As this was the first training class of it’s kind, geared towards the nanny industry, I was very excited and nervous to participate. Nervous becasue we knew it would have things in it that would have to be fixed so the following classes could learn from our mistakes and excited to finally have a way to empower myself on the job. However, the training ended up being very on point and even more than I had hoped for.
At the end of each day, there was much discussion about things we would never have thought of, that this class brought to the forefront and really made all the participants think about their daily schedules and duties.
On Monday, following the weekend class, there was talk all across the nanny boards on Facebook about all the ways we were changing our habits and all the information that we were putting in to practice. Simple things, like backing into a parking space, curtains open in certain rooms in the home, driving different routes to school and classes…the changes in our habits were almost instantainious and have continued throughout the nanny community as we talk about what we learned and how much we are looking forward to continuing the training throughout all the different levels.
Thank you so much for offering this training for our industry and I look forward to joining the next class.
Nanny for 28 yrs
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
Some may think it is the ‘’easy job’’ but when you get hired to protect a client’s most valuable asset, his child, you will find out that providing security details for minors is actually harder and more challenging than protecting adults. Consider as well, the immense amount of trust a client has to put in your ability before they offer you the opportunity and then not be overconfident in your performance. Kids are the fastest way to end a career, don’t underestimate the challenge they present, or the rewards that service to them offers.
Today more and more celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the corporate elite are hiring close protection operatives that are assigned specifically to protect their children.
The traditional huge thick-necked bodyguard accompanying a child to the zoo is giving way to the ‘’child friendly image’’ of a well-dressed athlete with an I.Q. of 130+, caring for that child as if it was their own. Male and female close protection operatives that can blend in with and adapt to the environment of parents and children are more likely to gain employment over the classic muscleman.
If you are in charge of protecting young children, you will either be their sole caretaker in public or be in charge of both them and their caretaker. Either way you have challenges. If you are the sole caretaker, you will be as preoccupied with meals, diapers, tempers, and entertainment as with their security. If you are watching over the child while in the company of a nanny or parents, your job is immensely easier but also exponentially harder with the addition of each person added to the party.
Conditions are easier if the child is younger and cannot communicate because you don’t have to carry on a conversation, but harder because you also may have to carry them, thus occupying your hands. Easier if they can talk but harder when they can talk back or argue. Easier when they are older and can listen for and follow directions but harder when they want their own way.
The difficulty really comes when you are dealing with teenagers. An exceptionally high number of the security details for teenagers has to be done covertly. This is to say that the kids just won’t want you around or cooperate with you if you are “in their space”. So forget about walking formations, suits and stiff postures. Be prepared to dress casual and blend in. That includes both your physical appearance and behavior. One wrong move that embarrasses your young client and you are done, and with a negative review of your conduct reaching the parents, done for good.
Here are some hints to consider when protecting children:
If you can work with a caretaker or parent and allow them to care for the child, this is ideal. The adult would go through training with you to learn to understand verbal instructions and non-verbal instructions and you would not deal directly with the child or ever be alone with them. You must also consider your age and athletic ability when compared with the nanny or the parent(s). Could you pass for a spouse or parent or Aunt or Uncle?
When you interview a client prior to accepting an assignment, ask them about your limitations or role regarding their child’s protection. Typically, the client will not allow you to admonish or punish a child for misbehavior. You will be spending a lot of time with a child that may be developing his/her character. This is a very vulnerable period. Not many parents are willing and open to allow another person to correct their child’s behavior. So be sure to clarify your limitations in writing. Also remember that attraction is a natural function in life and children learn to trust and become attracted to adults at an early age. This process averages about 6 months which is why it is recommended that you limit your contracts to that amount of time. If you are going to stay longer, you must obtain additional training as the emotional stress on you can be overwhelming over longer periods of time. Some may ask you to just act as a bodyguard and protect their child’s physical wellbeing and some will ask you to also educate them and correct bad behavior.
When it comes to child or teenager protection, clients tends to hire bodyguards that will be assigned with the family and the child for many years. As one might understand, it can be difficult to place different bodyguards on a child’s or teenager’s protection during short time periods. In this case they are looking for someone skilled and mature enough both professionally and ethically to protect but also work as a mentor for their child. Mentoring and teaching could include academia as well as self-protection skillsets. Make sure your need for income doesn’t overwhelm your ability to teach.
As with any client, there are roughly 300 mandatory questions that should be asked and answered and an additional 450 that could be asked. Many of these should be asked of the parents but many should be asked of the child while the parents are present. As soon as you get assigned to a child protection detail you must ask about their habits, his/her medical record ( blood type, if he/she is allergic to anything etc), preferable places they like to spend time and of course who their friends are. Background checks should be conducted on every adult around the child, including the parents of friends. Include school staff such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school nurse and cafeteria staff.
Have a conversation with the child. Explain to them why you are there and what your job is. Usually they see you as a new person intruding in their life and someone who is there to spy on them and report anything they do to their parents. This initial bonding is critical to you keeping your job.
Deal with older children as adults. Have a conversation with them. Children are not stupid and like to be dealt with as adults. Respect their opinion and explain your position. Make sure they understand that your only duty is to keep them safe. An additional concern is reporting. Whether asked to report back to the child’s parents or not, you should keep very accurate notes and be prepared to deliver an accurate report to them. This may ruin trust so be very careful with this.
Allow the child some time to feel comfortable with you and trust you. Depending the child and your approach, it may take them up to 6 months to start feeling comfortable and trust you. Don’t rush the process. Be approachable and let them decide when they can come closer to you. Again remember that this is dependent on your planned length of assignment. Children by nature are very reactive and they tend to do the opposite of what they have been told. For the child we are another ‘’intruder’’ in their personal lives. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to earn trust. Study this process and seek out a professional councilor if needed. Your client should retain one for you.
in the beginning, (with an older child), you will have to deal with a child who will be asking you to stay further away, don’t look at them, don’t open the car doors for them, don’t accompany them for shopping or to the movie theater. Of course as you do your job, you will have to disregard or ignore their requests and although some in our profession may say it doesn’t matter what the child wants the fact is that at some point it does matter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to deal with a kid who will play hide and seek with you and see you as an enemy, but a child that will be cooperative with you and seek you out and trust you when danger threatens their safety or security.
Educate the child on security awareness topics. Children love learning new stuff and they will understand why you can’t stay back out of reaction range, How you can see them but not watch, how you can be close enough to hear them but not listen, why she/he can’t sit on the passenger’s seat next the driver, why you have to open the door for them etc…
Since much of teenager protection is done undercover, set some signals or codes with the child. Let her/him know what signs you can both use for cases such us ‘’stay there’’, ‘’go’’, ‘’come close to me’’ etc. AND Practice these every day.
Consider the child’s friends. Your presence around them can affect how your client acts or reacts. Avoid addressing the friends and never correct the child in front of them.
Another important issue to discuss with the child you are protecting is their online behavior. You may have to teach and explain why it is important for him/her to be very cautious about what information and pictures they post or share with friends. Many times, parents neglect these matters. You will become all things to these children. Take the influence you have over them seriously. You are not just protecting them, you are influencing them too. Children will learn to manipulate both parents and the protectors. Parents may become jealous or resent that you spend all your time with their kids or that you are “too close”. Address this issue early on. It will save your career.
Founder & Worldwide Director
Personal Protection has always been viewed as a physical or tangible thing that could be measured by effort and labor put into creating and maintaining a program. Since the Internet first allowed for the publishing and dispersal of personal information, the public has obliged the technology by accessing and downloading billions of terabytes of information containing personal sensitive information.
If you find it necessary to carry a firearm and build a protection team around your client you should give the same attention to simple ways of educating your client and his/her close family and working circle regarding simple security awareness tips.
We are not suggesting you have to train them as security professionals but just giving them the basic education and information regarding security and safety awareness could make it easier to protect them.
The reason I wrote this article today was because of something that came to my attention while I was surfing online.
I came across an article regarding a 17 year old boy based somewhere in America who has became a ‘’living legend’’ in social medias because of his provocative pictures and comments on on-line networking sites, where he poses with golden pens, packs of $10.000 bills etc. Doing a little research on his profile and crossing information here and there, I discovered that the kid is from a very wealthy family. What made me think seriously about this kid was how something like this could expose him and his family to the wrong attention.
It took me around 25 min to locate this kid and get good information regarding his identity and location so I wanted to test to see how much it would take for someone not in the security industry to find him using information found online. It took less than 2 hours for a 22 year old who has nothing to do with security to gather good Intel on this kid, using the pictures and information he had posted on his networking sites.
With all the information provided online It doesn’t take an expert or even a person related to the security industry to be able to find out about someone.
We have all seen examples like this one from other celebrity kids, or from the children of very affluent CEO’s or Politicians who have fallen into the trap of social media posting including pornography. What these kids and even their parents don’t consider is that the sophistication of the criminal has developed with the technology of the internet itself. A simple photo of a person by a tree could lead to the identification of the person’s address because of the shape or species of the tree or maybe because of the license plate of a car parked in a driveway across the street, visible in the corner of the photo.
So the question is: “Are you aware of your exposure through the information posted on yours or your children’s networking sites?”
Now I will ask the same question to all Security Professionals. Not only do you need to consider your client’s exposure but have you considered your own? As ridiculous as it seems, there are actually “Body Guard” companies that publish photos of their clients and even their agents on their company websites. And more ridiculous is the client’s agreeing to it.
Have you taken the time to sit down with your client and explain what he/she can do to avoid not being exposed? We are aware that not all clients will sit down and listen to your professional suggestions regarding their safety however they hired you because you have an experience and expertise on a specific matter, ‘’SAFETY’’, and you are there not only to provide a body but also provide consultation and suggestions that are addressed to lower the threat level.
Nobody wants to live in fear, and for sure no one will feel comfortable with the idea of his/her children being in danger, so address your professional concerns regarding safety to your clients. Be polite, be logical, avoid difficult professional terms and explain to them in simple words why a specific habit that they find harmless can be very dangerous for them. Not all will listen and practice what you suggest, but even if 1 out of 10 clients do as you suggested it will be a progress. Of course there will always be information leaked intentionally or unintentionally that will give away information. The goal is to reduce the negative effects of the practice thus making your job easier.
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