You paid thousands of dollars for training and thousands more on equipment, firearms and clothing. Add in the cost of travel, hotels, meals, time off of work and other expenses and you are finally qualified for work, according to you. But what does the Client value in a protector? It may be no surprise that interpersonal skills top the list. Good manners, eye contact, a firm handshake, a timely smile, and an expansive vocabulary are just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing how to negotiate, and more, knowing when to remain silent are also key to a Client choosing you over an ex-WPPS Private Military Contractor.
After decades in the protection industry, it is continually apparent that while “fieldcraft“ is absolutely valuable and indeed essential to a Client’s required prerequisites, it is the “intellectual” skillset with which the Client has the greatest exposure, (and hardest time finding).
Many laugh when first hearing about interpersonal skills in the personal protection industry. They believe that as long the client is safe, nothing else matters. We all know that we are getting paid for that 0,1% chance that may require us to respond to a threat and “save the client”, but the rest of our time will be spent interacting with the client, their family members, employees, domestic staff, and our own colleagues. And just as important are the paparazzi and the public, both of whom have cameras in hand. One wrong comment or gesture and the Client’s embarrassment results in your termination, and possibly a civil action.
Social interaction requires specific interpersonal skills. Your ability to react or reply appropriately is crucial. Using the wrong words with the wrong person and your years in the sand box or skill with firearms won’t save you. You will be fired within seconds. It happens every day and some of you won’t even know why.
Below we will try to give you some tips from ours as well as our colleagues experience and mistakes and even included some comments from past clients.
Your relationship with the client:
If you have any understanding of the industry at all, you know that you are with a client because someone within the client’s entourage has a fear that you have convinced them you can quash. In a combat zone, there is real fear of capture or death. In a large city in America, spy photos of the client out in public, drinking with friends, and in Mexico, Kidnapping. In many instances, you may be with the client 10 to 16 hours a day. So how do you spend that much time with them or their family, under that kind of stress without getting emotionally connected to them? Stick to the old adage: “Be seen and not heard”.
First of all keep in mind that the client is the one paying you, no matter how unrealistic his requests may be, you must adapt to his ‘’wants’’ and ‘’security needs’’. You may not be allowed to do what the job requires or have the manpower or equipment needed but you will have to adapt and do your job with what you have. You may be asked to be in position X and not Y because the client doesn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Consider too that it is also difficult for someone to get used to the idea of having strangers around them with every step they take and with every person they meet. Consider what you are doing that might be adding to or reducing their tension. Talking, staring, where you are standing, your cologne, or your actions can all add to a client’s frustrations.
The professional is one who can work with the difficult client, not the other way around. If you are lucky enough to work for that easy going client good for you, but most of the time you will have to deal with people that will test your limits. Have you ever had a client ask you to protect him but not to be within sight of him?
New professionals usually ask how they would deal with different challenges, like “what if the client asks me to have a drink with him”? What if the client asks you to do things that are out of your area of responsibility?
If you are a Close Protection Operative of the opposite sex of your client, then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations. Traditionally mixing stress and fear with the comfort a protector can bring and the power and wealth of a client, (or his wife), and an opportunity……
Every one of us, client or Close Protection Operative (CPO), have different, social backgrounds and if you add to that different cultures then be ready to deal with more difficulties.
For many of us who have spent years in this business, (If we are successful enough to still be in this business), we have learned where our boundaries lie. If you are new in the business consider that boundaries exist for all of us. The client has them and so do you. When we are hired to protect a person, we are actually being allowed to step far inside their boundaries but they should not be allowed to step too far into ours. We will see a client in their most private and vulnerable moments, but what happens to our persona as “protector” if they see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what happens if someone outside the client’s circle identifies our weaknesses or vulnerabilities?
How do we identify a client’s boundaries, and how do we educate them on ours? It’s really very simple; we ask. We should consider their social and moral code, their habits, vices and health issues and their fears. Sitting down with the client and discussing their needs and simply asking them where their boundaries are and letting them know ours is crucial to the success of a long term assignment. It may be no big deal for a client to ask you to enter a room where they are using drugs in a party setting or where he and his wife are in bed, but this may be beyond your comfort zone, (your boundary).
What is the difference between professionalism and friendship? Here is a simple rule: “You can’t buy friendship”. If you are being paid, you can’t be friends. If you want to be friends, stop taking the client’s money. Crossing the boundary between Professional and Friend is never successful.
From my personal experience I have found that when I was acting strictly professional the client was uncomfortable. Our task is to make them feel safe but when we appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe we don’t understand their fears or what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel we understand them. It is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to us and we must show them we are listening. This is not friendship. This is part of our job.
If you get too friendly, then automatically your professionalism will suffer in your client’s eyes. Not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your laps in professionalism suggests to him that you won’t be taking your job as serious as is needed.
Consider how Psychologists work. They cannot offer professional counseling to people who are in their family or with whom they are friends. They certainly cannot start dating a client.
It is understood that you may share many hours with the client. Talk to him only when he talks to you or when you have to say something that affects his safety. Avoid starting a conversation but always be friendly if the client decides to speak to you. If you are asked a question, try to answer it with a single sentence.
Your relationship with the client’s family members will have to be the same. Don’t be too friendly with them or other staff or guests. Remember who hired you and why. Remember who cuts your check and who ultimately you serve. You should answer to only one person. If you assist or serve anyone else, it must be with the approval of the client and then only at no cost to them.
If you appear too unapproachable or “hard”, you will intimidate those you are serving. Too approachable and the family and everyone else will feel comfortable approaching you. And it will always happen when you need to be focused. Take a middle position with your client which is addressed with professionalism. Again, prior to accepting your contract you must clarify from whom you will be given orders and directions regarding your work.
As a CPO your job is to protect you client’s life and image. You are not there to carry their briefcase or shopping bags, etc. You also should not be carrying the client’s child on your hip, or holding doors open or performing domestic chores. Remember to keep your hands free.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you are asked to perform duties which are outside of your role. The client is hiring a CPO not a maître ’de or a butler. It is professional to politely refuse to perform a task outside of your agreed responsibilities instead of accepting it and putting in danger a client or your life. He has hired you to provide security services and nothing else.
The client must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and it is up to you alone to earn his respect. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions concerning his safety will be accepted by him positively.
Alcohol? NO, NEVER, EVER…..while working. But……
What if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty? In this case you have to ask why he is calling you. Does he see you as a friend or do you think he wants something unrelated to work or to talk about your work? First, remain professional. If your client calls, you respond. Then avoid alcohol at all cost. Consider that in many countries and especially in the United States, if you are in possession of a firearm and you are questioned by police with alcohol in your system, you will be arrested.
Sometimes the most dangerous trap a CPO may fall into is to have a physical relationship with his client or the client’s spouse. Remember that movie where the bodyguard was sleeping with his client? Art sometimes copies life. Being emotionally involved with your client, (or anyone in their circle), no matter how unprofessional we see it, has happened with some colleagues. Understand that if this occurs, the CPO is always at fault. Because the client is dependent on you, they may be more likely to share raw emotion with you or let you all the way in to that last boundary, the personal physical boundary. Take advantage of this vulnerability and you are solely to blame. And if you think you found the love of your life, you will be replaced by the next person the client sees power or an emotional investment in. And who is going to write you that professional referral letter then?
Sexual Harassment is rampant in our profession. Male CPOs are approached by everyone who is attracted to the perceived power of the protector or by anyone trying to get to the client or get into the client’s circle. But if you are a female CPO it is much worse. You will get barraged from both males and females, clients, their family members, friends and then your colleagues. Additionally, sometimes due to culture, there are those who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’. There have been cases like these which have been unreported to authorities but are a common problem within the female CPO industry. Again, that sit down meeting with the client prior to taking the job is strongly suggested.
Your relationship with colleagues:
During our career we will have to work along with people who don’t share the same work ethic, qualifications, training and experience, background, morals or values with us. So whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our first loyalty is the client’s safety and the study and mastering of the art and skill toward this goal. Our second loyalty is to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.
As we all know, Close Protection is a profession that is unfortunately void of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each State has its own licensing or training requirements and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you have to work to solidify a team with people who bring with them different experience, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics in the same way a sports team or elite military unit has to work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that each one on the team promote and maintain a strong working relationship with the others as well as the client, and of course other people who we may be in contact with (house personnel, office staff etc).
Some of the people you are working with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. So in each situation you must address your issues with them with respect. Never offend anyone no matter the reason, never correct someone while anyone else in present. If you believe they made a mistake you can ask if he would mind a tip or advice. Not many people are open to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect it and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.
In our work it is very important when an issue occurs, to take immediate action to address it. Later you can do your research and as a team and correct it. As in any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Try to avoid conversations with your colleagues that include topics which trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety.
Avoid discussion about family and do not share details about your family, spouse, kids or home life. You don’t know how the information may be used against you or your client later. Can you be blackmailed? Could this affect your client or team?
The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
Your relationship with fellow citizens and Law Enforcement:
In most countries your authority or legal ability to act is no more than any other citizen. Trying to get a free pass at the club or disturbing the peace will give you and your client a bad image. No you can’t stop the traffic, park whenever you want, stop people from entering in public places or ask to search them.
Many of our colleagues come from a Law Enforcement or Military background, they use to have their own language with their former colleagues and may work along with them or ask for their help. Remember that active Law Enforcement personnel have their own agendas. They are not part of our industry any more than we are part of theirs. Do not ask them to help you do your job. Some may abuse their authority and use it to get close to your client, and may even try to replace you. Be respectful and keep your distance.
Your networking activities
It is common and we see it almost every day in online networks or forums, people who hide behind a “screen” or “nickname” and make negative comments about other colleagues. It is seen by most as cowardly at best to make public comments about someone while hiding behind a false identity and further, without allowing the victim or viewing audience to verify the experience or credentials of the accuser.
Industry forums serve a couple of purposes. The first is to inform and the second is to allow comments and feedback for the purpose of informing. Unfortunately, they have become a place for the unimpressive to gain their 15 minutes of fame. These chronic complainers, seemingly have plenty of free time, (possibly due to their unemployment), and repair their egos by blaming or criticizing others. Yes, there are non-professionals and there are professionals, but a forum is not the right place to show who is who.
For those who like to comment on different articles or posts online (…that includes many of us…) before you hit “send” be sure you:
1) Read the article/post carefully. It is very disappointing to see colleagues who post a negative comment on an article when it is clear that they neither completely read nor completely understood it.
2) Offer a solid answer/opinion based on logical thoughts or facts (or evidence/search results). Recently, someone tried to show their disagreement with an author. Their only approach to a counter-point was insulting the author which actually proved the author’s point. Someone else tried to answer him by copying and pasting parts from the article and offering negative comments on the excerpts, which further proved the subject of the article; that some people in our industry can’t adapt their soldier mentality and behavior to the more polished corporate environment.
3) Answer in a manner that does not insult the writer or others.
4) Re-read and understand the article. Stating a disagreement is fine but following up with information that goes off topic and writing anything other than what is pertinent to the subject will only make you look stupid.
5) Read the article again,
6) Read your answer again from the perspective of your colleagues,
7) Read it once again from the perspective of someone who knows you,
8) If it doesn’t look professional/logical/in good taste or relative to the article provided, DO NOT hit that “send” button or “publish now” ….otherwise again, you will only end up looking stupid.
If you think companies and recruiting agents don’t look at a candidate’s networking profiles? Think again!
The bottom line is this:
If you lack professionalism on any level or lack interpersonal skills in dealing with people you work for, with or around, you will not be able to hide behind your experience, education or other skillsets.
Founder & Worldwide Director
I am a graduate student of both CPO level 1in 2011 and CPO level 2 in 2012.
Before enrolling at Athena I had done my research on several personal protection schools. I either found them to be too expensive or only 3 or 4 day course which just isn’t enough time to give someone the knowledge and training one needs to get into this field.
What I like about Athena Academy that really seperates itself from other schools, is that because they have their courses in levels, it makes it affordable. The classes are small enough so each student is given undivided attention from the instructors. The instructors are professional and extremely knowledgeable in the personal protection field. But more importantly they focus on the advantages and importance females have in this type of male dominated industry. I came out of this training with so much knowledge and confidence that I knew I wanted to pursue this type of career.
With the help and resources from Athena Academy and it’s instructors, I have been given job opportunities and am currently licensed and working in Texas. I look forward to pursue more training from Athena Academy including the level 3 CPO course and any other training that is offered.
Stephanie Bausch Athena Academy Graduated CPO Student Level I in 2011 and Level II in 2012.
Mrs. Bausch is licensed and currently working in Texas.
The first thing that comes to mind when people hear ‘’Personal Safety’’ is martial arts or firearms training. Being in the security industry the last 11 years I had the chance to attend many training courses. Continuing education is my first priority and I attend as many seminars and courses as possible each year. In all of them, the conclusion I reached is that preparation and prevention can be your number one tip for your safety whether you are a civilian or a security professional.
An experience I encountered at the age of 16 changed my life priorities and choices at that time. What I am today is the result of an attack I survived then that left me bleeding and half dead in an alley. I didn’t think that the attacker would “allow” me to live. I didn’t think I would live to see my family again. That “man” was the reason I got involved in the security industry and later into martial arts training.
In this article I would like to focus more on female self-defense courses and what can work for us and what won’t.
To clarify my comments here, I am not writing this article from a martial artist or an instructor’s point of view, but from the female perspective interested in learning some basic tips on how to protect her life.
My personal experience with martial arts began as a teenager and continues to this day but the bottom line is I’m expressing here my opinion as a woman, a student and a former attack victim, and I’m pretty sure some martial arts instructors won’t agree with it. My goal here is not to offend anyone’s work but to address some concerns from the female perspective.
During an attack there are many factors that affect all of us at the same time. There is surprise, physical pain, adrenaline and that horrible thought and feeling that someone else besides you can decide if you will be breathing the next couple of minutes or not…Your nervous system is red-lined. You experience a faster heart rate and rapid breathing and an increase in blood pressure. An effort from your body to control and adjust to the experience of the fear during the attack is in full defense mode. Some people might notice sensations in the stomach, head, chest, legs, or hands. Now multiply those physical responses with factors from the threat you are dealing with. Maybe a gun or knife or a much larger person or multiple attackers.
No matter how good a martial artist or instructor you are (no matter how many times you have practiced your art), there is nothing that can compare with dealing with a real life threat. Nothing can replace the experience and test you and your abilities more than an actual attack.
We know that in some cases women are stronger than men. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking let’s agree that for discussion, men are stronger. The aim then is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. We don’t have to learn to beat someone down, we have to learn where we should be, or what we should do so we don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. We have to learn to speak up when we are not comfortable –being vocal will Alarm a perpetrator as well as bystanders. No one wants to attack someone that will fight back or someone that will make a lot of noise or attract attention. As with all predators, attackers prefer to go after the weak, sick and vulnerable. It’s a simple “Cost vs. Gain equation.
We should not accept our environment as it is, rather, we should shape it and learn where we should and should not be. We can influence a potential attack simply through posture and by thinking ahead. Begin with “I won’t be a victim,” and then don’t allow it to happen. I would also suggest you consider what kind of environment you wish to be in and avoid those you know to be questionable. We can prevent danger and create a safer place for ourselves and our loved ones simply by being smarter and more prepared than a potential attacker.
No one can offer you a 100% safe environment, someone can attack you because the opportunity to do it exists. By being trained and self-aware, you prevent or postpone an attack. According to statistics more than 2/3 of the attacks against women could be prevented if they were trained in simple and basic self-defense.
Women, are known to have strong intuition, something that alerts us or makes us feel that there is something wrong with a person or situation. Use it! Think in advance what actions you could take that would provide you more safety. While you are driving, shopping, at home, dating, clubbing etc.
Research online will find many self-defense courses available but, 99% of them are delivered by martial arts instructors with no other qualifications. Even fewer of those Instructors are women. From my personal experience attending many of those courses, I found that the students were treated, trained and handled like martial arts athletes or professionals, and the major effort of teaching was focused on the fight or fighting back instead of avoidance and predator profiling. So, from the first moment students get in the class they learn how to become the victim and get involved in an attack.
The truth is, Self Defense Instructors make their money teaching what they know, and what they don’t know, they leave to someone else. Most have no formal training in altercation avoidance or conflict resolution so they teach reactive methods rather than proactive planning.
Now, my questions are how a normal woman, a mother, someone who has never delivered a punch or a kick in her life can learn fighting techniques in one to six lessons?
And more important, how can she apply what she learned in the gym successfully on the street? How will she react to a real threat from an attacker who doesn’t look like or act like or smell like her Instructor? Who won’t stop short of hitting her in the face or grabbing her body or ripping her clothes?
I see Instructors teaching blocks, arm bars, headlocks etc….I am over 30,with experience in sports and martial arts and I still don’t have the flexibility to make a successful headlock with my legs, and I’m wondering how someone is teaching that and believing that a woman with no experience or practice will apply it in real life?
I have been asking instructors if those techniques work in real life and for some reason they all say yes.
These Instructors are missing some important facts:
- They are male
- They have been practicing for many years
- They teach in a safe environment usually chosen by the student
I find it more dangerous to teach someone something that she is not ready to apply in real life than not teaching it at all. Teaching and reinforcing a false sense of confidence could lead to catastrophic failure. Can you imagine what would happen if a victim kicked an attacker and because of her fear-adrenaline, she kicks wrong or hits the wrong target? If he stays on his feet, He will fight.
Even if the attacker didn’t originally have the intention to seriously injure the victim, he might lose his temper or use more force than intended.
Not all attackers retreat if you fight back, some of them will fight harder and stronger.
More serious are knife and gun disarming techniques…Learning to disarm a plastic knife and gun can be catastrophically worse if the instructor has never used a firearm for his living. I have seen everybody participating in knife disarming, smiling and taking their time, doing it again and again….I’m not so sure if they would deal with it the same way if they had a real knife to practice with.
As a female I tried to apply some of the techniques I learned to real life.
Not all of them worked for me and I belong to the women who have a previous training in martial arts and sports, so it makes me wonder how it would work for a Mother or Grandmother?
I do understand the ”business part” of someone running a training course, but our responsibility as instructors starts with a loyalty to the people who are paying us to learn something that will save their life?
There are a small percentage of people who know what they are teaching and are doing it right. They have a background from law enforcement, martial arts and the security industry. They have gathered their experience and teach realistic techniques. There are people out there, professionals that are focused on teaching intelligence based tactics… brain vs. Braun. As women we must learn to think and out-think We must search for Instructors that know how to teach us, and know what to teach us. And we must learn under stress. We must allow ourselves to be tested under extreme conditions and continue to train to not be victims.
Founder & Worldwide Director
An investigation is underway after Tony Blair’s female bodyguard reportedly left a loaded gun in a Starbucks coffee shop in London.
Bodyguard was responsible for protecting former PM Tony Blair
The ex-PM’s close protection officer left the Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol in the cafe’s toilet after relieving herself while on duty, it is claimed.
The gun was later found by a member of staff, who dialled 999, The Sun newspaper reported.
A Scotland Yard spokesman told Sky News it has launched an investigation into the incident, which took place on August 29.
He denied reports the officer has been sacked, but confirmed she had been “removed from operational duties”.
He added: “A police-issue firearm was left unattended in a central London café on Friday evening and was found by a member of the public.
“The weapon belongs to an MPS Authorised Firearms Officer who was on duty at the time. An investigation has begun.”
The female officer, in her 30s and attached to the Yard’s SO1 protection unit, searched frantically for the gun for an hour after realising her mistake.
A senior police source quoted by the newspaper said: “She knows she has messed up bad.”
He said she was caught short while on Edgware Road – near one of Mr Blair’s homes.
He added: “Luckily it was found in time, but if a child or a criminal had picked it up there could have been terrible consequences.
“This has come as a shock. The officer is inconsolable and seriously regrets her mistake.
“Everyone is fond of her. She was among the top in her class during training, but her firearms career could be over.”
Her SO1 unit – full name Specialist Protection Command – is responsible for protecting Gordon Brown and former PMs Mr Blair and Margaret Thatcher.
It is the second bungle involving Mr Blair since he left Downing Street.
Last September four asylum seekers got into the UK in the back of a lorry delivering his new £100,000 reinforced BMW from Munich.