Live from the Compliance Institute – Chief Compliance Officers are Pigs, not Chickens


Technically the name of the session was Influencing Decision-Making, but co-presenter Kim Otte spoke about how when she went from being General Counsel for Mayo Clinic to their Chief Compliance Officer, her predecessor warned her that she would be going from being a chicken to a pig. “You were a chicken, your job was to go to the board and give them the egg-the report, memo, or statement of the problem. Now, you’re a pig. You have to go to the table,  bring the bacon (the solution) and stay at the table to design and implement a solution,” Kim recalls him saying. And while it’s funny to think about, I think we can all agree he’s right.

Kim and Jenny O’Brien opened up Tuesday’s sessions talking about how to help compliance departments influence decision making throughout organizations. It all starts with the simple notion that compliance officers have the opportunity to influence the companies they love.

Jenny and Kim spoke about the 5 influencing skills that keep compliance officers effective, in order:

1. Collaboration

  • To collaborate, you must know your organization and your business
  • You need to know what resources are available to your and your team
  • When working with others and doing investigations, assume benign intent
    • Risky behavior deserves coaching, reckless behavior deserves discipline
  • Let the other person have your way
    • Gently teach them how you think and guide them to your conclusions

2. Communication

  • Compliance is a high EQ job and requires a ton of people skills
  • Always start with please and end with thank you – being polite goes a long way
  • You need to be able to communicate with all aspects of your organization, and you need to know who needs to know your information, what they need to know and how to tell them so they understand
  • Market the 7 elements and help your teams articulate what their jobs are, and help other employees understand compliance and make it part of their jobs
  • KISS – Keep it simple, stupid! There are two types of people: simplifiers and complicators. Compliance officers should always be simplifiers – break down larger issues into smaller pieces and to make your communications easy to digest
    • diagrams and visuals can help many of your co-workers understand broader topics easily
  • Control the tone and direct the conversation – compliance officers deliver a lot of bad news to organizations, using the right language, tone, and pitch can soften the blow

3. Modeling

  • Know that leadership counts and compliance officers leave a long shadow
  • Small things matter, especially when building credibility
  • Do not become indignant, and do not condescend, lead by example without isolating others

4. Measured

  • Wear your poker face
  • Stop the swirl – there is always going to be a sense of urgency, but you don’t learn anything from joining in it
  • If you panic, everyone around you (including your business leaders) will do the same

5. Credibility/Rigor

  • Earn your credibility through competence
  • Guard your independence – most board members and business leaders are looking for you to be independent
  • Be relevant in every interaction with your organization
    • This sometimes means having the courage to speak up, and the ability to know when not to
  • Admit when you’re wrong and admit when you don’t know the answer

Compliance is an odd job, with a broad scope, but hopefully with these tools you’ll be able to be an effective communicator and influencer in your organization.