Assume positive intent, unexpectedly

Most people are good and will do the right thing in ordinary times.

Meanwhile, most people will compromise their standards given enough pressure to do so. To expect something different is foolish.

We must be able to hold these two seemingly contradictory ideas in our mind at all times – when we write our policies, create our training, implement our controls, conduct our investigations and when we hire, compensate, promote and discipline.

And we must accept responsibility when things go wrong. Either we failed to properly guard against them or we foolishly expected them not to happen.


Today, make a list of all the tasks you accomplish as an ethics & compliance professional.

When the day is done, review your list. At least one task, if not all of them, will have brought value to one or more of the employees you serve.

Share that.

Share that with your E&C colleagues, on your blog, on your organization’s intranet, with a professional organization like the ECI, on Twitter, on LinkedIn.


But share.

This is a time when we need to see more examples of trust, respect and integrity.

In the workplace and beyond.

Are you selling or serving?

The best salespeople are the ones who truly believe in what they are selling.

They know that what they have to offer brings value to someone else. They are not really selling. They are serving. Those who buy are thankful for the opportunity to buy.

As ethics & compliance professionals, are we selling or serving? Does it fell like we have to cram our policies down the throat of the business or are they coming to us for help? Do we truly believe in what we are selling? Are we able to demonstrate the value of our offerings? Does the business think it would be better off without us?

It’s worth asking this last question to your business people once in awhile. Most will answer no and point to something you do that is truly enabling.

That’s your common ground. That’s the place you need not sell because you are serving.

Start your expansion there.


Our work is felt

This day in 1901, Gustave Whitehead is said to have made the first successful powered flight, two years before the Wright brothers.

Today, there is still controversy among enthusiasts but for people boarding a flight, this is not top of mind. They want to go safely and quickly from point A to point B, regardless of who flew first more than a hundred years ago.

And so it goes of our work. We may care deeply about our role as E&C professionals, we may toil at crafting policies and training and controls, but the average employee we serve doesn’t give it much thought. They want to enjoy meaningful work and grow in the process.

It’s OK if we are invisible to them. They can feel our work.

All or nothing

“We don’t abandon our pursuits because we despair of ever perfecting them.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 1.2.37b

Too often in large organizations we lose flexibility. If we can’t do something for our 100,000 employees, we don’t do it for any of them. Or if we can’t be sure it’ll work, it’s already dead.

In the complicated world of ethics and compliance, we can’t wait for certainty before taking steps to address the risks we face. This is especially true now that the world is moving at an ever-faster pace. Our job is to create some measure of certainty that our proposed actions are going to generate progress. We learn from that experience (faster than if we simply tried to predict an outcome) and repeat the process.

Today, reject the all-or-nothing mindset and take action, however small.

Checking the box

Most E&C professionals warn their business leaders against compliance programs that simply check the box.

The reality is that many E&C professionals simply check the box too.¬†They wait for Corporate to set the tone, write the policies, create the training, implement the controls and schedule the audits. They do as they are told and nothing more. When their business unit pushes back, they simply say “Corporate wants this.”

If that’s you, then perhaps you should look for a successor, someone who is guided by principles, not systems.

Strength or weakness?

The more different a person is from me,

the more I can learn from her

the more likely he will find a gap in my reasoning

the more she will see my blind spots

the stronger our combined ideas are

Sounds like this is good for business.

Sameness feels good in the short term but is extremely dangerous in the long term.

Tension builds strength.

Why choose weakness?