The following are some suggestions for compliance officers to get ahead and demonstrate that they can add value in their companies.
The only way that you can stop being perceived as a “policeman” and begin to be seen as a value-adding business partner is to show value, and your attitude needs to reflect that stance. It is very easy for another business person to sense a bad attitude when it comes to creating value within the business. If you want to get closer to the business and actually be a partner, you need to improve your attitude.
You also need to improve your attitude towards the sales department. Without sales, you probably don’t have a business. While it might be frustrating to sometimes see them make five times your salary while appearing to do very little, they do manage the revenue of the company and bring in business (however complex or easy it is for them). If you want to be a salesperson, then pick up a bag and hit the street; if not, show the sales team that you respect what they do and help them to be more successful.
Build relationships and change behaviour over time
There will be a need to build relationships across the company and, over time, work to change certain behaviours. To do this, you need to be a “people person”. If you are not a people person then compliance might not be the right role for you – perhaps you should be focused on audits or investigations. However, the main areas of compliance – building buy-in, driving new programmes, enhancing programmes and helping people do the right thing – are all “people functions”, so you need to learn to smile, laugh more often, or find what it is that makes you happy.
Think business, speak business
While I don’t expect every compliance person to run off and get a MBA, having the ability to think and speak business is important. This knowledge can be gained from reading books about business and exercising your mind in this area.
There are ten business books that every compliance officer should read. These are:
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
- Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
- Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
- The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
- Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing what the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman
- Leading Change by John P. Kotter
- Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
- Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson.
Learn about change management
If you truly want to be successful in helping the business grow and develop in a compliant way you need a path to get the business there. That path needs to have change-management techniques and change acceleration to speed things up. When the business is faced with a problem, help with some smarter compliance solutions that are well managed to the end. You must find a solution to every problem.
Half full, not half empty
If every compliance officer took the approach of the “glass being half full” and had a positive attitude, business would be a better place for everyone. Even if a business proposition has issues or is rife with compliance problems, look to see how you can remove them and minimise any risks rather than dismissing it as too hard.
It is all about risk
Compliance is all about managing risks. There are plenty of ways to “comply” at less than 100 percent and, in some cases, that is perfectly acceptable from a risk perspective. Every company is less than 100 percent compliant at some time or another. While full adherence and perfect compliance might be the aim, it is rarely achieved. You need to be able to negotiate your compliance programme. This might involve negotiating with the business to adopt things, weighing up the risks and how they will affect the business, and then finding a mutually-agreeable compliance programme to implement.
Pick your battles
We have seen so many compliance officers fighting with the business over rules and procedures that are irrelevant in the big scheme of things. A great example of how this can be handled the right way is the application of anti-corruption compliance rules to meals and meetings with customers. Setting a reasonable meal or gift allowance for small items (say from US$20 to $100) where the sales teams do not have to gain pre-approvals and tracking limits will save them a lot of time and improve their relationship with compliance.
At the end of the day, compliance officers must approach the business with the right attitude: to make it easier for people to do the right thing and harder for them to do the wrong thing, in that order.