Building Influence. A Matter of Expanding Horizons by Cúchulainn Morrissey

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To quote the famed novelist Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Security, safety, risk management; call it what you will, the safeguarding of life and protection of property is an area that encompasses a diverse amalgamation of learned skill and intrinsic ability. It is undoubtedly skilled work yet oftentimes we as practitioners, particularly at operational level struggle to convey its significance in a way that others find accessible. It makes perfect sense to us, we see the value in security, even more so, we understand the implications of poor security practices on the organisation, yet our influence may remain underwhelming among key decisionmakers. If we can see it, why can’t they?

Perhaps in our journey to win friends and influence people, it’s we who need to develop those “new eyes”. While far from a new opinion, arguably the need exists to expand our perspective, add to our lexicon and talk-the-talk of the influencing forces in our organisations. The temptation to remain strictly in our sphere, speak our vernacular and console ourselves in the opinion that others cannot see our value will always be there, however, it’s not conducive to building the organisational influence we desire. So, where do we begin?

Do we truly understand our role in the organisation?

The answer to the question may seem obvious at face value, but what is our role in the organisation? To most ground level supervisors and operatives, often we see ourselves solely from an operational and/or tactical standpoint; we identify and mitigate risk, we safeguard assets, we protect life, but what is our role in the organisation’s strategic plan? Where are we positioned in the big picture? To answer, we must first discuss the organisation’s corporate risk register. The corporate risk register identifies the risks that effect the achievement of organisational objectives and is utilised as a tool to assist senior management in the allocation of resources. The greater purpose of security for the majority of businesses is to ultimately contribute to the management of the organisation’s corporate risk register.

So essentially, it’s exactly what we do from an operational and tactical standpoint but with consideration for our connectedness to other business functions, impact on stakeholders and their objectives. Simply understanding our position in the bigger picture provides a solid foundation from which to better align our actions with the strategic plan, collaborate with key stakeholders and expand our range of influence. Truthfully, many of us face an uphill battle, although it’s comforting to imagine security is of paramount importance to your organisation (and it may be), for many it’s a non-productive cost. Harrowing thought perhaps, however, a clear picture is needed of where we stand if we are to attempt to bridge the gap.

Collaboration

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington

A centralised, lone wolf approach to building influence is fundamentally counterproductive, its purpose is to develop healthy, trusting allegiances throughout the organisation not to dictate our agenda. If we want others to understand and value our contribution, we need their input, genuine investment and accountability on both sides of the relationship. In doing so, this is where perhaps we need to be most careful in our approach. To understand each other’s needs we must be mindful of the language we use and the means by which we convey our message.

The impulse to make verbose, impactful statements detailing the finest repercussions of poor organisational agility, under resourcing and the potential business disruption of a catastrophic incident may be tempting but it needs to be curbed. Shock and awe communication tactics paint a bleak picture, accurate; perhaps, impactful; certainly, but actionable to someone without a similar background or fundamental understanding of risk and crisis management; not so much. A poor communication strategy can significantly contribute to strengthened resistance from potential allies and detract from the objective of building internal strategic partnerships. Building influence is a compliment of collaborative problem solving, phrased simply no one likes bad news.

But how do we seek opportunities to collaborate? The likelihood is these opportunities are rife in the organisation but without perspective they’re currently seen as “other department’s problems”, without doubt some of those problems could benefit from our expertise and knowledge, we just need to extend the olive branch.

Building Trust & Engagement

Trust takes time and familiarity, while collaboration aides trust building, continuous engagement furthers the potential of collaboration. Engagement often disregarded as a buzzword, is simply the act of sustained relationship building. Human beings tend to do business with people and brands they trust and see frequently, why would workplace collaboration be any different? But once we’ve created the aforementioned relationship, how do we sustain the relationship beyond any initial collaborative project?

This step is critical to building momentum and may even require an altered approach to security in the organisation. As opposed to responding when needed, the need has to be created, this isn’t to say “the need for security doesn’t exist” but that we must actively offer our expertise. Whether it’s as simple as running regular security awareness events, partaking in other departments initiatives or simply networking, security needs to remain a visible and supportive presence.

Developing Ourselves

Drawing on the frequently asked question “How do we make security a recognised profession?”, one of the most cited components is continuous professional development (CPD). As with any other profession there remains a need for security to develop as the world around us develops. Evident dedication to the improvement of professional standards is among the strongest displays of care and investment in one’s own future and by association the future of those around us. CPD can only stand to improve our capability and add further value to both our personal and departmental offering. Drafting a personal CPD plan is entirely a matter of personal choice, however, as the majority of industry professionals will attest, you’re limiting your potential without one.

Building influence is not a simple process, it takes time, the need to let go of some long-held beliefs and a deliberate effort to move outside of our comfort zone. In spite of a shift in mindset there’s still the possibility that the organisation may remain resistant to change, that’s just a reality we have to face. The winds of change stand on our shoulders, if we do not advocate for ourselves why should others?

To hark back to Proust’s statement that began this article, I believe if we are to truly develop the influence of security in our organisations and earn our seat at the table, we need not seek new landscapes but merely view the existing landscape with new eyes.

Cúchulainn Morrissey

Cúchulainn is a security supervisor for a prominent cultural property in the south of Ireland. Cú has operated extensively on behalf of blue-chip multinational organisations and cultural properties along with providing training to new security industry practitioners. An advocate for professional development and member of a host of professional bodies, Cú founded Cork Security Society, a social forum for Irish security industry professionals in 2019 with the aim of providing regular, free CPD opportunities to frontline security operatives.

Connect with Cú – https://www.linkedin.com/in/cumorrissey/

Join Cork Security Society- http://corksecuritysociety.ie