Q. Is there a correlation between establishing positive relationships with employees and the ability to build a strong security organization?
A. Based on my experience I believe that taking care of your staff and helping them grow is essential to a security leader’s success. In order to have sustainable success, a security organization’s strategy has to be a blend of tactical risk mitigation plans and team growth and development. Since we are all typically being charged with doing more with less resources, you need to have engaged staff to execute the plan and grow in order to take on more responsibility today and in to the future. Your staff needs to know that you care about them as individuals. Based on my experience, I have seen that if you take care of your people they will take care of everything else. If your team members believe that they are part of a bigger picture and that you care they will typically go above and beyond their job description and want to give back. I think that leaders in the security function are sometimes perceived as inflexible; if you actively demonstrate flexibility in caring for people they will proactively go above and beyond to deliver performance that far exceeds your expectation and, hopefully, benefit the enterprise.
I have a couple of philosophies that I use to engage staff and make them feel they are a viable part of the team. “How Full is Your Bucket” is a book that basically talks about how we all have relationship buckets with each other, personally and professionally; and for every e-mail, every phone conversation, every face-to-face conversation that we have there are three choices. We can add to that relationship, we can take away from that relationship or we can do nothing with that relationship. For example, managing a crisis gets emotional. In a tense situation you may say something off the cuff that, although well intended, could be perceived as a negative comment. But if you have a great relationship bank with that person, hopefully, they will take it for what it is and understand it's due to the circumstances.
A daily mantra for me comes from the book “Servant Leadership.” A leader needs to lead and then get out of the way - let your team learn on their own. On the job training and experience is the best teacher. If you’re not delegating and if you’re not letting your team experience their own mistakes and pushing them towards a project or a task - even though they may not be ready - then you’re doing them a disservice. And if you want to eventually progress in your organization, that’s never going to happen unless you are establishing your successor. We all want to retire some day with the feeling that our security house is in good shape. Depending on your compensation structure, it may be in your best interest to ensure that your security organization remains financially healthy after your departure as well. So we all need to think strategically everyday about how am I going to build a successor if I leave the organization tomorrow?
I’ve been challenged with different projects and tasks where I was definitely not ready. Looking back now the pushes from my manager were invaluable opportunities to learn and grow. To not delegate is a real Achilles heel among leaders, particularly in security. The more they are able to lead, the more likely it is that your team will exceed your expectations and bring newness and a freshness to a project or task that you may not have.
Why does this matter as far as making an impact on the organization as a whole?When you’re perceived as being more approachable people will come to you and offer feedback, and this can help you to improve your program. They will also come to you and tell you things that are happening in the organization, potentially from a theft or ethics/policy violation point of view because they feel comfortable with you. Also think about widening who you work with within the organization. Some of the greatest engagements and plans that I’ve ever worked on have been with people that I’ve brought into my department from other areas, such as Operations. By being an approachable leader you are going to attract talent and that’s going to inevitably drive your program in a positive way. Remember, your team’s success is definitely your success.
Response provided by Dean Correia, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty member.