When was the last time you had a Great Conversation?

On March 6 and 7, executive risk, resilience and security leaders from around the United States and the world, convened with one expressed purpose: to influence innovation and change in the profession and the industry. The leaders were not only executive security officers and their teams, but also their ecosystem of current and future vendors such as risk consultants, security risk management services providers, system integrators and technology vendors. This supported one of the core themes of The Great Conversation in Security™; to raise the standard of performance and value for the entire ecosystem with the end goal of protecting our communities, organizations and our countries.

The Great Conversation took place at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center on the Seattle waterfront with close to 300 registered attendees.

The two-day forum was organized around a collective experience of keynotes and panels with interactive digital polling preceded by video interviews that were conducted before the forum focused on the themes of the presentations.  As well, time was set aside for breakouts around critical communication issues in and around the “campus”: the descriptor we use to define the space by which we organize, communicate, educate and work with employees, visitors, contractors and vendors. Finally, several organizations took part in a collective case study involving the identification of their problem, the mustering of experience around the problem, and the scorecard by which they evaluated potential solutions.

Over the next few months we will be publishing stories from these practitioners and thought leaders as they challenge the status quo and continue the conversation throughout the year.

The first profile is about the leadership challenge issued by Mike Mason, CSO of Verizon. Mike’s opening address was fitting for this conversation community since the innovations and changes we are considering will demand bold, courageous and disciplined leaders with highly engaged and motivated teams.

The threat is significant, but not obvious. The biggest threat we have is not developing an engaged workforce. It is one of our greatest strengths if we are successful. It leverages the combined intelligence, persistence and commitment of a unified team. If we fail, we will keep mining our legacy of discouragement, cynicism, lack of motivation and, what Thoreau described as people leading “lives of quiet desperation”. Mike provided transparent moments where he failed as a leader, faced his failure and overcame it through a deep and evidential caring of one human being to another.

Today, one of Mike’s key performance indicators, is sending an “atta boy” twice a week to one of his hundreds of employees around the world. He now hires, trains and measures around relationship; the platform for any organizational measurement or goal.

After his keynote, he then made one of his most important statements about leadership. He positioned himself in the front row for the rest of the conference, actively listening, engaging, and taking copious notes. We are leaders of our families, friends and our employees, rarely through words, but through our actions. He was modeling the art and discipline of learning. He was not outside the auditorium chatting or doing email. He had committed to the act of learning through his sacrifice of time and the limitation of distractions.

At the end, you could say he was the wisest person in the room.