Corporate risk professionals are most familiar with the hazard risks they battle on a frequent basis. The truth is, things can break all the time. It does not matter the industry nor geographic location, every organisation faces problems that are the direct result of risk coming to fruition.
Unseen or obvious, black swan or gray rhino, it simply does not matter the description once your organisation’s fragile exterior is shattered.
When a lawsuit is dropped on your desk, an employee is critically injured in an accident, or a manufacturing location is ravaged by a tornado, this is where great risk leaders step up.
Leaders that subconsciously run into the fire while others run away in sheer panic and confusion. Leaders with a cool, calm head like Sinatra at a day spa to ensure the problem at hand is resolved as quickly and quietly as possible.
Once a risk explodes into a full-blown problem, risk leaders must be there to pick up the pieces left behind and help put the house back together. Engaging the needed resources, from senior leadership to external parties, to promote healing to a wounded capitalistic organism.
From these problems comes valuable lessons and first-hand insights. It provides the empirical evidence needed to better assess and control risks that impact the very core of the organisation, events that can threaten the sheer survival of the business.
Risk professionals must be fixers. A group of savvy, corporate professionals doing whatever it takes to get the ship back on course in an expeditious manner.
Below are a few inherent characteristics that help risk leaders deal with the problem(s) at hand. These could be considered as a new set of traits outside those involved in promoting intelligent risk taking or injecting risk management methodologies in decision making processes.
Now that the time has come where a problem has arrived, it is time to push the risk registers and heat maps to the side, now embracing a new set of skills to deal with the reality at hand:
When a crisis occurs or an identified risk materializes into a problem, an “all hands on deck” approach is needed. No risk leader will be able to oversee a successful recovery from an event by themselves, so a team effort is required to overcome the slugging match against adversity. Communicating and coordinating with key stakeholders during an adverse event is a necessity to get all wounded parts of the organisation back to full capacity as soon as possible.
A team effort that concludes in a win for the organisation in times of peril is the clear goal. Risk leaders will need to pull people together during a crisis to keep the ship afloat and headed towards its designated destination no matter the size of the waves crashing against her hull.
During a crisis or at the onset of a critical problem, emotional reactions are an inevitability. These subjective feelings are simply a response to human nature but create noise that is simply not welcome when things go sideways. Objective reasoning is an asset in these moments where everyone is running around with their hair on fire like an apocalyptic comedy special. Once the volcano has erupted the situation requires focused, objective decision making to lead the organisation out of danger and into safer pastures.
This also includes fighting the intuition to apply past control methods on current problems. This past experience can be a trap to make the situation even worse. The ability to stay calm and collected during a crisis is no easy feat as it simply goes against our primitive mental models. But it is a must to ensure business interruptions are kept to the absolute minimum.
Once a problem exists, leave the subjective responses outside and turn on objective reasoning to navigate the fiery waters.
True problem-solvers see challenges as opportunities, and nothing more. Opportunities to showcase the organisation’s resiliency in the face of imminent danger or to bring to light risks that may have been overlooked in prior times. A pessimistic mind does not think this way and can really damper the recovery efforts needed once something goes array.
Realistic optimism is the mindset needed to lead the situation out of unfavorable times. Optimism is also not underestimating the gravity of the current environment nor being overconfident in the outcome. It is seeing the current problem for what it is and knowing the sun will rise again soon.
There is a solution to every problem and it takes positive leadership to ensure a calmness over the entire organisation while the recovery process is in progress.
Unique problems sometimes require unique solutions. The ability to think outside of the box is crucial for risk leaders looking to solve a current crisis impacting the business. Inventing alternative solution paths can open up new possibilities beyond normal recovery thought processes.
One recommendation that stems from Carl Spetzler’s great book Decision Quality is to come up with attractive alternatives beyond the most common approaches to problem-solving, a minimum of two is always good practice. This way leadership has options and is not forced to take only one avenue towards recovery. This is where creativity can explore other alternatives that may lead to even greater responses to current problems. These alternatives may just be the right path to help the business pivot smoothly passed adverse impacts on its way to its intended destination.
As they say, “cooler heads prevail”. If a current problem is rocking the organisation, panic can become an indirect risk once an adverse event has occurred. Great problem solvers know how to methodically work their way from describing the problem clearly to gathering key stakeholders and so on until the recovery efforts are completed.
Disorganisation is a nemesis of resilience. Solving problems requires a process framework to stop the bleeding. Whether it be a product recall or hurricane damage to a factory, a methodical process handed down from leadership creates a roadmap for all to follow. Unison must be created to move the organization away and recovered from the problem. This is the one-time in risk management where a “checklist” approach would be looked on with enthusiasm and acceptance.
Risk leaders need a multitude of traits to go from good to great. But once a disaster, crisis, or negative event occurs, it takes a new set of soft skills. These skills allow risk professionals to go from planning and analysing to fixing broken toys. Being able to solve problems and promote resiliency is the way risk leaders can add substantial value to the organisation, truly creating and protecting the value of their organisation.
Playing with broken toys should be a hobby of all risk professionals, and often this is the way we learn the most about the reality of our current existence.