This week is a return to one my favorite themes for every Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), compliance professional and compliance program: Sherlock Holmes. In this podcast series, I am considering themes from the Holmes short stories to illustrate broader application to components of a best practices compliance program. In this episode, I consider the theme of mentoring in compliance though The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.


In the story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, Inspector Lestrade says to Holmes, “Well,” said Lestrade, “I’ve seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but I don’t know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that. We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there’s not a man […] who wouldn’t be glad to shake your hand.” This comment provides insights into how Holmes is viewed by other law enforcement officers; Holmes is a sort of living legend and the other officers respect his skills.

The matter involved the theft of jewelry as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard brings Holmes a seemingly trivial problem about a man who shatters plaster busts of Napoleon. One was shattered in Morse Hudson’s shop, and two others, sold by Hudson to a Dr. Barnicot, were smashed after the doctor’s house and branch office had been burgled. Nothing else was taken in any of the break-ins. It turns out that the thief had stolen several pieces of jewelry and then hid them in the Napoleonic busts. The thief, having been released from prison on an unrelated offense, was tracking down the busts in which he had placed the jewels for hiding, breaking them open and reclaiming his purloined property.

What are some of the ways that you might mentor a younger or less senior compliance professional? I think there are several ways suggested by Conan Doyle as epitomized by the statement by Lestrade and his relationship with Holmes and Watson. CCOs and seasoned compliance professionals tend to be passionate about compliance even if (like myself) they have a legal background and came to compliance from a corporate legal department. You should work to transmit that passion to others you are mentoring. In today’s hyper-transparent world of reputational risk, that passion can stand out as a differentiator. It is not simply the crossing of siloed boundaries but understanding the differences in business units, corporate functions and even geographic locations that can bring this broad sense of context.

As compliance professionals, transmit the ability to see not only the technical details but also the big picture of compliance. Introduce your mentees to others in your organization, so that they can be exposed to different leadership styles and see how such leadership styles work in various areas and with different constituencies. Encourage mentees to have a powerful sense of compliance community by encouraging cultivation in personal and professional networks. Any chance to participate in such an opportunity should be accepted.

Beyond passion, help them to develop purpose around careers in compliance. This can be aided through reflection, introspection and ability to change as a leader. Moreover, rather than influencing others through individual speeches or stories, the everyday connections between a compliance professional’s sense of purpose and the compliance vision can work to form an indelible impression about the importance of compliance to an organization. This is Louis Sapirman’s 360-degees of compliance in action.

If you are mentoring a compliance professional, you probably have a next generation mindset. But it is equally important that you communicate that to your mentee as it is certainly important that each generation of compliance leaders be fit for the future and be committed to continuous improvement going forward.

By using these steps, a successful enterprise leader, a CCO or compliance practitioner can bring greater corporate wide presence to the compliance function. Moreover, by using them as guideposts for mentoring, you will make compliance a part of the business process as it becomes second nature and a recognized part of any business transaction. As you communicate to those under you to develop better relationships and how to mobilize compliance for the greater good, it will have the direct benefit of allowing you as the mentor to deliver more value for the company. It does not get much better than that.

I have used three primary resources in putting together this series: Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind (Konnikova); the online site shmoop.comand its contribution, The Return of Sherlock Holmes (shmoop); and finally the most seminal print work on the entire Holmes canon, the two-volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Klinger) edited with notes by Leslie Klinger.