Managing a Nightlife Security Team…or How to be an Effective Leader

One of the unfortunate realities of the Nightlife Industry is that its communities are often transient: people come and go because of better job offers, life changes, and burnout. For many establishments, wages can be the deciding factor in retaining employees. But high – or even decent – wages won’t guarantee quality or loyalty. In an environment that can often be rife with high turnover, how can you build and maintain a solid team? Before you dive into the nitty-gritty of hiring, firing, or starting from scratch, think about the following:

What are your security goals?

How are you going to achieve these goals?

If all you want is a single doorman who checks IDs, you are pretty much set. But I’m guessing that you are looking for something more. You probably want a team of diverse individuals with varied backgrounds and different abilities who can accomplish a number of different tasks. Chances are that the team you build will probably be at different stages of their careers. And these varying skill levels can present challenges that not everyone will be able to easily accomplish the goals or tasks you’ve set out for them.

As a Manager or Head of Security, it is up to you to set the precedent in terms of behavior, customer service, and work ethic, as well as develop all of the policies and procedures that your team needs to do their job well. But none of this will matter if your team doesn’t understand the What’s and Why’s of their job or if they aren’t lead, communicated with, or disciplined when necessary.

1) Be a good communicator – Believe it or not, your team wants information. Nothing is more frustrating than showing up for a night on shift and not knowing what is going on. Or worse yet, receiving potentially stressful information just prior to and event – i.e. “By the way, we have a party of 100 people arriving in 5 minutes”. It is of the utmost importance that you pass along pertinent information, check in with your team, and encourage feedback. Communication goes both ways and your Staff should feel comfortable talking to you about EVERYTHING.

You should be holding regular meetings, debriefs, and brainstorming sessions with your team to both give information and critique and receive feedback and questions. Be an active listener. Don’t just give lip service. It will come back to bite you if you always say “Yes” but never follow up.

2) Stick to your decisions…and be prepared to make some bad ones

Don’t hesitate when making decisions. Flakiness is NOT a desired trait in a manager. And once you make those decisions, don’t back away from them. Feel comfortable asserting your authority. After all, you are the boss, right? But be diplomatic and respectful about it. Acting like a tyrant or know-it-all will lose you respect very quickly. But by the same token, no one is expecting you to be perfect. So if you make a mistake or a wrong decision – and you will – own it and figure out a way to move forward. Striving for perfection is great but not at the expense of not learning from your failures or stepping on people to get to the goal.

3) Don’t be afraid to delegate – Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean that you have to do EVERYTHING. The reason you have a team is for support. Find good supporting roles for your team members and let them own their positions. Have a great ID checker? Use them to train other people. Is one of your Roamers excellent at dealing with people? Make him a Zone Lead. People do their jobs better when they are engaged and doing what they enjoy.

4) Reward the good…but don’t be afraid to discipline – Ever work for a boss who only criticizes? It’s demeaning and frustrating. After all, there must be something that you are doing right. Tell your team when they are doing well. Give your team positive feedback and encouragement. Let them know when they are clicking on all cylinders and how much you appreciate them and their efforts. Some establishments go so far as to provide bonuses and incentives for the team members who perform well.

But now that you  will on occasion have issues. After all, this is the real world. When the team fails, let them know. Don’t berate them but show them where they failed AND offer solutions. People only learn from their mistakes if they are shown their errors and taught how to do things differently in the future. Should it be necessary to discipline an employee, don’t hesitate to do it; there need to be repercussions to bad behavior or failures in your protocol.  Discipline fairly and evenly. And don’t forget to explain why.

5) Quash conflict – Not everyone will get along all the time. But in a team environment, conflict can lead to a seriously negative atmosphere and unnecessary tension. If you see or hear of intra-team issues – there’s that whole communication thing again – deal with them either on an individual or team level. Make sure you gather all of the information from all sides before jumping into the fray. Be mature, be objective, and be decisive on how to deal with the problem

6) Develop positive relationships – This should go without saying, but you need to know your team as people, not just employees. The more you know about someone, the better your professional and personal relationship will be. Learn about your team, their interests, their hobbies, their plans, their other jobs, etc. Take the team out for a dinner or drinks. Buy them coffee. Don’t sit in your office and watch them on CCTV…TALK TO THEM!

7) Be a motivator – If you want your team to follow in your stead, you need to forge a solid path. Set a good example through your behavior, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. The way YOU act is going to be reflected in your team’s actions. By treating your team, your co-workers, and your clientele with respect, you set the precedent. And setting a positive precedent will motivate your team to strive for the same level of excellence.

Being a leader is more than barking orders. Being a leader means acting with maturity and having a clear, objective, well-communicated vision. Don’t separate yourself from your team, become a part of it. Step to the fore and lead your team to excellence.