The Positively Disagreeable Nature of Risk Managers
I don’t know about you, but I often spend my free time (usually stuck in traffic) trying to occupy my mind with positive thoughts. I often think about not just the “what” of things, but “how” and “why.” On the highway one day, I thought … as a risk manager, I am positively disagreeable. And that is not a bad thing at all.
It would be easy to perceive disagreeableness as negative, but it is actually quite useful in risk management. The practice of being disagreeable emphasizes critical thinking skills, which is something that many risk managers encounter all too frequently in their organizations.
No offense to colleagues, but lack of critical thinking skills tends to keep risk managers employed.
When I speak of being disagreeable, by no means do I intend it in a negative sense. Those who infer negativity may lack a complete understanding or appreciation of the exact role of risk management in an organization.
The fact that the risk role differs among organizations, even within the same industry, might add to the confusion.
I speak of being disagreeable in the sense that complete permission and total consensus may not occur and a risk manager must forge ahead. Some may refer to this as “the high wire act without a net.”
Risk management professionals do think differently and look at issues through a different lens from our corporate colleagues. Good risk managers must think from an alternative perspective and be risk innovators. It is all about the complementary nature of the leadership function within effective organizations.
The following is a passage from a 2013 Malcolm Gladwell speech, as referenced in a Wall Street Journal blog:
“‘Part of the role of senior management of creating an atmosphere of innovation is allowing people to be disagreeable,’ said Mr. Gladwell. He stresses that disagreeable doesn’t mean obnoxious but, rather, indifferent to the ways others see them. It’s the characteristic that lets innovators pursue breakthrough ideas even when faced with objections and derision, he said.”
Risk management professionals do think differently and look at issues through a different lens from our corporate colleagues. Good risk managers must think from an alternative perspective and be risk innovators.
When I thought about the above, while stuck in traffic, I came to the conclusion that the same applies to my function. Being the risk leader or risk voice in an organization can be a challenging job given the fluid nature of perceived risk. Alignment of risk strategies with corporate and finance strategies is essential and provides a stable platform to work from.
The rhetorical question flowing from my answer is as follows. If risk managers don’t think in a critical and disagreeable manner, are risk managers really doing their job? The challenge is to remove the doubt. Because we deal with ambiguity on a daily basis, it would be a nice to have at least one certainty.