What it means to be an Executive Protection Professional

What it means to be an Executive Protection Professional

Posted October 6, 2020 by Pacific West Academy

What it means to be an Executive Protection Professional

These days, it seems that anybody who has partaken in a two-week course in a classroom or disused car park is calling himself a CPO or Executive Protection Specialist.

I receive resumes on a daily basis and sadly the information contained is usually focusing on hard skills rather than soft skills and plenty or irrelevance focusing on firearms courses and martial arts experience, do not mistake me, an operative that can handle himself is of paramount importance as is physical fitness, however a MMA and weapons enthusiast are more of a deterrent for many potential employers as it deems the prospective employee as someone more inclined to be offensive rather than defensive.

The defensive behavior can break a negative cycle/situation if composure and levelheadedness is maintained. Offensive behavior of a person is the source of a negative cycle that involves stress, tension, and agitation between both parties.

The truth is, any time a principal is actually in need of sheer muscle (a people mover) means that someone wasn’t using their brain in the first instance. And that someone could be you, if you only think that this industry is about weight-lifting, sheer size, and carrying a firearm.

A successful Executive Protection operative will spend the majority of his or her time and effort anticipating potential problems rather than looking for them or causing them.

The operative manages to keep the individual protected, whether a high-profile client or the lead singer of a band, out of harm’s way by preparing for every possible scenario. The time spent on working out at the gym is of no value, if an Executive Protection operative does not understand the importance of these important soft skills and mandatory personal traits.

  • Ability to avoid and deflect confrontation, if your energy and focus is on a physical confrontation with a threat, your principal will potentially be unprotected from others.
  • Advance work, knowing the location the principal is visiting, knowing emergency exits, knowing the venue/location security director or manager, planning the route.
  • The ability to follow directions clearly and to communicate clearly, politely and specifically.
  • Detail oriented, always planning and thinking ahead of time.
  • Ability to “blend” in with others, thereby drawing less attention to yourself and furthermore less notice to your principal.
  • Discretion, meaning, don’t share ANY personal information regarding your client with anyone (including photos in their cars which you don’t own, or on a private jet of which most of the journey you won’t be getting any sleep) it is not impressive.

In 18 years of work I have only needed to put my hands on a threat once. It’s the bouncer approach versus executive protection approach, the bouncer approach is using your body in the first instance and your head second.

In executive protection, 98% is done with your head and your mouth. Personality, Professionalism and discretion are what this is all about.

Protective security is a defensive job, operators must assess potential threats and extract the principal from any situation they deem to be considered dangerous.

They start by doing their research, they check out the location they’re visiting and learn what the principal plans to do there. Is it a business trip or a family vacation where privacy is or utmost importance for example?

What defines a professional?

  • Always be punctual (at least 15 to 30 minutes early).
  • Be immaculately and appropriately dressed (this is key, for example I have witnessed operators in this region wearing suits in 50-degree heat, including ties and sunglasses, despite them operating at night during a festival, it just does not look good).
  • Fully understand and can implement ”Situational Awareness”.
  • Do not out-dress the Principal.
  • Always maintain the highest standards of personal hygiene.
  • Be tactful and diplomatic.
  • Maintain a calm and confident temperament.
  • Remember you are an Executive Protection Operative, not a servant (but this does not mean you should not carry a bag or umbrella if the situation permits you to do so).
  • Blend in and be anonymous (depending on the task).
  • If you think you have said the wrong thing, you have.
  • Give the Principal space whenever possible (operate without intrusion always).
  • Speak when spoken to unless you need to communicate a necessary command to the principal.
  • Silence is golden (know when to keep your mouth shut).
  • Don’t lie, be honest and don’t waffle.
  • Don’t make idle conversations.
  • Don’t ‘listen’ to private conversations.
  • Practice a ‘no news’ is ‘good news’ policy.
  • Be prepared, or you must be prepared to fail always (Advanced Planning is vital).
  • Be forward thinking – one step ahead of the game always.
  • Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted time (Guaranteed).
  • Always be prepared to communicate, negotiate and compromise.
  • Practice empathetic assertiveness always.
  • If the Principal leaves late, then they arrive late (important factor to note, who must be informed of this?).
  • Be assertive and decisive.
  • Be prepared to justify decisions on a regular basis and be prepared to document all of them.
  • No crude jokes or inappropriate humor.
  • Do not lose your temper as you instantly lose the argument every time.
  • Avoid the over-familiarity trap (too frequently this occurs).
  • Always maintain a professional relationship with the Principal.
  • Strong IT skills (any professional will be documenting his day, in the form of reports and expenses, the principal and their management may request these from you).
  • Don’t drink alcohol on duty (this occurs within the over-familiarity trap usually).

Situational Awareness

Meaning – The perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status, after some variable has changed, such as time, or predetermined event.


When you master these areas of Situational Awareness then you will have the skills necessary to truly make the phrases become skills, and the skills become actionable.


To be able to perceive the status, attributes, and dynamics of a situation, relevant to the elements in an environment, in the most basic of ways. In layman’s terms, this is where the process of monitoring, cue detection, and simple recognition of situational elements like people, locations, conditions, and actions come into play.

Here is where you have to be able to perceive a threat by monitoring your surroundings and by monitoring your environment, you develop your skills of cue detection, or an action that someone may take to deter your attention. Also your recognition of that cue and to what that cue is telling you about the elements that you are surrounded by at that time


This involves the process of pattern recognition, Interpretation, and Evaluation.  So taking this and integrating it with perception, you will now learn to Interpret and comprehend the information you’re seeing, and understand how it effects your objectives. So now you have perceived a potential issue or threat or have you?

Being able to recognize a pattern being displayed (an angry individual when everyone else is happy) and interpreting that action and evaluating, how said individual is acting.


The highest level and probably the one that most operators try to perform on a daily basis. This involves the ability to Project the future actions of the elements in the environment.

This would be people, places and things. This can only be achieved if your understanding of both perception and projection are understood. Projection takes a lot of practice, extrapolating information forward in time to determine the outcome or the effect it will have on your environment operationally, is mission critical to us in this industry, your principal and to the team. If you project wrong, you could cause a great deal of chaos to all involved.

This is a critical Skill and it must be practiced daily.

Situational Awareness, are merely phrases without the proper foundation and the unmitigated understanding of the foundation make-up of those terms.  Awareness is a choice; you have to choose to pay attention. Being able to distinguish what is normal from abnormal is NOT inherent; it takes practice as it relates to Executive Protection.

As you learn these techniques try not to rely on the concentric rings of protection, and then making your assessments of a given situation. By this I mean, don’t rely on concentric rings of security because it can lull you into a false sense of awareness therefore, lowering your effectiveness.

If we relied on venue security or club security 100% then we are relying more on their effectiveness than our own and that would be a mistake not because they are not necessarily bad staff members but they are not trained professionals as many of us have come to find out.

As you adapt your skills, treat every disturbance as a potential threat until you are comfortable with your information assessment intake and the information you gather from them. If your attention is drawn to a certain event, make a quick assessment to include all of these steps quickly, and then assess the rest of your environment to see what, IF anything, you are missing.

As some industry leaders have shown and continue to prove with their mastery of these skills, the appearance that they have in certain environments are just soft skills that have been mastered over time. In the times that we live in today, and the threats we all face as operatives, we cannot afford to be complacent.

So if you hear these terms used again by a specialist, hopefully they will also understand how vital the foundations of these words are. otherwise, Situational awareness is just a phrase without practice, and useless without understanding.

Stay safe, Stay healthy.

Adam G.

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