On a particular day in the not so distant past, my business partner Tom was standing outside of a tour bus. This was to be the first detail he ever worked with Brad Paisley. In the stillness, he said his mind raced with consideration and expectation. From his past experience, many celebrities that he’d actually been excited to meet tragically turned into disappointing encounters. In the protection industry, you learn to size people up very quickly. A good bodyguard knows if the person approaching is good, bad, or ugly. As you learn to evaluate, your skill set improves.
By Jason Hanson
The first time you encounter a high-profile client, you never know what to expect. People tend to forget that celebrities are people too. Just like any other human being, they have good days and bad ones; some are gracious and some, well…, not so much. As you stand waiting for that first interaction, you wonder if your client is going to be talent or tyrant.
Protection jobs are often hurry-up and wait propositions. The production buses, vehicles and all the things essential to make a concert successful all arrive well before the talent. In a concert scenario, the protection team scrambles to do its advance work, acclimates to the venue, and then stands waiting for the client to arrive.
The wait is usually long, and you often feel a slight sense of “What am I getting into?” on the first day of any detail. Truth be told, a sort of ping-pong game was going on in the back of my partner’s mind. Even though he had never met Brad, he’d heard great things about him. In addition, we had positive experiences working with his wife Kim on projects related to Chicago charities. We also had colleagues who said great things about her from interactions they had on the set of Father of The Bride where she co-stared with Alan Alda.
We have learned a simple evaluation tool to give us a basic understanding of the client’s mindset. It is no great revelation, psychological trick, or superior application of tradecraft. It is, very simply, do they introduce themselves? When someone who’s image peppers the tabloid rack at the grocery store walks up and says “Hi, I am …. “ I take a deep breath and the tension reduces slightly because we know in that moment that they see us as human beings and have some level of respect for our position.
The clients that do not introduce themselves presumptuously expect you to know who they are. Most of the time the ongoing detail is less than favorable and ironically many of these non-introducers are accompanied by extensive confidentiality agreements. Interesting, isn’t it? These quick assessments we have learned from years in the executive protection industry remarkably apply to you as well. It is estimated that people make a judgment about you in four seconds. If you are a celebrity, executive, or a regular person going about your life, in four seconds you judge and are judged regardless of what you want to believe.
If you respect or dismiss the people around you, it says something about the very core of who you are. In this case, Brad Paisley walked up, introduced himself, shook each protection agent’s hand and even said thank you. When his wife Kim arrived, she was equally gracious. My partner was even caught off guard when she emerged from the tour bus with a puppy. He must have reached out with an assumptive gesture to take the leash but she quickly responded with a sharp, “Oh, no. I am not going to ask you to walk my dog.” The bodyguard regularly ends up enduring tasks that are quite honestly beneath him. Walking the dog and dealing with luggage regularly top the list. There was a similar interaction with Jennifer Aniston and her dog, Norman. Jennifer, like Kim, walked her dog by herself and saw us as valued agents.
You may not be an A-List celebrity or top executive but you can dominate the four second assessment and join the ranks of the celebrities like Brian Head Welch, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon, Jay Z, Halle Berry, Michael W. Smith and many more who meet people and do not expect to be known.
You can be like these celebrity elite by extending your hand with a smile and a sincere introduction. I encourage you to assess yourself and your motivation under this new revelation. Recently, in our Spy Escape and Evasion session we had a doctor in attendance that exemplified this heightened standard. He dressed well, looked everyone in the eye and introduced himself with a smile. He did not even tell people he was a doctor. I found that out later when he gave me a business card after the course ended.
The bottom line is, do you respect the people around you? Do you value or disrespect the people who make your life safer or simply more comfortable? I think you will find that when you show respect, you also receive respect and will receive an unexpected personal benefit.