The Zen of Compliance

Learning the art of slowing down

Editor’s Note: Fresh Perspectives is an exclusive series of The Compliance Report that features expertise across Convercent. Each week we will feature a different Convercent expert, capturing their opinion and unique voice. Fresh Perspectives will be published weekly on Fridays. 

Zen of complianceI am used to cramming in work as I go through TSA lines, on another red-eye or connection, or waiting to check-in to a hotel. To do lists, deadlines, emails, texts – it’s in constant motion, and so am I; so is compliance. Keeping pace is half our battle, right?

I was on my flight home from Silicon Valley — home being South Carolina, and I had some time to think. It was our sixth TechTalk event of the 2016 World Tour; we’ll host 18 in total, around the world, by the end of the year. On top of industry conferences and internal events, that’s a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. Each time I leave one of these events, it seems like I’m right in the trenches of planning the next one. Catching up on email before my plane pulls away from the gate, updating registration lists while getting caffeine and checking order details in taxis all leave little room to take a deep breath and see it all from a birds’ eye view – that is, I don’t slow myself down often enough to see the impact of our events program.

And then it hit me: compliance executives experience the same go go go career life as I do. They are constantly changing policies, updating their program to meet regulatory requirements and try to remain creative and intuitive when communicating a heavily stigmatized function to highly skeptical and oversaturated employees. This is me telling you – I really do feel you.  Here’s how our lives overlap – and some of it may surprise you. I hope you can take some tips from my notes that I’ve gathered from Prague and London to Dallas, Philadelphia and other major U.S. cities.

What makes a great event? Being mindful of the details, even if others don’t.
Think about it – you go to an industry trade show and your experience depends on how well it’s coordinated and scheduled, the caliber of people who are there to network with and the details that are threaded throughout the entire time from sessions to interactions. When my job is done well, you don’t know there is a behind-the-scene orchestra that conducts the underlying symphony. When my job is done poorly, you notice – and fast, comparable to dropping cymbals out of a skyscraper onto a cement sidewalk or a reed splitting in a woodwind mid-octave.

I strive for the silent coordination of a world-class symphony. I strive to make it look easy but know it’s taken me many mistakes, falls, and drops to know, for example, to always have spare batteries and power cords at a booth because it’s bound that a phone or computer is going to die right in the middle of a deal-making conversation or to have thank you emails prepped for post-event follow-up before the event so I can just hit send and not forget this important touch point with a potential client.

Sound familiar? When done well, compliance conducts a similarly flawless orchestra with quality sound and experience. When done wrong, your company ends up in the news, fined and sometimes even in jail.

Conducting an agile and flowing compliance symphony requires mindful execution and to take a minute to slow down.
I have the following written on different post-it notes stuck to my desk to remind myself to take a minute and slow down despite the non-stop action of my everyday. I shared these with a few compliance executives at our Silicon Valley event and they gave feedback on how they will apply them to their daily routine and program management style:

  1. Timing – “is everything” and the saying is true for good reason. Knowing when to deliver a message to the right person during a time when they need it the most or will resonate well with them is what the message’s success hinges on.
  2. Good communicationallows compliance to be seen in a better light and to be received as a trusted company advisor; it encourages employees to lean on the function more and more to make good choices and avoid wrongdoing. 
  3. Persistenceis key, but keeping it professional is even more so. If an employee pushes back or lacks action such as attesting to a new policy, persist on completion – maybe the employee is not understanding the policy well enough or it’s a matter of misunderstanding; get to know why.
  4. Thinking creativelyone of my favorite stories a compliance officer told me was in relation to the company’s gifts, travel and entertainment policy. The CCO took the new policy and wrapped copies in a cardboard wine bottles and placed one on various desks around the office. The test was to see if employees knew the policy well enough in previous versions to know they are not allowed to accept the gift. Better yet, employees went to the HR office and asked why they didn’t get a wine bottle (not thinking there was a policy inside). Sometimes, compliance requires you to think outside of the box to make an impact.
  5. RelationshipsWe can’t do this alone. Being able to utilize different functions in your organization is key. You have a marketing team, why not leverage them to help you market compliance? Just like in my job, I’m always counting on my relationships no matter if it is my sales team to follow up on engaged prospects, my content manager to help create compelling content, my customer team to provide relevant client feedback, and so on.

In the hype of it, it’s hard to slow down. One tactic that works for me to leave you with —  block of time on your calendar each week and put a reminder on your phone to get out of the trenches and take a step back. Go for a walk, grab a coffee at a new coffee shop in the area, talk to someone in your organization you don’t normally get a chance to talk to and see the indirect impact of what you do – you’ll be surprised with the results.