Showing Up Has Costs

Leadership Moment: Visibly Representing

I spent the weekend alternating between terror and belonging. My wife and I went to Frankfurt to celebrate our 20th anniversary by watching the Patriots play an international game. As a Jew, a lot of friends had cautioned me to be careful, especially given the antisemitic unrest blooming all across the world. I know people who’ve stopped wearing any symbols that would identify them as a Jew, and they suggested I do the same.

I, however, am stubborn and obstinate, so I went the opposite direction.  I wore a kippah in public. My necklace was always visible, with a large golden Magen David shining from it. And, when appropriate, I wore a Patriots jersey emblazoned with “Am Yisrael” and the number 18 on it (18 is the numeric representation of the word “Chai,” so the whole jersey read “The People of Israel Live.”  

And I was terrified. I’d put these symbols on because I refused to be cowed, but inside I was cringing.  Would someone attack me without warning?  Would an event be spoiled by an ugly confrontation? At what point would the unpleasant rush of adrenaline peter out, leaving me a mess? 

At no point did my attire trigger a negative response, though. I was uncomfortable walking past a tiny protest, but my attire didn’t add to that feeling.  But the positive responses?  Everywhere.

Jews came up to me and greeted me. Some in our extended traveling party took a few minutes to connect. An Israeli on the street stopped me; he’d been feeling so alone and isolated, and I was a beacon for him. Along the way, I realized that I’d stopped wearing my signs of Judaism as a protest, and started wearing them to tell other Jews that I saw them, and they could see me too.

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One Minute Pro Tip: Presenting Representation

A lot of organizations have added in visible representation moments into their organizations. Perhaps every All Hands meeting has some number of women presenters. Interview panels include minority and women employees at a greater rate than employment demographics would suggest. As a leader, you have to evaluate how you’re going to present this practice to your internal organization, and how you’re balancing the positive and negative equities involved.

The first step is to understand the equities. On the positive side, some actions are highlighting the successes of one group of employees at a higher rate than another group gets their equivalent successes highlighted, and you’ll have to understand how you’re managing that impact to the now-unseen work. On the negative side, these actions might come at a higher cost to one group: if your organization is 5% women, and hiring panels take 5% of staff time, but you make sure that 20% of interview panels are women, have you done the math on how much more time women spend interviewing?

The math: Women will spend 20% of their time on interviews, while others will spend 4.2% of their time. If you assume that other inefficiencies cost 20% of everyone’s productivity, your representation choice will make women almost 21% less effective than their peers.



Recent Appearances

Nov 9: It’s All About Scale: Designing SOC and IR capabilities for the long term, SecOps Vision

Future appearances

Nov 14: Defense vs Resilience: A Secops Dilemma, Hunters Con

Nov 15: How to Build and Measure a Corporate Security Program, CERIAS Seminar Series

Dec 8: Cyber Security Headlines in Review

Dec 11-13: CyberMarketingCon (Two talks: Stop Destroying Value, and 9 Answers Your CISO Prospect Needs)

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Leadership Q&A: Working with Friends

Leader K asks, “How do you balance being friends or friendly with your team, when you also are responsible for their employment?”

This, K, is one of the hardest parts of management.  Some managers choose one extreme: not forming any emotional connections with their team, so that they can dispassionately evaluate the team for promotion (or termination).  It’s an approach one can be fairly effective at, but for many managers it’s unnatural.  For most team members, it’s extremely off-putting, and it’s hard for them to be fully motivated for someone who seems so disengaged.

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