Leaders disengaged? You may be making a crucial mistake.

Maybe It’s You?

Are your senior leaders disengaged with compliance?

Do you feel they see it as a necessary evil – or worse, something not to be bothered with at all?

Do they sit on their phones during meetings or simply not show up?

Do you sense that no one cares what’s going on?

If so, there are a million reasons that this could be happening.

From bad culture to wrong-headed leadership, there will always be external reasons compliance isn’t top-of-mind for everyone. But since we can only control ourselves, let’s take a look at an area where many people turn others off: meetings.

Not Another Useless Meeting!

Answer honestly – how many times have you had a meeting to tell everyone what’s going on in the compliance program? Once a quarter? More?

Have you provided updates to people or departments that didn’t ask for them?

Have you given information to people without any need for them to act on it?

If so, you may be part of the problem…

Why We Do It

Compliance is important and we know it.

Doing the right thing creates good business culture and improves performance. Compliance with the law keeps companies and employees out of trouble (and jail). We want to talk about it! And we should, but the problem comes when that impulse brings people into meeting after meeting where their voice isn’t needed.

Frequent Offenders

There are several places where over-inviting frequently occurs.

The first, and most tragic, is at the senior leadership council, frequently called “Compliance Committee,” “Compliance and Ethics Committee” or “Business Ethics Panel.” This group is usually composed of the most senior executives, which means they are likely also the most important stakeholders in the program.

Used properly, compliance committees are a fantastic and critical resource. Used badly, they sour the executive team on the meaningfulness of any compliance-related initiative.

The second place where disengagement occurs from over-inviting is Compliance Champion/Ethics Ambassador meetings if meetings aren’t to tell the Champions what they need to do in their role to support the program.

The third is meetings to implement large-scale multi-stakeholder initiatives like the implementation of third-party programs or policy management overhauls where people are sucked into recurring meetings where little is decided.

The nature of these three types of meetings is that they are cyclical. There will be an ongoing need to talk to senior management, work with the ambassadors, and keep major projects running. So when it is good to invite someone and when should we stop?

The Checklist of Questions

The most important thing is to define the “ask” for each person. An “ask” is an action. Asks include things like

  1. “can you get this information from your team”
  2. “will you send this email to your direct reports in support of the training initiative”
  3. “will you let me know if there is a better way to do this,”
  4. “will you support the suspension of the contract when the third-party doesn’t complete the due diligence questionnaire?

To stop the bleeding, for every meeting you set, ask these questions:

Is there a specific ask of the person I’m inviting?

If not, can the person be updated either when there is a specific ask of them, by email instead of attending the meeting, or not at all because it’s not necessary?

If this is a recurring meeting, is everyone on the invitation necessary every time?

If not, can you send individual invites each time or let people know you will delete them from the invitation if they aren’t needed that week (then do it)?

If you decide the meeting is necessary and you’ve pared down the list to only those who are necessary, consider these further questions:

  • Can I set the agenda so that people who only need to be a part of the meeting can attend their portion then leave?
  • Can any item on the agenda be more effectively dealt with via email?
  • Is there any part of this meeting that only relates to one person, such that a phone or video call would accomplish the activity?

Lastly, if you’re tempted to call a meeting to update folks on the compliance program, ask these questions before clicking send on the invite:

  1. Do these people evaluate the success of the compliance program?
  2. Is there anything I’m specifically asking them to do with the information?

You Can Turn This Around

Practice the discipline of only inviting people to meetings where their input is specifically sought and there is a direct ask. Doing so will give you a reputation as a doer. It will also encourage people to attend the meetings you set rather than avoiding them or tuning out when they’re present.

Heck, if you’re lucky, people might even begin to look forward to attending your meetings.

You never know, it could happen

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Kristy Grant-Hart

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.

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