Becoming a Security Supervisor – Taking the first step on the ladder

Tony Security 3 Comments

I remember my first day as a supervisor within the security industry. I hadn’t even got the job title of security supervisor but I was asked by my manager to be the supervisor on an event. I came to work with my shirt extra crisp, my shoes extra shined and my chest puffed out like how I thought all great leaders of men should look. I spent the journey to work thinking how I would organise things. I had everything planned in my head and it was all going to go to plan. It didn’t. We got soaked wet all day, everybody was in a bad mood and the venue under booked security staff so we were under pressure all day but we coped. At the end of the shift I felt terrible. None of my “great ideas “had a chance to work and my shiny uniform was a mess. I went around to the team and apologised because I felt I had let them down. As any good work colleagues, would they told me I had done a good job and had nothing to be sorry for but It didn’t feel that way.

The next morning I went into my boss’s office ready to apologise and ask not to be left in charge again. As a 19 year old with only a few years’ experience behind me I was ready to admit that I wasn’t ready for this whole supervisor gig yet. I was amazed when I was met with a message of congratulations on a job well done. The client had been very happy with how we had worked under pressure and the team had been amazed that no matter how much pressure we were under I had been there to help and never gave up. They were even more amazed that they had gotten a tea break during the shift. I was so focussed on the day on getting my big ideas in place that I hadn’t even noticed the small stuff I was getting right.

Since that day, I have supervised hundreds of events and worked in management roles with many great teams. The lessons I learned and the confidence I took from that first event have stayed with me throughout my career. Becoming a security supervisor can be a daunting prospect for anybody coming up through the industry. We all tend to be a little nervous and a little fearful about how we will do and wonder if we have what it takes to be a supervisor. I’m here to tell you that you do. Most people do in fact and all it takes is some knowledge, the right attitude and a willingness to work harder than everybody else to get you there. I can help you with the first part here but the other two are completely up to you.

In this article, I’m going to look at the top 10 tips for being a great security supervisor.

  1. Look after your team – This is rule number one without a doubt. To be a good supervisor you need the support of your team. If you look after your team, then you won’t have their support Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? How many of you though have worked for supervisors who didn’t look after their guys? How many times have you been left in a position with no break, no water and no sign of a supervisor for you full shift and how did you feel afterwards? This shouldn’t be news to you but most people aren’t in the security industry for the money. They stay in the industry for the camaraderie, the friendships and the good times. Recognise that all they want is to be treated properly and you will have friends and supporters for life and you have a great start as a supervisor. Don’t forget to say thanks at the end of the day. It means a lot.
  2. Work ethic – This is what has probably gotten you where you are today. Good supervisors make the job look easy but it isn’t. Its hard work and you need the work ethic to make it work. Nobody is going to see the hours of planning and preparation you put in to make sure it all goes smoothly and nobody is going to thank you for it. All you will get is the respect of your team and your own internal pride for a job well done. What you will notice though is that work ethic is contagious. It spreads among your team and becomes the standard. This happens whether the work ethic is good or bad so it’s up to you to make sure it is good.
  3. Be positive no matter what – Like work ethic both positivity and negativity are contagious. You will have days when it seems like everything is conspiring to ruin your day. Things will break, rain will pour and people will make your life difficult. Your team will be under pressure and you will feel like taking a sick day and throwing in the towel. This is when you need to be positive more than ever. With the right amount of work, the right attitude and a little luck we can overcome any challenge. Be positive, believe in yourself and believe in your team. Once again don’t forget to say thanks.
  4. Lead by example – If you show up without a tie then its ok to not wear a tie for everybody. If your shirt isn’t ironed, then that’s ok too. See where this is going? You need to stand up and be the person who sets the standard. This means showing up every day on time, looking the part and acting the part. It means not being afraid to do the boring tasks that nobody likes or covering the guy who’s out sick. If you don’t step up to the plate when its needed how can you expect your team to do it. There’s an old saying about never asking somebody to do a task that you aren’t willing to complete yourself. It’s true and it will badly affect your credibility with your team if that’s the perception.
  5. Lose the ego – Having pride in your job, your ability and your team are all great but don’t ever get into the mindset of allowing your ego to affect your performance. Don’t ever feel your special because of a job title. Your work ethic and ability have gotten you to the privileged position of supervisor but you are there purely on the performance of your team. While you have contributed to this performance don’t ever try to take the credit for it. Being a supervisor requires humility not ego. You know that you have done a good job and that should be enough. When credit is to be given publicly it should be given to your team. The unfortunate downside of this point is that when there is blame to apportioned you need to take it on behalf of the team. Unfortunate but the sign of a great supervisor.
  6. Knowledge is power – A good supervisor is operating at a level of skills and knowledge 2-3 steps above his/her team. This means you need to be constantly learning new information and new skills. If you are serious about the security industry as a career you need to invest in yourself and the best investment you can make in yourself is in improving your knowledge. Reading books, listening to podcasts and taking training courses to improve your skillset will make you stand out from the crowd. You become the person people go to with the difficult questions because they know you have the solutions. This requires dedication and cost but it pays off over time.
  7. Be prepared – A great security manager once passed on a great snippet of information to me in a control room. His words were; “always be the guy with the sewing kit”. It may sound crazy but he said this to me just after he had given a team member a small sewing kit from his bag to repair a missing button on a shirt. You need to be prepared for these little eventualities like the missing button, the empty batteries in a torch or a shortage of blank report sheets. It means planning and carrying the gear and supplies not just for yourself but for your team. A great security operative who I view as peer to this day used to call me Mr prepared when we worked in a nightclub together because I used to have a backpack filled with all the spare kit and equipment we could possibly need. He would say it as a joke but I saw it as point of pride.
  8. Make a decision – Sometimes this is hard. You might have to cut back a person hours or give somebody bad news and these are the not so pleasant part of the job. The only thing worse than making these decisions is putting off making these decisions. Time and procrastination never make it easier to decide. A good supervisor (with the right knowledge) can weigh up all the options available and decide. This might sound cold and harsh but it needs to be. If you can’t decide in real time, then you will struggle to make decision under real pressure.
  9. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork – One of the results of becoming a supervisor is an increase in paperwork. The pre-work paperwork, the reports, the administration paperwork all increase. There aren’t many people that enjoy doing the paperwork but keeping on top of it is one of the things that make you stand out to your superiors. It might be boring but it’s the part that a lot of great operational supervisors don’t do well so if you can master it you become the exception. Plan it out and just work through it. Like peeling off a plaster just do it and its done. Having all the paperwork in order and on time means you can be trusted to look after things and don’t require much oversight. When it gets to a stage where you don’t require oversight this is when you can really start putting your big ideas into practice because your trusted to do it.
  10. Enjoy yourself – Last point and one of the most vital. Enjoy yourself. You have been placed in a privileged position of trust and responsibility so enjoy it. You have earned it and you deserve it. If you have made it to a supervisor role you are there on merit and because you are good at your job so feel good about that and enjoy yourself at work.

Those are my tips and things that I have always strived to achieve (not always successfully) in my career. I put in that section in brackets to remind both me and you that we aren’t perfect. I think that any person who has invested the time to seek out and read this article has shown both the right attitude and knowledge to become a supervisor so if your reading this your already on the way. Get yourself the knowledge and start building the habits that can lead you to the first step on the ladder in the security industry.



Comments 3

  1. Great read and sound as your knowledge is invaluable really enjoyed the advise and direction you’ve shared for people to go forward in the industry

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