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.

No alt text provided for this image

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

Contract Management for Security Providers

One of the biggest challenges that the majority of the security companies will have to deal with is not so much being able to obtain a contract, but to be able to properly maintain that contract once it’s signed and done. We are all quite aware of how many times the intricate contracts for various clients have changed hands over the years. While some might think it is hard to land a good contract, maintaining it professionally and properly while providing what you are being paid for may be very difficult for some companies. According to numerous studies, the average company loses nearly 10% of their clients due to their poor contract management. Why is that? Well, managing contracts (and the corresponding projects) is an overlooked form of corporate leadership and a large part of a company’s operational function and market viability. Project and contract managers must be able to interact frequently with their agents in the field, subcontractors, vendors, stakeholders, family offices and, more often as not, the client himself/herself.

‘’The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM) identifies 7 major areas of contract management weakness:

  • Disagreement regarding contract scope
  • Weaknesses in contract change management/retention
  • Performance failures due to over-commitment
  • Performance issues related to a disagreement/misunderstanding over what was committed or requested
  • Inappropriate contract structures
  • Disputes over pricing
  • Issues with subcontractors’’

Now let’s discuss some of the most common causes that may cost a security provider one of their contracts:

  1. You are charging significantly more than is proper (Faulty Pricing)

At some point we have to admit that quite a number of companies will overcharge a client merely because of who the client is and not particularly what their security needs or threat level may be. You cannot begin to expect one client/contract to change your own wealth status or single handedly build your company’s gross revenue and/or profit. It is neither ethical nor professional for your corporation to make 2 to 3 times more profit than the agents working the detail on the ground. We all have our levels of operational expenses, but don’t pass that bill on to the client or your protective agents. Make a profit, but make one within logical expectations.

2. You are ‘’suffocating’’ your  client

Either: A) You have placed more agents than are needed (Again, this comes back around to profit: The more agents  on the ground, the more you can charge), B) Your agents are not exercising proper situational awareness and how to be flexible with protection levels versus the client’s perception of asphyxiation, or C) The company holding the contract has not done a proper Risk/Threat/Vulnerability Assessment and/or are not trained, experienced or knowledgeable enough to ascertain proper staffing and logistics. Some companies will ‘’overreact’’ on the threat level to make their services appear quite necessary to the client, while in reality, achieving the opposite result.

3. Not being able to provide services as promised

A protective detail is comprised of many elements and sometimes you have to be able to provide additional services as you go. You must be the one who can foresee what is or will be needed and provide it before the client even asks for it. We have heard of many companies who fail to render even the basics of what they agreed to provide. We have seen details operating with less manpower than what was requested or changing the personnel so often because they fail to keep the professional agents or cannot staff it properly. Have in mind, clients need stability and familiarity and will become unsettled when they see or must become accustomed to new faces.

4. Failure to accommodate clients needs and solve operational issues (Lack of Customer Insight)

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The client is always right”, correct? Well, from the moment you signed that contract, you alone are the one who must do whatever it takes to construct a smooth protective detail and provide peace of mind to the person who hired you. You alone are the one who must be stressed, work long hours and find a way to solve any issue with the security team or the client’s needs, not the client. It must appear as though all is under control and operational.

5. You are not providing services to a level or standard that is expected and required

We can all agree that our prospective clients will want 3 things: A) To be protected, B) To have the best close protection agents, staff and logistics that their finances can obtain (they fully believe they are paying for the best either way) and C) To have peace of mind. If your corporation is hiring unqualified, unprofessional or unethical agents, or utilizing contractors of the same substandard quality because you refuse to pay for the ‘’good ones’’, the client will soon start looking for another company.

6. Your Project or Contract Manager has no vested interest in the contract (Neglected Contracts)

This occurs so many times when the person who is working for an ‘A’ list company, as a Project or Contract manager, simply doesn’t care to deal with the issues, stay intricately involved or maintain the contract for his company. Most fail to have good communication skills, which is one of the key elements when dealing with clients, vendors, staff, stakeholders or agents in the field. How you communicate during common, day to day interactions with people or personalities will be just as valuable, or more in some cases, as to how you react during a crisis situation and the solutions you are expected to provide. Merely having a project or contract manager on your staff isn’t nearly enough. You must have an individual who can be extremely flexible, can develop a strategy out of thin air and be able to solve complex issues, without raising undue alarm, if they arise.

      While these are just a few of the common pitfalls that a contract manager may find themselves encumbered with, each client and contract are unique and every company needs their respective contract managers to be creative, innovative, and highly observational so as to catch any of these issues far before they become problematic and present solutions to overcome them. Our task is not just to sell the client on our services and then walk away, but we are expected to, and should without failure, continue to provide the highest level of service and commitment to our clients that they have come to expect. The sale is the easy part…How we treat and care for the client and their contract once we sign on  the dotted line will either build our reputation and lead to more success or it will cause a loss of trust and failure that cannot be easily repaired or regained resulting in the loss of the contract.

Chris Grow

AUS Global Special Services Travel Team

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide & Nannyguards

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Mentoring Security Professionals

We will be launching a series of educational webinars that are absolutely free to attend. The aim of the webinars won’t be to present people and their past stories, but to have specific guests who will combine their experience and training in the industry in order to teach you something new, to help your professional development and to provide consultation for you. They will share their opinions, the “do and don’ts” of the industry and answer your questions.

And the best part? The content of each webinar will be developed by you! While we are working on our next webinars, let us know either by a comment here or via email at info@lemareschal.com what topics would you be interested in having discussed, answered and/or receive consultation on? This is a webinar created for you, by you!

Executive Protection Agents in a Rare Interview with a Retired Paparazzi

It’s not very often when we have the ability to interview and learn from our adversaries. While most efforts are seemingly focused only on physical attacks, they do not give enough emphasis to the paparazzi, media, and all that this facet of protection entails. But we’ve got you covered. This is an interview we have been wanting to do for the last 5 years. What we learned from a retired British paparazzi is that pointing a flashlight toward them won’t work, neither you are safe if you block the tail number from your private jet. We also learned how they find information about your clients, who are willing to pay a lot of money to buy your pictures (no, it is not only the media outlets), to what length they will go to distract you and get that picture and why you will be not able to buy their silence.

*Disclaimer: During this interview, you may encounter offensive language content within the realm of your site.*

** For permission to use this video please contact info@lemareschal.com**

***Copyright @Athena Worldwide, a LeMareschal LLC company. Any illegal reproduction of this content will result in immediate legal action.***

Marketing tips for Executive Protection Agents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11) Keep high school drama out of social media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

Managing Partner

LeMareschal LLC

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

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

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

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

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

How do you properly handle your client’s budget?

 One of the most serious of all professional deadly sins in our industry is the overcharging of the client or spending his/her money unreasonably and/or unwisely. We have seen too many companies presenting the “threat” to be much bigger than it truly is so they can cause more fear and create a dependency from the client and assign more bodies on the ground. The more bodies you have on the ground, the more money you can charge. The problem with this is not only the unethical portion but also, at some point, the client or someone from his company who is in charge of the security budget will sit down, evaluate and decide you are ”too much”, cutting down on the number of agents, simply decide to go with another security provider or, worst-case scenario, accuse you of fraud and unnecessary overbilling and take legal action against you.

   What most people don’t know is that someone who is going to reach out to you for his/her protection, either needs it or thinks he/she needs it. They want to hire a company and be done with it. Replacing you or searching for another provider is something they want to avoid, if at all possible. Those clients are looking for stability so if they seek to replace you, chances are your services are lacking something important or there is something wrong with the numbers you are charging.  How many of you have started with a team that the number of agents has been reduced to even half after a couple of months? Overcharging can be quite damaging to your contract as it will clearly show you are taking advantage of said client.

    Another issue that can make clients go searching elsewhere for services is how you manage their budget. We all know those operatives who will order the most expensive dish on the menu ”just because the client is paying”, or those operatives who will charge for services outside of the clients’ responsibility for their expenses while on duty. Yes, there has been that CPO who charged the client for that expensive spa treatment, or the massage, or the most expensive wine bottle for room service, or that one who demanded first-class airline tickets…and the list with the real-life cases goes on. 

    Just because a client is taking care of your expenses during your rotation/duty hours, it doesn’t mean in any way that you should take advantage of or abuse his/her budget or money. And often as not, this expensive lifestyle you are witnessing is THEIRS, not yours. Remember your place and who you are to the client and to the detail. If the client offers something, be grateful but always keep in mind, that was a one-time thing, not a proposition to continue with some type of spending spree on the detail’s part. 

     These types of protection professionals and their corresponding behavior show the level of how unprofessional they are and how much they disrespect the fact that someone else is kind enough to provide for all their costs while they are in the client’s employ. A CPO who knows how to properly manage his/her client’s money will always go much further and always be considered and thought of as a real professional.

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaworldwide.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Who he/she thinks he/she is?’

‘That is not why I was hired!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaworldwide.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

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

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

Female Bodyguards

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

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

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

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

“A female CPO is better than a male CPO”

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

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

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

“It is hard to find a job”

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

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

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

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

Here is what I found out of 400 applications: 

Some don’t have a passport.

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

Some have no firearms license or experience with anything mechanical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Female CPO’s are paid less”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-What kind of experience do I have?

-What education do I have?

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, ladies:

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

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

www.athenaworldwide.com

www.nannyguards.com

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

All for one, one for all….can you work and live by this motto?

paperclips-chain-teamwork_1940x900_33941

Alexandre Dumas couldn’t describe better the importance of unity and solidarity within a team when he wrote one of the world’s most well-known historical novels, The Three Musketeers.   In our line of work, we can see how important it is for all team members to work dedicated to one purpose (keeping client and team safe) and, as individuals, pledge support to the team.

However, too often what we witness is a far cry from team solidarity and unity. Instead of supporting each other, colleagues blame or undermine one another, not to mention the unethical characterizations from those who hide behind computer screens. With the Internet, we have seen a huge increase of those “flame wars.” Forums have been created mostly to “entertain” unemployed people who have nothing better to do than blame each other or those who can hold a job. Or networking groups that describe themselves as “raising the standards,” “networking  groups,” or “sharing job groups’’ that only turn out to be people who want to advertise their services or products by pointing out other companies “wrong” actions.  So-called prospective students interested in a class disingenuously raise questions about a company solely to attract negative comments about the company. This can go on for service providers as well.

Personally, I’m tired as hell and disappointed even more when I see some colleagues fall for this kind of networking. These days, you can’t be sure who is who behind a screen name. It is better to ask for and receive comments or opinions from people you know well and whose experience you can evaluate – not those who simply share what they heard or what they created.

Whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our top priorities are client safety and mastering the art and skill of protection. But we also have a priority to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.

As we all know, close protection is a profession that is unfortunately devoid of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each state, has its own licensing or training requirements, and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you must work to solidify a team of people who bring different experiences, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics. It’s similar to the way a sports team or elite military unit must work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.

It is very important that  team members promote and maintain strong working relationships with each other as well as the client, and, of course, others we may be in contact with, such as house personnel or office staff.

Some of the people you work with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. In each situation, you must address issues with respect. Never offend anyone, for any reason, and never correct someone while someone else is present. If you believe they made a mistake, offer your advice and perspective. However, few people are receptive to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect them and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.

In our line of work, it is very important to immediately address issues. Later, you can do your research as a team and correct it. For any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.

Avoid conversations with colleagues on topics that trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex, or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety. The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.

If someone is paying you (and others) and trusts you as a team and as individuals to protect his life, shouldn’t  you show the same amount of trust toward your colleagues for your own life? When I work with others, which is 99 percent of the time, I want to be confident that those people have my back. I want to be confident that the person sitting next to me carrying a firearm can be trusted as a professional and as a person. Don’t you all want that? Now ask yourself: Can you offer that kind of trust level to your colleagues?

Indeed, our industry suffers from low standards, and the few good professionals are either trying to keep the level up or fighting to protect their image from the wannabes.

Change can come, but we all are responsible for achieving that. Unfortunately, security is not a one-man job – it requires a team effort. Many have tried and failed. They started with good motives, but ended up making the same mistakes as those they were fighting, because, at the end of the day, for them, money talked.

I hope for better and work toward it, and I will close this with Duma’s most famous motto: Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide LLC

Athena Academy 

Nannyguards®

http://www.athenaacademy.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

Proud Member of International Security Driver Association (ISDA)

http://isdacenter.org/