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I learned compliance lessons at a gun range

We recently had a company-wide outing to the local gun range. Handling weapons is serious business. There are a lot of rules, and everyone needs to be in complete compliance or there can be serious consequences. It’s also really, seriously fun. Here are three ways the hallmarks of compliance can make things more enjoyable.

Training builds confidence. We had the opportunity to receive firearms training from a highly-qualified, competition-level instructor with an abundance of tactical and classroom experience. We had confidence in the instructor, which made us more confident in our own performance. Clear, concise training on any topic helps a person feel more comfortable and confident that they will know how to behave and react to the situation.

Many compliance concepts simply don’t intersect in a person’s normal daily life (respondeat superior, anyone?), so there is little opportunity to cultivate skills and prepare for sticky situations. What will you do when a public official subtly solicits a bribe? Educate, train, run drills, and role play. If an employee might need these skills, they will have experience from training to fall back on. Repetitive training makes any task less intimidating and easier to navigate.

Oversight leads to better performance. At the range, knowing we (and everyone else there) were under the watchful eye of a dedicated range security officer (RSO) who ensures compliance also builds confidence. RSOs are kind of like the cliché compliance department. They spend all day telling you things you can’t do. But that makes it more fun, not less.

When the rules are clear and fairly enforced, it builds trust among range buddies and sales team members alike. “I’m staying out of trouble by avoiding X behavior because the RSO is watching.” Instead of being a threat, equally applied rules eliminate or minimize the need for  individuals to evaluate risk in particular situations, giving them more mental space to focus on the work at hand. Less to think about means a more relaxed environment and better performance.

Clear rules and expectations reduce waste. Of course, constant improvement and re-training are important, but having a committed and engaging experience in the beginning will save resources down the road. At the range, for example, the more time spent screwing around, being told off by the RSO, or constantly correcting for something you have already learned, distracts from the task at hand — i.e., shooting at the target.

On the other hand, at the range or in any organization, knowing that resources are being expended appropriately and efficiently, without unnecessary duplication or red tape, improves the quality and effectiveness of the experience. Whether resources are counted in productive hours at the range or employees’ time and travel expenses, it all adds up.

– – – – –

Risk is also opportunity. When you listen to some compliance experts, it seems as though risk is the enemy. Everything risky is labeled bad and should be avoided, so risk reduction become the first priority. Not to say risk assessment isn’t valuable. Shooting a gun while hanging blindfolded upside down increases the risks to everyone and should be avoided. 

But risk is not the enemy. The real enemy is non-compliance. That’s because most risky things are entirely legal and permissible until specific rules are broken. Often, individuals who move forward in the face of risk are the ones who accomplish novel and great achievements that benefit themselves, their companies, and beyond.

Focusing on risk or focusing on compliance produce two very different worldviews, and similarly different reactions and results. Risks, when left in human hands, imply potential disaster and cause one to shrink back. Compliance, however, trains people to have confidence when they’re in new situations, which, without training, would be unpredictable and dangerous, but with training become predictable and navigable.

Compliance uses oversight (from the range security officer or your nearest compliance professional) as encouragement, not as control, and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of training and repetition.

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