Achieving long-term success in risk management requires a vision, a plan and execution of established career goals. Central to such success is being viewed by your company’s leadership as not only knowledgeable, technically competent and reliable, but also perceived as one who can bring unique insights to decision makers and be trusted from all angles – always. Earning this trust is no slam dunk. But when achieved, it can supercharge your career trajectory, including moving your influence and earning potential to higher levels. The challenge lies in defining the right strategy and tactics necessary to achieve this standing.
While the starting point for “trusted advisor” is education and training, you’ll quickly learn that that is simply the entry card to the beginning of this journey. Organizational leaders expect and assume that a risk professional is technically sound and might even be considered an expert on many issues. Though risk management and insurance tend not to be well understood by management without additional training and education, most don’t have the time to acquire detailed knowledge in this area. In turn, this is a key reason risk leader positions exist in most mid-size to large organizations.
Unfortunately, many practitioners have historically been viewed as “those insurance folks” with little understanding of what risk managers have to offer. One survey of chief financial officers revealed that they viewed the majority of “risk managers” as both risk averse and tactically oriented. Chief risk officers fared somewhat better as they were seen as slightly more strategic and risk-seeking. Fortunately, practitioners have made much progress in the evolution of their mindsets as they have sought to become more strategically aligned with their CEOs and other C-suite executives.
The reality is that if sufficient or expert technical knowledge and skills are assumed at hiring, then the real opportunity to becoming a trusted advisor to leadership is much more about soft skills like communicating, listening, developing emotional intelligence, understanding the business and its priorities and general leadership traits. More importantly, the quality, depth and breadth of relationships across the organization, particularly among key stakeholders in risk management, is where the rubber meets the road. I think of this as “fit and finish.” This includes many attributes, traits and behaviors, even gestures; your ability to behave effectively in various settings. Yes, it even includes the social nuances of looking the part. More importantly, it includes things like sense and use of humor, ability to empathize, being approachable, playing well with others, adding value, knowing when and how to offer your opinion.
To understand more about how risk professionals can become trusted advisors to leadership, join me, along with Jill Brooks, the director of risk management for Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages, for our podcast on Wednesday, May 6 at 11:00 Eastern/8:00 Pacific. This podcast will be part of Sedgwick’s virtual RIMS week; save the dates next Monday through Wednesday, May 4-6 to learn from our conversation along with many other informative and enjoyable sessions sharing industry expertise from Sedgwick and our partners. More details will come throughout this week. Watch our social channels for additional information, and we look forward to connecting with you next Wednesday.