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Present data the way C-suite wants it
When presenting any data to upper management, it is important to present it in the way that it will be best received, says William Besse, CHS-V, executive vice president of Andrews International, a company providing security and risk mitigation services, based in Valencia, CA. Every organization has its own culture, style, and business needs, and executives will expect data to be presented in the way they prefer and that works best within the organization.
"A large hospital corporation that owns hospitals across the country may have one way within their management structure of presenting data to their CEO or the board, and you had better present your data the same way the managers across the organization present their data," he says. "If it's visual, then do that. If it's all statistical analysis, then use that format. If it is an executive summary for the CEO and more details for others, do that."
Determine the style of communication long before it is time for you to walk into the board room, Besse says. If you do not present your information the same way as everyone else, it is not going to be accepted as widely as it could be, and you might not be recognized as someone making a meaningful contribution, he says.
Learn to speak C-suite
Risk managers also have to learn the language of the C-suite, says Edwin Foulke Jr., JD, former assistant secretary of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and now co-chair of the Workplace Safety & Catastrophe Management Practice Group with the law firm of Fisher & Phillips in Atlanta.
"You have to start talking the way they talk, things like 'return on investment,'" he says. "That's not something that is usually taught to risk managers, and it doesn't come naturally. But you have to be able to converse in the terms they understand, the terms that get their attention, if you want to be a part of the C-suite and have influence over budgeting and decision-making."
When interacting with organizational leaders at this level, it also is important not to cry wolf too often, Besse says. Top managers will be sensitive to the possibility that a risk manager (or any other manager) is overstating a need or exaggerating a risk just to procure resources or elevate his or her status in the organization, he says.
"Overreaction to one particular incident can come back to hurt you in the end. It might have been just a black swan, an anomaly that no one could see coming, but you had the organization shift into high gear and spend, spend, spend in response to that one incident," Besse says. "Then that risk manager gets the reputation that you were taking advantage of the incident to obtain budget money or further your departmental goals, rather than supporting the enterprise as a whole. That can be a misstep."
Edwin Foulke Jr., JD, Co-Chair, Workplace Safety & Catastrophe Management Practice Group, Fisher & Phillips, Atlanta. Telephone: (404) 240-4273. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Besse, CHS-V, executive vice president, Andrews International, Valencia, CA. Telephone: (661) 775-8400.