Grace in Governance

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC
Principal, Rivers Risk Consulting, LLC
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Governance involves grace.

The foundations of managing risk in any sector begin with partnerships. Partnerships in risk management are founded on respect, professionalism and perseverance. Perseverance is important in achieving consensus and consensus is needed to move any idea, program and opportunity for improvement forward…right?

So why is it so hard to move our risk management ideas and programs forward of late?

Risk management has lately suffered from generational mistrust and an onslaught of electronic communication. It’s easier to send an email, text, or snippet, than picking up the phone or getting up from behind our desk to do that old fashioned “in person” thing – physical communication. I’m dating myself, right?

The thumbs up and thumbs down buttons on social media have become a shorthand way to critique an idea, a thought or a commitment. The gestures have taken away a good old argument for justification – the passion of the pros and cons and the ability to see the value of both.

Grace in managing risk is about the finesse of the approach. It involves courtesy and a professional elegance displayed as we listen to differences of opinion on a subject matter, acknowledge the importance of that information, and ensure the individual we are speaking with understands that we believe that they matter to the overall solution of the issue.

Governance these days often mirrors a reality entertainment show with unkind words, personal attacks and undying vendettas. It often loops into endless venues in person, online and throughout social media. As risk professionals, we cringe at the negativity contained within the words, the actions and the consequences. Try as we might to mitigate the barrage of negativity, it seeps into the very fabric of the risk we are trying to manage or mitigate.

It is so very easy to hit the “send” button on our electronic devices. It is a nonpersonal way to avoid the unpleasant, refrain from the negative encounter or suffer the wrath of an individual not understanding the “we” instead of the “me” as we collectively manage the totality of risk for our organizations. The problem is that the seemingly negative interactions we observe are our growth potential and our opportunity to achieve the consensus on governance we strive for in our profession.

Human interaction in managing risk is our opportunity to seize the day – to learn the nuances of the issues at hand and to understand that there are no clear delineations to any one result. Risk management is wonderfully messy. It is so multidimensional that an AI program will never do it justice as long as there is a living human being as part of the equation of life.

Governance is messy. Leadership succeeds when we collectively acknowledge that risk is made up of a myriad of human actions that are best served by human contact. Grace in governance is that hands on approach to meeting and greeting and listening and sometimes agreeing to disagree. Let’s dust off our walking shoes and take a stroll. Your journey towards positive governance lies in your acceptance that sometimes, it’s not as easy as a keystroke.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC
Principal, Rivers Risk Consulting, LLC

Summary of Qualification

Marilyn Rivers is a nationally recognized public-private entity strategic risk management professional and educator who has extensive experience in delivering program development, fiscal oversight, compliance, and education tailored to meet the dynamic needs of business. She recently retired from public service with a combined thirty-five years of experience managing risk in both the public-private sectors. Marilyn is the Principal of Rivers Risk Consulting. She holds a BS in Chemistry from Clarkson and a MEd from Tufts University. Her professional designations include the CPCU, ARM and AIC. Marilyn was the recipient of the PRIMA Risk Manager of the Year in 2007. She was instrumental in designing the resurgence of PRIMA Institute and actively facilitated and designed its programming for many years. She actively provides risk mitigation services to the local non-profit community. She’s an active volunteer for multiple organizations and currently serves as the President of her Lions Club. She’s won national and international awards including the Lions International Robert J Uplinger Award (2014), Knight of the Blind (2016), and Melvin Jones Fellowship Distinguished Service Award (2018).

Professional Affiliations

  • CPCU Society
  • Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Lions International


  • NIMS Certifications, US Department of Homeland Security
  • Associate in Claims, The Institutes
  • Associate in Risk Management, The Institutes
  • Physics Minor, SUNY Albany
  • Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter, CPCU Society
  • Masters in Education, Tufts University
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Clarkson University

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