they’re getting it right and keep doing it. People need to be told when they’ve done well.

In the army, there were positive incentives. When we were successful we collectively honoured it and it’s important that everyone feels ownership of that success.


It’s more about instilling self-confidence in your organisation that your products are the best, and if they’re not the best, then doing something about it. And ultimately that will translate and your staff will take a keen and close interest in the product of their competitor and seek to put water between the two. That’s healthy and should be encouraged.


The key, whether speaking to business executives or back in the army, is to address the subjects that are on their minds – answer the exam question. Of course, to do that you have to go out and find what the exam question is. Go out on the streets and highways and lanes and ask them what’s concerning and focusing them. And having established what’s on their minds, go away and think about it yourself, overlay your party line, your hopes and aspirations, turn that into your tenet and clearly communicate your intent in such a manner that even the most stupid of your followers clearly understands what must be achieved.

Confrontational leadership

My personal view is that taking the confrontational approach to your own followers is a high-risk strategy. I’d rather they followed you because they believe in the cause, not necessarily in you, but believe that you are the best man to deliver the best for them and the common good.

Ultimately, it comes back to the cornerstone of respect. You must love and respect your workers as colleagues and as individuals. And reflecting that doesn’t mean you’re still not going to be firm when necessary, but you will be scrupulously fair. Then they will, hopefully, respond by showing you respect – and an organisation where there’s mutual respect will be successful.

Dealing with the media

The media is a fact of life, so you need to be bloody careful when you’re courting them. I think the secret when dealing with the media is to stick to your competencies. Don’t be tempted to be led off the subject in which you’re not confident. You do so at your peril.

The Templars’ six golden rules

1. Get your priorities right.

2. Get your organisation right.

3. Get the right people to work for you.

4. Get the right spirit into your people.

5. Give them very clear instructions as to what’s required…

6. …and then let them get on with it.


Failing to invest in training and invest in encouragement of the workforce is the biggest failing in business.

Your people are your biggest asset. If they’re motivated and work towards a common end, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. But if they couldn’t care less and are clock watching, watch out.


Colonel Tim Collins OBE served in 22 SAS in the first Gulf War and commanded the 1st Battallion Royal Irish Regiment in the British Army?s return to Iraq. Despite experiencing heavy fighting in Basra, he brought home his unit without the loss of a single soldier. He retired in 2004, and is now an author, broadcaster and motivational speaker. He was speaking at the Leaders in London Summit 2006. For more details, visit or call 020 7017 7200.


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