Welcome to the AskBetsyBCP Q&A. These are questions that were received by DRII for their Women in Business Continuity track at the DRII2019 conference in Las Vegas and we wanted to get the answers posted here so they can be reference for a long time.  The field of Business Continuity doesn’t evolve all that quickly, so these will be relevant for a while.  Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on them and either update or remove those that are less relevant if/when that happens.

In an attempt to make the navigation easier, we’ve listed all of the questions at the top.  They are hyperlinked, so you’ll be able to get to the answer quickly!

Happy reading AskBetsyBCP Q&A!

Q = Questions

Q1What are some of the online (low or no expense) courses you recommend for experienced BCM Professionals?

 

Q2I have a “focal point” in the IT who showed up after almost one year from previous check, saying that he has no clue of the state of updating for DR plans. I am the BC Manager, just renewed the ISO22301 certification and I am going to prepare the internal annual review… how would you manage this situation? “Too aggressive” or “too analytical” are the labels here for me…

 

Q3Are there any examples or resources where we can go to learn how to become better at stop-light status reports?

 

Q4Do you have any advice for a female BCM Coordinator in a first responder organization?

 

Q5What do you recommend for keeping the momentum going in building your BC Program?   How do you prevent people from saying BC is done once a plan is built and motivate them to take next steps to continue maturing the program?

 

Q6How do you manage manager expectations of your balance between work and personal life when you’re on call 24/7/365 to respond to events/incidents on a global scale?

 

Q7How do you get buy in and respect from the IT crowd when you are the only woman in the room?  I often have to rely on them to update BC / DR information, etc.  However, they do not report to me…  How do I get them to cooperate without going to their managers?

 

Q8Can you discuss the balance that can be found, as a woman, between trying to drive your point home and avoiding being labeled a “nag?”

 

Q9Rather than pay disparity, I’d like to be more assertive in addressing “role disparity”.  I’ve noticed that when men are in certain roles, they are VPs or “Senior” directors and managers.   When women are in comparable roles, they are doing the same (or more) work, but at a lower title.  Is there any phrasing you can offer to help me address this inequity in a more factual than whiny way?

 

Q10Often times I am the only female in the room and find that I am talked over and interrupted more often than not during discussion. What strategies do you suggest to prevent this from happening? Thank-you!

 

Q11What do you find are some good ways to control your emotions?

 

Q12Our team leader has a lot of strengths, but reward and recognition are not among them.  As a result, our team morale is at an all time low.  I see opportunities to engage our team, but I don’t act on it because I am sensitive about the adage that “men take charge and women take care.”  Is there any advice on how to “take care” of the team without losing the image I want to create of someone who is assertive and who also takes charge?

 

Q13How do you deal with aggressive women in the workplace and how do you approach/address them when they become aggressive towards you?

 

Q14What three tools have helped you the most in getting others to acknowledge your credibility as a woman in business continuity?

 

Q15How have you personally overcome bias, whether conscious or unconscious, as a woman in the BCM field?

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A = Answers

A1

Q1What are some of the online (low or no expense) courses you recommend for experienced BCM Professionals?

A1 – Have you taken any Project Management (PM) training yet?   I always recommend experienced BCM Professionals enhance their skills through PM training.  There are several free online training courses that prepare you for the PM Professional exam.  Simply google ‘free online PMP training’ to review several options.

A2

Q2 I have a “focal point” in the IT who showed up after almost one year from previous check, saying that he has no clue of the state of updating for DR plans. I am the BC Manager, just renewed the ISO22301 certification and I am going to prepare the internal annual review… how would you manage this situation? “Too aggressive” or “too analytical” are the labels here for me…  

A2 – Great question that happens to us all – remember, this is the CIOs problem, not yours.  You are simply consolidating a status report for the CEO and will need to immediately add this to your risk register in a very visible way.  This is the beauty of stoplight reporting using the PPs.  Once a year for the annual report to the Exec is fine, but you need much narrower timelines in your program. Every quarter I just send out the program status report and ask everyone to advise what colour their box should be in the Steering Committee report.   If they do not provide input then I leave their box blank for their boss to explain.

A3

Q3Are there any examples or resources where we can go to learn how to become better at stop-light status reports?

A3 – Thanks for this question – stop light reporting is not a new idea.  It has been used as a project management tool for many years.  Don’t hesitate to google ‘stoplight status reporting’ for a ton of examples and additional information.

About the best (and shortest) explanation I’ve seen is available at: https://pmwow.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/the-stop-light-report.

All I have done to optimize this well known Project Management tool is to apply the DRII Professional Practice (PP) content as the activity that needs to be performed.  I have varying levels of charts for different audiences.  For example:

    • Service owners get the chart that has ALL activities/tasks outlined for that BCM PP in it (e.g. risk; BIA etc.);
    • My Steering Committee (C level Exec) get only a summary chart that shows each of the 10 professional practices and the status of each Service.

Depending on the client I am helping at the time, the colours will be associated with a Capability Maturity Model (CMM) for their industry.  For example, Gartner; ITIL; ISO standards etc.

The original ‘Capability Maturity Model (CMM) was developed at Carnegie Mellon University as a military software development framework.  Wikipedia has an excellent entry on this version that I have adapted for BCM and you can too.   The concept of a CMM has been reused millions of time over the years to support and manage all kinds of complex programs and projects.  Here’s the Wikipedia link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Maturity_Model

If there are no capability maturity models to align your colour codes to, then I recommend to clients we use a very simple 4 colour model.

RED = not sufficiently started to assess progress;

ORANGE = started but major challenges – will not complete on time;

YELLOW = completed but not tested/exercised so content and/or capability is theoretical only;

GREEN = completed and exercised with gaps/opportunities for improvement completed.

A4

Q4 – Do you have any advice for a female BCM Coordinator in a first responder organization?

A4 – As a former female Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator for my small rural Municipality I understand your challenge.  In my experience it was two-fold.   First gaining respect from ‘the guys’ and secondly getting them to recognize that we were the #2 highest budget Municipal business service to our residents who were concerned about property tax bills as well as health and safety.  Here it is a Municipalities Act requirement for Municipalities to have a BCP for all services including first responders.  Having this regulatory requirement helped a lot as it was very simple – “GUYS – WE HAVE TO DO THIS – so let’s work together to do it in the best most efficient way possible.”

First, the ‘women as allies’ challenge of gaining respect from the guys.  I found this to be both the toughest and easiest challenge all at the same time.  First I had to recognize that there were simply some people who would never respect me.  I decided to adopt my approach of 4 generations of cultural change and ignored these team members.  I worked with the “ready, willing and able” then progressed through the “motivated” and “fence-sitters” to make significant progress across the organization.  By the time I got to the generation of “nay-sayers” there was only one of them left and he had lost all power to block my progress so I just continued to ignore him.  On my retirement from the FD I was shocked when he was the one who gave me the greatest testimonial for my work to improve their on-the-job safety….yup, seriously!

In order to get my program off the ground, I put all my focus into working with the guys who recognized First Responder organizations are actually a major business service of the Municipality.  It’s important to recognize that organizationally first responder teams are very different than a typical business service.  In business, you are usually dealing with a few representatives from one level or another of a hierarchical organization and never get to meet the rest of the team to find allies.  In First Responder organizations the teams are much more horizontal and allies stand out quickly (and then there are always the team where there simply are no allies – do them last!).

Since my heroic firefighters who hated paperwork tended to also be those who were not allies, it was not all that difficult to be able to work with those who were.  Choose to work only with one ally rather than a team of 2 allies and 5 naysayers if you can.  Through the process of developing a BCP you will no doubt identify areas of investment required (especially in risk controls) and will have the opportunity to make business case presentations to Council that were never achievable before.  This will motivate fence-sitters and eventually bring the naysayers on board with your program.

Each First Responder organization is unique, Fire, Police and Ambulance all have different service delivery models and therefore risks, impacts and continuity strategies can also be completely different.  There are a few risks they all share though, loss of dispatch and communications capability, building loss due to fire and major equipment outage of incredibly expensive specialized gear with extremely long replacement lead times (communication towers; fire trucks; ambulances; 911 dispatch centres etc.).  There are lots of media examples of tragic consequences of the impact of these losses for you to use.

Like many other business service teams, first responders have no time for BCP so the process you use must be comprehensive, yet fast and easy.  Workshops are the answer.  Do each department (fire/police/ambulance) separately, but within a department the more roles represented in the room the better.  It’s important to recognize that we typically did not hire these staff members for their business acumen so you need to design a continuity planning approach or methodology that will build on their strengths, not make them attempt to participate in a project that is outside their comfort zone.  Don’t start with an assessment of Risk/BIA/Strategies etc.  Start with an exercise.

Note that if you are a large Municipality with many stations, you will want all plans for all stations to have the same look and feel.  You will also quickly realize that Risk/Bia/Strategies are over 90% consistent across sites so don’t reinvent the wheel for every station house.  Working with the first ready, willing and able station, create a customizable ‘template’ BCP that can then be used as the base model for all other stations.  This is also attractive to some because they “like to be the station that was first to set the standard for all others” in anything.   Whether you get to work with a representative from each station or a single station is fine.

I took the following approach which may work for you:

    1. Create a scenario (usually burned down station or at least a fire large enough to cause extensive damage to expensive long lead-time gear) that will resonate with staff.
    2. Conduct a walk-through table-top exercise just start with one of the online videos of the fire and when the video ends say “what if that was us?”  “what would we do next?”
    3. As they answer these questions, start capturing the discussion on a whiteboard, facilitating them into providing input on Risk Assessment, BIA and continuity/recovery strategies.  Be sure you have a scribe with you taking notes.
    4. The intent is to get a strategic level plan out of this session so you can roll that out across all stations for additional input either specific to their span of control or feedback on the strategic level BCP itself.
    5. After you have a strategic plan pulled together that outlines risks, impacts, strategies etc. you will no doubt have identified unacceptable risks that will require business cases for Municipal Council approval of investment required.
    6. While these business cases are making their way through the budgeting process, you proceed with moving your strategic BCP to the next level by expanding on team structures, player roles and responsibilities etc.  All first responder organizations in North America are not only familiar with ICS, they use it every-day.  That’s a HUGE bonus for you as your Command and Team structure is already well defined and understood.  You will identify some Command roles that will require coordination with Council, the Municipal Admin staff etc. but that’s the easy part.

All BCPs are subject to continuous improvement.  Remember, this is a ‘program’, not a ‘project’.  Make progress, keep moving forward and make sure that you are always sharing with your leadership the current status of your program and at least once a year revisiting your Risk Assessment, BIA and exercise data.

A5

Q5 – What do you recommend for keeping the momentum going in building your BC Program?   How do you prevent people from saying BC is done once a plan is built and motivate them to take next steps to continue maturing the program?

A5 – Thanks for this great question!   If you are in an entity subject to regulatory requirements, it’s fairly easy to point to the requirement for at least annual updates and exercises, and your responsibility as program owner to ensure you are compliant.  It’s tougher if you are not and your Board of Directors also don’t understand the need.

I actually discovered (when told by a very dear friend of mine) that I was contributing to this challenge – yikes! That hurt!

For example:

  • I used to always say “BC Plan” or “BCP” not “BC Management” or “BCM”.
  • I always focused on “getting the Plan done” not “integrating BCM in how we do business’’.
  • I talked about our “policy of having a BCP” not the “BCM service line”.
  • I spent all my time focused on getting the naysayers to finish their plan instead of providing support and guidance to those who finished their plan last year and were actually interested in doing an exercise of it this year.

I started to be a lot more successful at this after I changed my own personal terminology and approach.  I always took advantage of any opportunity to explain to everyone:

  • that business continuity is a “program” not a “project”
  • that I own the “program” Center of Expertise and am responsible for ensuring all other service owners have the support and guidance they need to be compliant with Corporate policies related to my program
  • that they as “service owners” for their piece of the plan are responsible to ensure it is up-to-date, accurate and ready to be implemented on a moments notice.

Assuming you have not made the same mistake outlined above that I and many others have made, annual exercises are the only way I have found to keep the momentum going.  Great that we now have a plan– let’s exercise it.  A plan that is out of date and has never been exercised is not an acceptable negligence defense to any judicial authority that I’m aware of.

Of course there will be those who refuse to exercise.  This is when we need to remember we own the “program” not the “content”.  As program owner you are responsible under Professional Practice #1 for “leading the steering committee in driving the implementation of objectives, program structure, and critical success factors. Addressing alignment with existing organizational policies and maintaining consistent processes.”

I always found this was best achieved through providing the Steering Committee with a dashboard status report using a form of stop-light reporting:

  • red = not started
  • orange = started but with issues, not on-time or on-budget
  • yellow = started, on-time and on-budget
  • green = complete for this year

All questions from the Steering Committee related to red, orange or yellow status reports were forwarded to the VP for that service.  Suddenly literally overnight service owners were beating down my door to do this year’s exercise and update their plans.  NOTE:  you must create the first dashboard and send it to service owners for validation well in advance of presenting to your steering committee so they can provide you with their “real status” (e.g., “this morning after seeing this dashboard, we decided to exercise this year and red is now yellow – here’s our exercise date”).  THIS PROCESS CHANGED MY LIFE!

A6

Q6 – How do you manage manager expectations of your balance between work and personal life when you’re on call 24/7/365 to respond to events/incidents on a global scale?

A6 – Gosh, on call 24/7/365 globally?  There’s no such thing as work/life balance if you are the only one trying to achieve that goal with any brain cells intact!

I was only 24/7/365 across Canada and for a long time struggled – can’t imagine juggling all those time zones internationally as well.  I assume you are not in an industry that appropriately compensates you for all this “on call” time either.

Here’s what I did – I hope it’s helpful:

1 – My efforts to discuss it with my boss from a personal work/life balance perspective fell on deaf ears.  So then I waited a while for the topic to disappear from his mindset and came at it from a different perspective.  The next time I was going on holidays I asked who would be carrying this responsibility for the 2 weeks I’d be gone.  No question they found someone appropriate to step in while I was away.   Now I had an alternate!  If they had not found someone then I would have questioned the need for me to be on-call 24/7/365.

2 – Then I started carefully tracking and requesting permission to either submit overtime for every call I got (even just 20 minutes) after I had finished my 8 hours day or to be given time off in lieu of time spent without payment.  Now I was clearly demonstrating the impact this was having on my personal life and sleepless nights.  Plus, I was finally costing them extra time off for me or $ for this service.

3 – Then I recommended and got approval for the Informatics Disaster Recovery Cellphone (IDR on-call) based on the fact that it should really be like a “red phone” in the Whitehouse and not my regular phone that was cluttered with my real job data so it could be accessible to me.  I recommended that the IDR cellphone should be more protected than the phone I had in my hand all day that could be easily lost if left behind at meetings or someplace else, and could also be called into evidence after a real event potentially jeopardizing unrelated yet sensitive Corporate data (that worked!).  I also pointed out that it is industry best practice for a professional in my position to have 2 phones during an emergency, incoming (the IDR cellphone) and outgoing (I could use my own work or personal cellphone for this) so we would be implementing an industry response best practice.  Now the “on call” service was not personally connected to me, but was properly isolated to the IDR cellphone and depending on what was going on, could easily be transferred to others.

4 – Then I explained that in order for calls to the IDR cellphone to be properly responded to at all times, it was important to train people and share the responsibility across the team of trained people.  This brought us again into line with industry best practices of not just having alternates ready to step into your position at any time, but to also have a 3rd tertiary trained person for those times when either you as prime or your alternate were away.

The result:  Tremendous improvement to response capability at very little cost to the organization (1 phone and a couple of cross-trained staff members who took the IDR cellphone every 3rd week plus sanity and life balance for you.

No way to know if this approach will work for you, but you appear to have nothing to lose – what the heck, give it a try.

A7

Q7 – How do you get buy in and respect from the IT crowd when you are the only woman in the room?  I often have to rely on them to update BC / DR information, etc.  However, they do not report to me…  How do I get them to cooperate without going to their managers?

A7 – Only a Corporate Policy and Executive commitment can give you buy in. However, STOP LIGHT REPORTING (internal to yourself as a program management tool so you don’t need approval from anyone else to use it) works wonders. Make it part of your program management methodology to provide your steering committee with a status update every quarter.

In preparation for the steering committee update you send the stop light status report to each manager at least 2 weeks ahead of the meeting so they have time to update you on recent progress, or to ensure their steering committee member understands why they are inconsistent with expectations of the Corporate Policy on BCM.

Take all emotion out of it, if it’s not our non-performance that makes a business unit’s PP status box red, then we need to stop taking personal responsibility for what colour it is. As women we tend to take responsibility for the actions (or inaction) of others…I don’t know if it’s genetic or childhood programming, but in business we need to stop.

If their status box is RED, we must assume that they have other operational priorities that the Executive are aware of and have approved putting BCM on hold for now. And in certain circumstances that’s ok.

I remember an especially frustrated client who could not get one part of their organization to do anything only to discover that this business unit was being shut down next quarter as part of a large merger and acquisition.

Another time I had a team that had refused to do anything for years beat down my door to get everything done in 30 days. Turns out they were unexpectedly on the short list for a very large contract that required demonstrated BCM capability.

At our level, we are not privy to what is discussed at the Executive table – you never know what is happening behind the scenes and influencing the response you are getting.

Many of you will be challenged about moving to stoplight reporting, and that’s because the only people who hate stop light reporting are the ones planning to not do what they are supposed to and then blame the BCM team when something goes wrong. First I would put a pitch together for my Steering Committee explaining that you need stoplight reporting to help you manage your program. You have 10 professional practices to track in your BCM program and every business unit in the organization is at a different level of readiness maturity making for an extremely complex program management challenge.

Should anything bad happen, you and your crisis management team (which ideally is your steering committee) need a very fast and easy method of clearly, concisely and above all accurately knowing the current status of each business unit’s continuity plan. This will be especially critical after the event if there are any challenges from your insurance company, shareholders or regulatory bodies about how your company dealt with the event. Should there be any health and safety concerns during response and recovery, the status of all emergency, BCP and DR immediately prior to the incident will be under extreme scrutiny.

Remember, your job is to be the BCM centre of expertise for the organization and to MANAGE the program. It’s not your job to be a SME for every business unit. The data accuracy and ensuring that it is current is the responsibility of the business unit leader. But IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to immediately advise your steering committee if any business unit is not in compliance with the Corporate BCM Policy. How your Steering Committee decides to deal with that is up to them, but you need to ensure that your concerns are documented in a concise visual way.

I have found that the best, fact based way to do that is through stop light reporting against the PPs.

A8

Q8 – Can you discuss the balance that can be found, as a woman, between trying to drive your point home and avoiding being labeled a “nag”?

A8 – WOW! not sure there is a balance… No question, for me the concepts of working with the willing and able and avoiding the naysayers combined with stop-light reporting based on the International best practice standard turned the tables. I no longer nag, beg or cajole people into doing this.

My job is to give them an excellent program that meets Executive expectations – whether their box is red, green or yellow is up to them and the Executive.

A9

Q9Rather than pay disparity, I’d like to be more assertive in addressing “role disparity”.  I’ve noticed that when men are in certain roles, they are VPs or “Senior” directors and managers.   When women are in comparable roles, they are doing the same (or more) work, but at a lower title.  Is there any phrasing you can offer to help me address this inequity in a more factual than whiny way?

A9 – I remember a conversation about exactly this point that wound up getting me a promotion! I was a young woman who came up through the administration ranks in the IT Branch. My job was called “team leader” and others in the organization doing basically the same job were called “managers”. I had more staff working for me than them as well.

At this time, if you were not “technically qualified” you could not apply for Manager jobs in the IT Branch.

I did my homework and compared my job description to a manager job description and found excellent alignment.

I put together a very professional package and asked for time with my boss. My pitch was not whiny in any way, it was completely fact based. I also included as many examples of other IT companies who had non-technical staff (men or women) in a Manager role as I could find so if any questions about what others are doing came up I was ready.

Then I practiced my pitch at home with my family just as I would for a tough discussion about performance with one of my team, a budget submission or anything else and got very, very comfortable with what I was going to say. My husband (bless him) role played my boss and was very hard on me with questions and challenges – this meant I was really ready for almost anything my boss had to say and had answers written down. It also meant that I had practiced this pitch so many times I knew it cold – just like any other actress would learn lines before a show. You can be terrified and falling apart inside, but if you can act, and have rehearsed over and over again, then it won’t show very much on the outside.

Obviously the best time to do this is when you have just received a terrific performance review and have not left the room yet.

MY PITCH WAS A REQUEST FOR ADVICE. I said, “I’ve been thinking about my future and career path with company x including what training I need to take. I’m confused by something and I hope you can help me.

As I’m sure you know, there is a large pay difference between my team leader job and yours as a Manager. I would like to work towards becoming a Manager, but if I understand the requirements correctly, I would need to go back to University for 4 years to obtain a technical degree in order to be able to apply for that job.”

He said “yes that’s right”

I said, “but when I look at the job description, it asks for qualifications like leadership and team building; effective communications, organizational ability; project, time and budgetary management etc.

Are you aware of any?”

He said “uh….no I’m not aware of any technical courses that focus on these skills”

ME: “I’m thinking that despite my qualifications this must mean I can never apply for a management job here. Is there any chance I’m missing something? Have I already hit the top of my career path and pay scale here?”

Then be silent – it will kill you, but just sit there and be silent!

A10

Q10 – Often times I am the only female in the room and find that I am talked over and interrupted more often than not during discussion. What strategies do you suggest to prevent this from happening? Thank-you!

A10 – I’ve been that only woman in the room many times – both when I worked in IT and then on a much more challenging level when I became Fire Chief of 2 volunteer fire halls full of good old country boys who thought it was great sport to hold a betting pool on how long it would take for them to make me cry.

My first thought is that non-verbal communication is HUGE in this situation. Body language, tone of voice and appearance often speak much louder than words. My clothing varies with each client. Financial industry or C-level clients, get my best suit. Clients in manufacturing get business casual. I actually google their site before the interview to get a feel for the culture there. Then I match the image they are projecting unless I think from the bid request they are looking for something else. So take a look around the meeting room and make sure your body image is right.

By the way ladies, I’m old with wrinkles, grey hair and weigh just over 200 pounds, I’m not talking about physical appearance here.

Body language means sitting up and leaning into the table and conversation, not sitting back in your chair appearing relaxed or timid. – eye contact and tone of voice are huge. Here in Canada, we have a wonderful Prime Minister, who is very good at prepared speeches, but when speaking off the cuff, he has a habit of saying “um or uh” over and over again which makes him appear indecisive; unsure; and weak. Google Justin Trudeau and you will see what I mean. If that’s you, work hard on finding a way to speak in prepared scripts and try to change your speaking pattern. A few hours with a speech pathologist might work wonders.

So that’s the part about trying to prevent it from happening. But when it happens (not if) I usually try to remain calm and at every opportunity in a very calm but firm voice say “are we done with that part of the discussion now, can I please finish making my point?” Watch your tone of voice though when you say this.

When all else failed including with the fire department, I would talk about a T-shirt my team bought me that hung in my office for many years. It had a picture of a vulture sitting on a branch looking hungry and said, “I’m 49% sweetheart and 51% bitch – don’t push it!”. I’d say to people “did I ever tell you about how I got my T-shirt?” – – -worked every time.

A11

Q11 – What do you find are some good ways to control your emotions?

A11 – Of course there’s the usual deep breathing; visualization techniques that are often talked about, but for me I was only really successful at this when I emotionally separated ME from the results of my program that were based on input from others and kept reminding myself that my responsibility was to design, develop and implement a good BCM program that struck the balance between getting the right results with the right amount of effort from across the entity.

Everyone is different, and I’m known to be a bit strange in how I deal with things, but understanding and recognizing what situations are a challenge for me and working ahead of time to identify a way to lower my stress level is most important.  I remember one especially challenging meeting where I was pinching my hand under the table to break my focus.

I’m a country girl, and do bizarre things like go for long walks with my dogs in the beautiful forest where I live…sometimes these walks include a lot of yelling at trees.  Certainly yoga and physical exercise helps a lot to reduce stress and teach us better ways to control our emotions as well.  Some people curl up with a good book, others paint, I spend time with my horse.  It’s a very personal thing – what works for you will not work for me etc.

  • Find something you are passionate about that is NOT BCM and spend time relaxing and focusing on that.
  • Have you ever noticed how men can compartmentalize things?  It seems natural to them, but for women it’s usually a learned ability.  Spend some time learning about emotional compartmentalization.  Sounds easy, but it’s not.

I know which PPs are the ones where most BC programs go to die and in my world it’s risk and BIA.  So when the discussion is about those topics, I do a lot by email rather than conversations in meetings.

Believe it or not, there was a time of extreme stress in my program when my husband as a joke bought me a mood ring!   That actually helped me recognize in a meeting when I was starting a slow boil and I knew to take a deep breath and try to watch my body language.  In one especially difficult meeting my boss actually noticed my ring change colour and asked me about it!  He said, “when you came in here that ring was bright green and now it’s black” I didn’t know what to say so just responded “yes it was and now it’s not”.  LOL neither one of us knew what to say, but the message was very clear!

A12

Q12 – Our team leader has a lot of strengths, but reward and recognition are not among them.  As a result, our team morale is at an all-time low.  I see opportunities to engage our team, but I don’t act on it because I am sensitive about the adage that “men take charge and women take care.”  Is there any advice on how to “take care” of the team without losing the image I want to create of someone who is assertive and who also takes charge?

A12 – Hmmm…. Of course, the ideal solution is to be able to implement a “7 habits of highly effective leaders” 360 degree review where every team member gets to provide anonymous feedback on their subordinates, their colleagues and their leader, but that’s not likely to happen for you. I did this within my little team and it actually resulted in my boss thinking it was a good idea and it took off, but not likely to happen if you are already having trouble. It also depends a lot on the culture in which you are working. If you have staff under you perhaps setting an example will help; if you are solid in your job then when asked for additional feedback at your next performance review might work; I am the kind of person who at the appropriate time (say after finishing a big deliverable) would just offer to organize a reward/recognition event of some kind, making sure it was very professional and well done. Once done, it will be hard in future not to repeat the recognition.

A13

Q13 – How do you deal with aggressive women in the workplace and how do you approach/address them when they become aggressive towards you? 

A13 – I treat all bullies in the same way – see them coming, prepare really well anticipating what they will say and make sure I do CYA really well.  Then, as much as possible don’t give them a chance to attack.  If they do, I had scripted phrases in my notebook like:

  • “This discussion is inconsistent with the professional standards expected by our Executive and needs to stop now.”
  • “By remaining silent I will appear to condone this behavior and I don’t, so will leave if it does not stop right now.”
  • “Please put your feedback in writing so I can more fully respond.”
  • “Your behaviour is unprofessional, I suggest we:
    • adjourn this meeting to another time
    • Defer the discussion and reschedule with our supervisors”

Find out if your company has HR about policies regarding violence in the workplace (most do these days) so you can quote them.  If it continues, then the behaviour is supported by upper management and you should consider updating your resume.

A14

Q14 – What three tools have helped you the most in getting others to acknowledge your credibility as a woman in business continuity?

A14 – I wouldn’t really call them tools, but…

  • MBCP and being an instructor for DRI Canada have been key.
  • Working hard at being the consummate professional – body language; dressing for my audience; constantly producing quality work.
  • Strong communication skills – my presentations and budget pitches are clear; concise and leave no room for misunderstanding the risk and impact of not investing in BCM.

A15

Q15 – How have you personally overcome bias, whether conscious or unconscious, as a woman in the BCM field?

A15 – I remember this one golden boy up and coming star who was incredibly nasty to the women on our team – all of us.  In a meeting he commented openly about “a girl getting a promotion to VP and threw his pen across the table in disgust.” I leaned in, said “what did you say?” – he leaned in, repeated and asked me if I wanted to make something of it. I said “not here, not now, I just wanted to be sure I heard you correctly”.

I had no idea what to do after and thought I could not do anything, then a male colleague of mine said “Betsy if strong women like you don’t stand up to this behaviour, what chance do my daughters have?” I discussed what happened with my HR rep and she told me about a type of complaint and disciplinary action called “Conduct unbecoming a manager”. I didn’t know such a thing existed. The situation was not harassment aimed at me, but it certainly was behaviour contributing to a toxic work environment. A complaint was filed, appropriate disciplinary action taken and the golden boys rising star became a downward shooting star for his career.

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