ERM, Stephen Covey and my 13-year old son

When my son was 7-years old he asked me what I did for a living. I explained that “Daddy goes to companies and helps them find where all the bad things are.” Ironically, this definition served me well when I had to explain what ERM was to grown ups. While others were quoting definitions from COSO frameworks and generating glazed looks and polite nods, I was explaining the concepts in a way so that my 7-year old could understand. And people liked it! Since then I’ve realized that what I learn from my children I can teach to my peers, employees or clients; and what I learn in my professional world often works on the children.

He is 13 now and his schedule is getting busier with hockey games, practices, chores, parties, friends plus increased homework. Despite the fact that his school provides him with a $12 agenda, he still doesn’t write any deadlines down or prioritize. For example, since he started being accountable for doing his laundry, on some mornings, when he realizes he doesn’t have any clean pants to wear, he digs into his laundry basket to pull out a pair of previously worn jeans. Gross.

What’s funny is that I think the behaviour of a 13-year old boy is a window into the attitudes of the C-suite and board members to risk management who seem to prefer to wait until their closet is empty before they wash their clothing. Doing laundry, like risk management is important, but it is not urgent until it becomes urgent.

My boy may be a little irresponsible and a bit lazy but I am optimistic I can teach him some of Stephen Covey’s basic lessons like putting the big rocks in first and being proactive. I have no doubt he will grow up to be a responsible young man.

As for all those people who keep putting off their risk management efforts… I think all they have to look forward to is wearing dirty stink pants from the laundry basket until a 13-year old girl tells them that they smell.

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