What makes a Protocol Officer the Most Valuable Player on a team? Could you share a “real life” example?
I think what makes a Protocol Officer the Most Valuable Player on a team is to have extensive expertise on cultural awareness. When we are out in the field, we not only represent ourselves but our organization. Our job is to foster favorable views of the organization and enable our leaders to nurture relationships so mutual progress can grow luxuriantly.
I was once in an African country with a delegation representing our organization in planning a conference that brings together a large number of heads of African Air Forces to discuss security cooperation and other topics of vital importance to the continent. Upon arrival to the country, a staff meeting was conducted to identify a course of action and strategy for the week of meetings ahead. As part of my brief, I advised that the country’s culture is that of building relationships and that business is not likely to be successful unless we took time to “get to know each other” – then – business could be discussed. When we arrived for the first day of meetings, sadly, my advice was forgotten and we “jumped straight into business”; this was not well received by our partners. After a round of introductions (and before talking business) we had a quick “social” where we enjoyed refreshments provided by our partners and focused on building a relationship with them. The rest of the time leading up to the conference was a lot easier than the first day; luckily, we recovered and it was a success.
If you had to define a Protocol Officer in one word, what would it be and why?
Resilient. When something does not go according to plan, one has to move on and react - no time do dwell on mistakes or let down one’s guard.
What is your most valuable protocol tool or resource?
My most valuable tool is the training I received from the Protocol School of Washington. I often say that [we] as Protocol Officers do not get hired to know what’s on the book; anybody can open it and find the answer – we are hired to know what is NOT on the book. That comes with training, trial and error, and knowing the tried-and-tested methods and practices that are globally accepted. I was not trained on WHAT to think; I was trained on HOW to think. We are entrusted with a monumental responsibility and we cannot afford to shrug our shoulders when critical guidance is requested of us.