When compliance leaders ask, “What can I do to better connect with the work-force?” my response is always the same. I encourage them to show their vulnerability.
How? By recognizing that no one experiences risk more than the people who work in the middle of it, and that sometimes even a well-intentioned compliance program can miss that risk.
Compliance leaders who share their own humanity can more easily encourage commercial leaders to speak up about a compliance or ethical dilemma. The phenomenon is what trial lawyer Gerry Spence describes as,”You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”
But if compliance leaders need to demonstrate their humanity (and humility) by acknowledging that they might not always get it right, and the workforce needs to reciprocate by sharing their issues before they become front-page problems, then one bridge is needed: Trust. And as Barbara Kimmel shared on the FCPA Blog, that’s a commodity in corporate decline.
Trust was also the topic of an article by Paul Zak in January 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review. He said a strong connection among colleagues isn’t just “a feel-good” phenomenon; rather, it’s one that “consistently leads to positive outcomes for both individuals and organizations.”
Zak shared research that supports the relationship between trust and economic performance, resulting in “higher productivity, better quality products and increased profitability.”
Those are all outcomes that a compliance team can thankfully impact. Here are a couple of steps compliance professionals can take today:
Build authentic relationships. A Google study Zak cited found that “managers who express interest and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work.” For a compliance leader, that might be an occasional reminder to the workforce that you’re their partner, that you want them to be successful, and you want them safe and back home with their loved ones.
The goodwill and trust that an attitude of care creates will be helpful when conflict and struggles inevitably arise. Someone is certainly more likely to reach out to another when a bond has developed before the moment of conflict came. As a clergyman once reminded me, “Richard, don’t try to build a foundation in the middle of a storm.”
Ask for help. Zak said “leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things.” Research, Zak said, found that “asking for help increases trust and cooperation.” (Ben Franklin was famous for asking for help from people whose help he needed. It’s even called the Ben Franklin Effect.)
Compliance leaders should ask the business folks if the company’s compliance program will meet the real-life challenges they face. And if there’s a gap, query them as to how it can be fixed. As one CEO shared with Zak, when he was open with his team about “the things I did not know,” it “helped me build credibility.”
Indeed, asking for help is a sign of a secure leader, Zak said.
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Authors note: My thanks and appreciation to the editors and readers of the FCPA Blog for your trust in me. With the successful completion of my supervised release, I woke up recently for the first time in a decade not as a ward of the U.S. judicial system. I’m grateful for all of the support I’ve received from the FCPA Blog community. And while probation is over, my blogging is not!
Richard Bistrong is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and CEO of Front-Line Anti-Bribery LLC. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and served fourteen-and-a-half months at a U.S. federal prison camp. He now consults, writes and speaks about compliance issues. In 2015 he was named one of Ethisphere’s 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics. He can be contacted by email here and on twitter @richardbistrong.