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Speak the language of senior execs, risk managers advised


March 6, 2018   by Greg Meckbach


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Successful risk managers know how to speak the language of senior executives, which is much different than the language of their peers, say two presenters scheduled to speak at next month’s RIMS conference in San Antonio.

“Risk managers, when they get in front of senior management, often want to talk about things they do because they think it’s important,” said Steve Sachs, co-chair of the Willis Towers Watson Real Estate Practice, in an interview Monday with Canadian Underwriter. But C-suite executives “don’t care what you do,” Sachs advises risk managers. “They care that you are protecting the company.”

Sachs, who is based in Maryland, is scheduled to present April 18 at a session titled The Seven Habits of Highly Successful risk Professionals at the Risk Management Society’s annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. He is a fan of the late Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

“If you have any opportunity to work with senior management, you need to talk their language, understand where they are going, and [think] Big Picture,” said Sachs. “So, when you get the time in front of them, be thinking about where they are looking and [about] what strategic things are on the horizon…because they will be interested in that.”

Scheduled to present with Sachs is Tim Kraft, risk manager for JBG Smith Properties, a Washington, D.C. area real estate firm. Kraft is a former infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps, where he led a reconnaissance detachment – an organization that is smaller than a company (which normally has more than 100 soldiers) but with a “much more intricate” mission.

“My bosses typically were colonels, generals and admirals,” Kraft said. “Much of what I learned in the Marine Corps is fully transferrable to the business world in the C-suite,” Kraft said. “I don’t look at someone like a CEO as a three-headed ogre. They are a person just like me. They have a role, they have responsibility, and I have a comfort level communicating with them because I really try to make it my business to figure out how I can help them.”

One way a risk manager can help is to find the courage to deliver bad news. “People don’t get fired for bad news,” Sachs said. “People get fired for surprises.”

Canadian Underwriter is a sponsor of the RIMS 2018 Annual Conference & Exhibition, taking place April 15-18 in San Antonio, Tex. To register or obtain more information, visit the event website.