Faculty Advisor: How to Really Connect with Your Business Leaders

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Q. As Chief Security Officer I have been asked by business leaders, What does “security” really do for our business? I understand that the way I think about and respond to this question will impact the success of my security program and, most importantly, the success of the business.
So, what do I say when these kinds of questions are asked?

A. This question and others like it are always on the minds of “the bosses.” If you establish yourself as a hyper-connected leader in your business you will answer these questions with ease. So what the heck is a hyper-connected leader or how do you become one?

An essential element in answering this question is how well you know “the business” of your business. This translates to how your business makes its profits. One of your key responsibilities as a successful security leader is to know the security environments – such as the locations, business compliance and regulatory factors – that may negatively impact on business success.

“From the first assessments which are undertaken, we attempt to engage every employee as an ally on the “extended security team.” Absolutely nothing counts as much as being a walk-around-security leader as you establish yourself and this approach. You cannot ask others to do it; you must walk the enterprise from executive offices across call centers, onto distribution and manufacturing floors, and into IT data centers. Do not limit yourself to hearing about security concerns from other managers or reading policies and procedures. It is in “walking the walk” that you get to see what is really going on and also will find some genuine allies.”

“Realize that you are on a business team. Like other senior leaders–Operations, HR, Legal, Marketing, Sales, etc.–you are also there to drive business results. Show up every day. This really means “be all there” with every bit of you focused on contributing your best. Care about those with whom you work and treat them as you want to be treated. Learn the business from top to bottom. Be honest. Keep an eye on the bottom line. And work hard, because you love making a contribution. These behaviors are basic. These are solid foundations of every successful business.”

This might sound too basic for some of you but it’s often overlooked. It has been my experience that nothing, and I mean nothing, frustrates “the bosses” more than if they get a surprise from any of their business leaders. Among the most critical responsibilities of smart security leaders is to ensure your business leaders – from top to bottom – fully understand how security makes their jobs easier and more productive.

This is where being hyper-connected across your business comes into play. And how do you do that? I have found an easy way is to fully utilize and engage existing functions found in every business. Creatively find ways to engage Corporate Communications, HR, IT, Audit, Finance, and others with cross-functional security themes that support both the operating and strategic objectives of your business. By using this approach my security teams have turned security into net income generators! Nothing makes the bosses happier than improving the business bottom line. Give it a try and see what I mean.

Answer provided by J. David Quilter, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty.
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