Off hours: Turner & Townsend MD makes most of travel opportunities from Abu Dhabi

Mike Collings is the Middle East managing director for the project management consultancy Turner & Townsend, which has been responsible for the expansion of Concourse D at Dubai International Airport, and is involved in the construction of the new Midfield Terminal Complex at Abu Dhabi International Airport. He has been in the Middle East for five years, but has worked at T&T for 29 years. Mr Collings, 59, is married and has three grown-up sons, aged 29, 27 and 24.

How do you spend your weekend?

A normal weekend typi­cally involves taking my boat out around Abu Dhabi. I like to play golf (there is plenty of room for improvement on that front) and we are members of a club in Abu Dhabi, which is a great place to socialise. We also try to take advantage of where we live with weekend getaways in the UAE, or a nearby country. And while we thought the number of visitors would drop off after five years, the reverse seems to be true. If anybody needs a personal tour of Yas Island, give me a call.

How did you become a managing director?

Hopefully I have the right skills and experience to fit the role, and I think a combination of technical skills, business acumen and interpersonal skills are important. You also need an ability to listen, a “can-do” attitude, the skills to mentor others and to praise employees when they do a good job, as well as being able to help them when they make mistakes. It is also important to remain calm and assume control when challenges occur.

What is your go-to gadget?

I would have said my iPad, but my favourite gadget is now my Apple Watch. Without a doubt get rid of that Rolex, this is the future.

What was the lowest point in your career?

It was a self-created low point back in 1984, when the project in Indonesia that I was working on was completed. Instead of continuing the life of an expat, I decided to return to the UK. For a 27-year-old with no real commitments, working abroad had a lot to offer, but in those days limited career progression.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

The construction sector is a volatile sector that depends on the overall health of the eco­nomy. All economies go through phases of boom and bust, and the construction industry is often the first into the recession and the last out. However, having worked through a number of recessions, they teach you how to manage a business, control costs and resources and how to truly add value for your clients.

If you find yourself working in this sector in the boom years, avail yourself of all opportunities and absorb as much as you can. Don’t fear a recession, treat it as an opportunity and be patient.

What is your most indulgent habit?

It would be easy to spend ­money on watches and cars, but the opportunity to travel is probably my most indulgent habit. In my experience memories don’t rust and don’t break down.

What do you have on your desk?

Ideally nothing.

What can’t you live without?

Can’t is a very strong word, prefer might be more apt. So prolonged periods of sufficient sleep.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I plan my holidays well in advance, book them and make sure I take them. I would love to think that I am indispens­able, but in reality none of us are. When I am not on leave my phone is on 24/7, but when I am on leave, it’s off. I can be contacted – I just don’t make it easy. I also believe it’s a reflection of my poor management if my team can’t survive for five working days without calling me. I have always tried to empower people and I want them to feel trusted. Also mutual respect is required. If I don’t want to be disturbed during my per­sonal holiday, it also means that I will not disturb their holidays – everybody needs a break.

If you could swap jobs with any­one, who would it be and why?

I have always fancied myself as an F1 driver, so if Sebastian Vettel fancies a few weeks off, I am available.

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