Book Talk: Sharing Perspectives, Seeing Through Different Lenses

By Karen Latchana Kenney

A book can really get people talking. And when that happens, perspectives are shared, tips are revealed, and we all start seeing through different lenses. What does this lead to in the compliance world? Better compliance professionals who are equipped to reach out and help more people in their companies.

One of the books that got people talking at the 18th Annual Compliance & Ethics Institute (CEI) in National Harbor was The Accidental Compliance Professional, written by former SCCE & HCCA CEO Roy J. Snell.

Roy and UnitedHealthcare Chief Compliance Officer Jenny O’Brien led a session to a packed room. And the conversation wasn’t just about the book—it shifted from the lessons and experiences Roy wrote about to Jenny’s perspective and insight to thoughts and tips from the audience.

Roy and Jenny share elements of influence to help compliance professionals get their messages across within their companies.

The people component

What was shared had nothing to do with the seven elements and the latest legal requirements. It was all about those difficult-to-articulate aspects of being a compliance professional—communicating, connecting, and influencing. Jenny called that the “secret sauce” to being a compliance professional, and asked what others thought that meant in their jobs.

“I feel like my entire world revolves around communicating,” said one audience member. “It’s almost all about human behavior.”

Another audience member agreed, saying, “It’s not about telling you that there is a law; it’s about convincing you to follow it. That’s a completely different type of work, and that’s what I love about it—that people component.”

Roaming “virtual” hallways

Roy and Jenny also talked about something Joe Murphy (the “Godfather of Compliance”)said about the book: “Go right to chapter 8. If you don’t agree with this chapter, then don’t read this book. In fact, don’t go into compliance at all.”

So what’s chapter 8 about? It’s about doing compliance by walking the hallways and talking to people, asking them what’s going on in their departments. It’s about actively searching for problems, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Jenny shared that, “One of our compliance colleagues shared with me that she goes to the cafeteria every Friday morning and sits there from 8–9 a.m. And pretty soon, leaders come by and ask: ‘What are you doing?’ She was sitting there so she could run into people, and now people know she’s there. She says she has all kinds of different conversations.”

Yet not every compliance professional can visit with employees in these ways to find problems in their companies. Jenny brought up a different perspective: “When I hear Roy talk about that example, at my old job I could have done that. At my new job, I can’t roam the halls. We are across the country, we are even global, so I have had to figure out how to reinvent myself and become a more effective communicator and ‘roam the halls’ virtually.”

Some tips for how to do this included:

  • “I’ve been grounded the last couple of months because of economic conditions, so I was losing contact with other countries,” one audience member said. “So I have compliance leads now (who have other roles), but 5% of their time is allocated to me. The number one thing that I train them to do is to ask. Just ask people what’s going on. You don’t even have to ask them if something’s wrong, just talk to them.”
  • “We have an all-staff meeting each quarter that announces anniversaries,” said another audience member, “and I’ll try to send the people listed a card or email saying ‘Congratulations on your anniversary, tell me about x, y, or z.’” Jenny added, “That’s a great way to do it. Pick something simple. Take a positive, and you get a two-for-one out of it. People love to be recognized, you get your name out there, and then you can ask: ‘What do you think about something?’”
Creating compliance champions

Those conversations, even the most difficult ones, can lead to great things. One audience member shared a story about how a difficult conversation led to a new compliance champion in her organization.

One day she overheard an employee stand up and make a somewhat discriminatory comment. She brought it to his attention at an offsite meeting, and “he was shocked, and didn’t know there was anything wrong with what he said. So I helped him see how it could be a problem for other people and said, ‘You know people really look up to you, people listen to you, and maybe you could be a compliance ambassador. Now that this has been brought to your attention, maybe you can help other people see some of the same things.’” He embraced this idea and became one of her biggest advocates in the company.

Get talking in your organization

The Accidental Compliance Professional got people talking at this CEI session, and it could get people talking at your organization too. Jenny shared that when people have asked about her role, she’s asked them to first read the book and then come back to discuss it with her when they’re done. It’s started some interesting conversations in her organization, and it’s helped others understand the role of compliance. Jenny thinks it can also help compliance professionals “be effective in that role and support their organization in whatever business model they’re in, so it goes across industry, across different sizes of organization.”

Find The Accidental Compliance Professional online, and see what kinds of conversations it can spark. And if you couldn’t be at the CEI session, you missed Roy’s infamous pig joke. But don’t worry, I caught it all on video…