Last week, Property Academy members attended a live, private meeting with Colin Machlachlan, the former SAS soldier turned TV star of Channel 4’s ‘Who Dares Wins’ and Channel 5’s ‘Secrets of the SAS’. His story is extraordinary and he shared how he and his colleagues developed personal and team resilience to the most testing of conditions.
Some of situations Colin has experienced are a strain for the most developed imagination such as hunting down the ‘West Side Boys’, a guerilla gang holding 11 British soldiers hostage in the swamps of Sierra Leone; a four-day standoff at Stansted with terrorists who had hijacked a plane with 180 passengers and crew, and perhaps most frightening of all was when he was held captive in Basra and subjected to mock executions.
Each of these examples of the most extreme situations, all with successful outcomes, (albeit not without losses of colleagues which are factored into the SAS operational calculations), had different lessons – when to operate as a team and when it’s down to the individual, how everyone has to be prepared to lead, the requirement to separate the physical and mental stresses and much more, but the biggest lesson of all for me wasn’t from the successful missions Colin described in great detail, but from the many failures.
That’s right, the SAS has failures, indeed Colin stated they have hundreds each year. We don’t get to see them on the TV or written about in books by former SAS personnel such as Colin and Andy McNabb, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s not because of secrecy, (although that would be understandable), it’s not because of pride and fear of tarnishing the reputation of the most admired regiment in the world, it’s for a very good reason.
“In the SAS we fail all the time……in training.” Colin Machlachlan 24th March 2021
The selection training is legendary, (Colin was one of 129 that started the process on his intake and one of 12 that was accepted). Unlike other elite forces, such as the US Delta Force and Seal Team 6, the SAS trains their servicemen and since last year servicewomen, to be generalists. Each member of the team has a basic understanding of all aspects of warfare from medicine to underwater knife fighting at nighttime. If one member of a six person team is taken out this could be critical to the mission with other forces as it might be the only one able to operate a specialist piece of equipment or provide essential medical care – not so in the SAS, for sure there are experts but each member is capable of stepping up as required. This is impressive enough, but pales when you learn about the training for each and every operation.
In Sierra Leone the SAS built a replica camp to that of the one the hostages were held in and practiced (and failed many times) as to how best to retrieve the hostages without casualties. Likewise with the plane hijack – two identical aircraft were immediately commissioned to enable the SAS to practice two different scenarios. Each and every operation is meticulously planned to reduce the possibility of failure in the real situation and hence, to a very large extent, the incredible success rate of each operation.
I asked Colin about the differences he’s seen between the SAS and businesses around the world and he noted two key things. Firstly that there’s not nearly enough training given and secondly, and linked to this, is the lack of a proper debrief after every operation AND after every training exercise.
“Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail” is a cliche – and a truism. The SAS knows this, they know that every operation they go on will fail – but in training not on the mission itself.
If you would like to see the exclusive session with Colin Machlachlan then register for a free trial of Property Academy and this will be included. The trial includes attending a Leadership Group meeting with 14 other business owners/directors as well as seeing 1-3 live sessions with world-class speakers such as Colin Machlachlan and if, after a month, you decide membership is not for you then there’s no charge and no hassle. Contact Suzie on 01372 372372 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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