We need more glass half-full risk managers


Way too many risk managers, risk experts, and risk professionals are “glass half-empty” people.

Of course the role of risk management is to focus on  the potential things that can go wrong, but that does not mean that the risk manager has to be negatively focused.  In actual fact, it is that negative focus that has made risk managers the type of person that businesses wish to avoid rather than engage.

History has shown that risk managers have been perceived as the road block or the quickest way to get to a “No”.  This skill in being seen as such a negative in the business context is really only equalled, and perhaps surpassed, by the perception of an auditor!

Unfortunately, this perception is now causing the risk manager to have to continually fight battles on multiple fronts.  The battle for being heard, the battle for being understood and then the battle for being relevant and important.  Yet, in actual fact a high quality risk manager, finds that the information they have, and provide, improves business outcomes which in turn generates increased returns and/or reduces costs.

Therefore, it is with this reasoning that we say we should have more risk managers being positive, innovative, and proactive in their assessments and information for management.  With more glass half-full people, we would see that risk managers are seen as being strategic enablers to the business.

So, how do risk managers focus on being glass half-full?

Firstly, the risk manager needs to stop seeing the negative in everyone they interact with. and everything they perform.  Instead, we need to be more focused on finding the positive in those around us, and then working on bringing out these positives to provide better risk management information and decisions.  We need to be more engaging with others, and really show how we can work together and help each other to succeed.  Essentially, the risk manager needs to stop being so self-focused and centered and more external focused and team centered.

Secondly, risk managers need to trust people.  Although, that trust needs to be balanced with healthy scepticism, without a positive view of people, the risk manager will continue to be seen as a road block and the fastest road to “No”.  With a better balanced approach to working with other people, the risk manager can become an avenue to success through getting to the right assessment of the risks and controls, which leads to a “Yes”.

Thirdly, in order to progress further to being glass half-full, we need to change the approach to assessing risks.  Quite simply, the approach needs to be more proactive and to focus more on the future than the past.  Through using these lenses the risk manager will become more relevant at the management table, and may even find itself the first person to be brought into a concept or a new business idea.

So, post-GFC, risk managers are in a unique position to present themselves as the future.  This is the time for risk management to shine.  This is the time we show how we have grown since the GFC, and have become the catalyst for making the business future a success.

So, let’s get together and get more glasses half-full.  Let’s expand our horizons of knowledge and open of eyes to a future that will see change happen at an ever expanding rate.  For the risk manager that can truly embrace these characteristics and leverage the collective knowledge the best, will become a positive influence on senior management and will find that the battle for being heard has been won.

Cheers, and here is to the future of glass half-full.

Scott North has extensive executive and board experience in risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, governance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology architecture, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. With Chief Risk Officers roles across financial services in Australia, Scott is an accomplished and experienced senior risk executive with extraordinary results in leading risk management teams. An innovative and process-focused leader, with an entrepreneurial style. Scott has a passion for innovation and digital. Scott is an experienced project leader across multiple disciplines including risk, finance and enterprise systems.