There has been discussion in the industry for many years about what is required for people to become a security manager or take that next step in their career. One of the challenges that we have as an industry is the variety of roles that constitute security functions because security has so many different meanings to so many different people. It is a real challenge to actually define what security is. Search the word, security, online and you will come up with some 2,650,000,000 results.
In the media, on any given day, you would likely find references to national security, food security, security guards and international security. This is not just a definitional challenge but a real opportunity to discover a diverse and wide-ranging set of activities and services that make up the security industry. The people in our industry come from varied backgrounds.For many, security is a second or third career choice; or security responsibilities are tacked onto another role they may have, so we also have a wealth of experiences and perspectives to draw from. This is the canvas that we have for our portrait.
Harnessing the varied roles and backgrounds of security personnel is the beginning of the equation. We then need to match them to the needs of our customers. There are increasing demands put on the security manager to have or acquire specific skills to supplement their experience and knowledge base. Again, a security professional framework gives our customers confidence that the security practitioner has a level of knowledge and experience to undertake his role.
It can be argued that the diversity of roles in our industry is not an issue as long as the industry has an overarching professionalism, such as that of medicine, for example. Medical practitioners must have a foundation qualification. They can then take up a speciality such as surgery, general practice, emergency medicine and anaesthesia, so a wide variety of medical services can be catered for. The same can also be achieved by the security practitioner in his industry. Now we have the frame in which our canvas can sit.
Many people in the security industry have come from a law enforcement or armed forces background and a lot of people have been ‘on the tools’ or have a technical background. The modern security manager needs to complement this background with the right attitude to manage a security function and not be afraid to be passionate about what he or she does. If you cannot be excited about what you do, how can you expect the rest of the organisation to be?
I used to have a manager who would regularly comment on how passionate the security team was. He said that this helped everyone feel confident about their security. This is part of the vibrancy and colour that we have in our portrait.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of allowing the organisation to view security as a cost and not a revenue-generating activity. On a good day, we may even be viewed as a necessary evil. We all know that value is like beauty – it is in the eye of the beholder. The challenge in demonstrating value is complex, but I have undertaken a number of things that have lessened this perception. We must invest in our brand – brand security, and be prepared to keep reinvesting in our brand.
Get to know your organisation and what really makes it tick. Understand the lexicon of the language and culture of the organisation and dive into it. Become a part of the organisation, break down barriers that may exist and be prepared to be open and frank about what you do. The ability to influence and to be able to draw on a wide range of soft skills is required by the modern security manager. This can help the critics to better understand the portrait we are painting.
In my own experience, there are always challenges in persuading people to change their perception about security and the value that it adds. One tool I have used with a number of organisations I have worked for is the ‘three C ‘approach. I make sure that security is:
The organisation will know exactly what it gets from its security services because the outcomes are understood. Security is available 24/7 and you will be able to talk to us when you need to because we are ever present. We do care about what we do and we have a customer focus, whether it is dealing with lost property, giving directions, administering first aid or dealing with a crisis situation.
It makes sense that an organisation cannot value something it doesn’t understand. Our job is to ensure that we promote our services and we remain open and transparent.
A key demonstration of value is in the execution of what we do. We all know that planning and thinking about what we need to do is important. However, it is the execution and the delivery of our services that really makes the difference.
One of the most valuable tools I have used was to connect security to the organisation through the use of a common lexicon. In one case, the lexicon of risk management was refined to a language understood by the business. This enabled the security team and the business to use a common set of principles with which they could work to manage security risks.
Break down the barriers and be open and transparent. This is really important for our internal business units and our suppliers of security services. I thought for a while that I was becoming a professional coffee drinker! Face time, one-on-ones, informal meetings, whatever you want to call it. It is important that people get to know you and what you are interested in, and for you to know what they and their business do.
I also decided to take a different approach with our security service suppliers. We get together with all our suppliers for a day and we talk about the organisation’s strategy, the strategy for my team and, most importantly, we ask the suppliers how we are performing and how we can be a better team to work with. This openness and transparency has improved their understanding of what we do and their service delivery.
When discussing some of the key skills that the modern security manager should have, it is also important to consider the need for formal training and qualifications. It is necessary for our industry to embrace the need for better qualifications to supplement the skills and experience of our people. Accordingly, the move from acting professionally to becoming a true professional is under way, and the generational change that the industry is making will enhance the skill set of the people in the industry and attract more candidates to it. A set of foundation qualifications is an essential component of a professional standing and I would, therefore, encourage everyone to undertake formal training to achieve such qualifications. With foundation qualifications in place, there is an opportunity for further specialisation within your chosen field.
The security industry provides a demanding and fulfilling career for those with a wide array of skills. The ability to influence, network with and listen to your customers is a fundamental, soft skill set. Foundation qualifications that enable your technical skills and demonstrate your competency help to further build your value. But, to complete the portrait, the onus is on the modern security manager to own his business and be passionate about what he does.
Paul Maihi is the Head of Crisis & Security Management for the Westpac Group. He has a Bachelor of Business in Management, a Master of Science in Security and Risk Management and a number of industry qualifications. He and his team have received a number of national and international awards for security management. He was one of the recipients of the 2012 Australian Security Medal for conspicuous service to the security industry.