Chapter 3: It’s All in the Mind(set)

The following is a chapter excerpt form Mr. Autera’s upcoming book titled “The Professional’s Guide to Planning, Managing, Providing Secure Transportation“.

While each of the three components of the Security Driver’s Triangle is critical to the outcome of behind-the-wheel emergencies as well as the overall success of the secure transportation operation, the driver is the most critical of the three. While this has always been the case, with the rapid advancements in automotive technology, particularly when it comes to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), the paradigm is starting to shift. We will take a closer look at this shift in Part II, The Vehicle, but it is safe to say that for the foreseeable future the driver will likely remain the most critical component.

This is because the driver is the only one of those three components who is capable of taking in information, determining what that information means, and making decisions based on what that information tells them. Which explains why the driver is the deciding factor in determining the outcome of behind-the-wheel emergencies; he or she is the decision-making component of the Security Driving Triangle.  But while avoiding potential crashes and possible security threats is certainly the Security Driver’s most important responsibility, the vast majority of the work it takes to accomplish that must be performed well before the driver climbs behind the wheel. In fact, more often than not, the most significant contributions that the driver is likely to make to the Principal’s safety and security are made in the time that is spent assessing risks, communicating, and coordinating with internal and external resources, planning and preparing for movements, and working with the Principal to make sure their priorities and preferences are being met. Despite the misconceptions of some, the definition of success for the Security Driver – success being defined as identifying, mitigating, and managing the safety and security risks the Principal may be exposed to while being driven from one location to another – has far less to do with ninja-like reflexes, J-turns, and squealing tires, then it does with developing and maintaining a certain mindset towards their work.

The Professional’s Mindset

In our experience, one of the few things that the most accomplished Security Drivers across the globe have in common is their mindset. Virtually all of them have the mindset that mitigating and managing their Principal’s safety and security risks take priority over all else, but not at the expense of everything else. Not unlike the Security Driver’s job itself, this professional mindset is both fairly simple and highly complex, all at the same time.

The simplicity in this way of thinking is that it acknowledges that no one else is going to take responsibility for their Principal’s safety and security while they are in or around their vehicle or devote the time and energy it takes to ensure that those risks have been adequately addressed. Quite frankly, that is the way it should be. The complexity comes from recognizing that regardless of what the Security Driver’s priorities are, there is a balance that must be maintained between those and all sorts of competing priorities, most of which are brought to the table by the Principal themselves. Doing just that, it is one of the most important aspects of the driver’s job, and often the most difficult to accomplish. But if the job were easy everybody would do it (and if it were any harder, no one would).

The professional Security Driver’s mindset embraces three universal truths:

  • Everything is safety and security related, from where the vehicle is staged and which seat the Principal sits in, to how many people have access to the trip itinerary or schedule, and whether the vehicle’s tire pressures have been checked. All these things – and quite a few more – have the potential to impact the Principal’s safety and security, either positively or negatively.
  • There is no “One Size Fits All” solutionto any of the issues or challenges the driver may face at any given time, or on any given day. But there should be no doubt that when the defecation hits the vertical rotary oscillator (corporate speak for the s**t hitting the fan) during a movement, everyone from the Principal to the Security Director will be relying on the driver to come up with a solution to the problem.   It is those times when the “textbook” solution becomes far less important than providing a timely solution; and that solution does not have to be pretty, it just has to work.
  • There are many small details, but none of them are unimportant. From how the driver adjusts his or her seat and the route selected for the movement, to the brand of beverage in the cup holder and the vehicle’s interior temperature, attention to detail must never take a backseat to anything else and should never be left up to anyone else. As trivial as some of the details may seem at the time, just one oversight can damage the driver’s credibility…and restoring it takes more time and energy than paying attention to detail in the first place.
  • The compensation received for routine days is merely an installment payment.  While for a professional Security Driver the definition of a “routine day” may be hard to pin down, the day – or days – when that defection is hitting the vertical rotary oscillator at a furious pace and most everyone else is just worried about not getting any on their shirt and tie or shoes, is when the driver earns every penny of their pay.

With these four points in mind, if there is any one aspect of the Security Driver’s job that highlights just how important the proper mindset is to their success it is the fact that it is simply impossible to plan for every situation or scenario they may encounter on any given day. There are too many variables; change is really the only constant (and most of that change happens at the very last minute), and while firsthand experience is both invaluable and irreplaceable, the reality is that just when the driver starts to think they have seen it all, a new day begins and something he or she has not experienced before comes along, bringing with it some unexpected challenges and consequences. Often, when these things arise – as they almost inevitably will – the only thing standing between them, the Principal, and a career ending opportunity is the mindset that it is time to roll up their sleeves, meet whatever the challenge is head on, and earn each one of those installment payments we mentioned earlier.

Of course, developing and maintaining the right mindset when it comes to dealing with the unexpected does not take the place of planning or mean that it is okay to “just wing it” when moving the Principal from one location to another.  Instead, the proper mindset motivates the driver to be as prepared as possible to deal with the potential challenges they are aware of while doing as much as possible to be prepared for those unexpected challenges not just on some days, or at certain times, but to be prepared all the time, every single day. This way not if, but when, some new challenge arises the driver can commit themselves to meet whatever it may be head-on knowing that they are well prepared to meet the those which they are more familiar with or that they had already anticipated. 

The SARS-COV-2 pandemic is a perfect example of one of those challenges. It’s certainly safe to say that outside of a very small percentage of security practitioners who had firsthand experience in those relatively few countries that have suffered through lethal epidemics in the past, the vast majority were confronted by a whole new set of challenges and an extremely limited timeframe for figuring out how to best address them.  Without a doubt, those with the right mindset who were involved in planning, managing, and providing secure transportation as the pandemic began to catch the attention of their Principals, found themselves investing an inordinate amount of educating themselves, improvising, adapting, and developing innovative solutions to some unique challenges to keeping their Principal’s safe while in their vehicles. From drafting protocols for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting vehicles, to installing temporary partitions, and utilizing everything from ozone generators, foggers, and electrostatic spray guns to protect their Principals, they earned those installment payments many times over.

This article was originally published in Executive Protection and Secure Transportation Magazine Spring 2021 Issue.

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