Be Relevant: How A Compliance Professional Can Influence Corporate Decision Making

by Thomas Fox
Contact

So how do you influence decision making as a compliance professional? That topic was explored in a session at the Society of Corporate and Compliance (SCCE), 2013 national Compliance and Ethics Institute by presenters Jennifer O’Brien, Chief Medicare Compliance Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, and Shawn DeGroot, Associate Director, Navigant. They, together with a very participative audience, had some insightful thoughts for the compliance practitioner on “how to get to effective”.

The single best piece of advice O’Brien said that she had ever received came from the recently retired Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) of Microsoft, Odell Guyton. It was to “Be Relevant”. Although Guyton used that term in the context of senior management meetings, O’Brien thought it so profound that she applied it to all of her work as a compliance professional. In meetings, you have to know when to both speak up at the relevant times and then when to keep quiet.

Both O’Brien and DeGroot felt the single most important trait that a compliance professional could engage is to build relationships with others in your organization. This means that you have to get out of your office and meet people. It can certainly be corporate executives in the C-Suite but you need to get out into the field and be seen. Training was mentioned as one of the opportunities for you to get out of the office and into the field. By doing such training you do more than simply put a name on a face of the company’s compliance officer as the key is to build trust. You need to have employees trust that they can bring issues to you to report. They are much more likely to bring an issue to you if they have met you and have that personal connection.

O’Brien had some other thoughts about building relationships which I found interesting. Although she is an attorney by professional training and spent a good part of her early in-house career in a corporate legal setting, she emphasized that corporate compliance is very different than corporate legal. You have to answer the phone and be responsive to inquiries. I once worked in a corporate legal department where the standing joke was, call us and we might answer the phone. That type of attitude cannot work in a compliance department.

She also suggested that it is helpful for a compliance practitioner to explain the “why” of a decision and not simply be told what they can or cannot do. She said this helps alleviate the perception that compliance is simply the “Land of No” that many folks in operations or business development feel is the sole raison d’etre for the existance of a compliance department. Contrasting this attitude, once again, with some legal departments, which feel that they are the last bastions against the business folks in the company who seemingly giving it away in contract negotiations, compliance should be properly seen as a unified partner or system in business development (BD) or operations.

O’Brien has some good ideas to get in front of senior management. She said that she targets one person a month to try and meet or reconnect with in some fashion. But before you get in front of a senior executive, you should develop a strategic compliance work plan and use that information as an entrée into that executive. You can seek the executives buy-in to the issue or issues that you raise in the meeting. She cautioned that if it is the first time you are meeting with such a senior executive, you should do your homework and learn as much about them as you can. If you can talk about their family or their interests, it will be a good way to make that initial connection.

DeGroot had an interesting phrase which she added to the mix. It was “let the other person have my way”. By this she intended for other corporate stakeholders to move the compliance regime forward. She said to do so it was important to understand who were both your advocates and your opposition in the C-Suite. While sometimes it is more difficult, you should listen more closely to those who are in opposition to your ideas and plans because in may be that those persons have a more insightful critique which you will need to overcome. Also if you can convince those in opposition to you initially to support you, she believes that you can develop quite the powerful ally. She suggested that you try to determine the outcome desired by both your advocates and your opposition as she believes that often, in the corporate setting, the same outcome is desired, the difference is how to arrive there.

O’Brien concluded her portion of the session with some of her thoughts about the skill set she now looks for when she is hiring a compliance professional for her team. I found her list quite interesting and constructive. Several of these traits will follow the discussion above but she added some additional key elements. She enumerated what she looks for during the interview process.

  • Visibility – A compliance professional needs to be comfortable getting out of the office and meeting others in the company, from the Board Room to the Shop Floor.
  • Rapport – You have to develop a rapport with those who value and support you and those who might oppose you.
  • Transparency – You cannot not answer the phone or hide or not ever answer questions. You must be responsive.
  • Impose rigor – Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say no but more often it is requiring company personnel to follow company process and procedures.
  • Be patient – You do not have to speak at every turn, sometimes the thing unsaid is more important.
  • Be a role model – Compliance personnel must be seen to be doing things better and doing things right. You have to model your ethics to have credibility.
  • Don’t overstep your role – Compliance does not have to answer every question. If others will not and it is their area do not get drawn in.
  • Be an active listener – You have to work to be a good listener.
  • Have a poker face – Even if you hear the worst story you have to maintain a calm demeanor and work through the process.

Both O’Brien and DeGroot ended their joint presentation by agreeing that the most powerful influence that a compliance officer can have is example. Lead by example and that will make management and the rest of the company sit up and take notice.

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.
Custom Email Digest
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.