Some Thoughts On What Makes A Good CCO

by Thomas Fox
Contact

There are several prominent commentators who frequently discuss the role a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO). One such commentator is Donna Boehme, who regularly writes articles, speaks about, and even tweets on this subject. But what type of mindset does a CCO need to be successful? What are some of the skills? I thought about those questions when I read three very different articles on unrelated topics recently.

I.                   A General Principle of Action

The first was found in this past week’s issue of the New Yorker Magazine, in a piece entitled “The Gift of Doubt”, where author Malcolm Gladwell reviewed the rather extraordinary life of Albert O. Hirschman, in the context of a new biography of Hirschman titled “Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman” by Jeremy Adelman. In Gladwell’s piece, he discussed one of Hirschman’s essays, which was entitled “The Principle of the Guiding Hand.” In this essay, Hirschman reviewed large commercial enterprises which did not turn out as designed but where Hirschman was impressed with the response to the crisis.

Gladwell wrote that Hirschman had studied the “Karnaphuli Paper Mills, in what was then East Pakistan. The mill was built to exploit the vast bamboo forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. But not long after the mill came online the bamboo unexpectedly flowered and then died, a phenomenon now known to recur every fifty years or so. Dead bamboo was useless for pulping; it fell apart as it was floated down the river. Because of ignorance and bad planning, a new, multimillion-dollar industrial plant was suddenly without the raw material it needed to function.” It was the mill’s response to the crisis which so impressed Hirschman. Gladwell reported that Hirschman noted that the mill owners “quickly found ways to bring in bamboo from villages throughout East Pakistan, building a new supply chain using the country’s many waterways. They started a research program to find faster-growing species of bamboo to replace the dead forests, and planted an experimental tract. They found other kinds of lumber that worked just as well. The result was that the plant was blessed with a far more diversified base of raw materials than had ever been imagined.”

From this, and other examples, Hirschman opined in his essay what he termed the “general principle of action.” He defined this principle as the following; “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”

II.                Using Mindsets

I thought about Hirschman’s general principle of action as it might apply to a CCO when I read an article by Michael Maslanka in the June 10 issue of the Texas Lawyer, entitled “Seven Mindsets of Effective General Counsel”. I thought that Maslanka had some interesting insight into the mindset a CCO needs. So adapting Maslanka’s seven mindsets from his list of those required by a General Counsel (GC) to those required by an effective CCO, I submit the following for your consideration.

No. 1: All news is good news. What should you do during a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action, when the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers suggest something that you might view as negative or not warranted? Maslanka suggests that you remember the maxim that “All news is good news, because then you know where you stand.” Further he suggests that you follow these prescripts:

  • Observe: The DOJ gave us new requests for information, which gave us a chance to gauge their thinking.
  • Orient: This closed off an option, but did others remain?
  • Decide: Pick another option.
  • Act: Do it. Repeat until resolution.

No. 2: Pick the hill you want to die on. Make a stand where it matters, not on a useless cul-de-sac. Effective CCOs create political capital, bank it with the C-level executives and make wise withdrawals. Don’t sweat the small stuff but more particularly do not ask senior management to sweat the small stuff.

No. 3: ABR: Always be re-framing. CCO’s can’t change the facts, but can change the story. Reframing can transform a potential violation of the FCPA into an opportunity to improve your company’s compliance program. It can awaken leaders to the need for manager training. Adopting an “always be reframing” mindset creates bias towards effective action, realistic optimism and caring candor.

No 4: Fight the fight, not the plan. A CCO should never get stuck on the original plan and should always deal with what is occurring now, in real time. Survival goes not to the fittest but to the most adaptable. An adaptability mindset propels a CCO ahead of a burgeoning crisis. It’s a fluid compliance and legal world out there, so “be prepared to surf the waves.”

No 5: A CCO is not a conscience for hire. When it all hits the fan and when someone must speak compliance truth to power, it is the CCO who does so. A CCO is not a mouthpiece but a voice of reason.

No 6: Generate options, lots of them. A CCO cannot direct executives to take actions; they can only guide them by producing options — the more, the better.

No. 7: “Am I adding value?” How does the CCO metric measure value? Effective CCOs understand that they work daily with those who have built a company and strive to sustain it. Adding compliance value is not a “No, you can’t do XYZ.” It’s not even a “Yes, but” mindset. It’s one of “Yes, and.”

III.             Listening

The final article was in the June 17 issue of the Texas Lawyer, by Joey Asher, entitled “Four Keys to Better Listening”. While Asher clearly believes that everyone can benefit by being a better listener, I think that this is particularly incumbent for a CCO.

Be genuinely interested. Asher believes that “There are no tips that will help you if you aren’t actually interested in the other person. The author Truman Capote was said to have been interested even in “boring” people. When stuck in a conversation with a bore, he would try to discover what makes the person so boring.” It is your attitude that makes a CCO a great listener.

Ask good questions. Here Asher quotes the intrepid interviewer Larry King who said, “The absolute best question in the whole world is “Why?” “Why did you choose to become a lawyer? Why does your business want to merge with a competitor? Why do have I have to hold the club this way? Why do you go by Joey instead of Joe? Why do you enjoy shopping? “Why” makes people think and reflect. It shows a depth of interest and requires a deeper answer.” Asher does understand that “there are many great questions that don’t start with “why.”” But his experience tells him that the best questions involve asking for an explanation or an opinion.

Be patient. Asher believes that a listener can hear very good information if you are willing to wait for it. He wrote about a story where he met a corporate psychologist at a cocktail party. This corporate psychologist told him “that his job was to screen high-level job candidates for major corporations to ensure that they’re not secretly racist.  “How can you tell if someone is a secret racist?” I asked. He explained that he asks the subject to talk about himself and his life. Over the course of long interviews (the interviews can last days) a pattern of racism will emerge.”

Have a good listening face. Asher concluded his piece with his belief that “learning to listen is important to me.” One of the ways he has done so is by looking not only interested in the people he is talking too but even fascinated with what they had to tell him. He actively tries not to be intimidating in any way while listening.

I am sure that there are other traits that will go into the makeup of an effective CCO. If you have some others, I hope that you will post them as comments to this article.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thomas Fox, Compliance Evangelist | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Thomas Fox
Contact
more
less

Compliance Evangelist on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!