herb-hardestyHerb Hardesty died last week. Probably only those who are fans of early rock and roll will recognize the name. But all music fans will recognize his sound, as, according to his obituary in the New York Times (NYT), he was a tenor saxophonist “whose name was synonymous with New Orleans rhythm and blues and early rock ’n’ roll and whose lyrical solos were heard on nearly all of Fats Domino’s hit songs”. He “played on the sessions that created hits like “I’m Walkin’,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Ain’t It a Shame” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.””

Hardesty’s sound was “a big, meaty tone with blues and laughter in it. John Broven, the author of “Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans,” described Mr. Hardesty in a phone interview   as an ideal sideman for Mr. Domino.” He went on to say, “Part of Domino’s success was that his songs were memorable and very hummable, and Hardesty was able to translate the lyrics into a melodic, saxophone sound. One of the things Fats said that he liked about Herb was the tone of his saxophone. When you heard Fats live, with Herb in the band, you were hearing the original studio sound.”” Hardesty also played with Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. He was also a member of the greatest generation, having been a Tuskegee Airman.

Adam Bryant, in his Corner Office column, profiled Deirdre Quinn, the chief executive of Lafayette 148 New York, a women’s fashion company, in a piece entitled “If a Meeting Starts at 9, Be There at 8”. Quinn had some interesting leadership lessons for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner. Quinn is very passionate about the fashion industry. She said that she went to college for fashion and has worked in the fashion industry for a large portion of her professional career. The compliance profession has evolved to the point where we are now seeing college graduates coming directly into the profession. I can only hope this trend will continue and we will have more entrants into our profession who come into it with a passion that Quinn expressed for her profession.

It was the event that led to her professional growth in the fashion industry that I found a key lesson to be learned for an incoming compliance practitioner. She started out in a pattern room and then was moved to become an admin to the head of production. She described her first big break, “I was sitting in a meeting taking notes one day, and they were discussing how short skirts were suddenly in style. So the guys — there were only men sitting around the table — said that someone had to go to Korea tomorrow to shorten about 200,000 skirts. Nobody said a word. So I said, “I’ll go.” The next day, I went to Korea for three months. I got the job done.”

There is nothing like taking initiative to get people to notice you or as Quinn allows, “Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile. Just embrace it every day”.  But it is more than simply taking initiatives to accept more work or responsibility. It is executing on the assigned tasks. As I related yesterday, Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) CCO Jay Martin says that it is execution which separates successful compliance programs from mere paper programs. The same is true for individual assignments. Quinn took an opportunity, then successfully executed upon it. As she went on to note, “After then, whenever there were problems, people would say, “Send Dee.” I went everywhere — El Salvador, Haiti, Sri Lanka, India. I became vice president of operations when I was 28 and had a whole team.”

Quinn also has some other Interesting thoughts useful for both the CCO or compliance practitioner. She related that many people in the fashion industry believe they are very good at one thing. In the general corporate world, that is called being siloed. She breaks these silos through her management style, which is “to either build around what you’re not good at, or move you to another place where I think you could be better. Finding the best in people is like a chess game for me, rather than saying, “Well that didn’t work — we don’t need you anymore.” And once in a while you’ll find a utility player who is good at every job.”

There are multiple lessons in these remarks. First and foremost is the problem of siloing in corporate America. This concern even reaches into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its evaluation of compliance programs under its FCPA Pilot Program. In its remediation prong, it notes companies will be evaluated, in part, on whether the CCO and the compliance discipline within an organization have the opportunity to move into other areas of the business. This concern is also reflected in the insight that a compliance practitioner should know how to read a balance sheet and if you do not know how to, you had better learn now.

Quinn also had some interesting thoughts about the mentee role in a mentor relationship. While she (and myself) wish you only work for bosses who you like and are easy to get along with, it does not always work out in that manner. She says, “You can learn from a good boss and a bad boss.” In my professional experience, the three lawyers I learned the most from were the most difficult people I ever worked for; as in very difficult to work under. However, these were the three lawyers who taught me the most.

Whether it was because they pushed me unceasingly or demanded what I considered an unreachable quality of work, I learned more from these two men and one woman than any other myriad of others I worked for. The key is that you can learn from anyone you work under. It is incumbent on you to take away the appropriate lessons. We cannot all play with Fats Domino but we can learn from the Fats Domino sound and one day you may well have your own sound.


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© Thomas R. Fox, 2016