Smart security leaders know when to cross the line

It’s time to learn something new by crossing boundaries and engaging with others

bend in road traffic transportation
Håkan Dahlström (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

What happens when you step over the line?

As children, we’re taught to respect boundaries. We learn that stepping over the line is bad. It is generally met with repercussions. As a result, most of us seek to stay within the lines. It works because we naturally seek boundaries. Whether division of labor or sphere of control, we look for clear lines to delineate security from everything else.

The more time we spend in our boundaries, the more rigid and siloed our thinking. We focus on the risk of stepping over the line and forget about the benefit.

Looking for insights on how to boost the performance of your team this year?

The solution is simple: cross the line.

Physically step outside the confines of the security team with the intention of engaging and learning from others. It’s a concept I call “purposeful cross pollination.” Break the boundaries and engage with others.

Some lines to cross

The simple act of getting outside the structure, routine, and thinking of the security team invites learning from others. Here are five “lines” to cross:

  • Individual: sometimes just learning from a peer is powerful. It tends to be easy to make time to shadow a colleague on your team or a peer from a different group.
  • Team: consider the power of learning by immersing yourself in the experience of other teams within the company. Pay attention to development, marketing, sales, legal, and others.
  • Company: consider looking for a peer at another company. Even better, don’t worry about a peer in the same position, but seek out another company to learn from what they do.
  • Industry: similar to looking for another company, consider the power of working outside your industry to compare and contrast their experience with your own
  • Geography: if possible, consider learning from a company in another part of the world.

Some of these may be easier to accomplish than others. Take advantage of what allows you to get started. Then circle back and cross more lines in the future.


What happens when you cross the line

Minimally, crossing the line creates a remarkable opportunity to learn through direct observation and contact.

Maximize the experience by setting aside judgement. Don’t worry about comparisons or look for justification. No one is assigning a score.

This is better. You have permission to suspend your own reality (but not your experience) to immerse yourself in the reality of someone else. Ask questions and swap stories to deepen understanding.

In my experience, simple is best. Approach each opportunity with little structure and few expectations. Start with some basic questions, like what people do. Listen to their words. Ask to learn their process(es). Maybe even try it out.

As the conversation and time together unfolds, follow the flow and see where it leads. Create the connection -- and trust -- to explore the struggles, constraints, and concerns of your host. Find out what motivates them. Make a point to learn about their strengths, solutions, and victories.

After your experience, schedule time to step back and reflect.

Inviting others to cross your line

You can get a similar benefit by inviting others to step out of their boundaries to experience your reality.

With a focus on sharing and exchanging ideas, prepare to answer what you do, and how you get it done. A key element of accountability is intention. The exercise of inviting others to explore your work is a powerful way to consider your intentions, structure, and resources.

Just thinking about inviting someone in to explore your routine brings an awareness (proper use of the concept) to your actions. The act of explaining and answering questions often reveals new and important insights.

When the session is over, take time to reflect and capture the insights you gained. Emphasize what worked well first. Then note areas for review or improvement. Sometimes sharing your work generates more ideas than learning from someone else.  

Start walking and cross the first line

Make time to cross the line.

Security is hectic. Other people also deal with hectic and stressful environments. Stepping outside the boundaries is a great way to learn more about what you do, and bring ideas back that improve the performance of your team.

Focus on the basics. Learn how others prioritize, measure, and communicate. Think about what you can bring to your team and consider the best way to introduce and test the changes.

Then do it. Find someone you’d like to learn from and reach out. Invite someone to spend time with you.

Let me know how it goes and what you learn from the experience.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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