In sports, the most important determinants of success tend to reside just outside the boundaries of general awareness. Teams win championships not only because of the players’ talent and experience and the coaching staff’s aptitude, but also due to the unique team chemistry that develops over the rigors of a season.
A similar dynamic exists on the business playing field, where some of the most valuable tools in the professional’s skill set often are hiding in plain sight. This is especially the case in the realm of virtual assessments, where the most successful assessors possess a unique blend of softer skills that tend to receive less attention than the wide range of technical proficiencies they (absolutely) need to thrive.
Korn Ferry’s career coaches and leadership scientists make a similar point on the extremely valuable, but often overlooked, skill of managing up: “It’s never listed under the ‘responsibilities’ section of a job description,” according to the Korn Ferry article. “It’s also never overtly mentioned during a performance review. But experts say one of the biggest tasks required of any job is to make the boss look good—and in some cases it may be the overarching requirement.”
The article, “5 Keys to Manage Up (Remotely)” stresses that managing your manager is A) crucial; and B) more difficult in the remote working environments that so many organizations adopted during the pandemic. Face-to-face time turns out to be a fundamental aspect of managing up – just as it was a central component of most third party risk assessments until COVID-19 struck last year. The upside of the sudden, widespread and necessary shift to virtual assessments last year is that the profession has amassed a rich collection of hard-earned lessons about which practices and processes work best.
Third party risk experts have also gained fresh insights into how practitioners are reconfiguring their skill sets so that they can flourish in the virtual environment. Shared Assessments Senior Vice President & CSO Brad Keller has emphasized the need for virtual assessors to possess higher-level communications and project management skills. Detecting and following up on signals of uncertainty, confusion and reluctance is much more difficult to pull off during a phone call or even a video chat than it is when reading the expressions and body language of the person sitting across the table.
Third party risk management (TPRM) professionals conducting virtual assessments also have a smaller margin for error, which ups the ante on project management expertise. “You don’t want to get halfway through the allotted time and realize that you have to go back and review additional documents – or that you interviewed people in the wrong order,” Keller notes. “When you’re on-site, those missteps have less of an impact because you know you’re there for four or five days and you can follow up later.”
While the value of technology expertise – from using new video , to managing screen-sharing, to navigating systems and applications – also increase in a work from home (WFH) environment, many higher-value virtual assessment skills relate to interpersonal communications.
On that score, guidance on managing up in a virtual setting seems to translate very well to virtual assessments. While the people within the third party organization that TPRM professionals interact with are not their bosses, most of them are time-pressed, over-burdened managers and leaders. “When vendors speak candidly, they’ll occasionally complain that an on-site assessment could have been conducted more efficiently,” Keller notes. “You can’t do that in a virtual world because there’s no time to waste. You have to be efficient.” The following managing-up approaches Korn Ferry designed for a remote workplace may come in handy when conducting virtual assessments:
- Be proactive: While delivering high-quality work on time remains as important as ever, the intense time pressure that persists in many virtual organizations has strengthened the link between helping a colleague save time and the trust that colleague extends to you, according to Korn Ferry Advance Career Coach David “The more information and updates you can provide before they ask, the more they trust you and are less likely to inquire and interfere,” he reports.
- Roll with the changes: Leadership styles and work approaches have changed during the WFH transition. Managers who previously favored communicating by email may now prefer to text. The Korn Ferry experts indicate that it is important recognize these changes and to adjust your own communications and behaviors in response to keep the relationship with your superior aligned.
- Solve for X: When time is limited, problems often seem larger than they are. Ginchansky encourages professionals to share options for addressing problems whenever the need to report an issue arises. “When you provide business updates, don’t talk about problems, talk about how you are following up on or strategizing around how to solve them,” he says.
The article concludes by emphasizing that successfully managing up hinges on your ability to manage yourself. That means understanding how your own approaches and behaviors have changed in the virtual workplace and being open about your communications preferences. After all, relationships among colleagues are two-way street.
So are relationships between outsourcers and third parties, and the ones that have adapted best to the virtual work environment tend to be the ones with the right chemistry.