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Putting the vision in supervision.

IN THE MIDST of budget cuts and increased demands on their time, security managers must find new and innovative ways to supervise people. Visionary management, a technique combining the participatory management and visionary leadership management styles, can be a useful tool in overcoming the obstacles to motivating employees.

The key to successful supervision is simple: If you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you will not have so many problems. Then, why is it so hard for managers to supervise people? Primarily because managers often fail to treat employees as equals. Some people say that this is the way it is supposed to be. They are wrong. All employees should be treated with respect and dignity.

Over the past six years, I had the opportunity to test management theories in a real life setting. In 1987, Nebraska public power District decided it needed to coordinate security-related issues for its facilities located throughout the state. These included a nuclear plant, two coal-fired plants, a large operations center, the corporate headquarters, several hydroelectric plants, and numerous administrative offices. I became the company's first corporate security manager, charged with building a security team from the ground up.

The task was formidable. The first goal was to hire and develop a team of security personnel that would be interested in the vision that had been conceived for the department. This vision was to provide a customer service approach to security-related issues throughout the company and build a department that would endure.

I developed a management style that combines a military model with two other techniques--participatory management and visionary leadership. The basic difference between the two techniques is that participatory management is a model that makes everyone in the organization an integral part of the decision-making process, while visionary leadership is the development of a vision by the leader that motivates people in the organization to help the leader turn the vision into reality.

These models work together to provide a specific management style. The military model provides the strategic thinking and the discipline; the combined participatory management and visionary leadership models allow people to contribute to decision making and planning.

As security needs arise, these models provide avenues through which solutions can be developed and implemented. For example, at Nebraska Power, a need existed for a drug-testing facility. The staff brainstormed the idea and came up with a proposed floor plan, approximate staffing and equipment needs, and budget requirements. The idea was then presented to senior management for its review and approval, and adequate funding was forecasted for the project.

Staff members contributed to all phases of this planning process and later participated in the implementation process as well. The use of visionary management made this project a reality. It would have taken more time and effort if done by a single manager.

Several other projects, such as background investigations, loss prevention, and asset protection, have also been developed, all using the same concept used for the drug-testing facility.

This management process has led to a department of eighteen staff members and a budget of approximately $1 million a year.

Vision sessions. Whenever a change is proposed by a staff member, a vision session is convened and the staff member presents his or her idea. The purpose of the session is to make every effort to get the idea to work, not to shoot it down. The session's primary objective is to determine where the proposed idea will benefit the overall vision of the department in meeting its mission.

Ideas can be as small as a less expensive but equal quality disposable product. They can be as large as a full-scale security access system for a new 20,000 square-foot facility with multiple exits, gates, parking lots, and computer equipment.

Not all staff members are involved in the vision session, only the supervisor, myself, the individual with the idea, and two randomly chosen individuals from the department. An odd number of participants prevents ties at decision time.

Once the idea is discussed, the group votes to adopt or table it. If the suggestion is tabled, the person who proposed it is given the specific reasons and thanked for his or her interest in making the department better. If the plan is adopted, the idea person becomes the focal point for gathering the necessary information to sell the concept to senior management.

For example, when the security program first started, the company did not have a structured loss prevention program. One staff member came from a company that had a good loss prevention program.

The vision team listened to his idea, brainstormed it, and voted to adopt it. After he presented all the details to me, it was my job to sell it to senior management. Today the company has a specific budget line item for loss prevention activities and has conducted surveys and implemented controls that were proposed during the vision session.

Untapped Resources. This approach to supervising people is simple. Each person in the group has unique untapped resources. It is up to the manager to identify those unique qualities and nurture them so that the individual begins to use those resources for the benefit of the group and the organization.

One of the people in my department is an exceptional investigator, although he was not initially hired for that expertise. Over time, it became clear that investigations and physical security were his strong points. We met and visualized his role in the department.

After using visionary management, it became clear that he could have a much greater impact on the operation of the company by developing and implementing new programs and conducting important investigations. Because of the emphasis on visionary management, we were able to use this person's unique talents and further the overall vision of the department.

A manager does not need a crystal ball or tarot cards to become a visionary. What it takes is new thinking. For example, how many different ways can be developed to counter employee theft?

A manager should look beyond the solutions employed in his or her own industry for creative techniques used by other business segments. Can bar coding be used? How about infrared dyes or powders? Imagination and employee involvement are the keys to this type of problem-solving techniques.

AS WITH ALL MANAGEMENT styles, however, there is a downside. People are not always receptive to changes. The key is to get employees involved in the process. Otherwise, visionary management will not succeed. Employees who are involved will be committed to seeing projects come to life.

Inclusive attitudes. Clerks and secretaries often are the mainstays of departments. Unfortunately, they are seldom consulted on anything or involved in decision making. At Nebraska Public Power, the clerical staff is regularly briefed and asked their opinions on issues of particular interest that are totally out of their scope of responsibility. For example, the company recently discovered that it was going to be subject to a Department of Transportation Alcohol and Drug Testing program from which it had previously been exempt. Once aware of the new requirement, a vision session was convened by management, which included clerical and secretarial staff, to develop ideas on how to implement the new program in the most effective manner.

People like to be asked for their opinion, especially by their supervisors or managers. Support staff often think of new twists that had not been thought of before. The old management philosophies of supervising people, involving the concepts of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling, are not enough in today's complex business environment.

All management concepts should be coupled with vision to ensure that the department is planning for the future. The vision of the future should be goal oriented and challenging, and members of the vision team should be able to visualize how the target benefits them.

Success in the visionary management process hinges on getting people involved and empowering them to achieve the vision. As the leader of the vision team, I set the standards and provide the guidance, but the team members are the people who make the process happen.

The process starts with getting the participants motivated. I work hard on selling the employees on the idea that the department can accomplish the vision. Once I get them to the point where they believe they can do it, the rest of the project is easier for the employees to visualize and perform.

The following three practices are useful in keeping team members motivated:

* Continually review actual accomplishments.

* Appeal to their emotions and keep them interested.

* Verbally reinforce and persuade them of the mission at every possible opportunity.

Managing, leading, and supervising people is essentially a teaching and coaching job. The manager must help employees to adopt new value systems for solving problems. These new value system changes then allow the manager to direct the team in accomplishing the vision.

A lot of confidence building is involved. Some team members may be hesitant to put themselves on the line. It is the manager's job to use the skills necessary to bolster their confidence.

Visionary management is not for everyone. It requires new thinking and a tremendous amount of trust. It means taking risks and being able to accept failure gracefully and move on to the next challenge.

The security industry is changing, and the role of the security manager is changing as well. Security managers must be more business oriented in their approach to problem solving and more innovative in the ways they supervise people. Visionary management is one method that can help.

Juan I. Vigil, CPP, is corporate security manager for Nebraska Public Power District in Columbus, Nebraska, and an adjunct professor of management studies at Central Community College in Columbus. He is chairman of the ASIS Standing Committee on Utility Security.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Utility Security
Author:Vigil, Juan I.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:1637
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