The original Scooby Doo cartoon appeared 50 years ago this week. For anyone who has been a kid or parent over that time, I am sure you have watched the multiple iterations of this loveable  Great Dane, his buddy Shaggy and the rest of Mystery Inc.; Freddy, Velma and Daphne. They solve mysteries or rather, unmask those usually involved in some form of nefarious activity. One thing the Mystery Gang had was curiosity.

The series was a response to the anti-violence in children’s programming in the late ‘60s. The show, developed by Hanna-Barbera, was originally conceived as a cross between the ‘40s radio show I Love a Mysteryand the ‘60s television program The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.Whatever the mix was, it certainly worked as Scooby Doo has been on television in one incarnation or another for most of the past 50 years. Indeed, that noted reference compendium TV Guide rated Scooby Doo as the No. 5 cartoon of all-time in its 2014 poll. The name of the show was even influenced by the desire to have something not too scary on television at the time. It came from the signature end of the Frank Sinatra song Strangers in the Night; “Scooby Dooby-Doo”.

I thought about the need for curiosity for a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) in the context of a 2016  New York Times (NYT) piece which profiled Soledad O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Starfish Media Group, a production company. As a news anchor for CNN, she found herself working for five different news presidents in six years. In this midst of this management chaos, she related, “What I learned there was that you have to go back to the basics of thinking, “Here is what I do well, and I am going to make sure that everything I touch is good and solid.”” Any CCO who has to work under multiple or even chaotic management could do well to take this lesson to heart.

I also found her comments about the fact that television news anchors are really about managing ideas. This is a great insight for any CCO, that you manage the idea of doing business ethically and in compliance with laws. If you think about the concepts that you have to push down into the business units, it becomes clearer that you are selling ideas to those in the business units who will implement them as business processes. Further, just as a news anchor must communicate ideas through the medium of television, a CCO must communicate via the medium provided by the company. How are you going to manage those ideas?

O’Brien also had insights into how a leader can receive solid information as well as how to treat your team members. She said, “A key insight for me was that if you want good feedback from people, you have to create an environment where people want to come and tell you things.” This is important for your direct reports and your wider employee base as a whole. As a CCO, you want employees to come forward with information which will help you run your compliance program in a more efficient manner going forward. Along those lines, O’Brien said, “environment is very important to me. It’s important to me that people aren’t unpleasant and that they treat each other respectfully. It’s hard to be creative when there’s someone or something that’s really irking you.”

O’Brien also talked about the difference in working very hard and succeeding and the skills of leadership. She admitted this was difficult for her because she had been so successful. She said, “Another challenge was that I was successful in my previous role because I really worked hard and took a lot of responsibility for making things good. But that’s not actually a great skill for being a boss.” However those talents are not what are called for in a leader, as “The job of the boss is to help other people reach their goals and dreams. The area where I’ve grown the most is that I am good at making decisions in the macro and helping other people make the decisions in the micro.”

Finally O’Brien’s hiring strategy related some very interesting concepts for the corporate compliance officer and hiring. She said, “You hire for character and teach people skills.” For the CCO, this is a good time to remind you to go down the hall and talk to the head of Human Resources (HR). What does your company consider when they interview around character? Is this investigated? Is it assessed in any way? Does your HR department mention its importance at any time during the interview process?

I found it interesting that one of the top qualities she is looking for is curiosity, which unfortunately she believes is an innate quality. That is something I have been accused of over the years so it resonated with me. It has also allowed me to write about some of the things a CCO or compliance practitioner needs to know; not just everything you can know about creating and implementing an operationalized best practices compliance program. Yet, given all the areas a CCO must be familiar with, from reading a spreadsheet to understanding and managing a wide variety of risks, curiosity has to be a mandatory skill.

To reminisce with the original Scooby Doo theme, click here.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2018