We are back with fan favorite Sherlock Holmes week. In this week’s blog posts, I will focus on the first five stories from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, mining each story for themes and lessons related to the compliance professional, leadership and business ethics. In today’s offering, I consider The Adventure of and learning to ask for help.
This is the only story penned by Sherlock Holmes himself rather than chronicled by the good Fr. Watson. It began January 1903, when James Dodd came to visit with Holmes about a missing friend, Godfrey Emsworth. Dodd and Emsworth served together in the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa during the Second Boer War, which had only just ended. Emsworth was wounded during this war. Dodd has not seen him since the report of his injury leading Dodd to believe something is amiss.
Dodd tried writing to Colonel Emsworth, Godfrey’s father, and was told in response that Godfrey went off to sea, however Dodd was not satisfied with this answer. Dodd then went to the Emsworth family home, where the Colonel was something less than a gracious host. He repeated the story about his son’s world voyage, implied that Dodd was lying about even knowing Godfrey, and seemed irritated at Dodd’s suggestion that he provide information that would allow him to send Godfrey a letter.
Later in the visit a servant mentioned Godfrey in the past tense and Dodd began to suspect that his friend was dead. The servant indicated that no, he wasn’t, but that it might be better that way. The mystery was further complicated when Dodd observed Godfrey’s face in his window, finally proving that he was on the grounds and not at sea like the colonel had claimed. Dodd tried to chase him but gave up shortly after hearing the sound of a closing door nearby.
Dodd comes straight to Holmes to relate the story. They both travel to Tuxbury Old Park, Holmes observes a tarry smell coming from the leather gloves that Ralph has just removed. The Colonel threatens to summon the police if Dodd and Holmes do not leave, but Holmes points out that doing this would cause the very catastrophe the Colonel wants to avoid.
Convincing the colonel that he knows the secret, Holmes receives permission to visit the outbuilding, where he and Dodd hear Godfrey’s story right from his own lips. The night he was wounded in South Africa, he found his way to a house and slept in a bed there. When he woke up in the morning, he found himself surrounded by lepers and he was in a leper hospital. When Godfrey returned to England, the dreaded symptoms began to appear. His family’s fear of their son being put in an institution, and possibly the stigma attached to leprosy, have forced them to keep his presence secret. The story ended happily, however. Holmes has brought with him Sir James Saunders, a famous dermatologist from London. Dr. Saunders determines that Emsworth actually has ichthyosis, or pseudo-leprosy, a disease that is quite treatable.
This adventure informs today’s theme of learning to ask for help. Many compliance professionals in the corporate world work long and it is hard to rise to the senior management level in their organizations. It takes SME, hard work and sometime propitious good fortune to get to the C-Suite level in a large company. However, many of the skills which work to get you there do not always serve you in the context of a 360-degree view of communication at the senior management level.
One thing many compliance practitioners have in common is self-reliance. Not every lawyer and compliance practitioner are a Type A personality but many are. In many ways, it is what makes us a success. However, in the corporate world, just like any other, there are limits to self-reliance. Put another way, if you do not have a culture where everybody appreciates the importance of their role in showing the type of behavior that is expected within your organization; then you are probably not doing a very good job of driving culture. Adam Bryant explored this theme a New York Times interview with Lori Dickerson Fouché, the CEO of Prudential Group Insurance.
A key lesson is to ask for help. Fouché said it “stemmed from the fact that I had been used to thinking, “I can get through the brick wall. I can make this happen.” I was very self-reliant, and I figured that if I could do it, so could the team. So, I overworked some teams early on, and that led to an early lesson around asking for help. It’s O.K. not to have all the answers and not to be able to do everything and to put your hand up and say, “I need help.” I was so surprised by how people really wanted to help. They loved being invited into the process.”
From these experiences, Fouché also learned to prioritize. She noted, “You simply can’t do everything. There were times I would walk into a new job, and my eyes would be huge and I would feel like a kid in a candy shop. I’d think, “Let’s just get after it,” instead of, “O.K., let’s pause. What’s the most important thing to really get after?” Being able to say “No” or “Not now” were important lessons for me.”
In other words, prioritize and start the slogging work of going through the issues in front of you. It not only gives you some semblance of control but also helps you to focus on doing the next right thing. As a business leader, others in your team and cascading down will take their clues from you and begin to operate in the same analytical manner. This also ties into one of Fouché’s key points about her leadership style.
She strives for personal transparency and most critically, she expects it from others. She said, “I expect my leaders to listen. I expect them to ask questions. I expect them to understand what’s going on. I am somewhat infamous for saying, “So how’s it going?” And they’ll say, “Great.” Then I’ll say, “How do you know?” It’s one thing when people start telling you anecdotes and it’s another thing when they can say, “Well, because we track this and we measure that.” We make sure we’re analytical in our approaches.”
f you couple this with two characteristics Fouché looks for when hiring: resilience and perseverance; it gives you a hint on some key characteristics. This is because she believes that when “working in big companies, and you have to find a way to navigate and negotiate to an end result. It could be a winding path. Make sure that people feel like they know how to do that and do it in a way that is respectful of the system.” You will have more success in communications and in use of social media if you first start with a relationship, particularly in getting to know the leaders in a given geographic market within your organization.
Aesop noted many eons ago that the race is not always won by the fastest but often the strongest and the steadiest. Many of the characteristics which allow you to rise within a corporation may need to be ameliorated somewhat at the C-Suite. Fouché’s lessons around a 360-degree approach to both leadership and communications give you some good starting points.
Join us tomorrow as we continue our week of stories from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by looking at the The Adventure of the Marazin Stone and storytelling in compliance.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2019