The Power of Honesty – A Candid Assessment of Your Compliance Program
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Groucho Marx
We are all taught the importance of honesty. But there are very different aspects to this otherwise simple proposition.
People are sometimes honest with each other, and sometimes they are not. Honesty, however, is a much harder concept when speaking to your self – you know what I mean, the voice in your head that is perhaps the most critical of all voices, your own. In that regard, honesty may be much harder to come by and integrate into your life. If anything, you are your harshest critic and sometimes not the most accurate in your criticisms.
Now, lets turn this concept into a compliance topic. Every CCO promotes internal honesty as an important cultural value, and the bedrock to the two most important principles – trust and integrity. CCOs live by this credo when dealing with others.
But when it comes to looking at the company’s positive compliance achievements, CCOs take a glass is half empty approach. They are immediately willing to acknowledge the deficiencies in their program. Of course, there are always things that can be done better, and CCOs use this principle to engage in self-criticism. This is where the CCO’s commitment to so-called “honesty” prevents CCOs from maintaining perspective.
I am consistently surprised when I hear CCOs tell me about their compliance program. They will always focus on the positive parts of the program, and immediately fall on their sword about the areas where they have more work to do. This is where self-criticism gets into the way.
A CCO has to develop a strategy for public statements in a company about the compliance program. A board of directors needs to hear an honest assessment. The CEO and the senior leadership has to know how effective the company’s compliance program is operating, what they can do to help advance the program further, and what resources the CCO needs to accomplish a more effective program.
A CCO’s internal calculus needs to be different, and needs to avoid self-flagellation. It is all too easy to blame oneself; it is harder to focus and motivate oneself to accomplish more. If a CCO is truly an optimist, they need to build on these basic principles – honest analysis and a meaningful action plan for the future.
Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure. James Altucher.
Honesty is not a hard concept. In fact, it is liberating. We often avoid “the truth” to spare other people’s feelings but there is much more to be gained when we learn how to be truthful without being offensive.
The most inspiring leaders are those who inspire us. Honesty is a critical trait for effective leadership, whether as the CEO, the CCO or any other position that requires a person to influence and motivate others to act (or not to act) to further an organization.
CCOs can lead by example, whether speaking to the board, the CEO, his or her direct reports, or to support staff. We all benefit from learning how to speak honestly, think about ourselves honestly, and interact with others in an honest and inspiring way.