The importance of observation skills for Executive Protection Agents

Today, we would like to analyze a very important skill for EP agents that is not being addressed or taught in EP schools but is extremely important. Presently, as we have all seen, there is a lot of talk about prevention and proactive measures but less talk or none at all, regarding what it takes to actually prevent a situation and how one can train to improve these skills. For an agent to be able to prevent a situation, he/she will need to have sharp observation skills.

Observation is part of human nature and, as a protective measure, has been practiced by our ancestors for survival, but as we are living in big cities and in a world more dependent on technology, many have lost their observational skills and/or become desensitized.

In his book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker wrote in 1997 about the importance of educating security professionals on being more observant. Later, in 2007, Joe Navarro wrote in his book that whoever doesn’t have the skills to observe properly will not be able to ‘’read’’ the person he/she has in front of him.

Andreas Venetis, who had been studying the application of body language for decades, conducted his own research on how security professionals can highly benefit by applying body language techniques. He wrote regarding these techniques in his thesis,” The contribution of body language in dealing with terrorism and crime: A comparative analysis of international cases” which is also included in the National Library of Police in London. He uses many case studies and examples from which one can gain substantial knowledge.

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

Why is observation so important? First, we must clarify that observing is significantly different from seeing. Just because you see something or someone doesn’t mean you observe it or them. Observation is a cooperative mental blending of visual and thought processes. The difference between seeing and observing can be crucial for a security detail. Being able to observe properly, one will be capable of identifying any early risk exposures and thus take appropriate safety measures.

Having good observational skills means you know what to look for and the how, when, and where’s to look and then interpret properly what you see according to your position and client. No matter how much visual information you have, it means nothing if you don’t know what you are seeing. If you cannot make a judgment, a prediction based on what you have just observed and how that can affect the safety (and smooth operation) of your client and your team, then your observation skills are lacking. And quite often, many newer agents forget that an important aspect to always be mindful of is what you AREN’T seeing. What is missing from the scene they are observing, perhaps certain aspects of behavior missing, lack of street or local traffic, or cultural/customary expectations that are strangely absent. Another thought is to always be mindful of the day or date. Some events or behaviors you expect will not be present on certain days, whereas others that are restricted or observed only on certain days or times will be an awkward surprise if you are not properly prepared or informed.

Good observational skills can help you not only in identifying suspicious people and behaviors but also can help you in these examples:

Problem-Solving

Being the problem-solver or troubleshooter everyone appreciates, starts with identifying the source of the problem in the early stages and then taking the correct action to solve it.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment. And the ability to think critically often relies on observation skills to accurately realize and comprehend what is happening around us.

Interpersonal Intelligence

The ability to understand and interact effectively with others (public, team members, client) and, again, observation is the key component because of the need to monitor others’ behaviors.

Andrey Karlov, Russia's ambassador to Turkey, moments before his assassination

Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, moments before his assassination

But how can one learn how to observe properly? We can probably agree that society has taught us to pay attention and observe others in a wrong way or even, not at all. First of all, in everyday life, we are literally encouraged to look away from life and focus on a little screen in front of our faces. We should always be in a heads-up position and pay close attention to all that is occurring in real-time all around us. We, as humans, focus too much on facial characteristics rather than hands. If you are a security professional, hands should be the first thing you are observing. Is the person holding anything that can be used as a weapon? Is the person holding something that is unusual for the environment, or do the person’s hands look tight or tense? (Making a fist is the first sign of someone who is either under a lot of pressure and trying to maintain self-control or someone who is being ready to attack in some manner). Also, if you ask women and men to describe what they observe in someone else, women will focus on different characteristics than men. (And yes, sometimes they will give you more detailed descriptions than men!).

Observing properly means that you have a full understanding of your role, your environment, your client’s security needs, the risk factors and that you can read people and their behaviors based on these. And as all these factors have the potential to change quickly, you must also be able to ‘’reset’’ your observations and reactions just as quickly. This is the primary reason that these skill sets must be repeatedly and constantly challenged and refreshed because if one requires too much time to think, the critical moment may very well occur before any proactive security measures can be implemented properly and the client/team will then be in jeopardy.

In 2015 I found myself for the first time working in India, a totally different and new world for me. After my driver picked me up from the airport and we were on our way to my apartment, we stopped at a gas station. As the driver was fueling the car, I decided to get out and stretch (after all, I had been flying for many hours). I saw a young woman get off a scooter and stand next to me. What primarily made the ‘’red light’’ go off in my head was the fact she had a backpack (which looked heavy), and she had a full-face scarf. Now, what I didn’t know was that this was a very frequent image for the foggy area of Mumbai, but it wasn’t common for me, so I had to re-train my observation skills according to my new environment.

Observation, like any other skill, can be improved with practice. Start observing people and how they interact with each other. In your daily life, get in the habit of always asking the who, what, when, where and why’s as you move about, on your way to work on the transit bus/train, at the park, in a coffee shop, in an event, at a town square, etc. What stands out? Why? What DOESN’T stand out? Why not? What belongs? What is missing? The questions will certainly keep your mind busy, but they will definitely begin to sharpen your observation skills and adaptive reactions or solutions to events, people, and things that are happening all around you.

Tips for improving your observation skills:

1)     Know your client, your environment, and your safety risks.

2)     Establish your baseline.

3)     Self-observation (Are you focused on your job, or is your mind wandering?) You drastically lose your awareness as you become increasingly self-absorbed or self-focused. Stay in the moment!

4)     Watch hands, watch hands, WATCH HANDS! Then body core, face, and legs. Is anyone carrying anything that can be used as a weapon or beginning to gesture a violent movement in your client’s direction?

5)     Less cell phone time.

6)     Focus on the necessary task.

7)     Focus on body language. Body language can be an amazing asset in identifying pre-attack indicators.

8)     Improve your concentration.

9)     Identify and block any distractions.

10)  Less cell phone time.

11)  Pay attention to details or be aware of what might be missing.

12)  Observe how people interact with each other and try to make stories about what is happening among them.

13)  Less cell phone time

14)  Learn more about different environments, cultures etc.

15)  Keep notes of your observations.

16)  Maintain critical thinking during the observation process.

17)  Put information and people into categories as you notice them.

18)  LESS CELL PHONE TIME. Wait, did we mention that already? This has become the primary reason for the lack of observational skills and continues to numb and desensitize people to all that is occurring around them. You will always have down time later to look at your phone and wander off into Cyberland. But it is NOT the time when your senses need to be at their most sensitive and when the client needs you most.

Some examples or signs of unusual behavior or activity:

·        Inappropriate clothing for the season/time and place circumstances and consideration

·        Elegant / strikingly different clothing for the surrounding location

·        Jacket/coat during summertime

·        Long sleeves that conceal the palms of their hands

·        Protrusions in the sleeve, the back, or the chest

·        Excessive nervousness /shaking hands /touching the face

·        Sweating / flushed

·        Involuntary motions

·        Apathy/gazing

·        Adjusting items under clothing

Observation skills are something that you hone over time. Practicing, looking for things out of place, excessive, or even missing, will make you increasingly aware of what does and does not belong, what is normal or what is out of the ordinary. As you continue to practice these methods, you will find that very little escapes your observational skills, and in time, you will be able to quickly glance and make a lifesaving assessment when moments count.

The Grows

Denida & Chris bring a combined 54 years of international experience in the Protective and Intelligence services. They are based in Seattle, WA, and run their companies LeMareschal, Athena Worldwide and Nannyguards

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

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

Offering security details for minors, The issues you will be dealing with

Some may think it is the ‘’easy job’’ but when you get hired to protect a client’s most valuable asset, his child,  you will find out that providing security details for minors is actually harder and more challenging than protecting adults. Consider as well, the immense amount of trust a client has to put in your ability before they offer you the opportunity and then not be overconfident in your performance. Kids are the fastest way to end a career, don’t underestimate the challenge they present or the rewards that service to them offers.

Today more and more celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the corporate elite are hiring female bodyguards that are assigned specifically to protect their children.

The traditional huge thick-necked bodyguard accompanying a child to the zoo is giving way to the ‘’child-friendly image’’ of a well-dressed athlete with an I.Q. of 130+, caring for that child as if it was their own. Male and female bodyguards that can blend in with and adapt to the environment of parents and children are more likely to gain employment over the classic muscleman.

If you are in charge of protecting young children, you will either be their sole caretaker in public or be in charge of both them and their caretakers. Either way, you have challenges. If you are the sole caretaker, you will be as preoccupied with meals, diapers, tempers, and entertainment as with their security. If you are watching over the child while in the company of a nanny or parents, your job is immensely easier but also exponentially harder with the addition of each person added to the party.

Conditions are easier if the child is younger and cannot communicate because you don’t have to carry on a conversation, but harder because you also may have to carry them, thus occupying your hands. Easier if they can talk but harder when they can talk back or argue.  Easier when they are older and can listen for and follow directions but harder when they want their own way.

The difficulty really comes when you are dealing with teenagers. An exceptionally high number of security details for teenagers has to be done covertly. This is to say that the kids just won’t want you around or cooperate with you if you are “in their space”. So forget about walking formations, suits, and stiff postures. Be prepared to dress casual and blend in. That includes both your physical appearance and behavior. One wrong move that embarrasses your young client and you are done, and with a negative review of your conduct reaching the parents, done for good.

Here are some hints to consider when protecting children:

If you can work with a caretaker or parent and allow them to care for the child, this is ideal. The adult would go through training with you to learn to understand verbal instructions and non-verbal instructions and you would not deal directly with the child or ever be alone with them. You must also consider your age and athletic ability when compared with the nanny or the parent(s). Could you pass for a spouse or parent or Aunt or Uncle?

When you interview a client prior to accepting an assignment, ask them about your limitations or role regarding their child’s protection. Typically, the client will not allow you to admonish or punish a child for misbehavior. You will be spending a lot of time with a child that may be developing his/her character. This is a very vulnerable period. Not many parents are willing and open to allow another person to correct their child’s behavior. So be sure to clarify your limitations in writing. Also, remember that attraction is a natural function in life and children learn to trust and become attracted to adults at an early age.  This process averages about 6 months which is why it is recommended that you limit your contracts to that amount of time. If you are going to stay longer, you must obtain additional training as the emotional stress on you can be overwhelming over longer periods of time. Some may ask you to just act as a bodyguard and protect their child’s physical wellbeing and some will ask you to also educate them and correct bad behavior.

When it comes to children or teenagers protection, clients tend to hire bodyguards that will be assigned to the family and the child for many years. As one might understand, it can be difficult to place different bodyguards on a child’s or teenager’s protection during short time periods. In this case, they are looking for someone skilled and mature enough both professionally and ethically to protect but also work as a mentor for their child. Mentoring and teaching could include academia as well as self-protection skillsets. Make sure your need for income doesn’t overwhelm your ability to teach.

As with any client, there are roughly 50 mandatory questions that should be asked and answered and an additional 100 that could be asked. Many of these should be asked of the parents but many should be asked of the child while the parents are present. As soon as you get assigned to a child protection detail you must ask about their habits, his/her medical record ( blood type, if he/she is allergic to anything, etc), preferable places they like to spend time and of course who their friends are. Background checks should be conducted on every adult around the child, including the parents of friends. Include school staff such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school nurses, and cafeteria staff.

Have a conversation with the child. Explain to them why you are there and what your job is. Usually, they see you as a new person intruding in their life and someone who is there to spy on them and report anything they do to their parents. This initial bonding is critical to you keeping your job.

Deal with older children as adults. Have a conversation with them. Children are not stupid and like to be dealt with as adults. Respect their opinion and explain your position. Make sure they understand that your only duty is to keep them safe. An additional concern is reporting. Whether asked to report back to the child’s parents or not, you should keep very accurate notes and be prepared to deliver an accurate report to them. This may ruin trust so be very careful with this.

Allow the child some time to feel comfortable with you and trust you. Depending on the child and your approach, it may take them up to 3 months to start feeling comfortable and trust you. Don’t rush the process. Be approachable and let them decide when they can come closer to you. Again remember that this is dependent on your planned length of the assignment. Children by nature are very reactive and they tend to do the opposite of what they have been told. For the child, we are another ‘’intruder’’ in his personal life. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to earn trust. Study this process and seek out a professional counselor if needed. Your client should retain one for you.

In the beginning, (with an older child), you will have to deal with a child who will be asking you to stay further away, don’t look at them, don’t open the car doors for them, don’t accompany them for shopping or to the movie theater. Of course, as you do your job, you will have to disregard or ignore their requests and although some in our profession may say it doesn’t matter what the child wants the fact is that at some point it does matter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to deal with a kid who will play hide and seek with you and see you as an enemy, but a child that will be cooperative with you and seek you out and trust you when danger threatens their safety or security.

Educate the child on security awareness topics. Children love learning new stuff and they will understand why you can’t stay back out of reaction range, How you can see them but not watch, how you can be close enough to hear them but not listen, why she/he can’t sit on the passenger’s seat next the driver, why you have to open the door for them etc…

Since much of teenager protection is done undercover, set some signals or codes with the child. Let her/him know what signs you can both use for cases such us ‘’stay there’’, ‘’go’’, ‘’come close to me’’ etc. AND Practice these every day.

Consider the child’s friends. Your presence around them can affect how your client acts or reacts. Avoid addressing the friends and never correct the child in front of them.

Another important issue to discuss with the child you are protecting is their online behavior. You may have to teach and explain why it is important for him/her to be very cautious about what information and pictures they post or share with friends. Many times, parents neglect these matters. You will become all things to these children. Take the influence you have over them seriously. You are not just protecting them, you are influencing them too. Children will learn to manipulate both parents and the protectors. Parents may become jealous or resent that you spend all your time with their kids or that you are “too close”. Address this issue early on. It will save your career.

 

You need a female bodyguard to protect your child? Contact us today

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy 

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaworldwide.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

 

 

On Contracts

By  John R. Lehman

 

 I’ve been asked for over a year to address the subject of contracts. Specifically, contracts between Personal Protective Operatives, (or their companies), and the people they protect.

In this posting, I will try to simplify the explanation of the “Contract” and offer an approach from our perspective on the creation and use of this form of agreement.

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the contract is really quite simple.

Let’s start with the “Why?”

If you have ever been in a hotel room and looked up at the sprinkler, you noticed the little coat hanger symbol with a big red line through it on a label next to the sprinkler. That symbol means “Don’t hang anything on this”. One has to assume that someone had to have hung a coat hanger on the sprinkler head causing a very wet result AND it had to have happened more than once to justify the expense of putting stickers by every sprinkler in the country..

The written contract is needed because someone before us breached a “verbal” agreement. The contract in our case is needed to insure that all parties agreeing to a set of conditions, allowing them to operate with each other, are doing so with equal and clear understanding.

 

Who needs a written contract?

Anyone who enters into any agreement with anyone else.

A contract between the Principal person to be protected and the protection provider is only the beginning. Agreements between the “Client” and members of his domestic staff, Protection team and limousine and rental car agencies, apartment lease agreements, and even in between individual members of the protective team are all necessary.

 

What is a contract and what should be listed within it?

“A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, which is intended to be enforceable by law”. A “protective services” contract should specify: 

  • Responsible entities or persons entering into the agreement
  • The signer’s legal address and contact information
  • Specific tasks to be performed
  • Locations (with addresses) where work will be performed
  • Conditions under which you will perform the required tasks
  • Conditions under which you would cease performing these tasks
  • Responsibilities of each party to provide certain or specific equipment
  • Expectations of each party
  • Restrictions on each party
  • Insurance requirements
  • Start and end dates
  • Penalties for issues such as non-performance/non-payment 
  • Rates of pay, schedule of payments and due dates

 

Additional items to consider as attachments to the main contract might include: 

  • A Non-Compete, Non-Disclosure (an “NCND” or “NDA”). Each party signs the other’s agreements.
  • A copy of regulatory rules and statutes under which you might be working
  • Copies of other agreements to be signed, i.e. Rental, Lease, Memberships
  • Assigned Equipment Agreement (radios, weapons, credit cards, vehicles…)
  • Affidavit to allow access to Client’s personal information

 

Remember that the Client signs the same agreements that you do.

 

When is it appropriate to bring up “the contract” or set up a time to sign a contract?

 

My typical conversation starts out with a greeting and “How may I help you?”

The Client or their representative answers “I am considering using a Bodyguard, What do I need to do?”

My Answer is usually “We can help you, but I need to ask you a couple of quick questions”

“I assure you that I will not ask for personal identifiable information now but I need to establish what type of help you need.”

 

Are you in danger at this moment?

Do you currently have someone protecting you?

Are you armed?

You don’t have to tell me where you are yet, but you can if you want to…

Are you in a safe location?

Are you using your normal cell phone?

Are you driving your own vehicle or one assigned to you by someone else?

If you are in hiding, are you using your own identity or credit cards?

 

The “Where” is very important. You must choose a place that limits the client’s public exposure while still offering them the feeling that they are surrounded by people and free to get up and leave at any time. I will offer immediate security and pick up and escort of the Client but it’s rare and even rarer that they accept.

 

Once I have established the person’s real need or level of fear, and current level of safety, I will ask for a place and time to meet. I will suggest a Law Enforcement building or if the person is in extreme duress and fearful, the person’s Attorney’s office or a bank lobby.

I never suggest the movie line that they must “come alone”. If they are in real fear, a companion may ease their tensions and make it easier to negotiate with them.

 

Have an Attorney draft and design your contracts and all attachments. Get your Attorney to read anything you will sign. AND , I always have a contract package with me!!

 

The “How” involves considering the frame of mind of the client and their safety.

 

I introduce myself to the client and we sit. I always sit within arm’s reach of them.

I open my brief case and place the contract package on the table. The top contract is an agreement to not disclose anything about the ensuing conversation to ANYONE. It also establishes my legal right to the person’s personal information through his permission via an Affidavit which we have notarized.

 

I explain who I am, what I will and won’t do, I explain that I am not a “Bodyguard” but rather a “Personal Protection Consultant” AND I explain the difference between the two.

I continue asking open-ended questions to allow them to explain their situation. This process establishes trust and prepares the person to sign the Operating Agreement.

 

I explain that I will need to perform a few tasks and explain that I will get some personal information from them and run a background investigation on them. And if I decide to help them then I will contact them in 24 hours and require a 5000.00 dollar cash retainer and that I will need them to answer as many questions as is possible on a “Client Questionnaire”. The Client Questionnaire that I designed is a minimum of 430 questions and as many as 700. (Depending on the Client and the size and expanse of the estate).

The agreement also states that if I am not retained, they will get 3000.00 dollars back and they will keep all of the information I discovered. I secure a cashier’s check or U.S. Postal money order before we separate. The cashier’s check or money order helps to insure that the funds are legitimate.

 

Once we have discussed the safety and security issues and I have established the validity of the concern and the client’s legitimacy AND their financial ability to pay for my services, we discuss the rate and cost of expenses. We discuss issues with travel and clothing and equipment and weapons and my team’s intrusion into the client’s private world and more. We agree to meet again within 24 hours and sign the final contract to engage in business. We separate and I run a complete background on the Client and everyone they know.

 

When we meet again, we sit, I open the file, I hand the client a pen and the contract is signed within 60 seconds. I then discuss our Personal Protection Officers, show the client a file on two officers who can work within the client’s parameters and he picks his lead man. It is then up to the Lead man to pick his team. I then call the chosen lead man and he is at our location within 2 minutes. The lead then takes possession of the Client and I depart. The now Close Protection Officer (CPO) begins training the Client and if required, building his team.

 

This may seem completely strange and one can argue that this is just not the proper way this is done. So do it your way. But I sign 90% of the potential clients I meet with. Of those, 40% are for terms in excess of 90 days. The 60% are clients needing less than 10 days. Naturally, I have left a few things out to protect my strategies and real methods for meeting with the client, but this is as close as I can come to a quick education on contracts.

 

As far as Taking possession of the Client, That’s for next time.

 

 

About the Author

Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course. Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013, with over 27 years of corporate and private security experience

You are a female and you want to become a bodyguard? If she could do it, you can too…

Over the years I have engaged in casual conversation with women who all end up asking “so what do you do?” Their surprise at my answer is usually followed up with “wow, I wish I could do that”.

Still, I am contacted by others who are interested in my profession but believe they don’t have the ability to pursue it due to a lack of experience or the finances needed to acquire the training. My response is usually that you can achieve anything if first, you get your rear end off of the couch.

I would like to share a story as an example of being able to achieve your dreams without overwhelming physical strength, money or luck.

There was a little girl who at the age of 8 witnessed firsthand her country’s civil war. Her country was transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. She and her family survived while dodging the crossfires. She replaced her childish hide and seek games with hiding for her very life…

A few months later her family escaped the violence and immigrated to another country. She and her parents and an 18-month-old little brother and all the family’s possessions with one suitcase between them made it to freedom.

The little girl had to learn everything all over again. A new country, a new language, new friends, new traditions and new life, and all within a culture that reminded her and even insisted that she wasn’t equal to them.

She managed to make new friends and learned how to adapt and be a part of another world. One evening, at the age of 16 she was a victim of an assault that left her badly beaten, robbed and almost bleeding to death in an alley. It took four years of therapy to learn to live with her frustration, nightmares, anger, and pain. The physical pain was a matter of weeks but the emotional pain took years to manage. She blamed herself as many do after an attack. Why didn’t she pay attention, see the signs, and know how to defend herself or just be able to run. And the worst part of it was that she couldn’t report it as her family at that time was illegal in the country.

After high school, she decided to become a bodyguard. She still can’t answer the exact reason as to why. She found it a fascinating profession, maybe she wanted to protect others, and herself. Still, today if you ask her what made her decide on this profession, she will say ‘’I don’t know’’….it just felt natural’’

She received her first training in close protection at the age of 19. She had no money for training so she borrowed it. She worked as a waitress to pay back the loan.

She had no military or law enforcement experience, but she knew she could offset those requirements by taking more and more courses and working her way up from the very bottom as a security guard. She offered to intern for security companies in order to gain experience.

She barely made any money. She went without and sacrificed everything in order to pay for further training and education in the security industry.

She fought sexual harassment, verbal insults, gender discrimination, exclusion, and pure alienation. She forged ahead without the support or respect of her peers which left her vulnerable to making extremely bad choices in some business relationships that cost her money, time and peace of mind.

She continued to concentrate on her training and maintained her work ethics. Eventually she was noticed. She had finally earned the respect of a few people who would refer to her as a   colleague. People saw something good in her and trusted her. They offered her jobs or accepted her as a team member and guided her. She learned from them and achieved respect.

She was not lucky. Luck never followed her. Failed business relationships, broken trusts, financial failures and plain business misfortune. She suffered breakdowns, loneliness, exhaustion, physical and muscular fatigue, injuries, blood and scars, heating pads and ice baths and yes, admittedly, tears. But she always kept moving, even when she had to crawl she was crawling closer to her goal.

This girl was me…

I was born in a communist country, immigrated to Greece and created a company dedicated to the training of female bodyguards and female security professionals. That company is Athena Worldwide and Athena Academy, and it and its affiliates operate in the USA, Europe and in other countries. I am financially secure, help to support my family and continue to train every day and improve myself.

What I learned is:

-Find what you love to do and what you want to be, then make a plan to achieve it.

-If you don’t have the financial ability, sacrifice.

-Take the job that will pay off your debt. You can get the job you really want later.

-Any job you take can enhance your training and add to your experience. Find the opportunities they offer.

You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. There are opportunities within the security industry that don’t require them and in fact in some cases, being either of the former could disqualify you. Clients and companies used to hire people with military or LE experience because they wanted professionals who had specific mental and physical abilities and were able to work under challenging conditions and follow specific directions. While military and police personnel are trained in specific skills, they often lack the “social polish” and sense of ”blending in”, needed for close interaction with a client. Keeping in mind that soldiers and policemen are manufactured by their governments and trained to be dependent on them, it stands to reason that it is easier to take a socially polished professional and teach them the necessary protective skills than it is to retrain a soldier or a policeman how to smile, dress, blend in and dine at a 26 piece place setting.

If you can prepare yourself mentally and physically to allow an employer to trust your skills,   you will be amazed to find out how easy it is to get a foot in the door of this industry.

If you don’t have any experience at all and know that 99% of job openings require prior experience, don’t be disappointed, I will admit that it is frustrating for employers too. So there are steps you can take that can add to your experience:

  • Seek out and join professional trade organizations. Socialize with their members.
  • Volunteer to assist with political candidates that cannot afford a security team
  • Intern with a legitimate group or team and be prepared to start at the bottom

At the end of the day, we must realize that we are not living in a perfect world. No one has to offer us anything. As in any other industry, you have to fight to survive and fight just as hard to get ahead. Game rules won’t be fair and you will be pushed from one corner to another. Be prepared to be lied to and miss-led. Understand that you will be judged and passed over for work because you are too tall or too short, too heavy or thin, too pale or the wrong race or gender, or even because of your religion or hair color, eye color or because of tattoos or visible birthmarks or because of an accent or the wrong sounding voice, or because of your last name or the car you drive or ………………

But remember, no matter how many so-called colleagues mentally attack you or employers pass you over for work, as long as you keep focused on your goal and do well, there will be someone watching and you will be noticed. One day your hard work will pay off.

It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how much money you have. What matters is how badly you want what you want and how much dedicated you are.

……..Now tell me again, what is stopping you?

 

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide 

Athena Academy 

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaacademy.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

Gun Ownership Or Firearm Adoption

By John R. Lehman

For every one opinion offered, there are a hundred that will disagree with it, so before we begin, let’s understand that this opinion is offered from a bit of a different approach for the purpose of presenting a method for determining whether or not to own a firearm. While I am not ashamed of my own personal opinion on the issue of firearm ownership, (that it is every citizen’s duty to possess the means to defend themselves against crime, lawlessness and tyrannous government, and including against all enemies both foreign and domestic), I will try to stick to the methodology of arriving at a decision to possess firearms.

First, let’s consider that almost any object can kill someone while in the hands of a person with the physical ability to use it. A pencil, or pen used as a dagger, an umbrella or cane as a club, a cellphone or roll of quarters as an aid to punching, automobiles, drugs…. So why the fear of firearms? In a very real sense, the people calling for the control or extinction of firearms are the very people that demand that someone else protect them from crime or foreign invasion. It all comes down to fear and entitlement. The people that fear firearms believe that they are entitled to Police protection.

Second, consider that federal and state laws, local ordinances and individual property rights all come in to effect when possessing a firearm, which is to say that if all the laws and rules and ordinances in the land allow you to possess a firearm, an individual property owner can still restrict you from possessing that firearm on property they control. This includes football stadiums and airplanes, hospitals and schools and even Home Owners Association, (HOA) properties.

Third, consider that Police Officers and other Law Enforcement Officers are public servants with their first obligation to the public safety. They do not owe any obligation to the private citizen and in fact prioritize their responses to serve the public interest first and individual last.

So now ask yourself: why a firearm?
Do you need one or want one?
If your life depended on it, could you shoot a person who was trying to kill you?
Would owning a firearm make you feel safer? Why?
Do you know the difference between single action and double action? Or a revolver and semi-auto?
Are you afraid of handling firearms?
Do you have experience shooting?
Do you have minors or mentally challenged persons in the home?
Are you legal to own a firearm, i.e. age, criminal record, mental health?
Do you have a place to practice the skill required to operate the firearm?
Do you live or work or commute where firearm possession would be restricted?
Do you know your local laws and those affecting firearm possession?

If you can’t answer all of these questions, find the answers before purchasing a firearm.

ADOPTION

Now, here is my approach to owning firearms:
If you look at the acquisition, registration, training, care and security of a firearm the way you would the adoption of a small child, you might surprise yourself with your decision.

Are you physically, mentally and physiologically able to load, discharge, reload, unload, disassemble, clean, reassemble and store the firearm? Are you able to care for it?

Can you afford to purchase it, register it, buy the ammunition, buy a safe or locking case, pay for eye and hearing protection and pay for range fees, or memberships and cleaning supplies? Can you afford lessons for using it or the state fees for carrying it concealed?

Are you committed to guarding it, spending time getting to know it and learning to use it?

Will you take it out and exercise it, feed it only the best non-corrosive ammunition and afterwards, clean it and keep it clean?

Can you identify when it is not working well and what might be wrong with it and if it needs a gunsmith? Would you get it fixed or put it up for adoption because it wasn’t perfect?

Once you determine your ability to possess the firearm, you need to determine your use for it.

What is the purpose of the firearm? Is it for hobby, competition, work or protection? While you can find one that can do all, you should consider that certain firearms are manufactured specifically for a single task. You wouldn’t want to use a two-shot derringer in a police shootout any more than using a screwdriver as a hammer or vise-versa.

Is the family included in the decision to have a firearm in the house?
Are you considering having one firearm that everyone can use? Remember that not all sizes of hands can properly grip, and operate the firearm.

Who in the home will have access to the firearm? (All who do will need training).

Where will you store or keep the firearm? Can you get to it at 3 A.M. when you wake to the sound of breaking glass? And do you know enough about yourself to know that you will even wake up, Be able to identify an intruder as someone other than your mother in-law, and aim and pull the trigger……..all before they reach you?

So if you are ready to adopt, go see a firearms dealer, and ……stay tuned. And if you’re still not sure…….stay tuned.

 

About the Author

Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course. Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013, with over 27 years of corporate and private security experience.  

 

Is the warrior mindset right for our profession?

 

We know what the Term “Warrior Mindset” is supposed to mean.

It is having the emotional drive and mental preparedness to think through the problem, fight through the problem and then not stopping until you are satisfied with the solution. While this works well on the battlefield, can we assume that this “mindset” will work in the Executive Protection Industry?

Who hasn’t heard the term “Warrior Mindset”? It brings to mind a soldier on a battlefield, covered in blood and dirt, with either a sword or a battle rifle, surrounded by the bodies of his fallen enemies.

It also brings to mind a person who wakes up at 5 a.m. and runs 5 miles, before he does 100 push-ups and then still hits the speed bag, all before 6 a.m., then calmly walks into the board room at 9 a.m. and conquers the world with the confidence of a 5 star General.

The negative of this vision however, is the tanned muscular former soldier that still has his mustache and goatee left over from Afghanistan, standing around in his name-brand tactical pants, with his eyes covered by his name-brand sunglasses and his finger indexed over his name-brand rifle.  Let’s not forget his name-brand hat that he doesn’t have the decency to remove when he enters a room, or the name-brand chewing tobacco he won’t spit out before he speaks. And the battlefield language and military vernaculars he uses to insure that everyone around him knows he is (or was) a soldier.

So the question really isn’t whether the Warrior Mindset will work, or has a place in our profession of Executive Protection, it is whether the person hired for the job can adapt the warrior mindset to our profession with the appropriate amount of finesse, etiquette, good manners, consideration and common decency, all of which are ignored in combat training.

It is possible to take children who were raised with good manners and turn them into foot soldiers, or take soldiers with no social polish and train them as officers, (understanding that officers are taught civility, manners and etiquette as part of their training and operating protocols), but it is almost impossible to convince a billionaire businessman that a Neanderthal can fly jet fighters or that an infantry soldier can wear a suit and blend in with a group of world class business leaders.

So the question has to be answered with another question:

Is it possible to hire a person with the “Warrior Mindset” who also possesses the other qualities desired by the client?

To answer that question, you have to ask the client what they expect.

Since every client is different and each of their needs and risk scenarios is different, an extensive client questionnaire must be completed and analyzed in order to interview, handpick and if needed, train the right individual for the job.

In preparation for this article, I contacted several past clients for whom I no longer provide service and reviewed about 40 questionnaires files. Here are comments from the majority of the clients questioned along with the most desired qualifications:

  • Minimum of a high school diploma
  • Have 10 client references and 10 personal references
  • Speak, read and write in the language of the country you operate in.
  • Height not over 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) for men
  • Height not over 5 feet 9 inches (175.26 cm) for women
  • Weight not over 220 lbs men, 160 lbs women for max height.
  • 35 to 50 years of age
  • Manicured or at least well groomed nails. (men and women)
  • Know how to tell time and ALWAYS be 15 minutes early.
  • Be fiscally responsible with the client’s money
  • Don’t talk too much but always have an answer to any question
  • Smile, be polite, speak quietly but with authority
  • Don’t get too friendly or too comfortable with the client
  • Be both typing and computer literate
  • No visible tattoos. (This means outside of a bathing suit line)
  • No piercings other than ladies earlobes (None for men)
  • No habits.(smoking, drinking, chewing tobacco, chewing gum, biting nails, picking nose, sniffing…….)
  • No facial hair. (this includes mustaches, beards, and sideburns)
  • No strong perfumes or colognes
  • Must wear antiperspirant and deodorant
  • Never out-dress the client (no jewelry or expensive watches, no cuff-links, no bright scarves or ties, no designer suits or shoes, no three-piece or double-breasted suites, and ladies…. No dresses……ever).
  • Men, no hair on the collar. Women, hair tied back in a bun. No ponytails for women or men.
  • Only one button undone below the collar when a tie is not worn
  • If you carry it, know how to use it. (this includes weapons of any kind, electronic devices including cell phones and counter-surveillance equipment)
  • Know how to drive and how to prepare the car for the client
  • Know business and dining etiquette
  • Know how to lose an argument gracefully.
  • Know how to say please, thank you, good night and good-bye.
One thing to consider is that if a person won’t shave and cut their hair in order to get hired, how difficult is it going to be to manage them?
Notice on this list that Shooting and martial arts was not even referenced or mentioned.  So before you agree to work for your next client, ask yourself if you or your team members fit the client’s overall needs and if the Warrior Mindset fits the client’s needs? Regardless of the answer, you are the one that has to adapt.
John Lehman
Vice President
Athena Academy & Athena Worldwide

Is a security detail enough?

Personal Protection has always been viewed as a physical or tangible thing that could be measured by effort and labor put into creating and maintaining a program. Since the Internet first allowed for the publishing and dispersal of personal information, the public has obliged the technology by accessing and downloading billions of terabytes of information containing personal sensitive information.

If you find it necessary to carry a firearm and build a protection team around your client you should give the same attention to simple ways of educating your client and his/her close family and working circle regarding simple security awareness tips.

We are not suggesting you have to train them as security professionals but just giving them the basic education and information regarding security and safety awareness could make it easier to protect them.

The reason I wrote this article today was because of something that came to my attention while I was surfing online.

I came across an article regarding a 17 year old boy based somewhere in America who has became a ‘’living legend’’ in social medias because of his provocative pictures and comments on on-line networking sites, where he poses with golden pens, packs of $10.000 bills etc. Doing a little research on his profile and crossing information here and there, I discovered that the kid is from a very wealthy family. What made me think seriously about this kid was how something like this could expose him and his family to the wrong attention.

It took me around 25 min to locate this kid and get good information regarding his identity and location so I wanted to test to see how much it would take for someone not in the security industry to find him using information found online. It took less than 2 hours for a 22 year old who has nothing to do with security to gather good Intel on this kid, using the pictures and information he had posted on his networking sites.

With all the information provided online It doesn’t take an expert or even a person related to the security industry to be able to find out about someone.

We have all seen examples like this one from other celebrity kids, or from the children of very affluent CEO’s or Politicians who have fallen into the trap of social media posting including pornography. What these kids and even their parents don’t consider is that the sophistication of the criminal has developed with the technology of the internet itself. A simple photo of a person by a tree could lead to the identification of the person’s address because of the shape or species of the tree or maybe because of the license plate of a car parked in a driveway across the street, visible in the corner of the photo.

So the question is: “Are you aware of your exposure through the information posted on yours or your children’s networking sites?”

Now I will ask the same question to all Security Professionals. Not only do you need to consider your client’s exposure but have you considered your own? As ridiculous as it seems, there are actually “Body Guard” companies that publish photos of their clients and even their agents on their company websites. And more ridiculous is the client’s agreeing to it.

Have you taken the time to sit down with your client and explain what he/she can do to avoid not being exposed? We are aware that not all clients will sit down and listen to your professional suggestions regarding their safety however they hired you because you have an experience and expertise on a specific matter, ‘’SAFETY’’, and you are there not only to provide a body but also provide consultation and suggestions that are addressed to lower the threat level.

Nobody wants to live in fear, and for sure no one will feel comfortable with the idea of his/her children being in danger, so address your professional concerns regarding safety to your clients. Be polite, be logical, avoid difficult professional terms and explain to them in simple words why a specific habit that they find harmless can be very dangerous for them. Not all will listen and practice what you suggest, but even if 1 out of 10 clients do as you suggested it will be a progress. Of course there will always be information leaked intentionally or unintentionally that will give away information. The goal is to reduce the negative effects of the practice thus making your job easier.

 

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & Worldwide Director

Athena Academy 

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaacademy.com

http://www.nannyguards.com