A silhouette of a person's head with a heart-shaped puzzle for a brain is held in the hands of two people.
Putting our own mental and physical health first shows team members that they can do the same. (ThitareeSarmkasat/iStock via Getty Images)

Have you ever explained that your people are your greatest asset? Or boasted about how people are your priority? Maybe you’ve been on the other side of that statement, wondering why the words don’t match the actions.

Security leaders need to make sure the people on their team are OK, and that goes beyond words.

When words like, “I care about how you’re doing,” don’t match actions like expecting people to work the weekend to get things done, friction builds.

Friction erodes value, destroys trust and burns people out.

The other day, Sarah (not her real name), a security leader in a consulting firm, took a moment to vent about this very issue. They assigned a new manager from a different group to her project. She could tell he was struggling, and reached out to check in. By first building rapport and listening, she learned about a challenging situation at home — while getting staffed on a new security project where he lacked experience.

Each time she asked how he was — as he fell further behind — he said he was fine. Clearly, Sarah realized he wasn’t fine. She stepped in and advocated for him to get the break and support the company promised him, that Sarah knew he needed to make a difference.

That’s leadership — that’s putting your people first and matching actions to words.

Oh, and she didn’t just make sure he got the care he needed. Sarah also engaged with the client, figured out what they really needed, and made sure they got the support and experience to advance the project.

Sarah’s example serves as a reminder that it is possible to do right by people, serve your clients (even internal clients), and run a successful or profitable business.

It led to an interesting discussion about whether leaders genuinely believe people are our priority. As a leader, our job is to elevate our people. We need to make it possible for them to grow their own value, contribute, and earn recognition.

That often means we need to make sure they are truly OK, and take action to get them the slack or break they need to perform at their best.

Even now, if you assert that’s what you do, consider what you model.

  • Do you take down time when you need it?
  • Do you email people off-hours and weekends, setting an unspoken assumption they do the same?
  • Do you explain that we have to "suck it up" and get it done?

It's challenging to look out for a team while also getting it all done. The risk is sacrificing yourself and burning out in a way that cascades and affects everyone, even though you tried to prevent it.

We all need a break.

Here’s a secret: we can improve security by slowing down.

As security leaders, we need to set the example by matching our actions to our words. When we put our own mental and physical health first, we make it OK for our team to do the same. That’s how we show folks that we truly appreciate and care for our people.