For those of you who do not believe that global warming is upon us, let me assure you that it is real and unfortunately caused by humans. How do I know this for a certainty? It is because there was an event back in 2005 that caused Hell itself to freeze over. I am of course referring to the first and only appearance of the Houston Astros in the World Series. While it was certainly a positive event for long-suffering Astros fans everywhere, with ownership dedicated to coming in last each year now, I do not think climate change aficionados will have the Astros to blame again anytime soon.
This does not mean that tremors are prevented from occurring in the earth’s fabric from time-to-time. On Monday we had one of those such minor earthquakes in Texas, not attributable to frac-ing, when the earth shook as the first Astro was named to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF); second baseman, Craig Biggio. Biggio’s statistics were truly Hall-worthy coming in with 3060 hits, 668 doubles (5th on the all-time list) and my personal favorite, he is the all-time leader in Major League Baseball (MLB) for being hit by pitches with 286 bonkings.
While Biggio’s c HOF greatness is singular to him, he was part of greater Astros teams which had sustained success from the late 1990s to the middle of the last decade, culminating in the above climate-changing event of 2005 when the Astros appeared in the World Series, losing to the longer suffering Chicago White Soxs, who had not appeared in the World Series since 1959 (the Astros forerunner, Houston Colt-45s came into existence in 1962.) I thought about the team aspect of Biggio and his Astros teammates when I read an article in the New York Times (NYT) Corner Office column by Adam Bryant, entitled “Even the Best Team Can Be Better”, where Bryant featured an interview with Maynard Webb, a veteran technology executive who is currently serving as the chairman of Yahoo.
One of the things that many Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) do not often consider is the team aspect to a compliance function. As the compliance function moves to CCO 2.0 and compliance becomes more of an ongoing business process, one of the things a CCO or compliance practitioner needs to be cognizant about is the team function. This means a team within the compliance function itself and for the greater company. Bryant wrote that one of the lessons Webb has learnt as a leader is that “You have to get voted onto the team every day as an employee, and you have to be the employer of choice every day. I would often ask team leaders: “You have seven people working for you. How many of those would you rehire if all the positions were open again?” The point is that you can’t let mediocre performance impede where you can go. Most managers are good-hearted people, and it’s really hard to tell somebody they’re not performing well. I would just encourage people to get after that more quickly because the rest of your team is watching you and waiting for you to do something.”
One of the things that I have heard successful CCO’s talk about is humility. Webb seconded that notion as a leader when he said, “We treat people well. We stay humble. We don’t get ahead of ourselves. We work hard, and we take ownership of what we do. And if you act out or you do anything out of line, you will hear about it. I remember when I made the all-star team in the Babe Ruth League. We had just come together recently as a team. I was playing third base, and when it was my time to hit, I struck out. I went back to third base, and we were doing a bit of practice before the other team’s turn to bat. I was really mad and I was firing the ball as hard as I could over to first base, and my mother yelled out, “Hey, Webb, too bad you can’t hit as hard as you throw.”” Nothing like a mom to bring you back down to earth when needed but still an important lesson to bring forward into the compliance realm.
Webb also had some insights for hiring in the compliance function, which I thought were important to consider. He said, “I’ll probably start by asking you about your first job and what you’ve done outside of school and work. I’ve found that there is a high correlation between work ethic and people’s extracurricular activities that weren’t driven by mom and dad. Then I would ask about other things to look for truth and self-awareness, like: “Six months from now, we’re going to know each other very well. What will your team and what will I say that you do really, really well? And then what will they say that we all wish you did better?” You’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve heard people say: “Oh, nothing. You’ll just love everything about me.” And I’ll say: “Dude, that’s not true. It’s not true for me. Let me give you some examples of the things you’ll wish that I did better.””
The reason he does so is that Webb is “looking for self-awareness and openness. And then I try to probe on value systems and how they work in teams. Tell me about situations that were really tough, and how you got out of them. I like to hear how they tell stories.” I think this is a critical skill for a compliance practitioner because you are required to have the authority and backbone to say No when the situation calls for it. Chuck Duross said we have to be the Alamo at times. I originally thought that meant we had be ready to be slaughtered but it means stand tall for what you believe in and more importantly what your company should believe in, and do business ethically and in compliance with anti-corruption/ anti-bribery laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2015