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  • Writer's pictureLeMareschal

The Importance of Effective Communication Between Protectee and The Executive Protection Team

The last few days have produced a video of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Justin Trudeau and, has been making the news within the executive protection industry circles as it shows the great communication levels between Putin and his EP agents. This is highlighting once again the importance of communication between the protective team and the principal. Although it is a subject rarely mentioned in EP training schools, communication is vital, especially in an industry where safety is the prime objective and split-second decisions can make all the difference, sometimes even between life and death.





Long gone are the days of an EP agent being considered just a body or a gun for hire. The industry has changed, and with that has changed what the definition of an EP agent is and what responsibilities fall under their roles. Being able to communicate effectively with your team members, your client, and anyone else around the client is vital for a successful operation. Consider the scenario where you are on a detail and you have to communicate with your client in a covert way, because something changed, and you have to move. Or your client is meeting with fans or has a personal meeting and someone is making him feel threatened, scared, or insulted. You need to be able to know when to act and your client must be able to understand your directions and most importantly be able to follow them up.


Now, the simplest definition of communication is defined as a process that involves sending and receiving messages through the verbal and non-verbal methods. And as with many other forms of communication, it needs two sides to function properly. For the sender, and the receiver, when we talk about communication between an EP agent and the protectee, it is important to have both sides invested in effective communication, otherwise it won’t work effectively. In high-pressure situations, split-second decisions can mean the difference between safety and peril. Effective communication enables the protection team to relay vital information promptly, allowing them  to make informed decisions in the blink of an eye. Whether it's identifying an exit strategy, assessing the credibility of a potential threat, or removing themselves from a potential dangerous or embarrassing situation, clear and concise communication between EP teams and their clients is paramount.


Mutual Understanding Between Protectee and EP agent

Mutual understanding is important for effective communication and goes beyond mere verbal exchanges; it includes a deep comprehension of the protectee's habits, preferences, emotional state, body language, current situation/environment, and potential vulnerabilities. It also means that the protectee has a good understanding of what his/her protective team can do and trusts their abilities, judgment, and they themselves as professionals.


Building Effective Communication

Many will tell you that clients have to go through training classes with them. The reality is, it is very rare, if not impossible, for a client to be willing to attend a class with his EP agents, they feel it is our job, they have much more important things to attend to. In our 56 years of combined experience, we only saw one client, ONE, who took a four-day class with his protective team. And the reason he did it was because the client himself was quite interested in anything “tactical”. The majority of your clients either hate guns, value their time more, or do not have the slightest interest to learn anything about safety, “Better things to do”. Don’t forget, that is what they hired YOU for…


However, there are ways to build effective communication with your clients.  


  1. Learn your client well. This is probably one of the most important steps for building effective communication. Take your time to learn about the people you will be protecting, know if they have any physical or psychological issues (it can affect how they express themselves). Learn how to “read” their body language, like when they feel discomfort, are scared, embarrassed, angry, and even what they like or dislike. Although this is hard when you are hired for short gigs, because you don’t have the luxury of time, try to learn some information from their PA’s or previous EP agents who may have worked before you.

  2. Be situationally aware. In our industry, real-time awareness and dynamic risk assessment are non-negotiable. Make sure that you know well what is going around your client and how specific people or behaviors make them feel, as well as be aware of any potential suspicious people or threats toward them.

  3. “Read the room”. ‘Reading the room’ involves grasping the nuances of the environment, the people present, and the emotions prevailing within the space. It requires constant vigilance and adaptability to ensure proper communication, positive cooperation with the client, and everyone else surrounding them, as well as the client's safety and well-being at all times. “Reading the room” helps executive protection agents detect emotions and adapt their approach, conversational tone, or, in many cases, just remain quiet. By closely observing body language, facial expressions, and interactions among attendees, staff, corporate members, and even family members, agents can identify not only “moods” but also individuals who may pose a risk to the client’s safety.

  4. Act accordingly. Many colleagues fail to act accordingly to the threat/situation/environment because they are so programmed to ‘’impress’’ the protectee, leading them to over-abuse their roles and their use of power/authority and ending up either embarrassing the client or disrupting their moment/meeting. If you overreact once or twice the client will stop following your directions when there is actually a need and time to do so. Bottom line: Don’t over-react unless there is a reason to.

  5. Keep Protectee Informed.  Consider making sure that the protectee remains informed about any potential threats or changes in the security environment. Whether it's a BOLO on a specific person, shift in the itinerary, a sudden change in the protectee's schedule, or an unexpected development, open lines of communication empower both parties to respond proactively, mitigating risks and ensuring a seamless flow of operations. It also helps with building trust with the person you protect. They feel involved, valued and understood, and they are more likely to follow-up with your directions in the case of an emergency. By actively listening to your protectee's concerns, addressing their needs, and keeping them informed every step of the way, you can create a sense of mutual trust that forms the cornerstone of an effective protective operation. Something to consider though, do not overdo it! Use simple language (avoid professional terminology) and keep it simple and to the point.

 

Effective communication, as in the example of the video with Putin and his EP agent, may seem impressive. It is, but what you should know is that there is a lot of time invested by both parties to reach that level. As you become able to read your clients, they will also begin to read you as well. If you have a good relationship, they will be able to read into your body language as well and know what is coming so they can prepare themselves and follow your directions quickly. A protective detail is like a good watch mechanism. Everyone involved is a piece of it and plays a big part in making it work…Like a clock…


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