Adam West died this weekend. He was the TV Batman I knew growing up. They say the actor who first introduced you to a character will always be your favorite and while I am not sure if that holds true or not with West’s portrayal of Batman, I still do appreciate the wit, charm, double-entendres, camp, panache and style all his own that he brought to the role. According to his obituary in the New York Times, “The popularity of the “Batman” series was international, and fans had long memories. In 2005, Mr. West was interviewed for an article in The Independent of London. At 76, almost 40 years after the end of the TV show, Mr. West said: “What I loved about Batman was his total lack of awareness when it came to his interaction with the outside world.””

The thing I remember about West’s Batman was the singular passion he brought to crime-fighting, making it seem fun. I always thought that was the point of the comic books I grew up with in the 1960s. This style certainly changed with the introduction of the Dark Knight in the 1980s but it was all still Batman, even if he was more now of a vigilante and not crime fighter. So, here’s to Adam West with a kapow, a splat and of course a Nana, Nana, Nana BATMAN!

It is the passion which West brought to the role that informs today’s blog post. One thing many compliance practitioners have is passion for our roles. The reasons are as varied as each person. For me, it is largely the opportunity to make things a little better than I found them, through a business solution which has much broader societal implications. Many other compliance professionals are passionate about their jobs as well. I thought about all these concepts when I read an article in a recent Corner Office column by Adam Bryant, entitled “The Power of Positive Attitude, where he profiled Barbara Corcoran, an entrepreneur and judge on Shark Tank. One thing that came through loud and clear in the piece was the passion Corcoran brings to management and leadership.

I was most interested in how she was able to attract others to work for her that would share her passion for her primary business, which is real estate. Corcoran said, “I just look for the light in the person, to see what’s good about them. I can spot it a mile away. And I never read a résumé until after the interview because you never know who wrote it, and you can be fooled by it. If you read a résumé, the interview is nothing but a business small-talk session confirming stuff you just read. So I’ll just ask: “What do you like? Tell me about your mom. Where did you grow up? What’s your hobby? What was your favorite job? Why?””

Equally important is for a person to have joy in what they are doing for if you have joy in what you are doing, chances are you will be a happier person. Corcoran said this insight led to “also trying to figure out if they’re happy, because unhappy people don’t accomplish a lot. I’m also looking for their energy, and if they’re going to be able to see the possibility in anything I propose. Those are the major cards. They cover 90 percent of successful people in the workplace.”

But it is more than joy in your own role. Corcoran feels if you are not happy, it can infect your entire team. She said, “Early on, I hired a couple of people who had all the markings of great salespeople, but they were not happy people. I learned that if you have just one unhappy person in a pool of 30 happy people, you feel that weight.”

Corcoran’s insights for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance practitioner and indeed corporate compliance function are significant. First and foremost, a compliance professional must have a can-do attitude. There is the biggest difference between the compliance function and the legal function. Corporate counsel is not there to solve, let alone prevent problems. An in-house legal department exists to protect the corporation. Hence many in-house lawyers take pride in being Dr. No as they see it as their job to tell the business folks they cannot do something.

This same concept also differentiates compliance professionals from legal professionals in another manner. As a recovering lawyer, I understand one having a passion about the law but that passion is generally articulated in the phase ‘is it legal’ while the passion of the compliance professional is broader, looking at the wider question of whether something should be done; not simply can it be done.

The insight around Corcoran’s employees being “able to see the possibility in anything I propose” is also an important insight. Compliance professionals are required to solve problems, or in the parlance of compliance-speak remediate. Compound the business process nature of a best practices compliance program and you quickly see how resolving problems through innovation is an important part of the compliance professional’s tool kit.

That is the passion I see in the compliance profession. Compliance is a profession that can make businesses operate more efficiently and more effectively through the identification, measurement and management of risk. Moreover, the compliance professional helps to fight the global scourge of bribery and corruption. I am proud to a part of that profession.


To listen to the iconic Batman TV show opening YouTube, click here.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017