In summer 2018, ASIS Women in Security and Young Professionals Group hosted an event at Bloombergs’ new state-of-the-art building with presentations and panel discussions.
Developing the softer skills at ASIS Women in Security and Young Professionals Group Event
During their careers, security professionals will face the challenges of both building their role within an organisation and justifying the importance of their function to business leaders. While many professionals invest time and effort in developing their technical skills, fewer spend time to develop the non-core and softer skills that are vital in both their role and wider career development. In response to these challenges, ASIS UK Chapter 208 gathered together a panel to provide ideas around the core skills of influencing, developing self-confidence, promoting the security function and learning from role models. Below is a summary of the event.
The power of influencing
Betsy Reed, an experienced lobbyist in the field of sustainability, introduced the importance of developing influencing skills. In any role, there will be times when you need to build bridges between different parts of the organisation and with other organisations: nobody can succeed alone, we all need alliances to change systems or culture. This means key components of influencing are to build relationships with the right people and to understand their needs. Additionally, she explained that the robustness or validity of your idea is important. You need to understand its value, so it is critical to do your homework, lay the groundwork and have the right data at your fingertips.
Betsy summarised the five key steps to her approach to achieving influencing success:
- Ask yourself exactly what do you want to achieve? What are your objectives? It’s important to clearly articulate this, even if it just means jotting down a few notes to self.
- Identify the people you need to influence. Develop an in-depth understanding of them. Carry out some research. What are their interests? What do they like or hate? What kind of language works best with them?
- Think about what they need to get from you. Help those you want to influence to achieve their goals, as well as yours. What do they need? Put yourself in their shoes; what can you give them? Influencing is about people motivation. Some people just want to make their mark. You need to get people on board, to feel ownership. It’s best to solve this together, to demonstrate that you care about what they care about.
- Research how you can reach the people you want to influence. Think carefully about what will work best. Are there particular media channels to use, like LinkedIn? Do they prefer face-to-face or email? Should you try phoning them?
- Decide how you bridge the gap between the current situation of those you want to influence and where you’d like it to be. Bring together all your planning to focus on who holds the keys to your goal and the best ways to approach them.
It was acknowledged that self-confidence does not come naturally to all and the panel discussed the different ways they have developed this attribute. A key step for some was to get qualified in a security related area. However, it was agreed that qualifications are not essential and that experience in dealing with a wide range of situations can bring confidence.
It is important to develop a reputation of being approachable and to build trust in your knowledge and approach. As you become known as the expert in your field and your colleagues turn to you for advice and information, your own confidence will grow.
The panel also pointed out that while it is a good idea to be proud of your role and the security function, try to not keep moaning about the challenges!
Promoting the security function
A key challenge for those in security is to extol its value to the organisation as a whole.
Quite often, security is just seen as a cost and as the function that stops thing getting done. So, it is vital to speak the language of the business, interpret what you do and its impact on the bottom line and the value that you bring. Look at the security system as part of technology of the business and how it can bring Return on Investment.
In the current climate, there is frustration around shrinking budgets, especially where there are legacy systems that are expensive to change. Often, organisations want a “Rolls Royce” security set-up, but cannot necessarily afford it. This means security professionals must be transparent about what is possible and clear about the impact of decisions based solely on budget.
The panel closed with the consensus that you need strong internal drive to succeed and the ability to build relationships and trust is crucial. This takes time, but it is well worth prioritising these softer skills to support your security role.
The panel included: Dawn Holmes, Bloomberg LP; Betsy Reed, Sustainability Management Consultant; Joanne Rice, UK Financial Crime Manager, AXA; Jade Davies, CIS Security; Linda Hausmanis,CEO at BIFM; Nicola Thompson, Northland Controls.