September 25, 2022
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10 tips for a successful risk management career

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No. 1: Rise to the occasion.

The events of the past few years have made risk management a permanent part of the C-suite dialogue. While risk managers need to have their traditional house in order, they now must become a trusted senior advisor by effectively coupling risk management with corporate strategy, operations and contingency planning. By asking the right questions, the risk manager can gain insight into the top concerns of the CEO, CFO and general counsel and be more effective at structuring dialogue in a way that addresses their concerns and improves their analysis of risk. (Image: Roberto Saporito/Adobe Stock)

No. 2: Get out of the workload trap.

Many risk managers spend their entire career frustrated because must-do’s consume all their time. Some might subconsciously embrace time-consuming tasks to insulate themselves from things they are uncomfortable with. This requires a hard decision to go above and beyond to break through the workload barrier, such as by more effective delegation. A risk manager buried in transactional noise isn’t addressing all the things that really matter, and is at extreme risk of being marginalized or replaced. (Image: WeStudio/Shutterstock)

No. 3: Accept that cost cutting is universal and ongoing.

Beware of reflexively resisting corporate cost-reduction initiatives due to personal loyalties, fear of greater workloads or loss of control. Such resistance is usually conspicuous and can be harmful to the manager’s stature. It’s probably wiser to devise creative solutions such as workflow reorganization and the use of new technologies to enhance productivity, and make hard decisions about underproductive staff or practices. (Image: Elnur/Shutterstock)

No. 4: Recognize and manage internal competition.

There probably isn’t anybody in the organization whose experience and skill set is directly comparable to the risk manager’s. But there may be leaders who believe things should be done differently, seek a broader span of control or are driven by specific grievances. These persons likely have their own power bases or knowledge advantages. The risk manager needs to anticipate these dynamics and take preemptive steps to contain them. (Image: Adobe Stock)

No. 5: Minimize surprises.

The risk manager’s leadership team will be very sensitive to adverse news that catches them flat-footed or could have been mitigated. Expectation management, immediate escalation of critical information and preemptive communication must be core aspects of daily practice. (Image: fizkes/Adobe Stock)

No. 6: All risk managers are in the service business.

This means being aware of stakeholder needs and expectations, and going out of one’s way to satisfy them. The risk manager’s customers aren’t limited to their leadership chain and the company’s bill-paying clientele, but include employees, stockholders, the board of directors and even members of the general public. (Image: sdecoret/Shutterstock)

No. 7: Embrace technology.

Most risk managers bring remarkable experience and credentials to their position, but aren’t necessarily technology specialists. Technology is more than a way out of productivity challenges: it is also the driving force behind many of today’s prominent risks. It’s not necessary for the risk manager to become a tech expert, but it is necessary to smartly prioritize technology needs and opportunities, and to secure the expertise and resources necessary to devise and deploy solutions. (Image: greenbutterfly/Adobe Stock)

No. 8: Challenge everything, continuously.

Change is necessary and, when managed well, highly beneficial. Beware of letting the status quo go unchallenged. This doesn’t mean that repetitive major change must be the norm, that transformative results will always be obtained, or that every initiative must produce its desired results. Small improvements can accumulate to significant total benefits. (Image: ©IRStone/Adobe Stock)

No. 9: Keep learning.

Every risk manager should have a working knowledge of enterprise risk management, employment law, wage-hour compliance, cyber security, data privacy, reputation management, political risk, business continuity and representations & warranties insurance. Although expertise in all these areas is neither necessary nor practical, the risk manager should be able to prompt and lead a high-level discussion about how all prominent risks pertain to their own organization and what might be done to better manage them. The breadth of necessary knowledge is indeed daunting, but relevant information is more accessible than ever before. (Image: NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Stock)

No. 10: Stress generic preparedness.

How many of us were able to specifically predict both the emergence and timing of the COVID-19 pandemic? How about the abrupt talent shortage, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or the precise consequences of supply chain disruption? While such events may exhibit early signs of being imminent, we can’t always know what the next all-consuming event will be nor how it will impact the organization. (Free use image)

If you’ve been a risk manager for a while, there are probably things you’d do differently if only you could go back in time.  Even if not, we can all benefit from the perspective of those who have experienced the situations risk managers face daily.

With that in mind, the slideshow above illustrates 10 ways that risk managers can be more effective in their role and seize more control over their career path.

Look to the future

Instead of reacting to the past, being prepared for what’s next — whatever it may be — is always the right strategy. Risk managers who earn a seat at the C-suite table are giving special attention to the impact of future transformative events upon key dimensions such as talent, liquidity, technology and operations sustainability. They have already initiated a corporate dialogue on these issues and are thereby preparing their executive leadership team to anticipate and address them.

The steps listed above may seem too extensive, demanding or difficult. Indeed, we all have to make decisions about work-life balance, what interests us, what we seek from our careers and how much change we are comfortable with. But we also need to recognize that reverting to the status quo, or putting things off until later, poses its own risk. Failure to grow, learn or change is not just limiting but hazardous. Sometimes, we adapt more quickly once we accept that being a bit uncomfortable can be an ongoing state of affairs.

By being aware of the issues noted above and taking proactive steps to manage them, a risk manager can be more satisfied and effective on the job and better equipped to take charge of their career.

Gary Pearce ([email protected]) is chief risk architect for Aclaimant, Inc., and a member of the NU Property & Casualty Editorial Advisory Board.

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