What It Takes: How to Succeed as a BCM Professional

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Working as a business continuity practitioner can be deeply rewarding, but many people have the wrong idea of what the job is all about. In today’s post, we’ll tell you what it really takes to succeed as a BCM professional.

Many people who express an interest in becoming a business continuity management practitioner at a business or nonprofit have a mistaken idea of what the BCM profession involves.

A COMMON MISCONCEPTION

The most common misconception is that it is a job where you spend your days heroically saving your organization from disaster. This misconception is not completely crazy. Sometimes it really does happen that a BCM professional successfully steers the company through an emergency. Business continuity is certainly important, and it can be exciting.

However, any successful recovery rests on a lot of work that was done long before the emergency peeked over the horizon.

It’s doing this work that is the real essence of being a BCM professional.

Succeeding as a BCM person does not require that a person be heroic and cocky. It requires that they be diligent, patient, socially deft, determined, and intelligent.

WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN BCM CAREERS

I’ve been doing this for about 25 years. In my view, the following are the qualities and characteristics that are needed to succeed as a BCM practitioner:

  • Integrity. This one is first for a reason. The role of the BC practitioner could hardly be more critical: ensuring the recoverability of the company. People will be looking to you at the worst time. They have to believe they can trust you and rely on you, and you have to deserve their trust.
  • Superior listening skills. The BC expert must be an exceptional listener. They have to know how to hold their tongue, quiet their mind, and really listen to what their stakeholders are telling them. They have to truly absorb what their departmental customers have to say about which business processes are most critical. The BC practitioner’s job is protecting the critical processes and assets of the organization. How do they learn what those are? There’s only one way: by listening.
  • Strong work ethic. This is not a job for butterflies or glory hounds. It is a job for tenacious, hard-working badgers and beavers. Business continuity management is hard work.
  • Willingness to do the dirty work. Today’s BCM departments run lean. Few BCM practitioners have the luxury of delegating the tasks they dislike. The good BC practitioner is willing to pitch in and take care of tasks at all levels of the life cycle. Saving the company is fun. Doing BIAs and writing recovery plans is not as fun, but it’s just as vital. It’s handling the dirty work that allows you to eventually be the superstar.
  • Sound knowledge of all areas of BCM and the proven ability to implement all aspects of it. You need an end-to-end working knowledge of BCM, from administering the program to crisis management to business recovery to IT/DR. You can’t silo yourself. Trouble doesn’t limit itself to one area so you can’t either.
  • Ability to speak to all levels of senior management and staff. This is a job where you have to be able to interact confidently with people up and down the org chart, from senior executives to the people in the trenches. Training and practice can help with this, if you’re not a natural at it.
  • Second to none presentation skills. As a BCM person, you will spend a lot of time explaining the basics of business continuity to people who know little about it and care even less. You will also need to sell people on the importance of your initiatives and conclusions. You have to be good at helping people understand why BC matters and at getting them to buy in to what you’re doing and help you do it.
  • Ability to think on your feet. Being a BC practitioner is like being a shortstop in baseball. An unusually large number of balls will get knocked your way. Sometimes it’s a question from senior management, sometimes it’s a complaint from a department head, sometimes it’s an emergency such as a fire, flood, or cyber breach. You need to be able to handle questions on the fly and think on your feet in a crisis. People will be looking to you to come up with new ideas and approaches to help in dealing with liquid situations.
  • Dress appropriately and present a highly professional and well-groomed appearance. Looking good is not enough, but it is important. It spares you from having to waste time persuading people that you know what you are doing. If you look the part of a serious, self-respecting professional, people will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. This allows you to swiftly move on to what matters.
  • Ability to get things done and have them work. Just writing the plan is not enough. The plan has to work. Can you recover the business or not? That’s what it comes down to. If you think you should be judged only on the amount of effort you put in, you should not become a BCM practitioner. This is a bottom-line occupation. BCM practitioners deliver the goods.
  • Superior coordinating and facilitation skills. Along with everything else, the BCM professional must be a master weaver, a master connector, a master facilitator. BCM practitioners are constantly coordinating among people of many different skill sets and levels. This is the essence of crisis management. The BCM practitioner needs to be able to get the right people together in the right place at the right time.
  • Exude confidence at all times. Cockiness is a hindrance. Confidence is a must. People will be looking to you for answers. What’s the strategy? What do we do? If you don’t know and aren’t comfortable stating that, you are going to have a hard time fulfilling your responsibilities.
  • Customer service skills. If you are in the BC business, you are in the customer service business. In this case, your customers are the executives and departments of your organization. Your job is to help them protect the processes and assets they have identified as most important. You succeed when they succeed. You can’t have a big ego and excel in business continuity. In BC the only thing you are competing against is fate. Your main role is as a helper.
  • Knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Being a BC professional is to embark on an ongoing journey of self-improvement and adaptation. Getting better requires knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Knowing what you are good at tells you what to keep. Knowing your weaknesses tells you what to work on.

SUMMING UP BUSINESS CONTINUITY CAREERS

Business continuity is definitely important, and the BCM profession can be exciting. But succeeding at it requires a long and unique list of skills and attributes.

The traits of cockiness and egotism rank very low on this list. In fact, they’re just about disqualifying. What it really takes to succeed in BCM is a suite of traits that can be summed up in a few words: diligence, maturity, intelligence, and poise.

FURTHER READING ON BCM CAREERS

For more information on BCM professions, business continuity careers and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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