My Top 5 Ethics and Compliance Influencers for 2020

Every workday, I aim to write a post on this blog.

My process is simple. I read, then I write. I read about current events and I read what others have written on ethics and compliance.

The world’s news often offers a good idea for a post. When that fails, I can rely on other writers for inspiration, people who think deeply about what it means to be human, to fail and to strive always to do better.

This post will highlight 4 individuals and one organization who most inspired my writing this year. Of course, there are many others, too many to list here. But these 5 were with me all year as we all tried to navigate an uncomfortable world.

I encourage you to follow them*.

Richard Bistrong. Before becoming an advisor on corruption risks, Richard was an international sales executive. At some point along the way, he stepped on the proverbial slippery slope and was eventually sentenced to federal prison for corruption. Richard doesn’t blame anyone for the choices he made. By sharing his story (in person and online), Richard helps others identify and avoid risky situations. He teaches by being transparent and vulnerable.

Carsten Tams. Carsten doesn’t blog just anywhere; his posts are featured on two separate blogs of Forbes Magazine. After over 15 years in various roles linked to ethics and culture in a global media company, Carsten now helps clients solve organizational challenges by using the latest findings of behavioral science. He reads broadly, thinks deeply and write clearly.

The Ethics & Compliance Initiative. This organization is dedicated to helping its members create and sustain high-quality ethics and compliance programs**. It does so by providing research that doesn’t aim to sell you a product or a service, but rather helps you understand what truly drives behavior in an organization. With its daily email briefings, monthly stats and annual surveys, the ECI helps me bring value to both my organization and my readers.

Ricardo Pellafone. Ricardo changed how I look at compliance training. I now understand the difference between risk-based training – the kind that’s great for lawyers – and task-based training – the kind that’s perfect for employees trying their darn best to do their job compliantly without having to spend eons learning about compliance. Ricardo and his team at Broadcat write sharp, no-nonsense posts on their blog, often spiked with funny GIFs and videos.

Seth Godin. Seth is not an E&C professional. He is a writer and a marketer. A marketer is not the same as an advertiser; advertisers try to make you buy stuff. Seth tries to make you see the world as it is and urges you to make a difference. He does so with short, daily blog posts (he hasn’t missed a day in over 10 years). Seth often write about the importance of trust in business, which often inspires my writing.

* As with all posts, my views are not expressed on behalf of or at the request of my employer.

** Full disclosure: I am a board member of this organization.

COVID and corruption

Journalists and lawmakers are starting to investigate how certain public contracts related to COVID-19 have been awarded.

We should expect many more investigations of this kind all over the world. When billions of dollars converge on one event, whether it be the Olympics or a pandemic, there is bound to be corruption, self-dealing, and other improprieties.

With the Olympics or the World Cup, we understand the importance of augmenting corruption controls years before the event takes place. The minute the host city is announced, we can start reinforcing the compliance program and the ethical culture of our local operations before the first bid is due. With COVID-19, governments have not had time to do this. They’ve all had to rely on ordinary controls.

But here’s one thing we can prepare for: the reopening. Once the machine revs up again, and millions of customers are urging millions of companies to release goods that depend on millions of suppliers, the pressure will be on. And with pressure comes not only wrongdoing but a diminished capacity to fight wrongdoing.

On the other side of the reopening coin is the need to “ease” compliance. My friend Richard Bistrong wrote an excellent piece about it on the FCPA Blog, which I recommend you read with this one as an interesting balancing act.

Decisions to make before the end of COVID-19

In her book Giving Voice to Values, Mary Gentile recommends that we play out ethical dilemmas before they happen. When a supervisor routinely gathers her team and asks “How would we handle this scenario?”, they have a much better chance at doing the right thing when it actually happens.

This is what Richard Bistrong is recommending that we do before the economy reopens. When it does, there will be pressures from customers, suppliers and senior leadership to get back on track as quickly as possible. Inefficiencies from regulations and internal policies that were tolerated in good times will become infuriating. Even good regulations and policies will be questioned. “Can’t we just skip this step, just this time?”

The pushback will be understandable. In fact, it should be invited at all times. But the best decisions will not be made under extreme pressures after months of idleness and isolation.

Identify your future tough decisions now.

And start the role play.

Coffee and Twitter

I had coffee with two E&C influencers yesterday.

Keith Darcy, Richard Bistrong and I met in a coffee shop to catch up. At some point, our conversation turned to social media and we compared notes on how we use various platforms.

Which prompts me today to recommend that you follow Richard and Keith on Twitter. Each day, they post links and original thoughts that can only enrich the world of an E&C professional or enthusiast. From these two accounts, one can be exposed to many other thought leaders and important developments.



Happy reading!

On making connections

Later today I will have the pleasure to visit with Richard Bistrong in New York City.

I first learned about Richard via LinkedIn in 2015. His personal experience with corruption was both dramatic and fascinating. I started to follow him on social media and eventually sent him a direct message asking if we could meet in person. He immediately said yes, we met for coffee, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

The point of this post is to encourage you to reach out to those you can learn from. I have done this with authors, business leaders, compliance executives, podcasters and many others. Most of them will gladly engage with you, especially when you can provide value in return or, even better, first. They can become allies and cheerleaders. They can open doors and provide opportunities. They can make introductions that lead to more allies, cheerleaders and opportunities. And not simply opportunities for you to receive but more importantly for you to contribute. It’s a virtuous cycle that starts with a simple click of a “follow” button.

Who would you like to connect with today?