Security Culture Building Journey and Personal Characteristics to Succeed

John Rodriguez

Building on last year’s GSX in Atlanta session Empathic Security Cultures for a Great Place to Work, in this year’s security culture session I focused on the Security Culture Building Journey and Personal Characteristics to Succeed centering around the eight character attributes in my Security Culture Professional’s Attributes ModelTM – Fairness, Innovation, Tenacity, Respect, Credibility, Vulnerability as well as being Perceptive, and Engaging.  Many in the corporate world might see these as soft skills – “soft” being a debatable term. Soft vs. hard skills, i.e., accounting, business processes, IT programming, etc. vs human connection attributes? Are having hard skills primary vs. soft skills? I suggest they are symbiotic in general, but in the corporate security sector, I would argue that soft skills are primary.  The hard skills – I’d suggest thinking of them as science – security technology, (video, intrusion, access), ESRM, policy/procedure, training, etc., are complex and require extensive knowledge, experience, and deep understanding to produce comprehensive and resilient products, services, and, most importantly, the right results for business resiliency and growth.  However, I’d suggest the Art of Human Connection is relatively more challenging to build and maintain a regenerative security culture.  The science part of our profession is mostly linear – there’s a beginning, middle, and end, and the human aspect is non-linear, ever-changing, frustrating, and yet exhilarating at times – why? Because we’re all complex human beings that make up our workforces.  

I coach and mentor my clients to reframe “soft skills” as “character attributes”.  What sets security professionals apart is the ability to connect and develop relationships based on trust – and that means each and every single interaction you have with anyone in the company, from the third shift cleaning crew to the C-Suite can be impactful and memorable based on how your treat people – how you made them feel and how you served them.  If and how we understand, model, and apply the abovementioned 8 characteristics impacts how all employees view us, first as people, then as their security representative, and finally, ideally, as a trusted business partner who prioritizes the care for and protection of people. Meaning their person, their personal property, and now, an opportunity to contribute to the protection of employees’ psychological and emotional safety in terms of supporting a respectful and courteous workplace that includes a stigma-busting mental health/wellness philosophy.  Understanding and thinking of people having both physical and emotional/mental health make-up that are both equally important is how we develop security cultures. 

Lastly, embracing character attributes that are part of your personality and innate make-up that come naturally, more than seeing soft skills as something that can be learned, kept on your “soft skill” tool belt to be summoned at a moment’s notice is the differentiator.  We all have a natural unconscious survival radar constantly assessing people and situations to determine if they present a physical or emotional “threat or reward” and a “towards or away” response.  My SCPA Model also stresses how critical first impressions are when interacting with people.  Our internal radars can sense if you are inauthentically putting on a soft skill mask or if you genuinely, innately care.

You can watch John Rodriguez’s full presentation along with two others in the GSX 2023 Career HQ skill-building collection.