EVER TRIED TO QUIT? Reflections of a Risk Management practitioner
More often than not, we pick this career without a full understanding of its challenging yet rewarding aspects. As I reflect, the overwhelming thought of quitting was eminent in my earlier years when I found it difficult to inspire the people around me to see the value of risk management.
I know this sounds too good to be true, but yes! there is a point that I wanted to quit Risk Management so much. And it goes without saying that, managing business risks is a quite challenging role. More often than not, we pick this career without a full understanding of its challenging yet rewarding aspects. As I reflect, the overwhelming thought of quitting was eminent in my earlier years when I found it difficult to inspire the people around me to see the value of risk management.
No matter how I tried to educate them about the value of risk management and how much an enabler it is to the business processes, it was as though no one was listening. After a few more strategies and hardwork, the wheels turned around and it was evident that they were actually listening and seeing the passion I had for driving risk maturity. In writing this article, I wanted to share some of the key strategies that worked for me when I felt like quitting, which you may adopt in your own journey as a Risk Manager or as a business owner trying to embed a risk culture within your establishment. For many who aspire to be Risk Managers, it is an unfortunate fact that the journey may not be as pleasant, especially at the beginning, but once you align to the mastery, you will never consider turning back.
Driving risk maturity is a journey and there is a lot of resistance when you start because you are teaching people a concept that is relatively new and it will definitely take a bit of effort to get all of the stakeholders on board. With risk management, everyone has a role, unlike with other disciplines where only tone at the top may be adequate. Risk management needs to be cascaded across the whole business or organization. This means when you train your stakeholders, the training applies to the whole organization and not just senior management, and this is followed by several other re-trainings until all employees are on-board. Since risk management is still largely a new concept, not everyone is as welcoming which can be quite discouraging for risk management practitioners. For example, the salespeople are inclined to see risk management as a barrier to making money, while infact it is an enabler, that ensures compliant and sustainable sales.
Having unpacked some of the pushbacks that Risk Managers may experience, here are some of the things that worked for me in my journey as a risk management practitioner.
- Keep it simple; in the various engagements I’ve had and presentations I made, the feedback had always been that the audience appreciated how I simplified the risk management concept. While it does have complex aspects and a lot of intimidating templates, you will notice how simple it is to understand when explained in lay man’s terms. So, going forward, ‘bring it home,’ do consider simplifying the concept to the business that you support and see how it goes.
- Make it fun; risk management isn’t everyone’s best subject! This is especially clearer when you meet a team for the first time and try to embed the risk culture amongst them. Naturally there will be resistance. In my effort to change this narrative, I used to try a bit of creatively tricks to some of the risk business meetings to try and make the team more attentive. There is one instance where I started a meeting with a quiz to test whether my teachings were applied. I rewarded everyone who got the correct answer with a designer chocolate. That day the attendees were keen and attentive in the meeting, not because of the chocolates, but because I played the game differently and they saw the effort. Subsequent to this, it was much easier to have engagements with the team without pushback.
- Treat risk maturity as a project; embedding a risk culture takes a while, possibly years, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is very important to draw a roadmap of the journey outlining what is possible per the set timelines. Identify various activities and initiatives and draw timelines against each and ensure that all stakeholders are aware of their roles in achieving the tasks. You need to also be patient with yourself in the process and know that eventually you will attain a more enabled risk culture. It is also ideal to identify accountability partners to keep you honest with the roadmap.
The list is endless, but these are three of the strategies that really worked for me in supporting the organization in executing its risk management objectives and helped me to not quit being a risk management practitioner. Risk management is like a big elephant which cannot be finished overnight. Be patient with yourself, enjoy the learnings, and DON’T QUIT!