Tribute to Stan The Man and 11 Rules for Compliance Success

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Today we honor Stan ‘The Man’ Musial who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals (1941–1963) who passed away on Saturday. Musial was a record 24-time All-Star selection and is widely considered to be one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He compiled 3,630 hits  He also amassed 475 home runs during his career, was named the National League‘s Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and won three World Series championship titles. Musial was a first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. I actually got to see Musial play at the old Colt Stadium, where the Houston Colt 45’s played in before the Astrodome was built and before they became the Astros. My father, who grew up in Tulsa listening to the St. Louis Cardinals and so passed on his passion for the Cards to me. We could even listen to the Cardinals on the radio in Houston as the uber-powerful AM station KMOX broadcast throughout the Midwest and South. Because of this anomaly I am still a fan of baseball on the radio. So today we celebrate one of the very greatest baseball players of all-time.

In the 60s I was given a long-playing album about hitting in which Musial narrated. It came with a book which you were to turn the pages while Stan The Man taught you how to hit. While it might have talked about his unique corkscrew stance, phenomenal eye-hand coordination or bat level when swinging at an off-speed pitch the one thing I have remembered throughout the years was practice and practice and practice. That is how Musial became one of the greatest hitters of all-time.

I was reminded about this when I read an article in this month’s Inc. magazine and entitled “The Rules” by authors Adam Bluestein, Leigh Buchanan, Issie Lapowsky and Eric Schurenberg. In the article the authors interviewed some of the world’s top entrepreneurs “as well as thinkers from business schools to come up with 11 nuggets of hard-earned wisdom and meticulously researched insight” or as the magazine’s cover promised “11 Rules for Success”. I believe that they are a good review for any Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and present an entrepreneurial way to think about an overall best practices compliance program.

  1. Do less - Evan Williams the co-found of Twitter. Williams believes many things are actually distractions and leaders lack the perspective of focus. I liked this insight from Williams, “When you are obsessing about one thing, you can reach insights about problems that are hard to solve.” As a CCO, you need to step back and take a look at your overall compliance program on at least an annual basis.
  2. Embrace accidents - Tony Hsieh, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zappos. Here Hsieh is referring to serendipity. I would use the old football adage that when preparation meets opportunity, luck arises. Hsieh believes that if you make enough contacts at some point you will be able to ‘connect the dots’ to create something spectacular. Talk to other compliance professional, go to conferences and events, have dinner with your peers when you are traveling, talk-talk-talk to others in the profession. You never know when one of their experiences may help you.
  3. Choose your playing field - Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management and co-author of Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. Martin believes that you must have more than just aspirations or even vision, you must have a strategy. I think this is why my colleague Stephen Martin says it is so important to have a 1 and 3 and 5 year plan for your compliance program. As Roger Martin puts it “The heart of strategy is defining where you are going to play and how you are going to win.”
  4. Fail - Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post. Huffington says that she learned from her mother that failure is a “stepping-stone to success, as opposed to the opposite of success. When you fail that way, it changes dramatically what you’re willing to do, how you’re willing to invent and the risks that you’ll take.” In other words, learn from your failures.
  5. Let others lead - Michael Useem, Professor at the Wharton School. Useem emphasizes that leadership is “a team sport.” You should endeavor to build leadership in the ranks of your organization “by empowering people to independently make good decisions.”
  6. Slow down – Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. Meyer believes that a company should move slowly and deliberately. With his business he believes that this strategy allowed his company to “develop a soul”. But more than this it allowed his business to make a name for itself with its customers because they came to know not only what it sold but more importantly what it stood for. In this world, the life of innovation is quite short so Meyer believes that the product differentiator is how a business does something rather than what it sells
  7. Emphasize steady progress - Teresa M. Amabile, Harvard Business School Professor. Amabile studied a large number of employees and found that on their most productive days “they were able to move forward in their work, even if it was just an incremental step forward.” She believes that managers must pay attention and see if employees are making steady progress and if not, why not. She asked, “Do they have clear goals and autonomy about how to pursue those goals? Do they have sufficient resources?”
  8. No tricks - Phil Lubi, founder of Evernote. Lubi believes that you should play to both your strengths and weaknesses. Do not hide behind what he termed “false choice.” Be honest and let investors and your Board of Directors know the truth. By doing so he believes that you will build more durable relationships.
  9. Stop thinking about yourself - John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods. Mackay believes that you need to step back and look at the big picture.  For Mackay this came when he recognized that his company’s Board of Directors did not only have a fiduciary duty to the shareholders but was also a stakeholder in the company. His advice to entrepreneurs is to “think about your business and all the relationships it has. You have to develop a feeling for who your stakeholders are and figure out how to make them all winners.”
  10. Don’t discount the role of luck - Michael Maubossin, investment strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management. In a somewhat counter-intuitive analysis, Maubossin believes that you should not only look at companies that succeed but also those that fail. This is because if you only look at company’s which succeed, you will miss those which employ the same strategy but failed. He believes that by recognizing alternative outcomes, and the role of luck, you can keep “your mind open to other possibilities, so you can manage or mitigate them.” This means that you can learn from compliance failures as well as compliance successes. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement actions usually provide significant information on what got a company into FCPA hot water and this is information that you can learn from.
  11. Don’t be immune to new ideas - Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3Com. Metcalfe believes that “If you have an ongoing business, it’s hard to innovate, because innovation likely threatens what you have.” But he emphasizes that if you are standing still, it is likely that not only are other companies catching up to you, they are also passing you in the business world. In the compliance world, the concept of best practices is constantly evolving. As anti-corruption and anti-bribery compliance programs and criteria evolve, today’s ‘enhanced compliance obligation’ may be tomorrow’s best practice.

The Inc. article provided some interesting insights into what made some of the world’s top entrepreneurs very successful. You might see how these insights could help you improve your compliance program. And while it doesn’t have quite the same rhyming scheme as Paul Simon’s Mrs. Robinson, here’s to you Stan ‘The Man’ Musial. I hope that you enjoy an inning or two at the great game in the hereafter.