Playing Well With Others
by Elijah Shaw
The 2011 Grammy Awards is a very prestigious event. Every A-List celebrity you can think of in the entertainment industry; musicians, actors, models, but more importantly decision makers, shot callers and handlers are in attendance. For the Security Professional operating in the celebrity arena, it’s the equivalent of your team going to the super bowl – It likely took hard work to get there, it raises your profile, but the stakes are dramatically higher. In addition there’s the added pressure that, as opposed to working one on one, with your Principal you are now moving your client in an environment where he or she may not be the most famous person in the room. Things may take a little longer to happen, there are additional security procedures that apply to everyone and the undivided attention and assistance you once got from support staff is now splintered. In short your VIP is now one Very Important Person amongst many.
The problem I see too many in our industry make when faced with this situation is that instead of adapting, we try and throw their weight around. We become belligerent to the PA’s (personal assistants) who are in charge with navigating us around the event. We become acrimonious with law enforcement that has been given strict orders that in a place where “everybody is somebody “ all need to submit to security screening. Most telling of all, we sometimes treat our counterparts working close protection as adversaries as opposed to allies.
It’s that last point that I’ve found so fascinating in my many years in the industry. While I fully acknowledge that a contributing factor to success as a bodyguard is the “Alpha Male” Personality, I’ve never understood why when you put more than 3 of us in a room who are not on a detail together you can see territorial lines being drawn almost as clearly as if they were written with crayon.
Now don’t get me wrong there are definite exceptions to this rule (I try hard to consider myself one of them). There are some great guys and gals in the industry that every time I see them it’s an opportunity to combine intel and share resources. When on an event similar in scope to the Grammy’s we provide introductions to key staff and alert each other to any security or logistical problems. But more often than not, I see agents eyeing each other with suspicion and barley veiled contempt. You can almost hear their thoughts out loud:
“How did this guy get that client? I’m so much better than he is.”
“That’s not how you escort the Principal, diamond formations always work better than box.”
“This guy is standing too close to my client’s door, is he trying to steal my client”?
I know this situation is not unique to the Celebrity Protection market. My associates that operate in some of the more hostile areas of the world tell me about protection teams sizing each other up all the time. Of course the stakes are different when you’re in Iraq or Papa New Guinea. The point I’m trying to make is: Think how much could be accomplished if simply we adjusted our mindset that other EP Agents and event staff were all working for the same goal – The safeguarding of the individuals inside that collective circle of protection. Sometimes those rings will overlap and when they do, I’ll look at others providing services not as nuisances but as brothers (or sisters) at arms dealing with their own set of challenges. I believe that an attitude like this will pay back in dividends in the long run.