Understand the importance of teamwork and operational briefing within a close protection environment.
Successful teams in all walks of life, be it business, sport or the services, share common core attributes:
The individual team members know and share the end goal and are motivated to achieve the goal. Individuals know how each member can uniquely contribute to the mission. In operation, the team can focus on how each member’s strengths advance that goal.
The best teams are led by leaders who communicate the mission. These humble leaders are open to feedback and criticism.
Team members know their roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, they know how to leverage each other’s strengths and gain the most from the group’s unique mix of knowledge, experience, and abilities.
Great teams and team members are open to feedback and actively encourage constructive communication. The team leader (TL) and team members should respect one another’s opinions. Incorporation of diverse viewpoints makes for a more productive and efficient team.
Team members should encourage each other and offer each other support, not flex their egos at any given opportunity with unprofessional one-upmanship.
Any good close protection team has to be organised.
In an ideal world, the close protection team would be hand-picked in advance to ensure that the most suitable operatives with the best all-round knowledge and experience are on the task or assignment. The close protection company would look for relevant assignment experience. However, this rarely happens.
For example, take an assignment to protect an overseas wealthy business person in Central London on business. A close protection operative (CPO) that only has operational experience within hostile environments such as Afghanistan or Iraq may not be the right fit. Vice a versa, a CPO with only executive protection experience in Central London is unlikely to be the right operative or first choice for an assignment in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Different character traits and skillsets are better suited to various assignments. For example, someone who has confidence in negotiating could be ideal on the security advance party (SAP). An operative who is comfortable at negotiating is perfect for gleaning any information that is required at a proposed location to be visited by the Principal. This CPO could apply the same skills to securing a Principal the best table in the most fashionable, allegedly full, restaurant.
Some operatives can blend in or disappear into the background and can move about quickly without attracting attention to themselves. These CPOs are suited to a surveillance role. Whereas others stand out, this type of operative may be more suited to the CAT (counter-attack team) or the counter-surveillance team.
By the very nature of close protection, the operatives are or should be born leaders that have confidence. However, arrogance often accompanies these two traits. Some CPOs cannot follow another’s lead. Not because they do not understand the instructions but because they are leaders or have been the team leader on a previous assignment.
A well-rounded operative should be adaptable, having the ability to lead or follow whenever either is required.
Every competently trained operative with adequate experience has something to bring to the table. The TL or manager needs to identify each CPO’s skills and traits; then marry them to the assignment. Often with very little or no time at all. In the ideal world, a TL will be able to balance skills across the team, increasing effectiveness, efficiency, and safety. However, more often than not, a TL assigned to a team of 6 CPOs would be lucky to have worked with more than one of the team members previously.
Close protection TLs or managers give the close protection team briefing before an assignment starting. Most likely, with the operational plan.
The fundamental goal of an operational briefing is preparedness through the exchange of information. However, the meeting can serve other purposes, such as meeting the Principal and enhancing their perception of the team and close protection company.
An operative giving a teamwork briefing must have the confidence to stand in front of an experienced operational team. These CPOs must also have confidence in the information that they will be passing onto the team. Standing in front of a group and giving a briefing is not for everyone. If the CPO lacks confidence when briefing the team, the team is unlikely to have confidence in the information.
The TL uses the operational plan to inform the team of the assignment. The team will learn about the Principal’s background the schedule and locations to be visited or attended by the Principal. The TL will give each team member their own individual set of instructions usually based on proven and previous operational experience and methods.
Essentially: when, who, what, and where is determined; roles are clarified; questions are asked and answered.
Each team member will be made aware of standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs are important for consistency in operational practices, responses and understanding. Standardisation makes the team more efficient and safer. SOPs also help ensure continuity when team members change.
TLs can also use a team briefing to debrief the team after an assignment, discussing the task with all team members and examining the job in detail. The team can identify mission pros, cons, and mistakes. The aim is to learn from experience. Plans can change to mitigate or rectify any issues before the next task.
Close protection operatives should be open to constructive criticism as the sector is forever evolving as do the dynamic risk assessments or the equipment in use. A CPO, manager, or security company director who claims to know everything that there is to know about close protection is narrow-minded and is likely to make mistakes. They will soon run out of luck and their career will be short-lived!
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK and worldwide.