By Roy Snell
Some of the most ineffective compliance professionals I have met run up and down the hall with their hair on fire over every little thing. Ineffective compliance professionals see their role as that of an activist. They are very visible and vocal. They see all that is wrong with the world, and they don’t recognize much of what is right with the world. They see the bad in people and seem to ignore the good in people. They flail their arms and are constantly outraged, because they feel walls are being put up. Ironically, they are more effective at building walls than masons, because their constant outrage and negativity… builds walls.
On the other hand, effective compliance professionals are patient and persistent, but don’t feel a need to be visible all the time. They are stealthy and constantly working the room. When they see a wall, they slowly work their way around it, rather than standing there indignantly screaming and pounding their fists against the wall. They quietly motivate others to help. They don’t feel the need to share every thought that goes through their minds. They don’t need to be the center of attention. They don’t think that every last, little tiny, irrelevant injustice must be immediately irradiated with the force of an atomic bomb. They don’t think that they are better than everyone else or have a higher loyalty to integrity than everyone else.
Effective compliance professionals speak up at very precise times during a meeting and make one or two very important observations calmly, rather than constantly striking out at everyone about everything. They see the good in people, draw attention to good people, encourage good people, and encourage others to be good people. They don’t spend all their time just pointing a self-righteous, negative, ethical finger at everyone. Effective compliance professionals disagree with compliance activists who think finger–pointing can somehow find or fix an existing ethical or regulatory problem. Rather than just relying on indignation, effective compliance professionals artfully and quietly use all the elements of a compliance program to prevent, find, and fix ethical and regulatory problems. If there is a little resistance to something they want to do, they grab a different element of a compliance program and attack the problem another way.
Effective compliance professionals use creativity rather than outrage to prevent, find, and fix problems. One such compliance officer gave leadership five questions to ask themselves before making a business decision. Negative, finger–pointing, compliance activists are somewhat effective while they are screaming. Creative compliance professionals are effective even when they are not in the room.
Effective compliance professionals don’t just buy a pulpit, stand in front of everyone, and preach. They quietly go about searching for evidence of problems and motivating people. Rather than assuming everyone is bad, they befriend people and listen intently for problems they can go fix. The effective compliance professional shares their concerns with those who have the authority to fix the concern, rather than the next person they see in the hallway. As opposed to taking the activist approach, effective compliance professionals have a high emotional IQ and use it to work with people, rather than working against people.