In the September 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review, in an article
entitled "How to
Cultivate Engaged Employees", author Charalambos A.
Vlachoutsicos wrote about his experiences in working for a family-owned
multi-national organization. From his experiences he learned how to "engage
contributions from and thereby promote engagement by, local employees" in a
multi-national organization." His article detailed some of his lessons learned
in "fostering a sense of mutual dependence" or what he termed "mutuality". I
believe that the principles that he set out in his article can be of guidance
to a compliance practitioner who is working across a wide spectrum of countries
and cultures to foster a better working relationship between the Compliance
Department and business units in an organization.
1. Be Modest
Here Vlachoutsicos believes providing "condescending,
absurdly detailed instructions" together with irrelevant stories is not the way
to move forward in a meeting. If you recount your own experiences, relate them
to your audience. Make clear to your business team that your ideas and advice
can help them do more, and better, business. More importantly, show that you
are human, that you make mistakes but that the point is you learn from your
mistakes, not that the business unit personnel will be sanctioned immediately
for one foul-up.
Seriously and Show It
Most companies teach managers the value of listening.
However, communication is a multifaceted exercise and you must be aware of your
cultural setting and surroundings. In some cultures it is viewed as rude to
take extensive notes while listening to another person. If you must do this,
explain in advance that you are taking notes and explain that no disrespect is
intended. Conversely in some cultures it is viewed as an insult if you do not
take notes because the employee you are listening to will feel that what they
are saying is not even worth writing down. Managing these signals is
critical. But whatever culture you are in do not keep looking at your watch or
take a cell phone call when involved in such a conversation.
You should view every interaction as an opportunity to
tap into the expertise of your workforce. This requires you to let employees
say what they think. One of the first (and most insistent) questions you will
face as a compliance practitioner is explaining how and why the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act (FCPA) applies to a country and culture far from the United
States. Another related question is often along the lines of the endemic
corruption in a country and how the business unit personnel cannot do business
any other way. Let your co-workers express these thought and sentiments and
then explain why the law(s) applies and how they can do business going forward.
The business unit will usually have a solution to these problems and if you can
get them to engage with you, it may well be a solution for you and the company.
4. Focus the
You will still need to focus the agenda of any group
meeting. Failure to do so can lead to lengthy discussions and critical agenda
items are never reached in the time allotted for a meeting. Vlachoutsicos
suggests sequencing your issues according to importance so that the key issues
are reached. If issues of lesser importance are not reached, they can be held
over for another meeting or handled offline.
5. Don't Try to
Have All the Answers
I learned from a very wise law school professor that only
Socrates has all the answers and those were only to the questions which he
posed to his students. A compliance professional should seem him or herself as
a catalyst for problem solving. As a lawyer I understand that you are required
to know law and compliance requirements. But remember-it is OK not to know
everything. That is the whole point of collaboration.
6. Don't Insist
that a Decision Must be Made
If you make a decision all the time the chances are that,
some of that time, you may well make the wrong decision. But beyond this
factor, people may stop proposing ideas to you because either think that "you
already have your mind made up in advance" or that you know some fact that they
do not which was pertinent to the decision. This could well quell any
information which might come to you through dissent. The key here is not to
avoid making a decision; it is to follow a process which allows input before
final decision is made.
Vlachoutsicos' six factors can be used by any company to
help them work through collaboration issues. They show how you can create
'mutuality' with the work force. As a compliance practitioner your strongest
asset is how you are perceived by the business folks. I think that if you take
these factors to heart it will greatly help you to sell and improve the
compliance message in your company.
Visit the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog,
hosted by Thomas Fox, for more commentary on FCPA compliance, indemnities and
other forms of risk management for a worldwide energy practice, tax issues
faced by multi-national US companies, insurance coverage issues and protection
of trade secrets.
This publication contains general information
only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2011
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