Alexandre Dumas couldn’t describe better the importance of unity and solidarity within a team when he wrote one of the world’s most well-known historical novels, The Three Musketeers. In our line of work, we can see how important it is for all team members to work dedicated to one purpose (keeping client and team safe) and, as individuals, pledge support to the team.
However, too often what we witness is a far cry from team solidarity and unity. Instead of supporting each other, colleagues blame or undermine one another, not to mention the unethical characterizations from those who hide behind computer screens. With the Internet, we have seen a huge increase of those “flame wars.” Forums have been created mostly to “entertain” unemployed people who have nothing better to do than blame each other or those who can hold a job. Or networking groups that describe themselves as “raising the standards,” “networking groups,” or “sharing job groups’’ that only turn out to be people who want to advertise their services or products by pointing out other companies “wrong” actions. So-called prospective students interested in a class disingenuously raise questions about a company solely to attract negative comments about the company. This can go on for service providers as well.
Personally, I’m tired as hell and disappointed even more when I see some colleagues fall for this kind of networking. These days, you can’t be sure who is who behind a screen name. It is better to ask for and receive comments or opinions from people you know well and whose experience you can evaluate – not those who simply share what they heard or what they created.
Whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our top priorities are client safety and mastering the art and skill of protection. But we also have a priority 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 devoid 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 must work to solidify a team of people who bring different experiences, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics. It’s similar to the way a sports team or elite military unit must work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that team members promote and maintain strong working relationships with each other as well as the client, and, of course, others we may be in contact with, such as house personnel or office staff.
Some of the people you work with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. In each situation, you must address issues with respect. Never offend anyone, for any reason, and never correct someone while someone else is present. If you believe they made a mistake, offer your advice and perspective. However, few people are receptive to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect them 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 line of work, it is very important to immediately address issues. Later, you can do your research as a team and correct it. For any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Avoid conversations with colleagues on topics that trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex, or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety. The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
If someone is paying you (and others) and trusts you as a team and as individuals to protect his life, shouldn’t you show the same amount of trust toward your colleagues for your own life? When I work with others, which is 99 percent of the time, I want to be confident that those people have my back. I want to be confident that the person sitting next to me carrying a firearm can be trusted as a professional and as a person. Don’t you all want that? Now ask yourself: Can you offer that kind of trust level to your colleagues?
Indeed, our industry suffers from low standards, and the few good professionals are either trying to keep the level up or fighting to protect their image from the wannabes.
Change can come, but we all are responsible for achieving that. Unfortunately, security is not a one-man job – it requires a team effort. Many have tried and failed. They started with good motives, but ended up making the same mistakes as those they were fighting, because, at the end of the day, for them, money talked.
I hope for better and work toward it, and I will close this with Duma’s most famous motto: Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Proud Member of International Security Driver Association (ISDA)
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
The reason I wrote this article is due to a horrible crime that took place several days ago in Greece. A 34 year old woman returning home late at night, while unlocking the door of her apartment building, was grabbed and pulled away by a violent criminal. She was raped, beaten, doused with gasoline and then set on fire while she was still alive. Despite living in a crowded neighborhood where many people heard her screaming, not a single person went out to see what was happening until it was too late. The most horrible part is that both her father and brother could hear a woman screaming, but they never thought it was their beloved family member.
The criminal, a 27 year old, who has been accused in the past for sexual attacks by other victims, had been released back into society due to a lack of evidence to convict him. He was described as a male with strange and abusive behavior toward women. The blame cannot be solely shouldered by the Greek Justice and Authorities for allowing this man to continue his abusive acts which ultimately ended the horrible murder of this woman.
I would like to raise the attention to fact that people in today’s society are failing to care about others or act to assist someone in distress. If one of the neighbors, hearing her first screams, had gone outside and yelled at the criminal or made his/her presence known might have assisted in stopping the crime which would have saved the poor woman’s life. Witnesses said they heard a woman screaming, but, they were scared to go outside and see what was wrong. Several just didn’t think it was something serious enough to investigate. It must be horrible for the family members and neighbors to know they could have saved this woman’s life if they had acted instead of hiding. This lack of action will most likely haunt the community for a long time.
We are obviously not responsible for the actions of criminals within our community, however, we are responsible for or actions or lack thereof. Being a responsible citizen that cares about his/her neighbors can save lives. You don’t have to be the hero that will stop the crime by physically engaging the criminal. You can be the hero by just paying attention and reporting suspicious or criminal acts. Let’s think about it, maybe the victim wasn’t our sister or daughter, but if it was, wouldn’t we pray that someone would act if they heard her screams for help and react fast enough to save her? I’m sure we all would pray for that.
Leaving the comfort of your couch and going out to see what’s taking place can save people’s lives. Criminals don’t want to be captured and usually will flee if confronted by witnesses. Making criminal aware that someone is watching is an extremely strong deterrent to their criminal activity and makes for a much safer community.
Athena Academy Founder
Mr Bob Duggan, founder of Executive Security International (ESI) thoughts over Colorado theater shooting
As many of us, no matter how often we have seen it happening is always shocking us. Reading news and comments over the last attack in Colorado i came through this comment made by one of the top experts in security industry, Mr Bob Duggan who is the founder of ESI, a training institute that offer services and train security personnel for more than 32 years now.
With his permission i am posting and sharing with you his words:
”What happened in the theater here in Colorado is not about guns. You will hear the clarion calls to control assault weapons and high capacity magazines. But take away the carbines, and they will bring shotguns; take away the shotguns, and they will use handguns; take away the handguns, and they will make explosives and knives. Remember Columbine! Those kids intended to do their greatest harm with home made bombs; they planned a spectacular massacre.
The core issue is the culture of violence, starting with a multi billion dollar entertainment industry that thrives on violence. Not so long ago, the center of our culture was literature….poetry, novels, fiction, non-fiction, music and dance. Now it is the silver screen and the transformative personalities that inhabit this ephemeral world of ours.
The overwhelming number of us think of these images that flash before our minds as just entertainment; then we go about our lives as if nothing happened. But those few in our society that suffer from a psychotic disorder, thrive on these action thrillers not as entertainment, but as a form of Personality Channeling. They become the JOKER, who lives for CHAOS and exposure in the 6:00 O’Clock news.
There is no cure for this disorder. It is a permanent aspect of our lives so we now MUST carry a concealed weapon everywhere we go: to church, to school and to the theater. Get ready boys and girls, they are coming at you, at all of us, and your only defense is self-defense.
A departing thought. I found it mildly amusing that when I went to see Batman Rises yesterday in my little town of Rifle, they posted a police officer in the lobby. As I walked out of the theater, I thought, this is how institutions think. After it happens, they will come running, but it will be too late.”
Are you ready and trained to deal with a ‘’crisis situation’’ as a close protection agent? Erdogan’s case
We have been always supporting the need of a continuum training, qualification and re-evaluation for people who work in security industry. The kind of our profession requires operatives who can perform perfectly in situations that requires hard physical activities, being trained in various disciplines, have a lot of knowledge when it comes to security measures and also very important have a sharp mind and be able to take actions and react fast in a crisis situation. It is we who are required to act calmly and in cold blood when others (civilians) are under panic.
This time I would like to bring in our attention an incident that took part in Turkey four years ago. I had recently the chance to attend a meeting and catch up with some old colleagues, and in our coffee break we start discussing the incident with Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an incident with too many mistakes following each other by his Close Protection Operatives. It was this security failure which was the reason that leads to major changes of security details in Turkey.
According to sources, Mr Erdogan a few minutes after leaving Turkish Parliament and entering his vehicle start feeling not well and lost consciousness. His chauffeur and his close protection agent, panicked. And from that moment a series of mistakes following each other started.
Both of them, chauffeur and close protection agent, had no clue or training in First Aid. When they saw their client in the back of the car passed out, they speeded the car to get to the hospital that was at the other part of the town, when they could turn back and seek help at the Parliament Health Center which was way too close to them.
While speeding up for the hospital, for some reason they managed to ‘’loose themselves’’ from the rest of security convoy and got all alone racing the streets.
When they finally arrived at the hospital, both driver and close protection agent got off the vehicle at same time, and found themselves in an embarrassing situation and put their client in a very dangerous one for his life, according the Hurriyet press (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/5285052.asp?gid=74) ‘’ Erdogan’s chauffeur, flung himself in a panic from the Mercedes Tuesday morning in front of Ankara’s Guven Hospital, inadvertently leaving the keys to the car in the ignition, which meant the locks on none of the doors, which had shut automatically, could be opened. It took security detail members 10 minutes to break open the window of the armoured Mercedes, valuable time, say doctors, who note that had Erdogan experienced any health problems more serious than a hypoglycemic faint, he could have died during that period.’’
Although, the specific incident could only work as an advertising aid for Mercedes armored cars, and how difficult is to break their windows, for sure brought Mr Erdogan in a dangerous life situation and his security team in a more embarrassing one. From that incident, the changes in Erdogan’s security detail that took place is that a doctor will accompany the Prime Minister on both domestic and international trips. An ambulance will also be included as a part of Erdogan’s normal convoy. And last but very important all security Ankara officials agree that chauffeurs driving the official vehicles used by the Prime Minister must go through special “crisis situation” training.
A real life incident and facts that anyone of us may be called to deal with, so make sure you are prepared and trained accordingly to respond in a professional and effective manner.
Athena Academy Founder