Important things in life are not easily reduced to 10 steps. Nevertheless, this article provides a list of 10 key elements to achieving long-term success in risk management from someone who has spent more than 25 years striving to carve out the most satisfying career possible, while trying to never lose sight of the bigger picture. To be clear, I've made plenty of mistakes, but tried to learn from each of them. While a basic tenet of good life learning, I don’t enumerate this principle in the list of 10 as it is one of hundreds of general principles we hopefully learn and adopt along our career journeys.
The 10 topics covered are those I believe deserve the most emphasis and which will have the most impact on your career as it moves along the spectrum of accomplishments and contributions. In essence, you can‘t lose when keeping these elements in mind as you develop the tactical and strategic approach to managing your career. Yes, I strongly urge you to have both a strategic (long-term) and tactical (short-term) plan for what you want out of a career in risk management. As a lifelong initiative, it deserves that kind of attention, care and feeding. It is no less important than the performance you deliver to each employer each year of your service.
I want to share with you a few critical things recently posted by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (now head of the Jack Welch Management Institute). These are his list of career pitfalls for all seeking success in business. It offers a great supplement to this series on risk leader success. Here they are:
- Misfiring on performance or values — overcommitting and under-delivering
- Resistance to change — failing to embrace new ideas
- Being a problem identifier vs. a problem solver
- Winning over your boss but not your business peer group
- Always worrying about your next career move versus focusing on the present
- Running for office – it’s totally transparent to everyone but you!
- Self-importance — exhibiting a humorless, rigid attitude
- Lacking the courage and conviction to push back on the system
- Forgetting to develop your own succession plan for when you get promoted
- Complacency — you’ve stopped growing
So combined with Welch’s pitfalls to avoid, here are the building blocks to risk leader success. I hope you find them helpful as you navigate your career path in our exciting industry. To read the full article, click here.
- Many good places to start: Breaking into a career in risk management isn’t exclusive to those inside the industry. Risk leaders come from all stripes, with a large variety of different starting points.
- Educational strategy: In thinking about your continued education, consider what group of skills and knowledge make risk managers successful. In my experience, those skills include various levels of acumen in finance, law, audit, compliance and operations.
- Industry background: The new risk management realm requires greater breadth of knowledge to be successful. Broad understanding is gained by spending time in the trenches, building relationships with those in many areas of the enterprise and learning from mentors who can pave the way.
- Getting involved outside the organization: While showing leadership internally is job one, demonstrating leadership in the broader discipline is also important to long-term success. Getting involved beyond their own organizations allows risk managers to have leadership experiences that deepen knowledge and hone political skills to higher levels.
- Racking up creditable points with senior managers: The points risk managers offer up are not always creditable “points” in the eyes of senior managers. To be so, they should be tied to the things that matter most to the organization and that can be traced, at least indirectly, to mission accomplishment.
- Establishing yourself as essential to others’ success: Risk management stakeholders can’t succeed without the right risk strategy and, most particularly, the right risk leader who understands their priorities and knows how to build relationships of mutual benefit.
- Developing the bench: While all managers are expected to develop their employees, this aspect of management is harder in risk management than in many other disciplines or functions, if only due to the often smaller-sized teams that are the reality for the majority of risk leaders.
- Supplement value preservation with value creation: While it is certainly true that protecting and preserving is job one for risk leaders, the bigger opportunity for this profession is helping others understand what it means to exploit risk for gain.
- Advance the profession by finding or creating personal vision: By crafting risk strategy, framework and models around the continuously evolving needs of a firm, a risk leader’s vision for risk management will take shape. As it is successfully implemented, this vision will also drive the risk profession forward, through benchmarking, networking and professional external collaborations.
- Give back: Giving back to the next generation and to communities and nonprofit organizations (some of which can’t afford the cost of risk expertise, e.g., churches and civic organizations) is essential to developing a well-rounded leader and person.
Chris Mandel, SVP, Strategic Solutions