FoxtrotAs noted by Dan Epstein, in the Rolling Stone article “50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time”, the Genesis album Foxtrot was arguably the band’s first great album. The album “took the eccentric worldview and symphonic grandiosity of 1971’s Nursery Cryme and upped the ante with more consistent songwriting and a tougher musical attack. It also added two prog-rock classics to the Genesis canon: the UFO-via-Mellotron fantasy “Watcher of the Skies,” which gave the album a bracingly powerful opener, and the 23-minute closer “Supper’s Ready””.

For my money it is Supper’s Ready that makes my Top 5 list of the greatest prog rock songs I am celebrating this week. The song was “partly inspired by some unsettling supernatural events experienced by front man Peter Gabriel, the stunning seven-movement suite offered up heavy doses of Biblical and Greek mythological imagery, some of the band’s most adventurous playing and the use of several unusual time signatures”. The song is divided into seven separate sections where both musical and lyrical themes interact and intertwine.

My favorite section is the roaring self-explanatory section Apocalypse in 9/8. The Genesis program notes for the song describe it as follows, “At one whistle the lovers become seeds in the soil, where they recognise other seeds to be people from the world in which they had originated. While they wait for Spring, they are returned to their old world to see Apocalypse of St John in full progress. The seven trumpeteers cause a sensation, the fox keeps throwing sixes, and Pythagoras (a Greek extra) is deliriously happy as he manages to put exactly the right amount of milk and honey on his corn flakes.”

Oddly this song introduces today’s topic that I derive from columnist Michael P. Maslanka who writes in the Texas Lawyer. He penned a column, entitled “5 Mindsets for Better Lawyer Health, which I have adapted for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner. The mental health and substance abuse issues in the legal profession are well documented. Maslanka writes, “20 percent of lawyers combat depression; 44 percent of lawyers grapple with alcohol/substance abuse; and 19 percent fight off anxiety.” With those types of numbers, his piece is a must read at every law firm in the country.

Mindset No. 1: “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken”

This quote comes from Oscar Wilde. Maslanka is worried that many lawyers look around and see someone smarter or better and they feel “Cue the scene from Wayne’s World – “I’m not worthy!” Except you are. For the CCO, I think this means there will always be someone else in your company who has more of something you might think you need to do your job well (or even better). First, and foremost, if you are not yourself in the corporate world, you will be labeled a phony as soon as you are discovered and this will end your ability to do your job effectively. Moreover, you are not competing with others, only doing your job as well as you can.

Mindset No. 2: “Do Not Be a Lever Monkey”

Here Maslanka discusses the well-known experiment by Walt Bachman where he wired up monkeys and delivered electric shocks to them (no word on PETA’s reaction). One monkey had a lever in front of him and the other did not, the lever had no function or effect on the shocks yet he furiously pulled. At their time of death autopsies were performed on the monkeys, the lever monkeys had developed ulcers while the monkeys which were shocked, yet had no lever, did not.

From this Maslanka draws the conclusion, “work hard and advocate hard, but realize that there is only so much you can control.” For the CCO this is equally true but more so. The compliance function has many more moving parts than a corporate law department. At the end of the day, the CCO’s role is to prevent, detect and remediate while the lawyer’s job is to protect the company. Clearly the process of doing compliance is the key to moving forward. A CCO is not Harry Potter and there is certainly no magic wand, but it is a simple program. Your company must simply want to do business ethically and in compliance.

Mindset No. 3: “All experiences are good ones if you draw the right lessons”

Maslanka believes, “All experiences are good ones if you draw the right lessons.” Indeed he even says that his “mother taught me this mindset: while self-examination is painful for the ego, it is indispensable for growth.” He has used that concept to mandate to himself to conduct “an after action report (a military concept) after every project. I ask what I did right and what could I have done better, and resolve to do more of each.” He concludes, “When we do not treat our failures as lessons, then the event is just something that happened to us.”

The only difference I might have from Maslanka here is that you do not always need to draw the ‘right’ lessons but draw lessons, as there are always a multitude of lessons to be learned. Moreover, in the compliance world, there will always be lessons to be learned and improvements to be made. Simply because there is a failure in the prevent prong of your compliance regime may not mean there is a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violation as you may well have detected it.

No. 3 leads directly into No. 4, which is:

Mindset No. 4: Learn to accept the truth about losing

You are going to make mistakes in your compliance practice. The reason – you are human and humans make mistakes. The point is not only what did you learn from it, but “What did you do about it?” that is why McNulty’s Maxims have a No. 3. The next step is what did you do after you found out about it? Maslanka intones that you cannot despair over the fact that you made a mistake, for if you do you will be paralyzed with fear. You cannot be an effective compliance professional if you work yourself up into such a state. Not only will you suffer but the company will suffer as well for if the CCO is paralyzed by fear, the chance of something very bad occurring increases quite a bit.

Mindset No. 5: “I Must Not Sacrifice Myself and My Well Being for Others”

Maslanka reminds us that you must “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” He believes that you do not owe anyone, “your health, your family, your sanity, your identity, or your integrity.” Since many CCOs are recovering lawyers, the martyrdom gene is always omnipresent and must be kept under control. If you have worked yourself into a mental and physical wreck you are not going to do anyone any good.

Mindset No. 6: “Embrace the journey, not the arrival”

I know Maslanka’s piece was entitled “5 Mindsets” but he goes on to list a sixth. I found it be perhaps the most important. He quotes from Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem Ithaka about Odysseus’s journey home from Troy:

“Hope your voyage is a long one … don’t hurry it at all/Better if it lasts for years,/so you’re old by the time you reach the island/Wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way … Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,/ You’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

This trait may be the most important for a CCO. The compliance discipline is evolving as compliance programs evolve, the interpretations and enforcement of the relevant anti-corruption laws, such as the FCPA and UK Bribery Act, progress and regulators expectations of a minimum best practice compliance program advance. You should evolve as well. Read, study and stay abreast of trends that you might incorporate into your company’s program to make it better. Moreover, you need to understand that your company and its business will evolve as well. New risks will arise which will require new risk management tools and techniques. Yet, for me, that is one of the greatest joys of our profession.

To listen to the studio version of Supper’s Ready, click here.

To listen to the live version of Supper’s Ready, click here.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016