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.
While on vacation, I was fortunate enough to have found some nice ‘hard-pack’ roads to run on, off the beaten path. The cool morning and sun shining through the trees made me reminisce about being a young Army officer, learning how to and conducting patrols in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Any Infantryman will tell you, after battle drill 1A, one of the keys to understanding how patrolling works is the movement of the team throughout the activity. Everyone has their position, each knows their primary roles and (if needed or called upon) can step up to a tertiary duty, as well. Through training and honing their collective skills, a patrol can move pretty well with limited verbal communications (hand and arm signals anyone). One test of this is the danger area. This, as it sounds, is an area which presents a particular risk interest to the patrol. It could be an open area, or somewhere where enemy activity is more present. Essentially, it can be many risk vectors that, for some reason, give the patrol a reason to pause, assess, decide and react – preferably without upsetting the rhythm of movement for the patrol, so that it can get back on point as quickly as possible.
Now, there are multiple ways in which a group can manage a danger area, once it has been identified. Like Close Protection Operations, there is as much art that goes into conducting infantry operations as there is science and planning. Without the later, however, the former can less synchronized and nuanced.
Once the danger area is detected the patrol stops, taking a short pause to assess the danger and decide how they will best traverse. Mind you, for those who are trained and work together, a professional organization doesn’t need to waste a lot of time at this stage. As they are practiced and professional, the team has worked thru the variable ways and, thus, when it comes time for the patrol leader to decide how they will move through the danger area they do so…silent and smooth. It is a ballet of bad-assery to observe. Silently, a stealthy team (or larger) wisps its way, with limited interruption, each person understanding what is at stake, their role in the activity, moving without hesitation and with confidence.
What can we learn from this, as Close Protection professionals?
Like a patrol, the CP team (or agent) has been given the task to move forward, towards an objective. In the patrol’s case, it could be many things (recon position, link up points, a patrol base, etc.). A CP mission may be to go to a meeting, an event, or perhaps just getting the principal through a day of activities. In both cases, there are probably multiple moves going on within the larger objective.
Plan the movement
Planning is inherent in both. While we don’t always know what the actual detail may bring us, it’s important to plan the operation for as much as we know. If all easel fails, understanding “how” you will conduct the detail (much like a patrol) is key as you move forward and have to modify actions on-the-move.
Understand the triggers for a danger area
Hopefully you have conducted some type of intelligence prep of your detail. Whether it is an individual or group who conducts your assessment, getting the lay-the-land you will be working in helps identify danger areas and activities you need to formulate responses and mitigative activities or resources towards.
Have a Contingency
In conjunction with the above, having a (at the very least) outline of possible ways to deal with each of the identified issues (think science) will allow
Practice the important parts
I know…. You don’t have time. But, you should make time to (at the least) chalk talk the issues so that, if it happens, you have at least walked through it. If, however, you can take time during your advance to dry run a few of the activities with your team or support crew, it makes the world of difference. Some teams (say a PSD) this is not an option, others may need to collectively get over the ego hump and do it, if only occasionally. Remember, just because you know it, doesn’t mean someone else get’s it (or will admit they don’t).
Communicate the movement plan to all agents/support operatives
You’ve got your plan and have talked about the issues. Take time to brief and discuss with the team and/or your support team. Ensure they know each of the issues and their play in t. Ask for input (especially from the locals) but remember, know one understands or knows the operational plan like you. Spend some time on the contingency and “signals” plan. How will we communicate? Who will you take orders from (maybe the front right is not the best place for the leader to be) and what happens if the leader is out of the loop.
Discussing the possible mitigation activities helps bring confidence to the overall team and creates a culture of professionalism within the group that will transcend beyond the detail, and into the larger organization (or group) you work in.
One more thing…
Finally, leaders need to lead. The show is your responsibility, embrace it. Whether a solo operator dealing with contingency staff at an event or a detail lead of 15 people, it’s your ball. Set a tone and work with what you are handed to create as much of a professional grouping as you can, with the time you have. Like our infantry comrades, the more we be prepared, the better we can cross our danger areas and move forward.
Keep your heads down.
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!