12 April 2015

Communications Styles: Leadership of Security Risk Professionals...

When you communicate with fellow Operational Risk Management (ORM) colleagues in your organization, what considerations do you take with regard to the other persons communications style?  During any vital crisis communications exchange under extreme levels of stress, whether it be a team of First Responders or JSOC, there is no time or reason to take this into consideration.  This is because, a team of this type has trained together for months if not years, in exercises that put them to the test of how to effectively communicate in multidimensional crisis scenarios.  They know how to effectively communicate what needs to happen and when, not how.  These crisis teams have practiced to the point where they know exactly what to do when a real incident occurs.

In the halls of corporations across the globe, the likelihood of a crisis occurring on a daily basis is high. The consequences and type of threat are unknown.  Whether it be a key disruption in the supply chain for a vital component for manufacturing your products or the data leakage of trade secrets to your competition, the crisis scenario involves multiple inside people.  When you engage in information exchange with your colleagues from HR, to IT and the office of the Chief Security Officer, the personalities and communications styles must be taken under consideration.  Why?

Security Risk professionals in the global enterprise who are part of the Crisis Management Team have been selected for specific reasons.  Maybe it is because of their title or position in the organization.  The Vice-President of Human Resources, Chief Risk Officer, VP of Information Technology, Chief Security Officer (CSO), General Counsel, Chief Privacy Officer and even Chief Executive Officer (CEO) are tasked with the ultimate safety and security of the assets of the institution.  They are called upon in times of crisis to be the face to the public and the heads of leadership during and throughout the time frame of the organizational incident.

In order for the leadership of security risk professionals to be more effective in the face of any incident, communications style is a significant factor.  Deep down below the facade of a persons title and the office they command is the DNA and the personality of the individual.  The way they process information and the way that the person expresses themselves in a crisis communications encounter, is a vital factor in overall crisis strategy.

How often have you seen the spokesperson from a Fortune 500 company in front of a congressional inquiry, press conference or jury trial answering questions about their organizations or their own behavior?  What kinds of evidence do we have, of the impact of communications and communications style during the heat of a crisis incident?  So we have to go back to the leadership during a crisis.

The leadership of the crisis team, is comprised of people with individual personalities.  In the middle of a crisis, those personal styles of communication will become dominant and take over.  Here are the four communications styles:
  • Analytical
  • Driver
  • Amiable
  • Expressive
In addition, the organizational pulse of your organization, will be made up of a blend of these individuals and their respective communications proclivities.  What would happen if the whole team was made up of "Drivers" or "Amiables"?  How would the performance of the team be affected by having such an overwhelming number of people who have the same style of communication?

The team will not always have a balanced set of communication styles.  The goal is to assign certain roles or accountability, to the person with the best communications style for the tasks assigned.  Is the CEO always the best person to have as the public spokesperson in the middle of a crisis?  It depends on the type of communications style the CEO possesses and also the amount of media training and experience the individual has already accomplished.  BP five years ago this month is a prime example of this:
ON the night of April 20, 2010 — the early morning hours of April 21 in London — the Macondo well erupted below the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, ripping through the rig, killing 11 people and creating one of the worst environmental catastrophes in United States history. Tony Hayward was having breakfast in a London hotel when he got the news.
By now the events that followed are well known: the desperate efforts to cap the gushing well; the harrowing collapse in BP’s share price; the government inquiries; the multi-billion-dollar cleanup. On July 27, BP said that Mr. Hayward was out. He was replaced by Robert Dudley, the first American chief executive in BP’s history.
What was Tony Hayward's communications style?  What is Robert W. Dudley's?  While the crisis team at BP was in full security risk mode soon after the blow out, it may have been the "Organizational Pulse" that was in need of a change with new leadership.

The "Leadership of Security Risk Professionals" is as much about detecting and understanding your teams communications styles and diversity, as much as practicing together under extreme duress.  Only then will your team know who is the best person to handle some facet of the crisis incident and only then, will the organizational pulse be headed on the right trajectory.

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