Geetha Kanagasingam, vice-president UK, Europe and APAC, group insurance and risk, Barclays Bank
Communicate, engage and connect - risk managers should never undervalue the power of communication in their roles as the second line of defense in ensuring an effective enterprise risk management (ERM) framework that produces the desired results.
Risk management standards and guidance prescribe principles, framework and processes which categorically entail communication. For example, ISO 31000 prescribes the establishment of communication both internal and external, and reporting mechanisms. It goes on to define communication as continual and iterative processes that an organisation conducts to provide, share and obtain information and to engage in dialogue with stakeholders regarding the management of risk. But the key question to ask is “How”?
The biggest barrier in implementing successful ERM framework is the lack or refusal of communication as a result of silos within the organisation. This challenge exists regardless of the sector, be it public private or large multinational corporations.
Managing risks are a shared responsibility across the organisation and do not only rest with one individual or a department. Communication involves people that stay within these processes and mechanisms whose response can either make or break the ERM framework. Therefore, one of the fundamental roles of a successful risk manager is to break the barrier of silos. If this issue is tackled more than half the battle is won.
Based on my experience, this challenge is magnified in a matrix organisation but the only solution is to communicate and engage continuously in a self-disciplined manner. That includes getting off your chair to initiate a casual chat with a stakeholder along the corridor or in the kitchen, hours of research gathering and networking to equip yourself with useful and relevant risk information, and cross sharing critical risk information that is of interest and value add to stakeholders.
Another key solution is to gather the various stakeholders in one room to facilitate a roundtable discussion or risk (refresher) workshop or brain storming session that should be preferably be done on a quarterly basis. As a risk manager your goal must be the first to know to allow you to respond appropriately.
A good risk manager should drive these initiatives to break the silos and believe me the results are remarkable that would make your role a lot easier. A risk manager who is a powerful communicator is one who is able to influence and gain the trust of the stakeholders.
Below are more tips to help a risk manager to be an effective and powerful communicator:
1. Passionate and real – being passionate adds reality into your communication that undoubtedly captivates the stakeholders whilst increasing their interest
2. Clear and concise – Never “beat about the bush” or else you lose the stakeholder and in worst cases forever. At all times avoid risk jargons which is a real put off
3. Concern and interest – Always show concern and listen with great care probing further where necessary, which is magnetic factor. Remember to never judge your stakeholder
4. Factual and convincing – impart knowledge of risk events, lessons learnt, industry practice or experiences and benchmarking exercises as a tool of cross sharing
5. Empathy and understanding - means identify and in some instances relate with the feelings, thoughts, attitudes including the mood of your stakeholders
6. Practical and useful - Different layer of stakeholders have different needs so remember to customise and fit your risk information and style of communication accordingly to add value in a practical way
7. Resolution and closure – Communication is not complete until there is closure or takeaways
8. Smile – Last but not least, smile as it goes a long way to the extent of breaking or softening the hardest of silo walls