CPOs most common mistakes
Even the most professional and highly skilled executive protection agents make mistakes when out in the field. Despite being human, it's vital that all operating agents are on full alert the entire trip they are active and work to professional level at all times. Here is our list of the ten most common mistakes made by field agents today so you know what to look out for when using an executive protection service or looking to improve your client-handling skills.
1.Befriending the Client
When operating in the field, one of the most common mistakes made by field agents is trying to become friends with the client. Being human, it's a natural feeling to want to become close to someone, especially if together in a confined environment for a prolonged period of time, such as a vehicle. In the world of executive protection, this could result in catastrophic consequences.
It's important to understand that being friendly and courteous to a client is completely different than trying to befriend them. While in operation, it's vital that the agent maintains a high level of positivity and remains professional at all times. If an agent is attempting to create a personal relationship with the client, this becomes unprofessional and can possibly jeopardise the entire mission. It's crucial that the protection agent maintains their role until the mission is declared complete.
It is not in an agents job description to ask the client for personal favours or for business advice, as well as asking for jobs or career opportunities. It's true that some clients, whilst partaking in a mission, can feel lonely and possibly even isolated from the outside world, which can sometimes result in the client turning to the protection agent for reassurance. While this may be the case, it's important for the agent to remain professional at all times and focus on the task at hand.
In relation to this issue, some agents may become starstruck with some high profile individuals such as celebrities and aim to make a good impression. It is so important that protective agents do not try and become close to these clients and become a part of their lives, especially in mission that continue for prolonged periods of time.
For clients in this position, they are usually used to this kind of treatment and it will end in the client becoming irritated. Once again, this could have disastrous consequences on the final mission result.
2.Accepting a Clients Lifestyle, Background or Personality
It's not the job of a personal protection agent to impose their personal culture choices onto a client. It is, however, important for the agent to blend in seamlessly with the client and their personal preferences.
If an operating agent is giving the impression that he is an extremely militaristic figure, it may result in clients feeling uneasy and potentially even more uncomfortable than they may already be. This is even more serious if the VIP group includes women and children. Even though they may be safe, they can feel very uncomfortable which, in some circumstances, may result in a poor experience and could cause complications during the mission.
If the protective agent is the opposite of this and gives the impression that they are extremely outgoing, this can also irritate the client and could cause problems. It's so important that the operating agent finds the correct balance for the individual client and blends into the situation perfectly.
3.Showing A Lack Of Respect For Other Workers
This happens from time to time in work environments all over the world. Some individuals sometimes feel as though their work position is much greater than other people who are involved and in some situations, this can cause a problem.
In the world of executive protection, this can occur when a protection agent feels as though their role is much more important than other people the client works with. This could be anyone from a chef to a cleaner. In most of these cases, the agent is working perfectly in sync with the client and in turn, finds it hard to determine where they are going wrong. By showing different people varying degrees of respect, problems can be caused when tasks are not completed correctly or to their full potential.
One example of how this could become a real problem for the agent themselves is when an agent does not consider the history that the client has with some of the individuals. If the client hires a nanny to look after their children, the client may have a very close relationship with this person that could potentially date back decades. If the client hears that the protective agent is being rude or disrespectful, it's very likely that it would be the agent that will be replaced.
Protective agents should always remember that they are not irreplaceable and if a security company is beginning to receive negative reviews from clients, their company will take action. The best way for agents to avoid this is by treating everybody with the same level of respect.
4.Prioritizing The Client
Some protection agents can sometimes forget that the security industry is a services industry in which agents serve clients. The client is always the priority in any mission or active situation.
When operating, it is an agents job to make sure the client knows exactly what is going on and is happy and comfortable at all times. At the end of the day, that is the service that the client is paying for. Everybody on the planet has personal issues and problems that they have to deal with but it is unprofessional for an agent to bring that up with the client during a mission, or at any time for that matter.
It is so important for executive protection agents to remain professional. Sometimes, when working on jobs, it can be hard to stop thinking about personal life issues. Even if something as dramatic as a relative passing away or current financial issues are plaguing the agents mind, this must be kept outside of work engagements.
5.Enforcing An Ego
For some security agents, when their respective company has secured a contract with a highly respected client, such as a political figure or a celebrity, it can be an amazing feeling to be appointed as the personal protection agent. Unfortunately for some individuals, this can mean that they fall victim to a power trip which can sometimes result in the individuals being disrespectful or rude to other team members.
It happens in organizations all over the world and the executive protection industry is no exception. Agents work hard to find themselves promoted to a management position which results in them having power over people who were once their peers.
The board of a company will rarely see this in person but when the truth unfolds, the agent can be left feeling as though everyone is against them. It's vital for operating agents to bear things in mind as any problems caused by this issue could potentially have negative effects on a mission and in the worst cases, mission failure.
Simply put, it's important for protection agents to remain respectful at all times to their peers and to management. It's also vital to not let personal ego get in the way of being professional.
6.Fighting For Control
In the security industry, mission success heavily relies on the details and every member of the team playing their role to a tee. Despite rules, guidelines and chains of command being setup to make sure the mission runs smoothly, plans are not always perfect and sometimes need to adapted, especially if it is a client request to do so.
It's crucial that protective agents remember that they are there to serve the client and fulfil their requirements. Aspects of the clients life can and will change from time to time and they will request different services, even halfway through a mission. It is crucial to remember that the client is paying for the time that agents are working in.
As a result of this, it can be hard for some operating agents, especially those who are headstrong and natural born leaders, to let the plan change and hand over control. Most agents have been a part of the planning process of the mission since the beginning and to see it change can be a hard hit to take. It is imperative that agents embrace change and adapt to it as quickly as possible.
This will result in less stress and headaches for both the agents and the clients.
This is a huge problem for some executive protection service providers. A continuous problem in many industries, it's human nature to want to be liked by others, especially co-workers.
An example of how favouritism can be a problem goes as follows;
One protective agent has the inability to the see the full picture when working with a client. When working with the client, the impression that the client really cares about them can be relatively strong and the agent can find it hard to believe that anybody else in the organization has a bond that is closer than the one that they have. This can be a very dangerous train of thought. In situations like this, these opinions could not be further than the truth and can, in time, cost an agent their job.
When favouritism occurs in the workplace, this creates a environment that is unhealthy and unproductive for both the mission and the company itself. In simple terms, if an agent believes they are the favourite of a client or superior today, they may not be tomorrow. It's much easier and much more sustainable to avoid falling in the favouritism game all together and just focus on completing your job to the best of your ability.
It's also common for favouritism to begin simply and without repercussions. Obviously the desire to impress the client can be overwhelming to most but when the agent in question is carrying out all the work, this can be extremely counterproductive and very inefficient.
The agent will become very tired and will not be able to perform to the best of their abilities and the remainder of the team will feel excluded and second to the favoured agent. These types of situations can be easily resolved by encouraging team members to work to an equal level.
7.Finding The Balance Between Professionalism and Fantastic Customer Service
It takes incredibly talented personal judgement to become a good executive protection agent. More often that not, this means that agents have to remain professional, alert and action ready whilst at the same time, remaining friendly and courteous towards clients. These are two quite opposite roles and it's therefore so important for agents to find an appropriate balance and know when to switch role priority.
As with any job, there are usually multiple methods to achieving the same goal. By using practised field skills and a parallel level of social responsibility, executive protection agents can avoid becoming too extreme each way. It's all about balance.
As an example, if an agent is leading the VIP into a building, they will want to make sure the area is safe and secure but shouldn't act as though they are clearing out a room known to be full of hostile individuals. Agents need to be somewhat savvy and not make the VIP feel uncomfortable or as though there is danger ahead when there isn't.
On the other hand, although trying to remain professional, executive protection agents should not act completely hand over foot for the client, possibly jeopardising the safety of the party if sense of awareness is dropped is the name of customer service.
9.Being Dishonest or Avoiding Facts
It has always been the case that knowledge is power. That being said, levels of access to information can create certain advantages and disadvantages. This works well in times of warfare but this should not be applied when working with people on the same team and with common goals.
This is true, especially in the executive protection industry, that information should be handed out on a need to know basis but in some cases, an executive protection agent who purposefully withholds vital data from their team members, or hides certain details or broadcasts completely false information is jeopardising not only themselves, but the rest of the team and the potentially the clients.
Especially common in new executive protection recruits and less experienced field agents, there is sometimes an unfounded belief that withholding information they know gives them power over the rest of their team. This is crucial mistake and, in some cases, can put everybody at risk. By withholding certain information, the agents are clearly placing themselves first over the mission objectives.
In some situations, it has been known that some field operatives that have withheld facts, have done so as to make members of their team come across as inadequate for their jobs. An example of this would be one field agent telling the rest of his team that the client prefers one driver over another, even if this is false or make-believe. This is a social tactic used by some agents to evoke favouritism or gain advantages for personal reasons.
Executive field agents who invent false information are usually considered worse than agents who are deliberately dishonest. If field operatives are willing to jeopardise the mission for personal gain, who knows how far their dishonest boundaries stretch. In most cases, deceptive field agents are usually discovered in the long term and have to face the consequences of their actions.
10.Attempting To Take Advantage Of Clients
This final point should go without saying but as it still happens among executive protection agents.
While working with VIPs, clients, celebrities, political members and other types of high net worth individuals, field operatives will be present in some potentially lucrative situations. This could include staying in very elite hotels and sampling some very expensive meals with the clients in question.
Although it's obvious that some clients can be extremely wealthy, it can be easy for field agents to take advantage situations such as these, even if not intentionally. It is vital that operating agents remain aware of their choice and do not take advantage of a client's wealth as this can portray a negative impression of the agent and the executive protection in company.
When using an executive protection company, budget is always a factor to consider. The rule of thumb for executive protection agents is to always remember that someone in your office will always be checking your expenses report. For example, if an agent is dining with a client, get yourself a good meal but don't order the most expensive meal on the menu. This is taking advantage. Another suggestion is to always pay for personal purchases yourself and do not rely on the client. In the executive protection industry, successful agents are the ones who fully respect the client at all times.
Learn From Experiences
Mistakes are inevitable, especially in an industry such as this, but there is one positive aspects to remember. Mistakes are learning opportunities. If you are a field agent and you find yourself in position mentioned above or something similar, do the right thing, own up to what you have done, make a mental note and move forward. At least this way you'll manage to maintain the respect from your team and management levels.
When you don't learn from your mistakes and continue to to persist, this is when your peers will begin to dislike you and real problems will arise in social situations and whilst operating on missions.