In this short article, I intend to highlight the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) for professional executive protection (EP) operatives/bodyguards, by highlighting where, when, and how it can impact their career and professional development.
In today’s lifestyle and business dynamics, solving emotion-related problems is equally crucial in both personal and professional settings. In a professional context, we deal with complex problems and must work as a team to provide the most efficient solutions for our principals or clients. Our efficiency and professionalism will be not based on background, position or title, but rather on our level EI and ability to work in a team.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
There are many books and articles out there about this subject, but I will give you a very brief description of EI. According to psychologist Daniel Goldman, a pioneer of this subject, EI is the quality or skill to understand your own emotions and to stay in control of them, as well as the ability to be aware, how different emotions can impact your relationship with colleagues, associates, superiors, business partners, and clients.
According to Goldman, there are five core elements of EI.
- Social skills.
I will share my point of view, on how these five core elements of EI can make us better and more successful in our tradecraft.
As EP operatives, we all know situational awareness is one of the most important tools in our armoury. Many colleagues have written articles about the importance of this essential skill, but here we will look at self-awareness, which is no less important for our development as professionals.
Having a high level of self-awareness as a professional means that you have a clear vision of your strengths and weakness. This honest self-appraisal will help us to understand where we are at, where we want to be, and how to get there. Having a realistic vision about ourselves will enable us to use our strengths and to overcome our weaknesses.
No one knows everything. Sometimes we need to ask for help and there is nothing wrong or embarrassing in that. The embarrassment comes when we pretend that we know everything and it becomes evident that we did not ask for help when we needed it.
Finally, if we are self-aware, we will have a clear understanding of how our emotions and actions will impact the people around us, including (co-workers, clients, and principals). This will help us to avoid any unwanted situations and build a good report with all involved parties in any operation.
Self-regulation, or Self-control.
As protection professionals, we should have a high level of self-control, or as I like to say: if you cannot control yourself, you cannot be expected to control a situation.
Because we work in a very dynamic environment with demanding clients and principals on many occasions, heated situations are not unusual. We must deal with such situations most diplomatically and rationally to achieve a positive and productive outcome.
As professionals, we should avoid any verbal confrontations with members of the public, colleagues, or principals/clients. From personal experience, I can ensure you falling short of self-regulation or self-control will not lead to anything productive in the long-term.
Unfortunate to say, that there is too much ego involved in our industry at times. If we do not manage to get in control of it, which on occasion can be incredibly challenging, we can find ourselves isolated and unwanted by the colleagues, principals, clients or business partners. Ego is the worst enemy of our professional and business development.
Self-motivated executive protection professionals work continuously towards their self-development, which is the shortest way to a successful career or business venture. According to Jack Canfield, a success coach, there are five signs that you are a self-motivated learner:
- You learn because you WANT to, not because you think you “HAVE” to.
- You are willing to admit that you do not know everything.
- You are willing to take bigger risks – and get bigger results.
- You are more likely to finish what you start.
- You are always two steps ahead of the pack.
Self-motivated professionals are not afraid to challenge themselves by going outside of their comfort zone. By doing this, we expand our knowledge, and we can increase our productivity and efficiency. We will have more confidence when dealing with unexpected, emergency situations. And we find it easier to push our boundaries and unlock our creativity.
Every time we face a challenging situation or even failure, we must analyse and self-reflect to see what we can learn from it. Every failure provides a learning opportunity and acts like the best teacher.
As EP professionals, we should have a high level of empathy. This skill or quality gives us the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of our principals/clients and have a better understanding of their needs, wishes and points of view. This will make it easier for us, as protectors, to manage and cover their expectations and requirements.
Having this understanding will prove particularly important because on many occasions, our principals/clients may have completely different views from us on how the operation should be run, and there is nothing wrong with that. The biggest mistake we can make is when we take their perspective in a defensive manner and personally. On so many occasions in my career, I have heard from operators “He/she needs to leave me to do my job. I am the professional here, and he/she is trying to teach me how to do my job.” Very often this statement is inspired not by lack of knowledge or experience, but by a lack of empathy and understanding of different perspectives.
As professionals, we should work towards developing a high level of empathy that will give us a better understanding of our client’s or principal’s point of view. Only then will we be able to fulfil their requirements and fulfil their expectations. This guarantees an outstanding service and satisfaction for our clients.
The easiest thing for all of us is to highlight the mistakes of other operators without trying to help them to develop. Highlighting another EP operator’s shortcomings or lack of professionalism can be a short-term win for some, but this is not professional conduct. In the long term, this kind of behaviour can negatively affect an EP operator’s reputation in the industry.
Exercising empathy towards our team members and helping them to overcome their weak points by mentoring and guidance will improve their performance and confidence and benefit the overall performance of the whole team. In the long term, our empathetic approach will establish us as influential professionals who will be welcome in any team.
Social skills are the skills we use to communicate and interact with each other, both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language and our appearance. As professionals working mainly in an executive environment, this skill set is vital for our efficiency and ability to build productive relationships with our colleagues, clients, and principals.
Operators who have mastered social skills are usually remarkably successful in their career for multiple reasons. They are generally excellent communicators and can handle good and bad situations alike. This allows them to build a good rapport with all involved parties and become natural leaders and influencers regardless of their role in the company or operation, as well as contributing in a constructive manner towards the completion of any operation/task. They are good listeners, which allows them to build a good relationship with all stakeholders and clients. They are exceptionally good diplomats, which allows them to deal with challenging situations in a professional manner, minimizing any potential negative impacts on the reputation of the clients/principal or company.
By listing all these qualities of effective communicators, we can agree that an EP operator with these skills would be a great asset to any company, team, or client.
Practical tips to improve EI.
According to an article published in the April 2019 issue of Forbes, author Ann Holland wrote that we can develop and improve our EI by practicing the following skills:
- Be an active listener, including being aware of nonverbal cues.
- Think before you speak; continuously work on improving communication skills.
- Be comfortable with praising others.
- Accept, value and appreciate others for their uniqueness.
- Learn conflict resolution skills.
- Demonstrate patience and empathy.
- Manage your own stress, slow down and calm down.
- Get to know your employees and peers; know what challenges them and soothe them.
- Identify and manage what triggers your own emotions.
- Identify and manage what triggers your co-worker’s emotions.
- Do not be shy about engaging with a mentor, coach or other resources for help.
Developing and improving our EI is an ongoing process and not a one-off action that can be ticked off a list of skills. If we want to be at the top of our game, we must develop ourselves continuously emotionally, as well as professionally.
As a freelance EP operative, mainly in high-end executive environments, I have had the opportunity to work with many different people, teams, and clients. Through this work, I have realised that, in the long term, EI is the foundation of any successful EP operator.
Understanding and developing our EI can have a constructive impact on our operational abilities as well as business efficiencies. Furthermore, if we aspire to develop as natural leaders and influencers, it is even more important to develop our EI. Our understanding of our own emotions and the ability to pick up on others’ emotional indications can naturally place us in this advantageous position. The higher you’re EI, the easier it will be to achieve your professional goals, be a highly efficient operator, or a successful business owner.
Goleman, Daniel, 1995, Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than the IQ.
Stephen R. Covey, 1999, The 7 habits of highly effective people.
Ann Holland PhD, Forbes, 17 April 2019, 07:00 am. The Emotional Intelligence Factor In Leadership Development
By: R.Savkov BA, MSyI, M.ISRM
Radoslav is a freelance Personal Protection Specialist & Security and Business Consultant with over 17 years’ experience of serving international clients. Providing discreet and professional security services to many high-profile individuals, including Royalty, Governmental, Corporate, High Net Worth, and Celebrity clients. A member of the Security Institute UK; American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) and The Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM), with a strong commitment to ongoing training and professional development.