Russian Oligarchs Keep Getting In Troubles by Instagram Selfies

In our latest interview with expert Nick Barreiro, Chief Forensic Analyst of Principle Forensics, we discussed the security risks from any/all social media platform postings and how someone can obtain critical information from your pictures. If you haven’t watched the interview yet, please find it below

According to Vice’s latest article, authorities have been following Instagram profiles of the women related to, or involved with, Russian oligarchs to obtain information about them, their holdings, accounts, and locate assets to seize/freeze by merely identifying and following the weakest link who posts the most. These women who act like ”influencers” or social media celebrities are looking for publicity, but they now represent a significant threat to the security of the individuals they’re around and expose them to unwanted scrutiny. ”Oligarchs themselves rarely use Instagram to accidentally crack open a window into their high living. Rather, it’s the people partying with them: A stepdaughter, an ex-wife, or in the least one infamous case, an escort.” Read the full article here.

The importance of educating Security Personnel and Intelligence Analysts about biases

Bias is a topic that many industries like to avoid, and the security and intelligence industries are no exception. However, there is a profound need to discuss biases in regard to the security industry and when educating security practitioners and intelligence analysts. When the subject of biases has been raised in the past, the majority of commentators cannot seem to agree, in fact, they will often argue against the existence of biases and/or why there is a need to discuss them in the first place. In this article, we would like to address the topic of bias – what bias is, who has biases, are biases wrong, and what types of biases there are. Then, we will highlight WHY it is important for security professionals and intelligence analysts to be able to identify their biases and address them, and, then, we will share HOW one can identify his/her biases.

Now before we start, there is one thing on which we can all agree: As a security professional, you don’t only make assessments about incidents or places, but also about people. Keep this in mind as we proceed further, we will come back to it.

What is bias?

To answer this, we will use the definition according to the American Psychological Association

1. partiality: an inclination or predisposition for or against something. See also prejudice.

2. any tendency or preference, such as a response bias or test bias.

3. systematic error arising during sampling, data collection, or data analysis. See biased estimatorbiased sampling.

4. any deviation of a measured or calculated quantity from its actual (true) value, such that the measurement or calculation is unrepresentative of the item of interest. —biased adj.

There are a few key words from the definition — predisposition, against, tendency, preference”. Keep those words in mind when thinking about how they affect the threat assessment of a security professional. While you do that, think of a scenario when a security guard has to assess, either by observation or by interviews, any visitors in the area for which he/she is responsible. That security guard believes that women are less likely to commit a crime (bias) and, during his/her threat assessment, he/she misses the fine details that a woman is, in all actuality, a terrorist. You think perhaps this couldn’t occur? Well, it has actually happened. In July 2017 in Mosul, a female suicide bomber, holding her child in her arms, managed to walk by security guards and detonate her bomb.

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The security guards, instead of being observational and watching her hands (in which she was holding the detonator), just saw a mother with her child. Many people see women as weak and incapable of committing acts of terror, especially one who is carrying her own child. This is not the only incident when ‘’miscalculation of threat or of threat actors’’ was catastrophic.

(A woman suicide bomber walks past soldiers, the trigger in her right hand (Al-Mawsleya TV)

Do all people have biases?

Before we answer that, ask yourself, “Are there people, things, or ideas you like better than others? Are there places/events where you feel more comfortable than others?” We are sure your answer to these questions is “yes” and that is because all humans have biases. Some biases are passed to us through evolution and some are learned through socialization and/or direct experience. One must understand that biases serve a purpose. Simply put, because the human brain has the tendency to categorize information, people, events, experiences, etc. during his/her learning and development process, the brain will connect the new information and people to past experiences. Once that is done, the brain will respond to it in the same way it does to other things belonging to that same category. So, by putting people with similar traits into a specific category, one believes that everyone else in that category must be the same. Biases are not limited to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, social or political groups but many characteristics may be subjected to one’s biases such as physical appearance, sexual orientation, educational level, profession, etc.

Are biases wrong and racist?

When discussed, the majority of people tend to disregard biases, believing that even acknowledging those biases will label them as racists. The first mistake when talking about biases is when someone considers someone else good or bad based on his/her biases.

According to Matt Grawitch, PhD ‘’Biases make decision-making easier by giving us a starting point, an initial prediction, or a “leaning of the mind” regarding which choice to make. We anchor our original judgment in the biased conclusion and then adjust it based on supplemental information.’’

Having biases is not necessarily bad, wrong, or racist. In fact, we’ve discussed that biases improve the decision-making process and help the human brain to categorize new information. We could say that since biases help us simplify information processing, they basically function as rules of thumb that help us make sense of what is happening around us and make faster decisions.

However, biases can become bad and even dangerous when we treat or judge someone unfairly or when the accuracy of the decision is of the utmost importance, such as behaviour or threat assessment. In addition, what can make a bias shift from ok to “bad” is when an individual allows their biases to influence their decision-making process in such a way that they allow those biases to affect someone else in a negative fashion by either being unfair or causing a miscalculation in the threat level.

Not being able to recognize and address our biases can lead to neglecting or discounting information that would be valuable for our job functions. Information that we process and use to make decisions can directly affect a risk/threat and vulnerability assessment, an interview with a suspect, the analysis of intelligence and data, or the use of link analysis in putting together an intelligence report. In these situations, biases can become a systematic thinking error that can cloud our judgment, and, as a result, impact our decisions, thus rendering our final product limited or even useless. 

What types of biases do people have?

People can have conscious biases (biased attitudes toward specific ideologies, events, groups of people, etc. that we are aware of) or unconscious biases (biases we are not aware of, cannot control, are difficult to access and can quite often influence our actions more than conscious biases).

In one of her articles, Kendra Cherry mentions that ‘’some of our cognitive biases are related to memory. The way you remember an event may be biased for a number of reasons and, that in turn, can lead to biased thinking and decision-making. Other cognitive biases might be related to problems with attention. Since attention is a limited resource, people have to be selective about what they pay attention to in the world around them.’’

If you are aware of a biased attitude, it is more likely and consciously possible for you to be able to address it during your decision-making process. However, the unconscious biases are the most ‘’dangerous” ones since it often takes specific training and study of yourself to be able to identify that you have them. Here, Carly Hallman is listing 50 types of unconscious biases. Have a look and see how one or more of them can affect your decision-making process.

  1. Fundamental Attribution Error: We judge others on their personality or fundamental character, but we judge ourselves on the situation.
  2. Self-Serving Bias: Our failures are situational, but our successes are our responsibility.
  3. In-Group Favoritism: We favor people who are in our in-group as opposed to an out-group.
  4. Bandwagon Effect: Ideas, fads, and beliefs grow as more people adopt them.
  5. Groupthink: Due to a desire for conformity and harmony in the group, we make irrational decisions, often to minimize conflict.
  6. Halo Effect: If you see a person as having a positive trait, that positive impression will spill over into their other traits. (This also works for negative traits.)
  7. Moral Luck: Better moral standing happens due to a positive outcome; worse moral standing happens due to a negative outcome.
  8. False Consensus: We believe more people agree with us than is actually the case.
  9. Curse of Knowledge: Once we know something, we assume everyone else knows it, too.
  10. Spotlight Effect: We overestimate how much people are paying attention to our behavior and appearance.
  11. Availability Heuristic: We rely on immediate examples that come to mind while making judgments.
  12. Defensive Attribution: As a witness who secretly fears being vulnerable to a serious mishap, we will blame the victim less if we relate to the victim.
  13. Just-World Hypothesis: We tend to believe the world is just; therefore, we assume acts of injustice are deserved.
  14. Naïve Realism: We believe that we observe objective reality and that other people are irrational, uninformed, or biased.
  15. Naïve Cynicism: We believe that we observe objective reality and that other people have a higher egocentric bias than they actually do in their intentions/actions.
  16. Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect): We easily attribute our personalities to vague statements, even if they can apply to a wide range of people.
  17. Dunning-Kruger Effect: The less you know, the more confident you are. The more you know, the less confident you are.
  18. Anchoring: We rely heavily on the first piece of information introduced when making decisions.
  19. Automation Bias: We rely on automated systems, sometimes trusting too much in the automated correction of actually correct decisions.
  20. Google Effect (aka Digital Amnesia): We tend to forget information that’s easily looked up in search engines.
  21. Reactance: We do the opposite of what we’re told, especially when we perceive threats to personal freedoms.
  22. Confirmation Bias: We tend to find and remember information that confirms our perceptions.
  23. Backfire Effect: Disproving evidence sometimes has the unwarranted effect of confirming our beliefs.
  24. Third-Person Effect: We believe that others are more affected by mass media consumption than we ourselves are.
  25. Belief Bias: We judge an argument’s strength not by how strongly it supports the conclusion but how plausible the conclusion is in our own minds.
  26. Availability Cascade: Tied to our need for social acceptance, collective beliefs gain more plausibility through public repetition.
  27. Declinism: We tend to romanticize the past and view the future negatively, believing that societies/institutions are by and large in decline.
  28. Status Quo Bias: We tend to prefer things to stay the same; changes from the baseline are considered to be a loss.
  29. Sunk Cost Fallacy (aka Escalation of Commitment): We invest more in things that have cost us something rather than altering our investments, even if we face negative outcomes.
  30. Gambler’s Fallacy: We think future possibilities are affected by past events.
  31. Zero-Risk Bias: We prefer to reduce small risks to zero, even if we can reduce more risk overall with another option.
  32. Framing Effect: We often draw different conclusions from the same information depending on how it’s presented.
  33. Stereotyping: We adopt generalized beliefs that members of a group will have certain characteristics, despite not having information about the individual.
  34. Outgroup Homogeneity Bias: We perceive out-group members as homogeneous and our own in-groups as more diverse.
  35. Authority Bias: We trust and are more often influenced by the opinions of authority figures.
  36. Placebo Effect: If we believe a treatment will work, it often will have a small physiological effect.
  37. Survivorship Bias: We tend to focus on those things that survived a process and overlook ones that failed.
  38. Tachypsychia: Our perceptions of time shift depending on trauma, drug use, and physical exertion.
  39. Law of Triviality (aka “Bike-Shedding”): We give disproportionate weight to trivial issues, often while avoiding more complex issues.
  40. Zeigarnik Effect: We remember incomplete tasks more than completed ones.
  41. IKEA Effect: We place higher value on things we partially created ourselves.
  42. Ben Franklin Effect: We like doing favors; we are more likely to do another favor for someone if we’ve already done a favor for them than if we had received a favor from that person.
  43. Bystander Effect: The more other people are around, the less likely we are to help a victim.
  44. Suggestibility: We, especially children, sometimes mistake ideas suggested by a questioner for memories.
  45. False Memory: We mistake imagination for real memories.
  46. Cryptomnesia: We mistake real memories for imagination.
  47. Clustering Illusion: We find patterns and “clusters” in random data.
  48. Pessimism Bias: We sometimes overestimate the likelihood of bad outcomes.
  49. Optimism Bias: We sometimes are over-optimistic about good outcomes.
  50. Blind Spot Bias: We don’t think we have bias, and we see it on others more than ourselves.

WHY security professionals and intelligence analysts must address bias training?

As a security professional or intelligence analyst, seeing what biases are and how they can significantly affect us, do you see how important it is to recognize and address them during the decision-making process? Do you see how biases can affect your risk and threat assessment, information gathering and analysis as well as behavioural assessment while you are conducting a first interview with a visitor, suspicious person, etc.?

We will give you an example. During the Manchester arena attack investigation, one of the security guards claimed that he did feel something was “off” with one of the terrorists but he was uncertain of how to approach and ask questions (first interview of a suspect) because he was afraid he was going to be labelled a “racist’’.

Being trained in how to recognize and address your biases will not only help you to make a better decision but will also give you peace of mind and confidence knowing that you are approaching and properly interviewing a person whose presence seems to be unjustified and/or suspicious. You will be able to clearly gather more information and assess the risk without feeling that you are merely racially profiling that person. You will also build more awareness of the subjects with which you hold biases and that awareness will lead to more choices. More choices will lead to a more ‘’open mind’’ and allow you to seek further information before you make a decision.

In connection to why biases and the training on them are important and related to the security industry, we must mention here Richard Gasaway, Ph.D, the creator of the Center for the Advancement of Situational Awareness and Decision making, has highlighted the fact that ‘’Confirmation bias is particularly challenging to situational awareness because it can prohibit the uptake of critical clues and cues that can foretell impending doom.’’

Now that we have discussed the many aspects of biases, what they are and how they can affect your decision-making process do you want to test yourself and find out what biases you have? You can use one of the many online tests available, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) created by Harvard.

This will help you assess and better identify all that biases you or your staff may have that can affect risk and threat assessments as well as intelligence gathering and analysis. In addition, your staff’s performance and how they interact with others to make sure their decision making will be as accurate as can be ascertained from the information provided and not just from their own personal biases.

If you are an individual interested in receiving training in biases or you represent an organization looking to train your employees in this very much needed and important topic, please reach out to us.

Chris Grow

AUS Global Special Services Travel Team

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide & Nannyguards

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Providing EP services for Clients with Physical Disabilities and Mental Health Disorders

One of the biggest misconceptions for new Executive Protection practitioners is that they have an innocent and naive belief that they will land the best client, the one who is aware about what Executive Protection is, the one who is very active and physically trained, the one who will be following up with security directions, the one who will care about his/her agents’ wellbeing and the one who will be easy going and friendly.

Yes, the perfect client does exist, but it may take you quite some time in your career to get one, if at all. Considering clients have their own character traits, let’s talk about those clients who, day to day, are facing a physical disability such as paralysis, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, or even a semi-permanent injury. And remember, being simply advanced in years may have a substantial affect on their movements and therefore create some unique challenges in providing protective services for them.

The German Politician Wolfgang Schäuble has been bound to a wheelchair since 1990 after an assassination attempt, actor Michael J. Fox has been fighting with Parkinson’s disease for decades and actress Selma Blair has been living with multiple sclerosis since 2018. What all these famous people have in common is also a protective detail and Executive Protection Agents providing services for them. So have you ever wondered what an EP agent must take into consideration when he/she is hired to provide services for an individual with physical limitations or disabilities? While the primary goal remains the same, ‘’Protect the Principal’’, the way in which you are achieving it may be a little bit different in these types of situations.

  • First of all, do your due diligence and get informed on the specific circumstances that surround your prospective client. There are a number of crucial items you should know. Medical condition, abilities/inabilities, current medications, private physician info, etc. The more you know, the better you will be when providing services for them.
  • At your first meeting, ask them about their needs and if they have particular expectations from you. Ask about any specific instructions for their care day to day.
  • Consider how much time it takes for them to go from point A to B and plan/design scenarios around having to evacuate them (with or without the wheelchair or any walking aids).
  • Learn all about their specific wheelchair functions and movement (Or any walking aids).
  • Always ask permission before jumping to help, especially when in public or in the company of other people. Don’t assume that they may always want or need your help. At this point in their lives, they can feel that an enormous amount of their personal freedom has been stripped away.
  • Always keep in mind, people with disabilities are still people and they still have a great many things they like or want.
  • Be patient and polite when offering any help. Don’t try to rush them. What for you may seem easy, for them may be hard, painful or even seem impossible.
  • Recognize and respect their personal space and time.  Yes, even a person who needs assistance to move around and depends on you will still have need of his/her own personal space or time.
  • Don’t ‘’over-do it’’, let them breathe from time to time. You do NOT have to be in the room every waking second.
  • Always be prepared to make adjustments or accommodations to make their life easier and look for ways to develop methods to better assist them.
  • Always take into consideration their special needs (physical and medical) when you have to visit venues, attend events, travel into other countries, book a hotel room, make dinner reservations etc. Have in mind, not many countries are as progressive as we are when it comes to customers with physical disabilities. Having a highly-skilled advance agent who can plan these details accordingly is a great advantage in these cases.
  • Ensure that someone from the team is ahead of you, taking care to be sure there is a clear path for your client to enter or exit with the wheelchair or walking aid, wherever you may have to go.
  • If there is no threat, give them their time and have patience while moving to discourage pressured or awkward moments.
  • In the event of an imminent moment of threat or danger, have you planned ahead and are you, or a group of you, capable of lifting that person up properly and assisting in a quick and safe evacuation?
  • Be quite careful of your language both while in the presence or in the absence of your client. While many professionals are aware which words can be offensive for a person who has a disability, some may accidentally offend someone without meaning to. When you work for people with disabilities you want them to feel respected and empowered. In order to accomplish that, simply place emphasis on someone as the person first, by name, and then, only if needed, mention the disability if logistics would require it to avoid embarrassment or frustration

Now let’s talk about clients who are dealing with mental health disorders, which are the most common issues an Executive Protection agent may have to deal with and can be hard to detect unless you are told or you are quick to recognize.

Most common reported names and examples (as per their public confessions):

  1. Elon Musk – Asperger’s Syndrome
  2. Chrissy Teigen – Postpartum Depression
  3. Demi Lovato – Bipolar Disorder
  4. Steve Young – Social Anxiety Disorder
  5. Donny Osmond – Social Anxiety Disorder
  6. Michael Phelps – ADHD
  7. Dan Reynolds – Clinical Depression
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  9. Daniel Radcliffe – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  10. Lady Gaga – PTSD
  11. Adele – Postpartum Depression
  12. Prince Harry – Severe Anxiety during royal events
  13. Chris Evans – Social Anxiety
  14. Jim Carrey – Depression

      Why it is important to be aware of your client’s mental health disorders? Because what they are dealing with affects the way they see life, you, threats, others etc. Just by simply being aware, you enable yourself to make the necessary adjustments in how you approach them, interact with them and how you provide services to them. Imagine the client who goes into a full panic attack when walking through and dealing with crowds or the client who suffers from dementia and you have to introduce yourself for the 100th time.

     Although we highly emphasize the importance of creating and maintaining a medical profile for your client and keeping the involved agents apprised of this information, not many companies practice this. Until you are informed about a disorder or medical malady by your supervisor, predecessor or the client himself, it may take you quite some time with dedicated personal observation and study to discover what you are dealing with. Again, do your due diligence to find out what the condition is or may be. If you can consult with a therapist, do so while always maintaining the utmost discretion and confidentiality. In a case where this may not be possible, an easy way to find more information is by using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the handbook used by health care professionals as a guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. The book contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. However, as with “Googling” your symptoms on the internet, one must be very careful of how to use this handbook and the information it contains.

    How you approach your clients who may suffer from mental health disorders is very important and can help by creating a healthy relationship and a positive protective detail while avoiding conflicts and awkward or embarrassing events.

These are some key points to have in mind:

  • During a crisis moment, pause, stand back and assess the situation before approaching. What you see on initial approach may not be as it appears.
  • Be careful with your tone, speak slowly and in a calm manner. You, your tone and your body language have an enormous effect on the situational outcome.
  • If need be, introduce yourself again, explain why you are there and ask how you can be of assistance.
  • If they appear disoriented, reassure them, remaining calm yourself. This will have a drastic effect on their mental status as well.
  • Listen to what they would like and respect their wishes if possible.
  • Do not rush them, create space and give them their time.
  • Make sure you are providing a quiet and discreet place for them, if needed, kindly request that all other people present exit to allow them a few minutes of quiet.
  • Remain calm and have patience. Listen, don’t speak…Sometimes a willing ear is all that is required to assist in a peaceful outcome.
  • Try to identify the cause of their respective triggers and reduce any noise levels and confusion.
  • Keeping their triggers in mind, always take appropriate measures while travelling or attending events to eliminate awkward moments or embarrassing circumstances.
  • Know your limits and recognize the difference between what you feel comfortable handling and when it is time to ask for a professional intervention.
  • Never forget, you are NOT their therapist but their Executive Protection agent, concerned about their wellbeing.
  • If you are interested to learn more and being more prepared, there are many Psychological First Aid or Intervention to Crisis classes available online.

     Dealing with someone who has physical disabilities or mental health disorders is no easy task, no matter how well prepared you are, and especially when you are facing it from the aspect of an Executive Protection agent. However, when you have done your due diligence, sharpened your client awareness skills and made all the required and necessary preparations, you can achieve calmer details with very few calamities and avoid unneeded conflicts and give your client security, confidence and peace of mind.

Understanding that the people you interact with, provide assistance to or the very person you are directly protecting, is in pain, stressed, fearful, angry or extremely confused, etc and being able to recognize these moments and have a plan of how to deal with it properly, will help soothing these anxious and difficult behaviors at the earliest possible stage providing a stable, professional platform from which to provide services.

Chris Grow

AUS Global Special Services Travel Team

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide & Nannyguards

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

The challenges for protecting Public Figures- The Macron Incident

The latest incident with French President Emmanuel Macron being slapped by someone in the crowd has once again fired up the keyboard warriors who take any incident (video or picture) such as this and claim how improperly the Executive Protection team functioned and what would they have done differently and, of course, be more successful. As a Greek proverb says ‘’Whoever is outside the dance (floor), can sing many songs’’ Meaning: It is easy to talk about something when you are not the one involved in it. 

As security practitioners, we must be very careful what we say online, keeping in mind, whatever you post online stays online even if you delete it minutes later. We should not criticize security details and/or the people involved because we do not know all the facts, details, limitations and the full story. When you post a comment on a 10-second video, you may not have the full story. You do not know what happened before or after the incident. What you see in a photo may not be the full picture. It doesn’t make you any more ‘’professional’’ when you try to spot the wrong moves in an incident where you weren’t involved and you do not know all the parameters: you are just assuming.

In this case, we heard many opinions:

‘’Why didn’t they keep standard formation?’’- How can you keep standard formation when your principal is anticipating close interaction with a member of the crowd? Greeting lines are extremely tedious and are one of the most difficult situations to read and provide protection.

‘’The reaction time was slow.’’- The reaction time always seems to be slower when you see an incident on a video over and over again rather than being involved with it in real-time in the field.

‘’They were lucky he wasn’t holding a knife.’’ – Actually someone did their job well and made sure he (or anyone else in the crowd) wasn’t holding a weapon. What most fail to understand is that these crowds are previously checked for anything that can be used as a weapon.

‘’Why didn’t they saw that coming?’’ – They don’t teach ESP at Executive Protection schools…

‘’Why didn’t someone teach Macron?’’ – Most protectees won’t sit down and learn from you about protection, they want you to protect them. It’s not their job to know how to do yours…Why do you think you’re employed?

Now let’s address some challenges for protecting public figures and try to make some rational sense of all of this.

Protecting people whose identity depends on the public, such as politicians, in this case, is very much different than protecting a C-Suite executive for example. A politician needs the interaction with public. They shake hands, hug, get pictures with and celebrate with large crowds. Having people like them is what makes people vote for them, and they need to look and act quite approachable to everyone in order to gain votes. If they don’t get the votes, well, then they no longer hold their current political position. They have to attend gatherings and events and most of those functions may be outside of your span of control regarding organizing it. You have to provide services as best as you can with what you have and minimize whatever limitations you can. 

In this case ‘’the unknown crowd’’ is the issue. The ‘’crowd’’ provides a good opportunity for the enemy to blend in, act and even escape in some cases. Also, as most public appearances are preplanned and announced, the enemy has the time to be prepared for the attack. And when we say attack, let’s clarify that “attack on your principal” is not only an assassination or physical harm but also an attack on his/her personality, reputation or by causing embarrassment. 

While most EP training schools focus only on physical attacks, have in mind causing embarrassing situations may be something your principal is particularly vulnerable and endangered by, thus it is something you must be prepared to prevent. Making sure the crowd has been checked for anything that can be used as a weapon doesn’t mean you are safe from an embarrassing situation. Paying attention to people’s hands and what they are carrying doesn’t mean you can be sure about the intention of a handshake. A handshake can become a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the face. How would you know the intentions of the handshake and act within 2 seconds to prevent it? You must be in very close proximity to do that and sometimes you have limitations on how close you can be with your principal, particularly when they are interacting with the public and potential voters. When any public figure decides he/she want to come within close proximity of a voter, you are required to break the standard formations and you cannot have security between the voter and the principal because they need that ‘’personal space’’.

Act too aggressive and they will perceive this position as very unapproachable, something that goes against your principal’s political campaigns. So you have limitations or adaptations to perform your protective job competently. 

Another thing to consider is that some protectees will appear uncooperative with you and your suggestions or directions. They will do the exact opposite of what you have instructed them to do or whatever the plan was because they thought doing something different was ok, safe or was suggested at the last minute by their campaign manager. Some protectees will ask you to protect them no matter what. The fact that they won’t consider changing their lifestyle, and you have to do your best, becomes another facet of the ever-evolving detail.

Have we forgotten the flying shoe incident with President Bush in a press conference in 2008? The red paint thrown at Mary Harney, Ireland’s Health Minister in November 2010? Berlusconi’s nose being broken and two teeth knocked out when a man attending a political rally threw the statuette of Milan’s Duomo gothic cathedral straight in his face in 2009? Eggs being thrown at Bill Clinton in Warsaw, Poland? Nicolas Sarkozy being a victim of a flying pie in 1997? The book thrown at Obama in 2010? The glitter attack on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlently in 2011? Pope being attacked by a woman who jumped barriers at St Peter’s Basilica and knocked him down in 2009? The famous slap on Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the widow of ex Greek PM at her book signing by a woman who appears to be there to sign her book? Bill Gates’ “Pie-to-the-Face” fiasco? There are so many more similar incidents including paint, body fluids, pies, yoghurt, vegetables, flour and even flashing body parts such as the Femen members who went toplessness in front of the EU-Russia summit, in Brussels, in December 2012.

Can we criticize the EP team members involved in these incidents? Can we say that you would have done better after the incident has taken place? From the moment you have a complete crowd check for weapons, you are in a “secure” space. But what leads you to believe that you have a better understanding regarding the mental status of someone who appears to be a voter or a fan? Can you honestly guess his motives if he/she wants to slap, or spit or in some way embarrass your client?

If you haven’t provided security details for Public Figures, it may seem easy for you to criticize an incident like this, but criticizing what you don’t know and just assuming doesn’t make you right and it very well may show your ignorance. Instead, use this incident as a reminder that people will use anything to harm your client’s reputation and their imagination can be big and quite unpleasant. Keep it as a learning tool for yourself and yet another scenario in your head of what you would or wouldn’t do if…

Denida Grow

Managing Partner

LeMareschal LLC

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Nannyguards

Marketing tips for Executive Protection Agents

Perception is everything, protect yourself and build your reputation on solid ground.

*These are part of a panel of personal opinions formulated from my experience in the industry as an EP agent, business owner and recruiter for other corporations. Keep in mind that just because I preach it, doesn’t mean I haven’t made the mistakes. It’s actually the fact I have made some of these and it’s caused me to learn what can work and what doesn’t. You may not agree with me or follow up with the suggestions, but experience is an amazing teacher…”Let he who has ears…”*

1) Know what you know and know your value. (Know what you are willing to sacrifice as well, working more hours, night shifts, holidays, for how much, or how little.)

2) Know what you don’t know and either leave it to someone else or study it (There is nothing worse than someone who is trying to operate in many different fields, and yet, have quite limited knowledge on each field and act as though they’re the authority on it.) Focus on what you are most interested in and master it. Only move on to something else when you have a solid foundation on a topic and you are prepared to expand to something else.

3) “Listen more and talk less” Comment or post on social media only if you have something constructive to say and always stay on point and use professional language.

4) Post or comment only on subjects you know well, subjects you have studied, and subjects you know from real-life experience. There is no need to post daily or non-related posts.

5) It takes specific work and, quite simply, boots on the ground to consider yourself experienced. Having worked EP two or three days a month doesn’t make you qualified enough to disagree or raise your voice with people who have been doing this for 10+ years. Neither are you an expert after one or two years in the industry (You can always see who is who and what they know and don’t know by what they post on social media). Stay humble, lay low and learn your trade well…Your day will come.

6) Maintain a professional image on all business-related social media sites. A suit and tie picture will always be better than a tank top or a duckface selfie.

7) Build a professional LinkedIn Profile, highlight your skills and post all your professional and educational achievements.

8) Stop posting sensitive information, IDs, and license numbers on social media (You are a security professional! If you fail to protect even your own personal information, what does that tell me about how you handle your clients’ information??)

9) Always maintain OPSEC in every post you make. Always think, “How could this be used to harm my client or my team?

10) Protect your data! We have seen more and more security professionals warning their connections that they have been hacked! If your ex-girlfriend can hack your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, then you are probably not very good at keeping your clients or your information safe.

11) Keep high school drama out of social media.

12) Control your emotions, and remain professional at all times…You are your client’s close protection, NOT his/her “Buddyguard”. Friendly at all times, not Friends.

13) Be careful of your connections and the people that you recommend or work with. Have you heard of death by association? Make no mistake, it is a very real factor in our business!

14) Build a professional-looking CV. Keep it simple and to the point. There is no need to hire a CV writer, you know what you have done, trained for, and accomplished.

15) Invest time in building connections. Spend time talking to others or helping them with their projects. I have gained many contracts after the interviews I did with others.

16) Offer pro bono services to companies you respect and want to be involved with.

17) If you are single and have no family commitments, perhaps you work that shift on Christmas or other holidays so someone else can spend the day with his children. You have no idea how being understanding can help you in the long term.

18) Study your clientele and any potential clients. The industry has changed significantly, and the new wave of clients are IT gurus, app developers, cryptocurrency investors, reality stars, etc. Always be knowledgeable on current trends and topics.

19) Be informed on local and international news, threats, and events that affect the industry and the needs or operational aspects of your clients.

20) Don’t be arrogant, there is a fine line between being confident and arrogant. Never cross it…There usually is no way back once the damage is done.

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

Managing Partner

LeMareschal LLC

Things to consider before you hire an Executive Protection team aka Bodyguards

 To all CEOs, celebrities, VIPs and high value individuals…

At some point in your careers, you will most likely find the need to retain, or at the very least, inquire about close protection services for yourselves, your loved ones and possibly for those you employ closest to you.
      Now, the list of companies and corporations that provide these type of services is quite lengthy and, while at first they all appear very impressive, you need to be thorough as you take a deep look at them and the ideals and morals they represent. Again, you are searching for the perfect fit that best protects yourselves, your families, employees and all things that you need secured and confidential.
      A quite disturbing trend as of late has been the repeated posting of pics with you as the client, at your locations and in front of your vehicles, private planes, residences, etc. while boasting about the details of who you might be, what was happening or other items of a secure nature. Now, this is entirely unacceptable no matter what the terms or conditions of their employment may be with you. You, and all that that may encompass, are to be secure, confidential and invisible for all intents and purposes. Period.
      Social media has become the source of all communications amongst a great number of these entities and this in turn has led to a trend of exposing enormous amounts of confidential client information when it is not only unnecessary but highly unprofessional and, frankly, childish. At times, it has even been portrayed as “marketing” when, in it’s true form, it’s nothing more than schoolyard bragging.
      So, when researching a prospective organization that you perceive may be the one you will choose, a thorough search of all related social media should be performed. The company’s sites, the reviews and even the social media sites of any/all possible employees that you might hire from their corporation. If they are willing to expose their previous clients with seemingly reckless abandon, you will most likely be the next celebrity/VIP pic that hits the Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn circuit and that is, I’m quite sure, not your desire at all.
      Many companies will show an endless supply of “tactical” pictures, extreme condition photos, worst case scenario snapshots, etc. Please understand that most of the organizations are composed of a large number of former military members, former LEO/SWAT members and private security contractors who have “been there & done that”. But it is always wise to remember that while these skills are highly advantageous should everything go tragically wrong in your day, these type of days should never happen if the proper planning is performed which is completely above and beyond the “hard skills” as they are often referred to.
      Another highly recommended item is a detailed NDA and total social media blackout for all involved. Leave nothing to chance and be very clear regarding the seriousness that this represents to you and the severity of disciplinary action should it be violated. Again, you and all you hold most dear are to be secure, confidential and private and definitely NOT on the front page of a local newspaper, tabloid, media page or out to the highest bidder.
      Always remember this…You came looking to us with your concerns and fears, placing your overall well-being in our capable hands. With that in mind, you should always feel protected, safe and secure from anyone or anything that might wish to harm you. And that harm should NEVER be at the hands of the very people whom you have so willingly trusted to provide the very best security, protection and peace of mind.

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel. Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com

The importance of Emotional Control in the Workplace for Executive Protection Operatives

Usually I write articles based on my experience as a security professional but this one will be addressed from another perspective. That of the person who has a degree in Psychology and has also spent many hours studying behaviours. I would like to combine my two educational backgrounds and discuss how specific behaviours can negatively affect the security industry.

If you are a service provider, you must always have in mind that people you employ and place with clients are the people who represent your brand. Their mistakes will harm you more that it will harm them. Most companies are losing contracts due to toxic or unprofessional behaviour of their operatives. No matter how good a CV looks on paper, attitude and behaviour at work are crucial when you place someone to protect another human being who has his/her own personality traits. Placing the right candidate with any specific client goes much beyond hiring a good HR manager, especially when your company is handling contracts of thousands of dollars and clientele of specific social, financial and celebrity status.

We all are aware of the ongoing news reports and social media posts regarding the complaints of some colleagues about their former clients, claiming how their clients were ‘’rude’’, ‘’cold’’ and ‘’non friendly’’. Now, these people worked for well known companies, so someone obviously thought they would be ok to be hired and placed with specific clients.  The fact that they can so easily speak on public forums makes you wonder if NDAs were signed at all before hiring. Again, just one interview and a CV are not enough when you hire someone, especially in this line of work.

While the majority of the industry will say that speaking publicly about your client is unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour and that it also breaks the code of the confidentiality, there seems to be an alarming trend regarding security providers reporting their former clients or talking about them in public.

Now there are many reasons why someone may choose to do so. One, it can be to sell his/her story. Many news media outlets and reporting outlets are paying a lot of money for stories like this. Two, that person found his/her inner writer and are writing a book about that client, again bedtime gossip sells. Three, by going public, they believe they can gain publicity and attention for future employment. Although many serious and high class companies will never hire someone like this, there will always be that one company who will see nothing wrong with it and place this person with another client. Unfortunately, ethics and professionalism in the security industry don’t mean the same for all of us. While at least some positions have the minimum requirements, apparently for others, there don’t seem to be any ethical requirement standards at all…

While specific company or personal ethics seem to vary quite a bit, and discussing the three mentioned reasons above appears to have no worth, there is another valuable and important trait that we can identify with and improve significantly. This is the inability, of some people, to control their emotions in the workplace. These people have a very specific view of how people should treat them, and anything different makes them unable to process their feelings and they cannot control them. They feel hurt, insulted, or perhaps someone was unfair to them and they want to talk about it publicly to gain attention and receive a pat on the back.

As we mentioned earlier, since all of us have different definitions when it comes to ethics and professionalism in security industry, many will see no problem. No issues in posting pictures with their clients (jeopardizing their safety), talking about their private moments, what they saw or heard while working for them or basically breaking every rule of the client’s confidentiality. If the client doesn’t trust you, you will be gone and with you a contract for the company you were working for.

Now let’s focus on our topic: Emotional Control in the Workplace. According to Gross’ definition, (1999), ‘’Emotional control can be thought of as a facet of emotion regulation, but refers primarily to attempts by an individual to manage the generation, experience, or expression of emotion, and/or one’s emotional responses’’. In other words, emotional control is each individual’s ability to manage emotions that may be disturbing, disagreeable, hurtful, insulting, and being able to remain calm and effective at his/her  performance. As human beings, we are emotional and we cannot suppress our emotions, but we can learn how and when to manage them. It is ok to be hurt or bothered by specific words or behaviours at work, but how you control your emotional response to a specific trigger is very important for your efficiency and professionalism at work. How many of us, in the course of our day, have been told or asked to do something and we thought…

‘How can he/she talk to me like that?’

‘Who he/she thinks he/she is?’

‘That is not why I was hired!’

And I am sure many of us have been angry, sad, insulted etc.

Someone may ask why it is important to manage our emotions at work. Before answering that, we first must explain how emotions work. Humans are emotional creatures, and our brain was designed for survival and perpetuation of our species. The Amygdala is the portion of the brain that is responsible for our emotions and basically works as our brain’s radar for threat. Now threat can have different meanings, not only physical threat but it can also be when we hear something we don’t like or we don’t agree with, or something that may challenge what we knew and believed up until that moment. When the amygdala detects a ‘’threat’’ we have the so called ‘amygdala hijack’ or ‘emotional hijack’. During this state, we cannot innovate, we cannot learn anything new or process new information, and we rely on old behaviours or patterns. During this hijack, we cannot focus on our professional tasks or duties because our brain will primarily think about what is bothering us at that moment. Also our memory is highly affected, and we will recall only that which is most related to the incident/threat and not other things that may be important for our work. Now, as security professionals, being tasked with someone else’s security, can you see how being able to manage your emotions at work can affect your performance and why it is important? I’m sure you can see it. And keep in mind that many studies performed around the world have proven that being able to manage your emotions competently brings substantially better business outcomes.

As a security professional, you will spend most of your time being the shadow of a person who is paying you. That person has his/her own life beliefs, ethics, attitude, emotions, life worries, etc. How that person addresses you is his/her choice, right or wrong. However, how you react to it and manage the feelings associated with their behaviour is your responsibility. Have in mind that while your job is to protect them, they are not your ‘buddy’. They have their own job/responsibilities of keeping sales and numbers up, creating new products, making sure pay checks to employees are paid at the end of the month, and other important obligations. They have so many issues to deal with and you are not one…You are to be a help, not a hindrance. Professional protection, not a ‘Buddyguard’!

Once, one of our clients used obscenities while speaking to one of our colleagues. While the colleague was literally in tears (Imagine a security professional being in tears in front of the person he is protecting) and decided to quit that day, he failed on several fronts. One, to think that the client may have had a bad day, (Which later on, we found out he had just received the news his ex wife had filed for a divorce) and Two, the client is NOT our friend, and his/her reaction to anything may be, and most likely is, the result of something unrelated to us and not to be misconstrued as such. In this case, the client later apologized, which is rare, but some will not.

No matter what type of client you happen to be providing services for, always keep in mind, the client doesn’t have to be friendly to you, or care how your morning or night has been, doesn’t have to say hello or good morning or even converse with you at all! At the end of the day, it is not personal and it cannot be taken as such. This may very well be how they see social interaction. While it may seem rude for someone not to say hello, for them it may be natural. For them, you are just another employee. Also, have in mind that you will be in contact with many people in their lives of varying backgrounds and levels of power. The client’s wife, PA, butler, nanny or general public all may say something, at some point in time that will upset you. Also, never forget that emotions are highly transferable and someone may have had a fight at home with his/her children or significant other and carried all those emotions to work.

An emotional outburst at work can take your focus from performing your duties best and show you are incapable of controlling your own feelings. Being insulted or feeling you are not treated fairly will probably make you feel angry and anger will increase your heart rate. According to a study done by Prof Cynthia Fisher from Bond University, School of Business in 1997, the most common negative emotions experienced at work are frustration, worry, anger, dislike and unhappiness.

Should we repress or suppress our emotions? No. Can you manage them? Yes, we all are able to minimize those emotional hijacks. Most of us are highly aware of what can trigger our emotions. We know what topics, or events can affect us emotionally. So paying attention and being able to recognize when those signs of destructive emotions are starting to build, we have more chances to stop an emotional hijack. Here are some techniques:

  • Know your triggers. This can help you to recognize what upsets you.
  • Be respectful. If a person is rude, there is no need to react to it with rudeness and feed it. You can remain firm and professional without being aggressive. Most of the time, those people will calm down once they realize that they are the only one in the room shouting or being rude.
  • Use exercise to blast your anger. Hit that treadmill, set some PR’s, roll on the mats… exercise will help to release any physical tension in your body.
  • Never bring your negative emotions from home to work and vice versa. What happens at home stays at home and what happens at work stays at work.
  • Clarify the situation. Many times it was just a miscommunication or misunderstanding.
  • Use the 10-seconds rule. If you feel your temper rising, count to 10 to recompose yourself. If needed and if possible, get some distance and excuse yourself from the situation, reassuring them you will get to this matter as soon as possible.
  • If for some reason you had an emotional outburst, apologize to anyone involved with it and take responsibility by recognizing you reacted badly.
  • Speak about the incident to your supervisor. If there are behaviours, language or incidents that are irritating you and you are not able to see past them, then you should seek another position with another client. Either way, inform your company regarding any incident. Most of the times companies are not aware of a situation until it becomes unfixable.
  • If you are a service provider, make sure you do an internal audit regularly regarding operational effectiveness of your operatives. Ask them, listen to them and also be ready to place them somewhere else if they seem burned out by a specific client/detail.

At the end of the day, keep these in mind, 1) the client is not your buddy, 2) it is not personal, 3) clients need to see that the person assigned to their protection not only is physically trained for the hard task but also he/she is emotionally stable, calm when all else is chaotic and can show restriction and strength when necessary.

If you are interested to learn more about Emotional Control in the Workplace contact us today at info@athenaworldwide.com

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaworldwide.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel.

Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com

Female Bodyguards

Female Bodyguards are in high demand!” I am sure you have heard this before but as a female Close Protection Operative you are still struggling to find a job. There are many misconceptions regarding our role in the industry. In this article, we will try to address some. 

Anyone who has read my articles knows that I base most of them on questions or inquiries from those professionals who either offer good and accurate advice or from those who ask for it.

First, I prefer placing female Close Protection Operatives with female clients or their children for the client’s comfort or peace of mind. Some males are easily suited to this task but the client may simply think that a male does not belong in constant close proximity and occasionally in isolated private settings with the kids or a client’s wife. This can be equally true with female CPOs and male clients but the concern of inappropriate behavior with the children dissolves when a female is placed with them. Remember, it’s always up to the client.

The most active topics to come through my office are all related to females in the Executive Protection industry. As a female CPO, a business owner, and as the founder of a successful training academy exclusive to females in the Personal Protection Industry, I will address a few of the most popular statements I am routinely tasked with arguing against.

“A female CPO is better than a male CPO”

Your gender doesn’t make you better in this profession. What allows you to outperform a colleague or be more suited to a specific task is how well you meet or can adapt to a client’s specific needs. In our case, the security needs that a client may have might be provided by a female, male, canine, or even a machine.

“It is very hard for a woman to break into this industry”  

Well, it is also difficult for a male to break into this industry. Training, experience, personality, knowledge of how to dress, how to drive, and a really well-polished CV mean nothing if you believe that you have some preordained right to be here. Both women and men alike will be passed over equally if they lack humility, charm, manners, couth, education, social polish, or real-world experience. Which of these is most important?

“It is hard to find a job”

Keep in mind that the market for female CPOs has historically been smaller which means you have to compete harder to get the job.

It is worth mentioning that in cases where security is needed for females and kids, many clients are looking for not just female CPOs but feminine looking females to place next to their wife, sister or daughter so if you are a female with a very harsh or more masculine appearance, you reduce your chances of being hired. And if a male appears too feminine or too “cute” or even too “handsome” he may not be hired either. You see, it is not your gender, it is the appearance you choose to reflect to your client, and it is your client’s perception you must cater to in order to get hired.

Additionally, my records show that a majority of females who want to break into the industry seem to be older than 40 years of age. It seems that many women who are retired Law Enforcement or military are looking to get into the private security industry. The fact is that unless you are applying for a Nanny position, most clients are looking for 25 to 38-year-old CPOs with at least 5 years of experience. So at 40+ with no experience, men and women alike stand less of a chance against a younger experienced CPO.

Finally, among those women who complain that they can’t find a job, a vast majority of them do not have what it takes to be hired or they do not know how to sell their skills. Having a large database of female candidates and qualified operatives allows me to compare them to each other.

Here is what I found out of 400 applications: 

Some don’t have a passport.

Some don’t have a local State license and can’t drive.

Some have no firearms license or experience with anything mechanical.

Some are waiting to apply for licenses as they are interviewed and being hired by a client or a company.

Understand that if you don’t have the licenses or other qualifications, you will never be considered for a position, so act in advance. And if you make a misstatement of facts to get hired, you will get fired and never hired again.

Some are not willing to relocate and looking only for gigs in their area. Many female candidates are not willing to relocate due to being married with kids. Although a male CPO can leave his wife and kids behind, it is traditionally harder and less socially acceptable for a female CPO to do so. Many women in the U.S. left to fight in the Gulf War in 2002. The practice of the Father staying behind became acceptable there and the trend quickly spread to other countries.

Some are not willing to take an entry-level position even though they have not much experience.

Some do not know how to present themselves professionally during a phone, video, or live interview.

Some women practice the outward arrogance associated with a man’s success when they have a couple of good assignments and don’t recognize when this attitude is rejected by the client or colleagues. This is a problem with the men too so again, no difference.

The result is, if you rub the placement company or client the wrong way, your CV goes in the trash. Turn down too many offers due to money (I had a candidate with zero experience who was requesting more payment than what the rest of the team was being paid) or other issues and we will stop calling. If you don’t have a verifiable track record and reputation, you cannot make demands. Fail to answer when we call with an offer or fail to present yourself after the first selection and we will not call back……ever. Clients are looking for people who can commit and be responsible.

“Female CPO’s are paid less”

From my experience both personally being an operative and placing females with other companies or clients I highly disagree with this. I have always been paid the same as the rest of the team and even more than the rest of the team when my performance or qualifications were measured against theirs.

In closing, we need to clarify and understand four things:

1)        If you are making less than your colleagues, male or female, remember that you agreed to the terms of your employment. It was your choice.

2)        If you don’t know how to ‘’sell’’ your skillset then you have missed something in your professional training. Go back to the basics and learn how to respond to a contract offer.

3)        If you are a beginner, you may have to agree to a lower rate in order to build up your experience and work portfolio. If you do your job, you will progress.

4)        Because of the nature of the services needed, some team members may work fewer hours than the rest of the team, therefore they may be paid less. If you are a female working with the kids for 6 hours a day, you cannot compare your position with a CPO that works for 10 hours driving the car or standing next to the client. If you are doing equal work on equal ground, you should argue for equal pay and equal treatment. If you don’t like the terms, don’t take the job. If you find out after you accept a position that you are paid less, chalk it up to a lesson learned and don’t make the mistake next time.

The demand for female CPOs has increased steadily over the last decade. If you are not working or not earning what you think you are worth, ask yourself the following:

-What kind of experience do I have?

-What education do I have?

-Does my personality, loyalty, integrity, knowledge, skill, and ability add to the client’s needs or solutions?

-How I’m I presenting myself in online forums or social media? Unfortunately, there are many female operatives who are using unprofessional ways to present themselves in the industry. Provocative pictures, aggressive and insulting language to other operatives, etc.

-How does my CV measure up against the other candidates interviewing for a position?

-Am I willing to take an entry position job or a job that pays less to progress and make my connections in the industry? Some companies may not have the budget to pay big money and they may be stuck with finding someone, so if you have nothing else to do, I would highly suggest you take that job. Many of us would highly appreciate an operative who can cover a position when we are having hard time filling it and make sure we call you again for a better placement.

If you need a professional assessment of your CV or even your image or need to add to your skillset, go to our website. There is guidance there to help you. Or reach out to us.

Remember, ladies:

You are equal in your ability to protect a person from the threat of another but the opportunity to perform will be based on a human being assessing your value to the effort. What are you doing to increase your value to the person that needs what you offer?  And, as always, there are a number of well qualified, experienced, time tested female agents out there that you can reach out to and speak with regarding further questions, mentorship, and guidance…We’re all here to help!

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

www.athenaworldwide.com

www.nannyguards.com

At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel. Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com

Interpersonal skills for security professionals

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.

 

Boundaries

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.

Physical Relationships

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.

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & Worldwide Director

Athena Academy 

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaacademy.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

Female Close Protection Operatives Training, Level 1, September 1-9, 2012, Atlanta, GA

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 female close protection operatives.

Basic Training:

Including:
-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 Israel, Greece, 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 additional information and applications please e-mail: charla@athenaworldwide.com

Athena Academy official FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Athena-Academy-International-Female-Security-Training/267075996663008

Course cost is $2,000 with payment schedules available to those who qualify. Deposits for this course are $500, and full course fees paid 3 weeks before starting date.

Application date open until July 30