Culture Counts

by Chris Bedel | Aug 14, 2020


This week’s Friday 5 is about a topic that I don’t typically discuss here in our blog posts but is so important to my company and should be for your organization and information security team.

It’s about culture and why it’s important and what you can do to improve yours for your team.

The timing of this is perfect, because last week, we held our first ever off-site in-person retreat, or BedelCon2020 as we called it. Yes, we all physically got together, something that’s out of the norm these days, but was vitally important for us to do.

No doubt, we used masks when we needed to. We socially distanced ourselves as much as possible. And there was plenty of hand washing too.

Even with those things in place, you might still be asking, “Why on earth would you have an in-person retreat in 2020?”

That’s an even better question for Bedel Security, because we are an entirely remote company, our services are remote and our team is remote. So it took a lot of effort and resources to put it together.

Believe me it wasn't an easy decision, and we were on the brink of cancellation several times. But it was the right one. And I think there's something to be learned from what we gained from it, and that's why I'm sharing.

The reason we got together face-to-face is because our organizational health at Bedel Security is the single biggest factor in our continued success.

From day one, when I started my Virtual CISO services company, I knew I wanted to have an awesome, healthy team. So, we’ve been conscious of our culture and intentional about where we’re steering it all along the way.

Culture is made up of everything we do, but it also drives everything we do. It can be a vicious or virtuous circle, depending on what side of it you’re on (and is part of why it can be so hard to change it).

For me, it's comprised of a several things:

Shared values, across the company.

Trust amongst the team, which leads to open and honest dialogue about the issues as a company that we need to address.

And finally, a shared vision that we can all execute on.

Being a student of it over the past several years, I’ve learned (and experienced firsthand) that when the culture consists of a cohesive team, with open communication, all driving toward the same vision, you can accomplish anything.

If any of these things are missing, it feels like running through waist-deep mud.

So, our retreat was our way of continuing to enhance our overall organizational health and to keep us out of the mud. It was a huge success in that we all walked away with clarity and energy to continue our mission of changing the way banks and credit unions manage technology risk.

Here are some of the things that we did, which may give you some ideas for your organization.


Personality Assessments

We are big on personality tests. And we've used several over the years, including Myers Briggs, Strengths Finder and most recently using the Predictive Index.

While we don't use these to pigeonhole people, we find that it's a great tool to understand each other, making it easier to address communication issues, work style issues, and the overall general quirkiness that every human being has.

BedelCon2020 kicked off with our entire team reviewing and sharing our predictive index with each other. We used an outside consultant to facilitate the discussion. He did a great job of tying our personalities to our vision, and our roles, and how they work together.

I recommend picking a personality assessment that works for you (many are free) and creating a safe discussion to openly share amongst your team. This is a great first step of becoming a little vulnerable with each other and building trust. More on trust later.



One thing I’ve learned about values is that relationships can be built or can fall apart based on them. People generally are brought together based on common values and if those values by one of the parties change over time (which they can do) the relationship will likely fade. That can be in friendships, marriages, and working relationships.

So establishing your team's values, and using those values to hire, review, and fire is critical to having organizational health and a cohesive team. Because when you have a member of your team that doesn't share your values it's always going to feel like someone's trying to row the boat in the opposite direction.

Our team can recite the values on their own because I take the time to regularly review them and talk about what they mean, with examples.



Your company vision needs to be very specific. As the word denotes, it’s about seeing a future that doesn’t exist. You need to paint that picture in the heads of your team so they can see that future as well. The clearer you are, the more likely you are to get there. Without it, you are all moving in separate directions.

As a leader, you need to get clear about the unique value your company delivers, your long- and short-term goals, and what present and future roles your team needs to play to get you there.

It's a heck of a lot easier for everyone to move in the same direction when they can all point to the same place on the map as the destination. And that’s why I spend a ton of time reviewing and reminding the team of where we are going and how we plan to get there.



Finally, the number and the number one reason why we chose to do this in person, is that we want to build and maintain trust amongst our team.

Teams that trust one another are much more likely to talk about the issues. They're much more likely to call out someone and hold them accountable when they're not doing their job. Teams that trust one another don't engage in the politics that can be so draining and inefficient.

I've found, over time, that it's much easier to build team trust over drinks, than it is in a zoom meeting.

We intentionally worked in a lot of downtime in BedelCon2020, where we could have conversations about our personal lives, about our personal goals, and about our fears and concerns.

To build trust you have to open up to one another. Everyone has to get a little bit vulnerable, even the leader.

It's hard to plan those conversations out, the best ones seem to happen organically. Really, all it takes is a safe environment, free of judging, where people can open up.



I know these things all seem really simple. And technically they are simple, but they're not always easy to do. But if you want to have a successful team, all of these things make doing that a lot easier.

Bottom line, I'm so glad we were able to hold the event. Our team, all walked away with clarity and cohesiveness and that makes it all worth it. To learn more about our team, check out our About Us page. 

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