Harrison Dillard died over the weekend. Before there was Edwin Moses and his 122-race winning streak in the hurdles, there was Dillard. Dillard set the modern record for the low hurdles; what we used to call the 120-Lows and the 110-Meter Low Hurdles, winning 82 consecutive finals between from June 1947 to June 1948. Yet it was a loss which led to one of his greatest achievements. In the Olympic Trials of that year, after having qualified for the 100 Meter Dash, Dillard stumbled in the hurdles final and failed to finish. However, he used that loss as motivation and incentive in the 100 Meter Final in London and won Gold. As noted in his NYT obituary, his college coach, Eddie Finnegan of Baldwin-Wallace College, later said, “Fate is strange and wonderful.”

After Dillard retired, he worked for the Cleveland Board of Education for 26 years. The single time I visited Jim McGrath in Cleveland, we drove down Harrison Dillard Blvd. Jim did not know Dillard or his story so I was able to tell him about Dillard’s 100 Meter triumph in 1948. Yet perhaps the greatest tribute for Dillard, came from his own words. He said, “I have always felt that you present yourself in public as one to be respected and remembered, someone people can say about, ‘Here is a human being, a great guy.’” Farewell, Harrison Dillard.

One trait Dillard exuded was empathy. Similarly, as a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) one of the most powerful tools you have is persuasion. Jenny O’Brien, CCO at UnitedHealthcare, has talked about the techniques that a CCO can use to influence decision making in a company in order to do business in compliance and ethically. She has called these techniques of persuasion “Seven Steps of Influence” and advocates a CCO to employ to help influence decision-making within an organization.

  1. Collaboration. As a CCO you need to know your company’s business. If you are new to an organization, she said you must take time to learn the business. You should sit in on sales meetings and, when appropriate, you should go out on sales call. Channeling your inner Atticus Finch, you must walk in the shoes of the business leaders you are assisting. By doing so, you will not only understand the products and services that your company offers but also the challenges that your business development team will face out in the world.
  2. You must work constantly at active listening, which is listening, thinking and then speaking, and not just jump into the middle of a conversation, talk to people in a manner that will address their concerns. When you do speak, be prepared to make the case for the compliance proposition that you are trying to get across. As a CCO, strive to be relevant in every interaction you have with your senior management peers. This sometimes it means speaking up at meetings or other forums but sometimes it means listening. Develop a rapport with your business team and this rapport can lead to trust building.
  3. Relationships. This is not inter-personal relationships but those between the compliance function and other functions in an organization through a CCO or compliance practitioner can bring influence to bear. It all begins with building trust with others within your organization. Invest time to find others in your organization that you want to work and with those with whom you desire to build relationships. The key relationships that a CCO or compliance practitioner can develop are with the audit function, the legal department, Human Resources, IT and corporate communications.
  4. Humility. Humility is important because it empowers. It can empower others to expand the circle of influence and get others in a corporation to influence an ever-expanding circle on behalf of compliance. The CCO does not need center stage. Echoing the Department of Justice (DOJ) Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs requirement that compliance should be operationalized, business units should solve compliance issues, as compliance is just another business process. Through such influence where you can get the business unit resources to solve a compliance problem, you will hold down the costs of the compliance function. It is not about being right but about moving the compliance ball forward in the right direction.
  5. Negotiation. A compliance practitioner you need to learn the art of compromise. Negotiation is not about the dichotomy of winning and losing an argument or debate. A CCO should strive to redefine what a win might look like or what a win might consist of for a business unit employee. When faced with such a confrontation, try to determine what both sides wanted then give them something else in addition to what they thought they wanted. A CCO can be considered a mediator not just simply an enforcer or Dr. No from the Land of No.
  6. Triple ‘C’. Calm, cool and collected because all company employees, up and down the chain, are watching the CCO. For this reason, a compliance practitioner should channel their inner Harry Dean Stanton and have a laconic face, at all times. The Triple C’s are important because organizations look to the CCO to solve complex issues with simple solutions. When faced with a compliance issue or an obstacle you should endeavor to keep everything on an even keel and never let them see you sweat.
  7. Credibility. The final of the seven pillars was that the CCO role needs to be adequately scoped and that the accountabilities need to be clearly defined. Put another way, what is your job scope as the CCO and what is the function of the compliance department? What is your accountability to decide the resolution to an issue? As a CCO, you must demonstrate your value as a non-revenue function. This may require you to get out of your office and put on a PR campaign for compliance. A CCO needs to guard their independence in job function and reporting. You must make clear that you will have independent reporting up to the Board or Audit Committee of the Board.

Influencing, using persuasion is not a one-time activity. It is ongoing. For Dillard it was the trait of a lifetime.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2019