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
As security professionals we all know that the number one responsibility in providing security details is the ability to prevent a threat before it endangers you and your client. No matter how adept you are in close combat skills or the use of firearms when that horrific Moment of Commitment comes (the aggressor pulls a weapon and begins shooting), your skills are not enough, this has been proven to be the fact in studies and in practice. How a gunshot or a physical combat will end depends on different factors such as the environment, the number of enemies, the number of rounds each party has, what kind of, if any support you have and most importantly your psychological response during an attack. Believe it or not we have seen security professionals ‘’freeze’’ during a gun battle. Were they trained in firearms? Yes! Were they trained in close combat? Yes! So, what went wrong? The most important question is, can we risk engaging ourselves in a situation that will most likely end violently for us and our clients? How many ‘’clients’’ or security operatives have come through a gun battle completely safe after having engaged in one? I am still searching to find that one case……
It is safer to prevent a threat instead of reacting to it! The best security details are not those based in force or use of firearms, but those based on foreseeing the upcoming threat and preventing it. We should also not forget that in some countries our colleagues are not permitted to carry or use firearms, so they must use their brains and intel.
Can we get training to foresee and prevent a threat? Yes we can!
I had the opportunity to attend one of ESI’s classes (28-DAY Corporate Security & Threat Management Program) this weekend and meet Mr. John D. Byrnes. Mr. Byrnes is the founder of the Center for Aggression Management. The Center provides training and systems for use in avoiding and preventing violence in areas such as the workplace, campuses or in the school environment to provide more effective, lower impact methods for confronting aggressors and de-escalating aggression.
Most importantly this training can be taught to a wide area of professionals and organizations. I would personally and highly recommend this training to EVERYONE who would like to feel safe regardless his or her professional background.
No matter what our profession, age, sex, culture or country we live in, we all have to deal at some point in our lives with aggressive individuals, either as criminals, colleagues or family members. As a woman I can see multiple uses of Mr. Byrnes’ Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS).
As a security professional I can assure you that this training will change the way you have been looking at things and suspects. At some point we all have been trained in how to identify suspects and how to deal with them. Most schools still teach profiling, mostly when it comes to terrorists and suicide bombers.
Personally I was never be a believer in using profiling. Why? Simply because there has not been an accurate “terrorist profile!” All profile assessments that have studied terrorists have been done after they were captured. In psychology it is well known that you cannot obtain real research facts from a subject who (study object-terrorist) is not a willing participant ….
What about those situations when you are dealing with the occasional threat of aggression? Imagine being with your client in a pub where people get intoxicated and become aggressive, or at a football stadium? Being able to understand and ‘’read’’ aggression escalation is essential to maintain a safe environment for your client, you and others who could otherwise be injured. Identifying emerging aggression, engaging and preventing a possible attack offers a much better solution than pulling your firearm and pointing it at prospective aggressor.
Remember, we are security professionals, we are not Law Enforcement or Federal Agents, depending upon our country of operations, our duties and actions can be so limited by the law and have no more authority than any other professional such as bus driver.
In cases that you cannot restrain, handcuff or point a firearm against an aggressive suspect you must have other tools to defend yourself and your client. Critical Aggression Prevention System will not only teach you how to identify and respond in those situations, but will also teach you how to identify aggressive levels in yourself and how to control them. We are humans too and when an aggressor, whose adrenaline is already surging, it is a natural response for our adrenaline to rise as it prepares us for attack! We can get aggressive as well when we are offended, threaten or our interests are limited. So by learning how to control our aggression brings us to a much higher professional level. The one who control his or her temper and calmness is the professional one. The one that can maintain their calm will make better decisions, and when it comes to our professional area, the one who will make the safest decisions.
Soon we will be hosting an interview with Mr. Byrnes, until then you can find out more about his work and the Center for Aggression Management .
***To find out more about the CORPORATE SECURITY and THREAT MANAGEMENT Program and next training dates contact Executive Security International at 800-874-0888***
Athena Academy Founder
Director of Placement
& Services at Executive Security International
We chose our profession and we are fully responsible for the risks we are taking on our own life, but what about our family? The people who love us and are part of our life either by blood or personal choice… Those who accepted our way of living because they love us.
So we got through our professional development course, we got skills and experience and we can provide safety to our client, but are we sure we know how to provide safety for our family?
It is sad to see nowadays many professionals who work in security industry exposing their family members in social networks. Trying to stay in touch with friends or other family members and sharing your children’s or your spouse photos and info is something who give to all of us joy but if we think about it, it is very risky, especially when we do it in social networks when everyone can have access and we can’t control who is watching what.
Tagging your child, spouse, mother, sister etc is like targeting them as well. If someone would like to hurt your client he will first get to the one who is standing in between him and your client, and that person is you and everyone related to you. He will try to get intel about you and use it against you, make you weak cause your presence makes his action more difficult.
Before many years we had a story going in Greece, when a colleague was sent his child photo with a note: ‘’don’t go to work today….’’ He had to decide between his family, his own child and his client safety. If we think about it, it can happen to anyone, what would we do in this case?
Instead of thinking what we would do in a situation like that lets think what we can do to prevent it and provide to our loved ones more safety. Being in security industry we must learn how to work in low profile, try not to talk about your job and most of all about who your client is!!!
If you can use a different name while working, nowadays is way too easy to have access to anyone info online in USA that has to do with their marital status, financials etc.
Do not wear your wedding ring while working, do not talk about your family even to your colleagues, they may be trusted but you never know what someone can reveal by mistake.
Do not keep in your wallet photos or anything that would reveal information about family when you go to work.
Try to use different mobile phones, one for your personal life and one for your work. And the most important…KEEP AWAY SOCIAL NETWORKING any information and photos about your family. If you must use social networking places for your job then make sure you have two accounts, one for personal and one for business use and make sure those two have nothing in common. Nothing that would connect the one account with the other. Keep business contacts for business account and family members for your personal account.
Athena Academy Founder
Athena’s Close Protection Operative certification is the next generation in Close Protection training. Our course has been adapted to meet the particular training and educational requirements, specific to those students who are interesting to enter close protection operatives profession.
Basic Training: Level 1
-Principles of Executive Protection/Code of Conduct
-Solo Protector & in a Detail -Physical Security
-Protective Escort -Surveillance & Countersurveillance
-Protective Intelligence & Advance Operations
-Armed and Unarmed Combat/Krav Maga
-Anti-Terrorism (identification and and the terrorist cycle)
-Improvised Explosive Device
-Basic Pistol Training & Firearms Safety
-Event & Estate Security
-Behavioral Intelligence and Attack Recognition
-Dealing with Media & Paparazzi
-First Aid & CPR/AED
Our instructors are from Greece, UK and the United States. They brings ATHENA students unparalleled real world experience in protective service operations. Instructors that have served Prime Ministers, celebrities, CEO’s and other influential leaders will be teaching you.
We have an excellent success rate and once the course is completed we continue to work with our students to progress their development and assist their entry into the Close Protection world.
To learn more please visit: http://www.AthenaAcademy.com/
For applications please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Athena Academy official FB page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=44528524966&ref=ts
There are also payment schedules available to those who qualify. Deposits for this course are $600, and full course fees paid 3 weeks before starting date.
Application date open until April 30.
At Athena Academy we are celebrating the opening of our new training facilities in Atlanta, GA and we are offering to all of you one hour Krav Maga course! Visit our website now http://atlanta.athenaacademy.com/ and print your Guest Pass!!!
We offer Women’s Self Defense Training, Security Oriented Training Classes, and courses designed with most urban situations in mind.
What makes Athena Academy so different is that our training curriculum takes into consideration the differing learning styles of women. Studies have shown that women learn differently than men. We have designed our curriculum to overcome the learning barriers women sometimes face in co-ed courses. Athena Academy training curriculums are written and peer-reviewed by world-renowned experts in their field based on reality-based situational experience. This specialized curriculum is then taught in a format that ensures the highest material retention rate.
In addition, our courses are taught by real world protective specialists and tactical operatives. Our training cadre is a mixture of security specialists with backgrounds in protecting some of the world’s most prominent celebrities, executives and dignitaries. The methods taught at Athena Academy have been battle-tested time and time again and have proven to be among the best material available in the world today.
Our training and experience has given us a more heightened sense of awareness, thus giving us the ability to have strong skills in foreseeing situations. Athena Academy curriculum puts a huge emphasis on a “know-before-you-go” mentality and sensitive perception with situational awareness. We teach you how to anticipate, de-escalate and escape life-threatening situations.
Whether your interest is in the physical benefits of being one of our Krav Maga or KAPAP students or you want to go as far as becoming a female close protection agent, Athena Academy has customized programs suited just for you.
Hope to see you there!!!