5 More Ways To Be A Wildly Effective Compliance Officer

Back in February I wrote a post for the SCCE Blog called “5 Ways to Be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer.”  The post was shared nearly 2000 times, and numerous compliance officers wrote to me with their tips on becoming wildly effective.  As a result, I’m excited to share with you five more ways compliance officers can be wildly effective at their job. 

Leverage Compliance Believers and Champions

As a single individual or small team, you can only do so much.  People within the business are likely to spend much more time with their line managers, co-workers and other functions than with the compliance officers.  Therefore it is critical to leverage the people you meet in the business who can encourage, influence and evangelize the compliance message to the people around them.

When I was a Chief Compliance Officer, I would look for middle managers who believed in the compliance agenda.  When I found one, I would ask them if they would please publicly thank one or more of their rank and file employees who had done something that supported or promoted the compliance program.  By asking them to publicly acknowledge their employees for compliant actions, the employees learn that (1) they can win points with the boss for supporting compliance and (2) the boss thinks compliance is important.  Creating a culture of compliance is easier when leaders use praise to encourage the compliance message. 

Make Time for Small Talk

Because of the proliferation of regulations and expanding areas of responsibility, most compliance officers find it hard to get everything done within the working day.  You may be tempted to skip chatting by the water cooler or joining in a coffee break with co-workers so you can get your work done.  Don’t do that.  Making time for small talk allows you to be seen as one of the team.  You’ll hear the local gossip and learn what is really going on when people are used to seeing you in the halls or in the breakroom.  It’s hard to be effective unless you know what’s really happening rather than the party line.  People are much more likely to talk to you when things are hard if they’re used to talking to you when things are easy.

Listen 70% of the time, and Talk 30%

David Sandler, the great teacher of sales techniques, advised his pupils to listen 70% of the time, and to talk 30% of the time.  By listening, you invest in the other person, so that they are more interested in hearing your response when they’ve fully talked through their problem.  Many times people don’t really know what is bothering them until they have the opportunity to talk it out.  If you listen carefully, you’ll be seen as a strategic ally who is genuinely interested in solving the problem.  Make active listening a habit and you’ll immediately win friends in the business.

Proactively Work with Other Business Functions

To be wildly effective, compliance officers should have a positive working relationship with the other functions in the business, especially Legal, Audit and Human Resources.  In some companies, Information Security, Information Technology, Health and Safety, or Finance may be critical allies.  Rather than engage in turf wars, try to strategically and pro-actively work with the heads of each of the other functions.  See if there is anything the compliance department can do to support the mission of the other functions.  Educate the other functions on how they can help compliance, and ask where you can work together.  The more the business functions can work together, the more effective compliance will be.

Remember Your Mission

It’s easy to get discouraged when resources are taken away or it appears that no one cares about the compliance program.  When this happens, remember that you are part of a greater community that is changing the world for the better.  Compliance officers ensure that bribes aren’t paid, that employees don’t get in trouble with law enforcement, and that the company doesn’t have to pay fines which could jeopardize jobs and family stability.  Our mission is important, and, when things are hard, we need to take a step back and remember that we have an amazing opportunity to help to make the world a better place.

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.