By John R. Nocero & Jennifer L. Kennedy
When we first got into this gig, we looked for the shortcuts. We assumed we must be able to learn policies in punctuated bursts or uncover compliance problems simply by reading reports. However, if those shortcuts exist, we haven’t found them. We’ve learned that we need to be attuned, present in the moment. For this, there is no shortcut. There is time, attention, and a vast amount of effort.
There is a famous Zen tale speaking to this simple lesson, which is recounted in The Three Pillars of Zen:
One day, a man of the people said to the Zen master Ikkyu: “Master, will you write down for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word, “Attention.”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Will you not add something more?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: “Attention. Attention.”
“Well,” remarked the man rather irritably, “I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.”
Then Ikkyu wrote the same work three times running: “Attention. Attention. Attention.”
Half-angered, the man demanded: “What does that word ‘Attention’ mean anyway?”
And Ikkyu answered gently: “Attention means attention.” (Kapleau, 1965)
Compliance is about paying attention. What is said is just as important as what is unsaid. A good compliance professional pays attention to details; not just in reports, but also with the people around them. Fraudulent, non-compliant actions aren’t shouted from the rooftops. The telltale signs are in the details.
This is why you shouldn’t bring your phones to meetings and why we log off our computers when people are in our office. We tune out to tune in. This is how we stay connected to the power of being present. We’re right here, right now, engaging to generate ideas that get results and engage those around us. If you’re paying attention, you know who is there, but not really “there.” You’ve seen them in restaurants and bars – those among us who can’t put down their phones – who are so wired that they can’t live with the idea of being disconnected even for a moment. Those people who are more concerned with saying where they are and what they’re doing than actually enjoying where they are and engaging in what they’re doing. Who are so busy snapping selfies (really “alone-ies,” if you get down to it), and sharing on social media that they’re not fully part of the world going on around them.
We see these people because we’ve tuned out and put the phone down. Are there more of us out there? Maybe; but it’s hard to tell. In 2016 Rigoni & Nelson reported that 13% of employees worldwide are engaged. Given these numbers we asked ourselves, what is the most important element in engaging workers, or getting them to tune in? We know what works – solutions, crystal clear expectations, transparency, being concise and to the point. Don’t make people guess at what you want and what you mean. Stop with the endless texts, and multi-paragraph e-mails that leave us saying “huh?” Don’t let people vent without also working out a solution. Stop defending your territory and start encouraging collaboration. These small improvements will go big to develop respectful and effective working relationships. It’s what helps a compliance professional keep tabs on the small stuff.
Being truly present is hard, but we have to try. So put the phone down, back away from F5 and look around. You might learn something.
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Kapleau RP (1965).
The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, Enlightenment. Retrieved February 11, 2017 from
Rigoni, B. & Nelson, B. (2016). Do Employees Really Know What’s Expected of Them? Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/195803/employees-really-know-expected.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication on October 24, 2016