Edward Stevens is CEO of National Security Service, which provides quality licensed security guards in all 50 states and around the globe.
Every day across America, people encounter security guards on duty at offices, apartment buildings, schools, construction sites, malls, hospitals, and anywhere people and property need protection. Some days you may not even notice the security guard checking identification in your office building or the guard in the lobby of the hotel you’ve been staying at. But those security guards are often the first responders in a life and death situation—a situation that could affect your life forever.
In 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 1,097,666 security guards were employed in the United States, compared to 653,740 police officers. With that many security guards protecting people and property, what makes a security guard stand out from the crowd? Here are nine essential characteristics of a great security guard.
A highly trained security guard who can quickly assess and react appropriately to a potentially dangerous situation provides a fighting chance for everyone involved in a crisis. Training not only helps security guards protect people and property but adds credibility to the profession. Types of training can vary but may include:
- Conflict resolution
- Security procedures
- Crowd control
- Observation and documentation
- Report writing
- Firearm use
- Emergency procedures
- First Aid and CPR
Training is a continuous process. Learning new security techniques and studying trends in the industry adds value to a great security guard’s job performance. Proper training is the difference between a disaster and a positive outcome.
2. Leadership Qualities
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.” A great security guard calmly takes charge and can often de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation without force. When people panic, a situation can quickly become out of control, and a well-trained security guard will keep a level head and reassure people. Security guards are in a position of authority. People will look to them for guidance and leadership in a crisis.
3. Strong Communication Skills
The ability to listen is one of the most important characteristics of a great security guard. By listening and talking to people and assessing their responses, a security guard could diffuse a situation that might have led to a disastrous outcome.
Security guards interact with many different people while on duty, including:
- Business owners
- Law enforcement
- Emergency medical personnel
- Members of the public
Because security guards are often first responders, they have to be able to clearly communicate to police, other EMS responders and management concerning the details about the security breach or incident and how it was managed. And great security guards have good writing skills for taking accurate notes and transcribing them into reports. Poorly written notes could cause confusion later on.
Misunderstandings have no place in securing peoples’ safety. One area of communication that can easily be misinterpreted is non-verbal communication or body language. A great security guard makes sure their body language matches their words.
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For example, if a guard says they’re listening and they don’t maintain eye contact or seem distracted, they’re giving mixed signals. And security guards need to be aware of cultural differences and body language signals. People in the U.S. emphasize their words with arm gestures during conversation, but people in Japan would consider that impolite.
Security guards learn through training and experience to trust their gut instinct. They have a heightened sense of awareness and alertness that helps them determine if a situation or person is truly a threat. You might think a situation seems quite commonplace at an event or in a building, but a perceptive security guard could view it with suspicion. A great security guard is always on the lookout for situations that could affect the safety of the people they’re protecting.
You don’t want a security guard on your premises that you don’t trust. Security guards encounter dozens of situations in your business that require confidentiality, including:
- Access to offices with sensitive information
- Overhearing conversations
- Seeing who’s entering and exiting your building
- Checking identification
- Observing your business operations
- Acting as a keyholder to your property
Great security guards are discreet and honest. They don’t gossip with your employees, steal your property or sell your trade secrets.
6. Good Judgment
Life isn’t scripted. Think of how quickly a peaceful gathering of people at a concert or sporting event can turn ugly. Sometimes there isn’t time to sit down and discuss the pros and cons when deciding the best course of action. A great security guard can think fast on their feet without recklessness and take control of a situation diverting potential disaster.
A great security guard has a clear head and doesn’t rush into a situation without thinking first, knowing that actions have consequences. Though the ability to think quickly is important, exercising good judgment and taking into account the potential outcome of a situation takes precedence.
7. Good Physical Condition
Being physically fit doesn’t mean a great security guard has to be able to run the Boston Marathon. But depending on the job, security guards may have to stand for long periods of time, walk around buildings, malls or construction sites or chase intruders. Guards need to be physically able to restrain a suspect, protect a victim or try and prevent a potential thief from stealing or breaking into a building.
You want a security guard who’s protecting your business to take pride in their work. You don’t want a guard that sits behind a desk putting in time or texting on their phone. Great security guards are sincerely interested in protecting the people and property they’re hired to keep safe. They understand the value they add to your company. Often security guards are part of the overall team in the workplace. A great security guard will be one of your strongest assets.
A security guard’s performance has a direct reflection on the security company’s reputation. The credibility of the industry suffers when guards don’t take the performance of their jobs seriously, act recklessly or fail to follow best practices. Professional security guards:
- Check their egos at the door
- Respect other people and the profession
- Use force only when absolutely necessary
The likelihood that a security guard is going to encounter conflict in their career is inevitable. But a professional security guard knows how to prevent a situation from escalating into something worse by listening, observing, and providing leadership.
Great security guards are not born, but are highly-trained to help keep you and your property safe. Remember that the great security guard you encounter today could be your lifesaver tomorrow.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.