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Communication is key to successful risk management: PRIMA speaker


LONG BEACH, Calif. — Clear and honest communication is the underpinning of successful risk management, one of the speakers at the Public Risk Management Association’s 2014 Annual Conference said Monday.

“You can’t mitigate a risk if you don’t know about something,” Steven Gaffney, president of communications consultant Steven Gaffney Co., said. “You can’t overcome an objection which you don’t know exists.”

As risk managers, “We want to hear from people, and we can correct things if we do,” Mr. Gaffney said. “It’s not about what they’re saying, it’s what they leave out.”

Productive communication is a critical element of successful risk management and can help avoid dire consequences, he said.

“You save people,” Mr. Gaffney said. “If you don’t do your job, when there’s a problem, there’s going to be a huge problem.”

Risk managers are too often perceived as “the party of no,” he said, when people really want risk managers to say “yes.” It is this perception that can stifle honest and efficient communication and prevent risk managers from achieving their objectives.

He encouraged his audience at the conference in Long Beach to dispel the “party of no” perception by first and foremost simply not saying no. “’No’ kills off an idea,” he said. “Instead of saying ‘no,’ say ‘yes and …’”

Conflict is often one result of open communication, but is necessary for resolution of important topics, Mr. Gaffney said.

“Conflict is good; not resolving conflict is bad,” he said. “If there is no debate, then that is a sign of a poor leader, because they do not recognize that there’s always going to be debates.”