Local national (LN) security team members supervised by the author in Iraq
EDITORS NOTE: Even if you are not a security contractor the team management tips below will translate into any job where you supervise people.
If you are contracting, invariably you will be assigned as a Team Leader (TL) sooner or later. Back in the day, this meant having to supervise and lead other Westerners in the accomplishment of your assigned duties and missions, For the most part, being a TL was just being a glorified baby-sitter for folks who already had the skill sets and discipline to carry out the mission.
However, today’s game has changed. A TL on a contract team will now be earning his pay leading a mix of Third Country Nationals (TCNs) and Local Nationals (LNs) from the Country they are occupying or assisting. It’s rare to see a team constituted of 100% First Country Nationals from developed States.
I have been in this game for a while and have amassed a few basic tips to help out other TLs who are just entering the contract arena or want an amusing review to pass the time.
A pair of Nepali security operators in Iraq
TIP#1. SET THE STANDARD.
It’s up to you, but I guarantee you that your team will reflect the good and bad habits that you have. Where you are slack, they will be sloppy. Where you are disciplined they will be regimented. Where you are routine, they will become lazy. Where you are sharp, they will be proficient. Where you show care, they will show consideration.
It’s up to you, but if it was me, I would be building a Team with good habits not bad ones. Ask yourself …When TSHTF what kind of Team do you want backing you up?
TIP#2. INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT.
If you do just one thing every day, let it be this – inspections. Now inspections are not what most people conjure up in their minds with a Drill Instructor menacing over you while he tosses your bunk and belongings all over the floor. Inspections are about keeping your distance and being watchful that the orders you’ve given are being carried out to your task’s standard.
LN Security team members at the range
TIP#3. TRUST, BUT VERIFY.
Once a set of given tasks is complete, follow up on your Team’s activities with spot checks of their work. This should occur in the field as much as it does when you are in garrison-mode at your man camp. If you don’t do this regularly, your readiness will suffer and poor performance is inevitable.
Are your Team’s support weapons cleaned and properly maintained? Does your Team have accountability of all their issued items? Did you insure that your vehicles were truly inspected pre-mission or did someone just say they were?
Don’t go overboard like a mother hen and hover over your guys like a hawk, but it’s best to supervise that the important tasks and details are carried out.
TIP#4. REWARD SUCCESS AND MENTOR WHEN CALLED FOR.
This is a crucial element of team leadership with host country operators. Show interest in not only their welfare, but their professional performance. Too many Western TLs just throw their hands up and quit caring about the performance they get from the natives.
When a team has carried out a mission admirably, build their confidence by pointing out the successes in your After Action Review (AAR). Give them the feedback needed to grow in their Team positions. WARNING: Don’t build egos, but construct an environment filled with effective team players.
Mentor and counsel individuals when they come up short. Expect this. You’ll never have success 100% of the time, but every failure is an opportunity to become better at your job. A TL needs to follow up on mistakes with sound advice, constructive criticism, and re-training when called for. Don’t ignore or avoid the mistakes you and your team encounter. Mistakes are the crucible for learning and constructing a more practiced and proficient set of team players.
LN security team members being supervised by the author during a halt in the red zone
TIP#5. TRAIN, RE-TRAIN, AND TRAIN SOME MORE.
No one likes to train in their down time just remember, training can be built in blocks. The average attention span of a Local National seems to be .01 seconds. With this in mind, keep your instruction block to 8-10 minute lecture and demonstration sessions followed immediately by the student’s repetitive demonstration of the lesson being taught.
This is the only way they will master a skill. TRUST ME on this. It also gives you insight into who’s a motivated member of your team and who’s just going along to get along. So get off your ass when you have some down time, and put a lesson plan together for the guys. The pay-off might be a more capable team that can save your ass in a fight!
So what do you want out of your Team? It’s up to you to develop it, supervise it, and efficiently accomplish the mission.
~Bubba G Editor at Large
Bubba G. is an active protective professional presently performing contract duties in the Middle East and has well over 15 years of military, high risk contracting, international training and martial arts experience.