Will you take responsibility?

We can lead with authority or with responsibility.

When no one has authority, someone usually claims responsibility.

But when someone has been given authority, others often shy away from responsibility.

When a company creates an Ethics & Compliance department, it authorizes them to lead in that domain. And, just like that, the rest of the company doesn’t feel responsible for compliance.

And still, most people working in Ethics & Compliance will tell you that they don’t feel like they have much authority. Not to the level enjoyed by Legal or Finance or HR.

So the work for most E&C practitioners is to give company leaders a sense of responsibility.

The responsibility to lead ethically.

Mainstream violence

First, it was students throwing rocks and chasing off campus anyone they disagreed with. Then, it was Democrats and Republicans vilifying each other, leading to January 6. Now, it is comedians being attacked on stage.

It used to be that people would simply not attend the lecture or the show they disagreed with, or just change the channel. Now, they are willing to commit assaults in front of live audiences.

As these events make the news, they risk becoming normalized. Once normalized, they enter the workplace.

Now might be a good time for corporate leaders to remind employees that violence in the workplace is not acceptable.

Wow!

Once in a while, I learn something so captivating that I immediately want to share it with everyone. I am sure it has happened to you as well.

Imagine if what we taught others at work was just as compelling. What if our goal was to make our teachings so interesting that employees felt compelled to share them with colleagues?

Purpose and longevity

Walter Orthmann just turned 100.

Perhaps just as significant, he also just set a new Guinness world record for the longest career at the same company: 84 years and 9 days.

Orthmann credits his long career (and perhaps his long life?) to the sense of purpose he derived from his work. On this blog, I have often written about the importance of play, purpose and potential at work. Orthmann is a living proof that purpose matters.

As an employee, make sure you get more than a job. Look for opportunities that fulfill you.

You might actually live longer.

Texas Hold’em

Climate change is humanity’s greatest challenge right now.

Recognizing this fact, many large investors have started to pull their funds away from fossil fuel companies.

Instead of joining the movement and making efforts to save the planet, Texas has enacted a law seeking to punish financial firms that don’t invest in fossil fuels.

In poker, we call that move a raise. You don’t need a better hand than your opponent to raise. Sometimes, you are simply trying to get them out of the hand.

The danger with a raise is that you might get called by a stronger hand, or even face a re-raise. Texas Representative Phil King said “if you boycott Texas energy (the bet), then Texas will boycott you (the raise).” OK. But what if people start boycotting not just Texas energy but Texas everything (re-raise)?

Personally, I would go all-in with saving the planet.

Reducing pressure

One of the most important things an ethics and compliance officer can do is reduce the pressure imposed by the corporation on employees (think fraud triangle).

And one of the most important things a corporate leader can do is reduce the pressure imposed on the ethics and compliance officer.

Isolation

The role of ethics and compliance officer can be isolating.

You have to investigate some of your colleagues. You have to deny some of their requests. You have to make sure they know what they are not allowed to do.

It’s no surprise that most employees don’t swing by your office just to say hello. And that was before the pandemic. For the last 2 years (and counting), most of us have been emotionally and physically isolated from our colleagues.

This is why I am very much looking forward to meeting, in person, several of my colleagues today, and to break the isolation. If you live near Hartford, Connecticut, we’d love you to join us. And if you don’t, you can still watch the livestream – but we all know it won’t be the same.

Are there other ECOs living in your town or state? Why not reach out to them and organize a meetup? Nothing fancy. A coffee shop will do.

Just to break the isolation.

Food and belonging

This story of simple kindness reminded me of an event I organized years ago.

It was a multi-day training conference for my company’s ethics and compliance officers based in Asia Pacific. I made sure that we had snack breaks in the morning and the afternoon, good lunches, and team dinners at night for networking and relationship-building. I even thought of asking if anyone had food allergies.

But I failed to realize that my conference was during the month of Ramadan, and that one of my attendees was a practicing Muslim. I didn’t notice him skipping the lunch and snacks on the first day. After my closing remarks that afternoon, with a kindness I still remember, he sought me out for a private word and explained, with a gentle smile, why he would not be joining us for dinner, which was scheduled a few hours before sunset. I was mortified. I apologized repeatedly but he assured me it was OK.

I never forgot that lesson. In subsequent years, I made sure not to schedule this event during the holy month. I also made sure we had halal options at all meals. Such a simple solution, yet so easy to overlook when you assumes that everyone else does what you do. Food is such an important aspect of culture and daily life, it should not be overlooked.

I applaud the colleges that are now being more inclusive and showing simple kindness to the Muslim students during Ramadan. I also encourage all employers who offer cafeteria services to learn more about, and meet, the dining needs and practices of their employees.