A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a delightful afternoon with the great Lou Holtz. I was the warm-up speaker for him at one of the annual General Services Administration (GSA) Conferences in DC. As I always do, I got up and talked about hacking and cyber controls to a mostly yawning audience. But when Coach Holtz took the stage and started telling his amazing stories, everyone was spellbound.
Afterward, I told him how much I loved his speech, and I asked him what drove his incredible passion and commitment. With his characteristic half-lisp, this wonderful man started talking about coaching, and how it’s been such a labor of love for him. He had me laughing about the placekicker who couldn’t aim when Coach Holtz watched, and he told me about quarterbacks who needed to be pushed this way or that, and he just went on and on.
It was an incredible afternoon for me, and got me thinking about the coaches and mentors I’ve had in my own career. There was my Dad – my first baseball coach – who picked me for the 12-year-old All-Star Team when I thought another kid deserved it. I asked him about the choice, and he offered an unemotional explanation: His decision, he explained, was based purely on statistics and that I’d earned the spot. It was a wonderful moment in my life.
Then there was the great Admiral Ike Cole, who had come to AT&T in the 1990’s from the Federal Government (OK, it was NSA). He asked our cyber security team to do things that were almost unnatural from a technical perspective. You cannot do that, we explained. It’s technically impossible. But he would smile and tell us we were magnificent at what we did and that he had every confidence that we would work it out. And we did.
Great coaches support. Great coaches make us better. Great coaches challenge us to do things we never thought we could do. They are our benefactors, even though sometimes they appear to be our greatest adversaries. They help us achieve our full potential, and they reward us when we do. No team would ever go into battle without a coach, and I believe this extends to the position of CISO.
Every CISO – or aspirational CISO – should have a coach. The position is so complex, so potentially hazardous, and so requiring of clear thinking, that having a coach to assist, to mentor, and to listen – seems obvious to me. Being a longtime CISO myself, I know the challenges of being just one bad move from replacement. The position, frankly, is like that of quarterback, and I suspect Tom Brady might report good experiences with his own coach.
At TAG Cyber, we work with a limited number of candidate CISOs each year to arrange for private coaching. Discretion is an important consideration in the selection and day-to-day interactions – even though we hope that in the future, CISOs will be as proud of their coaches as so many college athletes were during their mentorship by Lou Holtz. Being coached is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strength.
If you are interested in being coached, or if you have budding security executive in your organization that would benefit from private mentorship, then drop us a note via LinkedIn or via the contact form on https://www.tag-cyber.com/. We will be in touch with you to arrange a private discussion to determine if our services would be a good fit. I oversee all coaching engagements, and would either serve as your private coach, or would help arrange a similarly credentialed expert.
We look forward to hearing from you.