The turnover rate in cybersecurity is neck breaking. We hear retention numbers ranging from 12-24 months. How can we possibly expect to bring value to our business if our team members are leaving just as they’re getting up to speed? When we speak about investing in our analysts, the conversation typically turns to more tangible things like technical training, certifications, and conferences. I’m not here to diminish these tools for technical development. Instead, I want to encourage you to also look at investing in other ways. Being people-focused, hiring and/or promoting the right leaders, spending quality time with our team members, and allowing failure will not only contribute to the longevity of your team, but also the quality of your team’s output.
Shifting our focus from technical to relational can make all the difference. We hear things like, “People don’t leave businesses, they leave managers.” Anyone who says that isn’t true is probably a bad manager. The data is there. If the pay is right and benefits package is generous, you might lure someone onboard, but if the leadership is weak and compassion is lacking, you can bet in the next 24 months that analyst will be searching for a new opportunity. In the book First Break All the Rules from Gallup, the authors state, “We have discovered the manager — not pay, benefits, perks, or a charismatic corporate leader — was the critical player in building a strong workplace.”
When I say we must invest in our analyst, I mean we must invest our time into understanding what their talents are, what wakes them up in the morning, and how to encourage them to be the best version of themselves. We can’t expect to change them, which is why the hiring process is so important. What you can expect though is greatness from them given their abilities and proper investment of your time.
We often find technical leaders in management roles. This happens because we lack the appropriate career path for those who excel in their current role. However, we often forget the leadership role is not one of technical aptitude, but of people development. It’s no longer about your ability to execute as an individual. Instead, it’s about your team’s ability to execute. Now, these new leaders are responsible for everything their team does or fails to do — there is no in between. They often think they can get away with doing all the work for the team, but soon after they find themselves not only burned out, but they also lose the trust of their team. Since trust isn’t received by the team, the team isn’t giving trust. We must create both technical and leadership career paths to ensure our team members have a career path that best suits their skills, abilities, and aspirations, and ensure we are promoting those with the appropriate skills into a role they can be successful in.
Your team is a mirror of your leadership. If you show compassion to your team, they will respond in kind. If you run your team with an iron fist, they will reciprocate. What you can count on either way, though, is failure. We must recognize and embrace failure with learning. This is a tough one. Coming face-to-face with failure, owning the situation, can be tough for leaders. It’s easy to say, “well, they didn’t follow process,” or “I’ve told them about this once already,” etc. The first thing a leader must do is understand what happened and why. Then, reflect on what you could have done differently, not just what the team can do differently. Once again, you are responsible for everything your team does and fails to do. Do not point fingers to post blame. Pinpoint the problem, understand root cause, reflect on what can be done differently up and down the chain of command, and execute on the change. Failure is only wasteful when nothing was learned.
Underestimating one-one-one time with your team is a great way to create distance yourself from them. This quality time getting to know your team members is critical, and spans beyond the day-to-day business needs and metrics review. It must also be a time for relationship development and passion seeking. Starting these discussions with personal conversation can go a long way in breaking down the wall of awkwardness and establishing confidence and compassion so they know it’s ok to have real conversations with you as a leader. Humanizing the one-on-one experience and having them often will help you and your team stay ahead of problems to come.
Technical training, certifications, and industry conferences are all great ways to foster your analyst’s knowledge and skills and help them find the education and networking opportunities they need to build a successful career. More importantly, though, building relationships and having empathy, and investing in human relationship is how you nurture leaders and build a team you can count on.