In Compliance Messaging, Let’s Accentuate the Positive

spirit of positivity

The mindset of the entrepreneur is optimism. Entrepreneurs truly seek out the opportunity in every challenge and obstacle. I saw the pandemic prompt so many clients and other entrepreneurs work eagerly to answer the following question: “Well this sucks — how do I make money from it?!”

There’s much to be won by applying the same entrepreneurial spirit of positivity to compliance training.

A positive approach accentuates, within the content of the training, the chance to grow and profit from education and elevated behavior. LeadGood applied that approach to great effect, for example, in ESG and Digital Transformation training for corporate directors that we just helped build with NACD. Don’t think of these mega-trends as barriers, we emphasized; think of them as opportunities to do important things better and differentiate your organization in the marketplace, i.e., a way to profit.

A positive approach shows typical people doing the right thing and correctly following compliance protocols and processes. I think this gets to the heart of what most working adults actually want from compliance training. They (our audience) are less focused on, “What’s the right thing?” — they think they get that. What they want to know is, “How do you expect me, with all the time and competitive pressures I face, to actually DO the right thing?” They don’t want to hear about risks; they want recipes.

A positive approach to training normalizes constructive and compliant behavior. Hold this in contrast to what has been seen in typical anti-bias training which, studies have demonstrated, can counterproductively normalize biased behavior. It turns out that when learners see repeated examples of people doing the wrong thing, it leaves them with an unconscious and undesirable impression that everybody does the wrong thing. So show the right thing!

And a positive approach to training feels, well, positive. It’s good news, rather than the doom and gloom of risk and sanction. Just think of some of the risk-focused training you may have experienced and ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to complete this training?!”

Finally, while enjoying last week’s webinar from the new initiative APW, I realized another big advantage in compliance training that takes a positive approach. Opportunity-centric training can help to build a culture of wellness around compliance. It can reduce the inherent stress on the compliance team of focusing on wrongdoing and risks, and of being seen as the buzz kill squad. If Compliance is seen by the organization as a source of opportunity and good news, therefore, it can lead not only to a more compliant and healthy organizational culture; it can also lead to a healthier compliance team.

The Legacy of Masters

Twenty-one years ago: Tiger Woods wins his second Masters, and is awarded the Green Jacket from previous winner Vijay Singh. Photo AFP

Today is the 21st anniversary of Tiger Woods’ 2001 win at the Masters. Which means today I also mark the 21st anniversary of my father’s death.

Sylvan H. Meyer actually died on April 8, 2001, but to us his Yahrzeit is Masters Sunday, because Dad passed in his Georgia mountain home just an hour after he watched Tiger on TV win his second Green Jacket, and that was poetic in two ways.

The Masters was one of Dad’s favorite times and places. Starting in the 1940s, he and ten or so of his north Georgia buddies would travel across the state to spend Masters Week in Augusta. They called themselves the Chicken Pluckers. They’d rent a house, play golf most mornings, go to the tournament in the afternoons, and at nightfall asleep earlier than they meant to. They weren’t wealthy; they were Greatest Generation guys doing alright. My Dad cooked the dinners – which was amazing to me because he pretty much never cooked at home.

And in 1984, when I was in law school, one of the regular Chicken Pluckers couldn’t make it and I was invited to make the pilgrimage. It remains one of my most cherished memories – the staggering beauty of the course, the cordial chat of the players, a kitchen full of Ruffles and Pecan Sandies. I remember sitting with Dad behind the 14th green, in a lull between approach shots, when he softly suggested that I maybe ought to marry that girl I’d been dating. Unbeknownst to him, I had proposed to Tracy not 24 hours earlier – and the last 37 years have proven that Dad’s editorial opinion was, as usual, on the money.

His editorial opinions are the second part. Sylvan Meyer was the first Editor In Chief of the daily newspaper in Gainesville, Georgia, where I was born. Throughout the 50s and 60s, from our small city, he covered the Civil Rights movement and advocated and editorialized for integration. He was one of a cadre of Southern newspaper journalists – mostly Jewish – speaking up for the cause. They did so because it was right and just, but also I think out of loyalty to their region, to build a ”New South.”

Still, the legacy of segregation created some cognitive dissonance for Dad when it came to the Augusta National, something I feel again about my native state this spring. So when Tiger Woods became the first Black Man to win the Masters in 1997, it was a thrilling victory for my Dad. And when Tiger cemented his Augusta immortality by winning again and capping the “Tiger Slam” on that Sunday 21 years ago, well, maybe it felt to Dad like a vindicating time to close the loop.

Lee Elder receives the applause of fellow Masters Honorary Starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Photo from Golfweek.

In Dad’s honor (and yeah, because I love it), I religiously watch the Masters. And I smiled this week when Augusta National invited 86-year-old Lee Elder, who broke the color barrier at the Masters, to be the Honorary Starter at this year’s tournament. It was a small reassurance that the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice, but that our institutions may need a little love, help and patience to get there – from loyal critics like my Dad, and from those of us who work to guide our organizations to ethics, compliance, and doing the right thing.

Sometimes what we do to encourage people in our organizations to speak up works, and often it doesn’t. We’re discussing what makes that difference all this month on the Eight Mindsets Cohort, and sharing those lessons in the Eight Mindsets Podcast. I hope you’ll join, or listen to, the discussion.

Ethics Madness 2022!

ncaa soccer ball sports ethics madness 2022

I hereby swear and affirm, with actual knowledge of penalties for perjury, that we are in the midst of the best week of sports on the annual calendar. The NCAA men’s and women’s Final Fours. The Masters golf tournament. The end of the NBA regular season. The opening of the baseball season. (Slap, I even skipped the Oscars to watch the Saudi Grand Prix on DVR.)

So if you are a compliance educator/junkie, and a rabid sports fan, where does your mind go while watching all this wonder? That’s “Ethics Madness!

#EthicsMadness was born about 10 years ago, when LeadGood was young and I was searching for a professional excuse to spend a business afternoon watching the first-round games of March Madness. The idea: get some compliance buddies together and conduct a live blog during the games, where we could talk shop and talk hoop, commenting on the conduct of the games as frequently as we commented on the unfortunate cultural messages being sent by commercials and errant sports organizations.

For 2022, #EthicsMadness has moved to the podcast format and is the setting for a special “crossover“ episode of The Eight Mindsets podcast and the podcast “Greetings and Felicitations,“ a title hosted by Tom Fox through his well-known Compliance Podcast Network. We have recorded it, and posted it, and IMHO I think it’s a lot of fun.

In the podcast, Tom and I discuss the ethics and compliance takeaways from recent events in sports such as:

  • The debacle that was the ending of last year‘s Formula One season (procedural justice)
  • Russian figure skating in the international Olympic committee (Organizational reputation)
  • Women’s March Madness (gender equity and DEI)
  • Juwan Howard and the punch heard round the Big Ten (appropriate sanctioning and culture-building rituals)

Now join the madness! Check it out wherever you hear your podcasts.

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