Bridging the gap: What CISOs must do to get the C-suite on their side

Every CISO must face a cold, hard fact: You might not have a seat at the boardroom table or the executive leadership team meeting.

At some organizations, this relatively new role doesn’t get C-level attention yet, and at others, the organizational structure can prevent you from ever getting a permanent seat at the table. Other complexities arise if you report to a CIO or CTO and feel muted by the hierarchy. Or, perhaps your message is diluted by the time it gets up the chain of command.

While lack of access to the highest levels of your organization can be disheartening, remember that you can still have a significant influence on your organization and its security. You may just have to hustle.

Be a translator: When you engage in executive or board communication, speak like a business person and keep your messages brief and engaging.

As an executive, I’d happily meet with a team member (at any level) who wants to run ideas by me. If these ideas are interesting, I’d likely let them marinate for a few weeks before reaching back out to the employee with feedback. Now we’ve started an open dialogue and begun building a rapport. In the course of our conversations, maybe this person continues to present thought-provoking ideas. I might take their suggestions to the board or invite them to present them.

Of course, having a permanent seat at the table is ideal. But, if that’s not realistic, work to get yourself — or at least your ideas — into the boardroom. Just because you don’t have a standing invite doesn’t mean that you can’t have an impact.

Create relatable and relevant messaging

To get your message across to time-strapped executives (or just about anyone for that matter), you need to meet them where they are. You already know why cybersecurity investment is essential to your role. Now step into your leadership’s shoes to explain why it’s crucial to theirs.