I began this week talking about passion in the compliance profession and then explored why employees viewed their work as meaningful, how companies could negate those views and then what leaders could do to facilitate making work meaningful.I think reviewed the theoretical framework for what makes work meaningful and how bad leadership can make it meaningless. I had some interesting comments to these posts, from with others who shared their passion for compliance and Joe Oringel who shared his passion for data, so I thought it would be good to end this week’s series by talking about why I find working in the compliance function so meaningful.
Of course it all starts with my passion for compliance. Yet, as I discovered in the research for this week’s series on meaningful work experiences, there are several common factors to work meaningfulness.
Working in compliance is self-transcendent. I find this to be the most significant factor for me. Working in the compliance field gives me the opportunity to impact things far beyond a specific business or even a business bottom line. The impact goes as far as the international fight against terrorism to wealth inequality. Of course, the evenhandedness of such concepts as the Fair Process Doctrine can bring work in compliance down to the individual process as well.
There are many things companies can do in pursuit of success. Roy Snell is probably the most articulate in explaining how the compliance function was largely in response to businesses that lost their way and ended up in illegal conduct because no one stood up and said that yes we can to something but we should not do so. This allows a company to succeed by doing business in the right way.
Working in compliance is poignant. I often say that not paying bribes is simple but that does not mean compliance is easy. You have to want to do business in compliance with laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). It takes work to design and implement an effective compliance program. It must start with senior management and work its way through the organization. There will be push back from the business folks and some difficult times. Yet there will be opportunities to understand that you have done a good job even when you may feel like you were a lone voice or were fighting against a far larger group than simply yourself.
Success in compliance is episodic rather than consistent. In the corporate environment you are not going to win every battle and indeed you have to pick your fights. You are not going to have the budget you wish. Yet, as a colleague recently told me, you can have small successes and that can translate into larger successes down the road.
Work in compliance can be retrospective to see our work’s achievements and a wider sense of meaning. This can often happen when a success is pointed out to you by someone else, coming from a very different perspective. I can think of no better illustration of the effect of doing compliance than the example provided by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates wrote the following in his memoirs, entitled “Duty: A Memoir of a Secretary at War”, “In a private meeting, the king [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] committed to a $60 billion weapons deal including the purchase of eighty-four F-15’s, the upgrade of seventy-15s already in the Saudi air force, twenty-four Apache helicopters, and seventy-two Blackhawk helicopters. His ministers and generals had pressed him hard to buy either Russian or French fighters, but I think he suspected that was because some of the money would end up in their pockets. He wanted all the Saudi money to go toward military equipment, not into Swiss bank accounts, and thus he wanted to buy from us. The king explicitly told me saw the huge purchase as an investment in a long-term strategic relationship with the United States, linking our militaries for decades to come.”
I would ask you to consider just how many US interests can be identified in the above quote? I can identify at least five: (1) US security interests; (2) US foreign policy interests; (3) US military interests; (4) US economic interests; and (5) US legal interests as reflected in compliance with the FCPA. For any person or business interest that does not think that the FCPA has a positive aspect, I would commend you to Gates’ quote, buried at page 395 of a 618-page book, did not even merit an entry in the Index. I find it to be one of the finest, clearest and most concise affirmations of the positive power of anti-corruption compliance. It took this one paragraph in a 600+ page book to give me one of the most powerful articulations of the power of the compliance and my role in helping companies do business in compliance with this law.
Working in compliance is intensely personal for me. It is personal because I understand the impact of compliance in the greater service of doing business the right way. Everyone has a role in the fight against the bane of bribery and corruption. Certainly the regulators have a role in enforcing the law, just as others have a role in commentary and critique of those regulators, at least in a democratic society. However, because there is a business solution to this problem, there will be companies that provide those business solutions. That is how a market economy works in a free society; there is a business need and the market moves in to fill that need. In the case of anti-corruption compliance, that need can range from legal services to technological solutions. Through my work, I can help to provide both services and products to help further the goal of fighting corruption through business solutions.
Finally, I see the opportunity for continued growth in our field. I see the terms Compliance 2.0, 3.0 and beyond as descriptive and truly useful expressions to explain how compliance has evolved and where it may be going in the future. I see compliance as a business response to help lead a worldwide effort to combat the scourge of bribery and corruption and I want to be one of the people who helps this effort going forward. No one person, corporation, enforcement agency or regulator stands still in this profession.
These are my reasons why I am passionate about working in the compliance field and why I find the work so meaningful. I hope that you feel this way as well. So here is my request, I would like to record why you find working in the compliance profession meaningful. I want to put together an audio montage of why people are passionate about compliance. If you are willing to do so, shoot me an email and if you are attending the upcoming SCCE Compliance and Ethics Institute Conference let’s connect at SCCE. It does not have to be anything elaborate just a few sentences of why you are passionate about compliance and why you find the work so meaningful.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016