Culture if more important than anything
It is the single most important element that any leader should obsess upon. It is created and exists even if you don’t think about it. Culture affects everything from esprit-de-corps to productivity. It’s also vitally important to gauge and ensure you and your key leaders are aligned as to how you are defining what it is and what you value, within your group.
As a leader, you are responsible for the culture of the team. It’s hard to shape and maintain and even harder to get back on track, once misaligned.
Everything is Phase 0 (shaping)
Words and Deeds have meaning, and problems occur when these things do not align. You and your leaders must strive to ensure you, “do what you say and say what you do.” Deviations of your ‘true north’ (no matter how small) create ripple effects amongst the greater team. In this regard, the team redefines the zeitgeist of the organization constantly… and usually when leadership is not around.
So – be certain you are matching what you want as culture to any actions as leaders.
Three-Dimensional Thinking is a Leader’s Prime Directive
When an opportunity presents itself (good, bad or indifferent) the first questions should always be, “should we keep doing the same thing…the same way.” Always stop and ask yourself, “What are other ways we can achieve” or “How can we refine the way this is done?” Even if the end-state is no change, thinking the issue through this way and forcing the conversation amongst your leadership is key to developing a growth mindset and instilling your cultural values.
If nothing else, remember you and your key leaders are stewards of your organization and company. Have full faith, respect and trust in your folks to, as Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Do what’s right” and hold the line on maintaining the culture of the organization.
How do you think about and develop culture within your own group?
Strategy. You hear this word a lot. Whether it’s managing a line of business or an operation, it feels like it is an imperative to understand and have strategy within your program. Without it though, it’s certain you risk forfeiting your activity and any long term gains you might hope to achieve with your protection efforts.
Obviously, the overarching goal is the protection of your designate(s). So that’s our strategy, ‘nuff said, right? Wrong. That’s “the mission.” Strategic thinking involves more, “Strategic thinking is a process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others” (Ebersole, 2017). Making longer decisions and plans require a bit more in order to support the operational mission. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts to help you get started to set your strategy or, perhaps, evaluate your current one.
Understand the concept of risk based protection
Protection efforts and programs are started from ‘risk.’ Whether direct or indirect, it is this spark from which all stems. However, risk is an asymmetrical beast. It is both malleable and elusive, constantly trying to evade and undermine your actions. To this end, you must have a process by which risk is being evaluated and qualified.
Develop your risk model or system (easily searched) and ensure you use it. It should and will be important to driving your long-term plans as well as helping decision making.
Resource management is a center of gravity
Every program must understand, set and track resources. This is about more than financials, too. It spreads to areas such as people and equipment, as well. We need to value these items, as they are vital to keeping momentum within our organizations and ensure the protective program we have in place doesn’t lag. It’s an important factor in a program’s readiness.
Placing and tracking value will help you identify trends in resources and allow you to become more predictable in those areas. This will help earmark and deal with those areas you can’t, too. Like those sudden fast balls or other operational surges.
Think Three Dimensionally
Risk is not a balanced problem. As a result, neither should your approach to managing strategy be. As the missions remains (to protect) you should always be looking at new angles of approach to the strategic vision. It means looking at new optics of risk, while questioning your old ones. Charles Koch suggested in his 2007 book, The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company, “the principal of vision to ascertain [long term] value can and should be created in any organization, at any given time” (Koch, 2007).
It’s important to constantly re-examine our risks and look for opportunities vice doing the same things we have always done and, perhaps, sense any black swans circling for opportunity to swoop in and throw us off of our operational mission.
Obviously, so much more to designing and maintaining a strategy. It should be part of your regular meter to obsessively examine and track your strategic goals.
Hopefully, these ideas validated or generated some questions for you. How have you set and manage your protective team’s strategy?
Ebersole, J. G. (2017, NOV 15). Course and Direction. Retrieved from cssp.com: http://www.cssp.com/CD0808b/CriticalStrategicThinkingSkills/
Koch, C. G. (2007). The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company. New York: Wiley.
Innovative ~ in·no·va·tive [ˈinəˌvādiv]
Adjective (of a product, idea, etc.) featuring new methods; advanced and original: innovative designs
Innovation requires white space
When your mind is quiet, the best ideas will come to the surface. “when we quiet the mind through contemplative practices such as meditation, we eventually discover that awareness or consciousness exists beyond it.” (Jan Birchfield, 2013)
While this doesn’t necessarily mean, you have sit in a corner and contemplate your navel (although that also works) it suggests that, through common practices that allow our minds a break from the daily cacophony our subconscious to open and allow new thoughts forward.
Innovation requires energy
When you think of people who are innovative, lack of exuberance is generally not associated with them. People like Richard Branson or Tony Robbins are powerhouses of energy. Going to the gym is not enough, it requires a commitment to self that includes, basically, taking care of yourself; “The corporate athlete doesn’t build a strong physical foundation by exercise alone, of course. Good sleeping and eating rituals are integral to effective energy management.” (Jim Loehr, 2001)
Energy doesn’t dissipate, it only becomes something else. So, with this in mind, it only makes sense to produce positive energy, starting with yourself, and put it out there.
Innovation requires learning
Warren Buffet’s partner, Charlie Munger said of his partner, “If you watched Warren Buffett with a time clock, I would say half of all the time he spends is just sitting on his ass and reading. And a big chunk of the rest of the time is spent talking on the phone or personally with people he trusts.” (Wu, 2014) It is said Buffet read over 500 pages per week and, to this end, he has credited his success to that voracious reading.
With today’s technology ‘reading’ can be sought via many ways. Whether through podcasts or newspapers that have an .mp3 function to audiobooks, there is not excuse to not have a bias-to-learn attitude.
Jan Birchfield, P. (2013, Jan 29). The Huffington Post: Blog. Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-birchfield-phd/business-innovation_b_2563774.html
Jim Loehr, T. S. (2001, Jan). The Making of a Corporate Athlete. Harvard Business Review.
Wu, G. (2014, Oct 16). Gary Wu Personal Development. Retrieved from garywu.next: http://www.garywu.net/influential-people-importance-reading/
— AFTER THE CREDIT SCENE —
Innovation requires listening
True connection comes from real connections and thankfulness. No room here for false platitudes, take time and actively listen to what’s going on around you. Whether in meetings or at home, listen to learn…
Just over a year ago I wrote about having that Your End Of The Year Coffee With… Yourself. Basically, my thoughts were about putting some time aside to reflect, review and renew what you have just gone through, how it aligned with your goals and what changes (if anything) over the next year you want to make.
Now’s the time
This time of year is good to mull over those thoughts and take stock in your activities. I still believe in taking out a piece of paper and writing headlines along the top in order to help guide yourself. Along with this, it’s also time to be disruptive to yourself. No, I don’t mean, “wind-sprints- ‘till-you-drop.” Ask some additional questions to help pull out some constructively disruptive ideas as they could lead to both creative and innovative pathways.
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
Disorderly for Goodness’ Sake
I’m a fan of #TimFerriss and while I don’t subscribe to everything he does, I follow most of his stuff. Ferriss believes in taking time for self-reflection and openly thinking about ways to mix things up. If you want some additional motivation, listen to this recent podcast from the polymath on being a better version of you.
While you are at it, brainstorm about how to mix up your own environment (work or personal) by jotting down the first ten things that come into your mind if asked, “How could I positively disrupt my pattern over the next three months?” or (as Ferriss suggests), “If I needed to accomplish [all] my goals in the next six months, what would I need to focus on?” If you stop and think about the last bit there for a second… it’s kind of powerful and worth repeating; If you had to get it all done in six months…. what do you need to focus on, right now, to set up the win?
The Forest and the Trees
Why should someone do this? Because looking over the master plan and ensuring you’re still on course helps you see your goals and take stock in those things you are doing right. When reflecting upon conducting warfare President Dwight B. Eisenhower once mused, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” By planning, we make it easier to stay of course when random acts of the universe come to mix things up…and you know they will.
“Every time I find myself stressed out, it’s because I do things primarily driven by growth.”
As for me, this year I was fortunate enough to get away and discover some white space this last week. With no electronics (except for the ever-present smart phone for emergencies) or distractions, I had a few days of reading, reflecting and note taking. And yes, I also found some quiet time for my own cup of coffee with myself…and a friend.
Note: Last year several people wrote back to me and shared their own thoughts after having that cup o’ joe with themselves and (more importantly) what they discovered. Let me know how yours goes too.
Keep your head down.
It’s 2230 hours somewhere in East Asia. The principal has finally gone to sleep and you have put her chief of staff to bed, as well as the two folks from the communications division that tagged along on the trip. You’re in your room mulling over the schedule for the next day because the local branch of the company has made some changes to the schedule and the boss approved. Satisfied that you have an understanding, you decide to get some sleep. As you get ready for bed, you hear something going on outside the window, most likely down in the entryway. You think “Radio” but then realized they are not allowed in this country for foreign teams. Texting your partner, they indicate they are trying to get your local support on the phone.
Quickly running options, you say, “Get the cars around to the side checkpoint and call me back in 5 minutes.” Pulling on your polo and grabbing your small bugout bag the hotel phones rings. It’s the principal. She wants to know if your tracking all this. You calmingly state you are and that she needs to stay put, you’re coming to her. She asks about the staff. You say they should be in their rooms and she replies the last thing they told her was that they were going to the lobby bar for a nightcap. She wants you to organize everyone into her suite and hangs up the phone. As you’re moving you pick up the cell and call your #2 thinking, this detail just got a lot more complex…
What do you do? How would you plan? What contingencies are running through your mind? Are there any locals you can call? What’s my network like? Can we make it to our safe zone? Why did they go get a nightcap when you told them not to?
Understanding the experiences from incidents and trials others have had helps us plan our own details and future contingencies. The aim of the International Protective Security Board (IPSB) is to spark these types of exchanges thru education and networking activities. Building a positive and deeply rich extended group of contacts is helpful. At times, I have needed everything from language support on a person of interest who popped up (long story) to suddenly having to change out an entire local provider at the last minute (more long stories).
Come meet up with other fellow practitioners and share stories, break bread, extend friendships and engage in new professional contacts. We are going to have a full range of speakers and will be covering a wide range of issues, from tactical to the strategic. I’m personally excited to see the new tac-talks that are coming.
This is an event by practitioners, for practitioners. It doesn’t matter what school or group you came or work with… this is our industry’s time to come together. Mount up and come be part of the conversation this December 2nd and 3rd in Vegas!
Show up. Chat with co-workers. Perform tasks. Respond to emails. Work on a Project X, Y or Z. Make Phone calls. Attend to tasks. Have a cup of coffee. Scan internet. Put it to bed…wake up, rinse and repeat.
Every day, people everywhere perform and repeat this pattern, or something similar to this. It’s not a bad thing. Come in, do work, socialize a bit, eat, do more things and then call it a day. Every once-in-a-while things get taken home or the occasional early/late meeting is attended to account for an international colleague. Generally, we know this as work… and it is, for most. – It is a requirement.
You…you, however, are a leader. Those tactical things I just referred to as “requirements,” they are items we are expected to perform and they make up the reason that we were brought on in the first place. Ensuring mission planning is done, making sure we have met our weekly plans, attending meetings and reporting out on activity, etc. etc. These are activities that, while a major motion for a lot of our team, make up one part of what we as managers (or leaders) must execute on.
Mentoring, thinking, tasking, tracking, advising, spending time and strategizing…these are activities which drive us as leaders. They are the things we need to get done in order to move our organization forward.
They map to larger ideals like:
- Culture Change
- Reinforce a climate of communications, collaboration and innovation that creates a “bias-for-action”
- Knowledge Management
- Establish an environment to capture/refine/share organizational knowledge
- Strategic Business Planning
- Thoughtful, deliberate, timely and cost-effective decisions
- Cross-Functional Alignment
- Improve overall efficiency through coordination and synchronization
It’s daunting. When we were hired to be an agent or analyst it was fairly simple to show up, do the list, move on to the next item and check that block…MAKE A DOUGHNUT. Now we have to do that and more… MANAGE AN EXPERIENCE. It’s because we have a higher sense of responsibility to feed, manage and take care of this beast that we own. – It is our priority.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once said, “If you’re going to do a job… do a job.” Simply put, he was explaining to be a part of something, you need to be all in. You need to give of and beyond yourself by… doing the deep work.
That’s the thing, though. What is my j-o-b? Your job is to help conceive strategy, be thoughtful and deliberate, to understand your line of effort, listen and, above all else, take care of your people. After all, they are the ones fulfilling the requirements as we work on our organization’s main priorities.
“What does it take to be a Bodyguard?” I get this question a lot, as do many of my colleagues. Seemingly an easy question to answer; tell me what I need to do in order to be an exceptional provider of close protection, is not really something that can be answered with “go to this school” or “do this thing.” But still, the question remains. So, with it in mind, here is what the (top of mind) key focus areas are for getting into and excelling in this amazing industry….or period for that fact:
To be Ronin is to be committed to a life of learning. Not just focusing on the martial aspects of the job, either. Embracing problem solving, emotional intelligence and logistics planning is as important as the martial skills we tend to gravitate to. This does not, however, remove us from our responsibility towards maintaining certain physical and tactical abilities (such as fitness, basic lifesaving, weapons and defensive tactics).
This idea of acumen also creates a desire to know more. Looking at the industries or clientele we support, it’s important to have an understanding and a broad sense of “what they are about” in order for us to help present salient courses of action in planning a detail.
After all, what is advance work other than a constant reworking and refinement of our operational planning process? A lifetime of education only enriches this.
In all things, be ready. Yuzan’s rendition of “The Code of the Samurai,” surmises that you should not leave the house with your affairs in disarray. Being ready to receive and take that first detail means you need to have things aligned. Passport, appropriate clothes, gear, etc. You can’t be at a ready state if your home and personal and/or professional affairs are a wreck.
Do you know where your opportunities are? Part of preparation is understanding and having the discipline to get in, stay in and maintain networks. I’m not talking about your social club, or circle of buddies, but the professional networks, often associated with the industry and related organizations.
You can’t quit, if you want it. A career as an agent, let alone full-time or internationally, is a hard thing to break into. It may not happen in a week or six months or a year. You need to be prepared to wait it out and keep at your strategy; it will happen. The other half of this is being prepared for the (however long) wait. You may have to start as an event security agent or working the door in order to maintain the bills while seeking work as a CP. Do it with pride, professionalism and respect for the lineage of the industry.
The hard work you do is probably (at least somewhat) due to other people’s assistance and belief in you; acknowledge them, daily! Being a BG also requires that you deal and interact with people of all ilk and position. Treat all with respect and patience.
Accept there may be stumbles and even failure in this course you’re on. Allow yourself the moment of disappointment and then ask “What did I learn from that?” If your answer is “nothing” then I suggest you may need to rethink. Failure is not the end, it’s merely a chance to rethink your path and the way you’re walking it. Meet objectives with alacrity and take them on. If they knock you down, get up and laugh and say “Is that all you got?!?!?”
Keeping the above in mind, I’m reminded of Bruce Lee’s famous, “Be Water My Friend” statement. Understand and look at opportunities with a wide eyed humbleness for your time is coming. Your actions will define you and your comments may confine you. Ensure you continue to have your “a-ha” moments of personal greatness. Get that detail, look in the mirror and say “well done!” More importantly, believe it!!! Can-do attitudes are hard to maintain. Do it anyway. Be humble but maintain confidence in yourself.
I know you wanted a checklist. There is none. Getting and staying in requires a state of ready that you need to maintain. If you’re focused on it and working towards it, it will come. When you’re thinking of buying a car, say a blue Jeep, you start seeing Jeeps everywhere; particularly blue ones! It’s because you have engaged your subconscious. Do that here. Take the ideas laid out above and truly immerse yourself into looking for and getting into this career path. You won’t be disappointed.