A Great Team Is Music To My Ears


IMG_3706Walter E. Johnson
Compliance & Ethics Professional

For individuals who are music enthusiasts, a dream may be to have their favorite artists collaborate on a song or better yet, an entire album. Some music enthusiasts have their dreams fulfilled through multiple artists and others are still awaiting fulfillment.

Music industry executives, producers, and other influential personalities have similar dreams. Acknowledging these dreams, they attempt to fulfill the desires of music enthusiasts with ROI in mind. Collaborations take multiple forms and coordination requires tremendous effort throughout the process to produce results appeasing to many. In many collaborations, the contributions are complimentary and fans can’t wait for another collaboration. In others, there is a mismatch and fans hope similar efforts are not repeated in the future. There are many factors that contribute to a great song. The essentials are work ethic, willing to collaborate and compromise. Any deficiency in these areas will be revealed in the song or album. Likewise, these are contributing factors to a harmonious organizational culture.

According to a couple 2015 compliance surveys, most organizations are increasing or maintaining their investment into their compliance programs. This shouldn’t be surprising. In Compliance 2.0, Donna Boehme discusses how the profession is evolving and no longer under the captive arm of Legal. This is a result of ongoing efforts from compliance pioneers and associations such as HCCA/SCCE to educate boards and organizations. As Compliance Officers receive budgets sufficient to add resources, the ability to build a high performing team becomes imperative. COs can learn some best practices and avoid poor decisions from musician collaborations.

Great collaborations begin with authenticity and it is evident in the music. An authentic collaboration is when an artist has admiration of the work of another artist. Although these artists may or may not have met before, the admiration by one pursues the other in an attempt to create something wonderful. Many years ago, the late Michael Jackson called Sir Paul McCarthy and proposed the idea of working on a song together. Michael flew to England and the duo recorded a song together. According to Michael, they had a great time and eventually recorded two additional songs together. Not only did their songs reflect their work ethic, willingness to collaborate and compromise, it created a friendship.

After 3 songs, this dream collaboration ended. A non-related business decision diminished the trust in their relationship. Michael handled this situation poorly by responding, “It’s just business”. As a result, this ended their friendship and future collaborations.

This concept is important because the efforts of the profession’s pioneers to educate boards and organizations make it possible for COs to build a team. The individuals that COs select to join the team accept this opportunity to contribute to a compliance and ethics program that is invaluable to the organization. Through authenticity and empowerment, COs inspire their teams to fulfill the program’s obligations. In our profession, some authentic collaborations begin with speaking engagements, co-authoring articles, sharing perspectives online, or being a sounding board. According to Jeffrey Fox, when people support, trust, believe and respect you, they will propel you to the top. What is the top? The top varies by individual but I’d bet a CO that has the board’s support and resources to establish a robust program that influences tone at the top, middle, and front-line deems them self very fortunate.

Trust is the foundation of a great collaboration. In fact, trust can turn a synthetic collaboration into an authentic collaboration. A synthetic collaboration is when artists are paired together to compose a song without having a previous working relationship or knowing each other. These collaborations are arranged by the label to generate publicity and increase sales.

Synthetic collaborations can go multiple ways. Mutual investment among artists may include listing to each other’s music and/or learning about each other’s demographics to establish rapport. On the other hand, there is little interest. Little investment may include the artists recording their portions in remote studios or using the same studio at different recording times. Artists may deem the collaboration a low priority and participate just to complete the task. At worst, these artists may not even meet in person until the video recording and that is not guaranteed. Despite technology, it is evident in the music and video, if that becomes an option. Fans and audiences can recognize there’s no cohesion; they may tolerate it but they aren’t fooled.

This concept is the same in the workplace. Employees can recognize when a department lacks cohesion and they aren’t fooled. Managing an effective compliance and ethics program requires mutual investment within the team’s infrastructure from the CO to the compliance analyst as well as throughout the enterprise. Despite how collaborations begin, how they develop and perform is most important. This is the difference between accomplishing a task and reaching full potential.

Like successful music collaborations, taking a vested interest in our team members can transform a synthetic partnership to an authentic partnership. Share our vision and our objectives to accomplish that vision. Welcome their ideas and be an active listener. Listen to verbal cues and pay attention to body language. Passive listeners may miss cues that communicate a team member’s passion for leading or coordinating a compliance initiative. Self-reflection is helpful for team development ideas, also. Think about what opportunities that we can offer to maintain commitment and positive morale. Never allow shrinking budgets to become an obstacle to the performance of a great team. Be transparent and creative. When the budget doesn’t allow purchasing individual Compliance & Ethics Manuals for each team member, purchase one and create a library filled with compliance reference materials accessible to the entire team. Treat team members as partners that are actively engaged with improving the compliance and ethics program. In the end, a great collaboration is a performance worth witnessing.

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