Security Managers, Security Supervisors and Security Officers: Professional Development

Lawrence Fennelly

Lawrence Fennelly

Whether it’s an aspiring protection officer or a university student who’s interested in a career in the security profession, we all know there’s no substitute for experience. It should be remembered, though, that security managers and supervisors gain real-life experiences as well as a formal education and industry certifications to help prepare them for the journey on the security career path, as Lawrence Fennelly and Marianna Perry explain.

In the last decade, there have been many changes both nationally in the US and on the international stage. The US Department of Homeland Security was formed to address the ever-growing threat of terrorism. Organised retail crime, active shooter incidents, identity theft and cyber crime along with natural disasters continue to be major concerns for today’s protection professionals.

Consequently, the education and training provided in the security industry must meet those threats. Supervisors and managers must be well-versed in these topics and must inspire their subordinates to acquire more education, either through a formal degree programme or via industry certifications (or both), on-the-job training and experience. They must continually emphasise professional growth and development of the individual security operative in order to promote organisational development.

Organisational development occurs when substantial numbers of the protection organisation have undergone professional development experiences. Programmes offered by the International Foundation of Protection Officers (IFPO) and our partner organisations are examples of professional growth experiences. Individual employers and colleges may create their own formal degree programmes and industry certifications.

Regardless of the career path, the security supervisor is the conduit for professional growth. He or she must embrace opportunities for professional and organisational development and this is accomplished – at least in part – as a direct result of leading by example.

Defining the supervisor

A security supervisor is someone who represents higher authority. The person who assesses situations and conditions to make on-the-spot judgements without favour, prejudice or fear. The person who’s a responder to any and all situations. The person who must galvanise the efforts of many to attain stated goals. The person who must assign tasks and ensure compliance and constant quality performance. The person who’s accountable and, therefore, first in line to shoulder reaction, both good and bad. Finally, the supervisor is the person who must make decisions for management based on his or her own professional development.

What does it mean to be a supervisor? First of all, a security supervisor may be called upon to handle different types of conflicts in myriad of circumstances. Second, a security supervisor will be required to meet the expectations of management and/or the client in the daily routine of security operations. The security supervisor is the backbone of the organisation. His/her scope of responsibility is rather unique.

A security manager designs and develops security, safety and investigative programmes. A manager works with budgets and other resources (equipment, uniforms, technology, software etc.) to ensure that the protective mission is achieved. A manager oversees processes (procedures) that accomplish organisational goals and objectives. A manager is responsible for staff functions if there’s no supervisory span of control over line employees. This includes training, technical support and auditing, etc. A manager co-ordinates activity rather than supervising it. A manager is charged with policy formulation. A manager oversees line supervisors such as shift leaders and interacts with department heads and upper management.

Professional development

Professional development is a critical concept. It’s the pathway for supervisors to become managers. By professional development, we’re referring to the following key areas:

*Leadership and networking skills are critical and the supervisor in transition knows the value of industry certifications and career development

*Communicative abilities include oral, written and computer skills

*Reasoning and logical thinking are must-have abilities

*Formal training, accreditation or certification are needed for professional growth and personal satisfaction

*A personal and professional Code of Ethics must be developed along with high standards by which to guide oneself

*Never underestimate the value of mentoring and coaching through on-the-job training and in-house programmes

*Knowledge of risk assessment and security countermeasures is important

*Turnover and job rotation can create overall improvement and present a learning environment

*Stay current on industry events by reviewing news sources, trade publications and web sources

*As the job changes, so must the training and the level of skill within the department increase. Professionals develop a ‘discipline of training’ and continuously seek to improve their knowledge and abilities

The new supervisor or manager

The most demanding problem for supervisors within a protection department will be the transition from the position of security officer to that of supervisor. The supervisor’s role should be to assist in enabling the manager to provide a level of support within the organisation. Supervisors must take responsibility for corporate regulations and the moral and ethical tone of the department as well as provide the required level of security and customer service.

Similarly, new managers have some adjusting to do. As a new manager, one has to learn how to develop and exercise (not abuse) newly-acquired authority, power and influence effectively. This can be done by establishing one’s credibility: the earning of subordinates’ commitment and support.

Management is an art as well as a science. It is, perhaps, more art than science. New managers are at the crossroads, looking to make the right turns. Consider the following:

*A new manager is the person in charge. His/her elevation to the status of manager through promotion has given him/her the authority

*A new manager is a person with a level of power and a decision-maker

*A new manager is knowledgeable in his/her field

*A new manager uses his developed skills, ideas, education, certifications and experience

*A new manager supervises his/her subordinates and passes information down the line as well as up the chain of command

*A new manager has the responsibility to be aware of employer policy as well as client requirements and the level of security required within the organisation

*A new manager develops his/her on-the-job experience as a new manager and starts to understand and accept the new responsibilities as well as what it means to be a manager.

A manager who has been promoted to the rank of supervisor or manager should learn how to supervise and adjust to the new role, develop leadership skills and the training of others, develop interpersonal skills and become a mentor to others, develop knowledge of who they are and learn how to cope and deal with the stress and emotion associated with management concerns.

As someone progresses in his/her career, these learning points become ingrained. They become second nature. They become part of oneself.

Leaders as agents of change

As the last link between senior management and line employees or customers, it’s the leader’s job to assist in the implementation of change. To do this, certain obstacles must be overcome. There are several strategies for reducing resistance to change. Much resistance to change comes from lack of trust or people having to operate outside of their comfort zone.

Resistance can sometimes be overcome or the impact lessened if the following actions are taken by the leader:

Marianna Perry

Marianna Perry

*Fully explain the upcoming changes

*Make certain employees or customers fully understand the change

*When possible, discuss why the change is required

*Identify and discuss the possible effects with employees or customers

*Answer questions or take the information and follow-up if you don’t know the answer

*Build trust with your employees such that they will better accept the change

*Be honest and consistent

Change can potentially create fear in the organisation and paranoia in the minds of executives, so it’s important that information be disseminated the correct way through the organisation by leaders.

Security supervisors and managers will be called on to make decisions every day. Some of these decisions will be easy and others will be quite difficult. Every decision must be based on a foundation of education, training and experience supported by ‘street smarts’.

Decision-making ability may be introduced in a classroom or from a book, but it’s perfected through experience. Being on the front line, prepared and also willing to make the tough decisions is what being an effective security supervisor and manager is all about.

Lawrence Fennelly CPOI CSSI is Secretary of the International Foundation of Protection Officers (IFPO). Marianna Perry MS CPP CPOI is a Board director of the IFPO

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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