Over the past thirty years, I’ve dealt extensively with security/risk managers. For the most part I’ve found them all to be dedicated and hardworking individuals. Why is it then that a large percentage of these individuals ultimately fail in their job function?
Having spent countless investigations and consulting hours working with the heads of security and risk – in both the largest companies and smaller less structured businesses – I have seen far too many good men and women break down with frustration. Many of these security professionals are long standing friends of mine, and I’ve spent enough social moments with most of them to have heard their stories and experiences that have led to resignations, quitting and complete loss of desire.
As a result I have come to realise that almost all these individuals failed in their jobs because of five main reasons.
Before I go into these, it is important to point out that although these factors seem to be the common denominator in the failing of many security managers, they are by no means the only reasons. Sometimes people are just not cut out for one of the most demanding and emotionally challenging jobs in South Africa. Security management is certainly not for the faint hearted. Nor is it a job to take simply to grab a pay cheque at month end. This approach will almost always end in dismissal or resignation. The role of a risk manager, security manager… call it what you will, is not a job – it is, in fact, a calling.
Why do security managers fail?
1. Poor match making.
Prior to 1994 and South Africa’s change to a democratically elected government, the production line of security managers was largely a conveyor belt of retired or ex-military men. These were excellent soldiers; men of war, so to speak… people who had in most instances had some connection to a military or police background.
These men were excellent at time keeping, managing security officers with a hardnosed approach, and very often answered to no one but the top tier of management.
One could argue that some industries, security being one, thrive under those military styled operating models. I for one agree that a parade ground drill instructor with the soft skills of a lawyer would be the perfect candidate to manage security and loss control exceptionally well.
As “democracy” played out in boardrooms of the Union Buildings, many pre-1994 security managers began to see the corporate structures changing too. Companies started placing more emphasis on HR departments, unions began tightening their grip on large sectors, and many security managers contracts were terminated because of the company’s fear of being seen as “Politically Incorrect” in that pre-1994 ex-soldiers were still running security matters at the company.
The end result was that many, many companies began looking for new younger candidates to fill their requirements in risk and security portfolios.
Unfortunately, this had a huge impact on how effective the overall loss control and security manager’s impact was.
Understand that, at the same time, trade unions were also seeking new ground in the business sector. These unionists quickly learnt that getting rid of a strong, hardened security manager made their and their members lives a lot more comfortable.
I personally know of dozens of companies who flipped so much in fear of being seen as still entrenched in Apartheid ideology, that they virtually closed down their security departments and ultimately paid the ultimate price years later.
The bigger problem though, was that young inexperienced people were also now getting into security manager positions, but finding themselves severely out of their depth. Just like a romantic relationship is built on common likes/dislikes, trust and respect, for security managers to succeed they require the same.
Sadly, poor hires (match making) have become the first crack in the proverbial ice that is successful risk management. Even worse is the moving of the security portfolio and all its intricacies over to a employee with absolutely no experience or passion for the position. In fact, it’s nothing more than the handing over of the poisoned chalice.
In my 30+ years of experience in the field of investigations and security management consulting, I have encountered very few long term success stories involving the security and loss control portfolio being handled by an employee whose core function is actually something else completely. You do not match a burger flipper with a baker in a gourmet cooking contest. So why match the security portfolio with an employee from a completely other department or sector?
Appointing the correct person for the role is of absolute importance. Even small security teams will struggle to deal with risk and loss control if the leader of the program is not the correct fit.
In my opinion the success of the security manager and, ultimately, his programme is made a lot easier if the person in charge possesses three important skills:
- Lateral thinking
- Can speak more than one language
A successful security manager who has the skills and versatility to successfully understand and implement required strategies such as intelligence gathering, screening, information security, budgets and contracts is worth his weight in gold. But finding such a person is not as easy as one may think.
My opinion is that then a company finds a loss control manager who can speak the language of business and security, hold onto them!
See part two of our series on “Why Security Managers Fail” next week…