Practical insights for compliance and ethics professionals and commentary on the intersection of compliance and culture.

Insights from self-development and coaching for compliance officers

This is the second in a series of four posts on insights for compliance officers from different fields of study.  Last week’s post was about lessons from psychology regarding motivation and choice, from prominent figures such as Abraham Maslow and Sheena Iyengar.  Today’s post will discuss insights from self-development and coaching.  Next Tuesday’s post will be about insights from behavioral economics.  Finally, on March 13, the last post in this series will discuss how business management theories can be useful for compliance officers.

Much like the insights from psychology discussed in last week’s post linked above, theory of self-development and coaching can be very useful for creating and cultivating a culture of compliance at both the individual and organizational levels.  Focusing on thoughtful growth and progress, inner success and ethical achievement, and a values-based, sustainable approach to strategy and mission are all necessary for fostering integrity in organizations and groups or people within them.  Motivational writings on paths to self-development and tips for effective coaching can translate easily to informing a compliance culture.

  • Stephen R. Covey – This blog has frequently discussed the work of the educator, author, and consultant Stephen R. Covey, particularly his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in referring to both his general concept of the 7 Habits and particular points from them in suggesting best practices for compliance and ethics professionals.  One of the fundamental concepts of Covey’s writing is the distinction between principles – which could be seen in a corporate context as rules, as they have an external source and operate as fixed law – and values, which are personal and require informed commitment.  The blend of these two sets of considerations in people’s behavior and the outcomes of their choices draws a compelling parallel between the same dynamic which takes place in resolving practical ethical dilemmas in the organizational setting.  For more on Covey’s insights, read this post, discussing all 7 Habits, and this post, focused specifically on the 5th habit and how active listening can contribute to compliance culture values.  Check out this video from Covey on the role of choice:

  • Wayne Dyer – Like Covey, Wayne Dyer was a very famous self-help author and speaker.  His book Your Erroneous Zones is written from a basis of counseling psychology with a heavy focus on encouraging positive thinking, diligence, and like Covey and Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs from last Tuesday’s post, self-actualization or transcendence.  The recurring message of self-reliance and independence leading to interdependence also resonates with Covey’s writings.  From a compliance and ethics perspective, Dyer’s insights are directly applicable to the formation of and commitment to an internal moral register for individuals and a code of ethics or, more broadly, a compliance culture for organizations.  Check out this video on Dyer’s “rules for success” from Your Erroneous Zones, which emphasize inner success, personal leadership, and commitment to character:

  • Brene Brown – Brene Brown writes and speaks prolifically about self-development, touching on challenging and universal concepts such as bravery, confidence, vulnerability, and shame.  Courage is one of her specialties within these topics which she covers often with regards to personal motivation and her concept of “authentic leadership.”  Per definition authentic leadership is ethical leadership, because this focuses on achievement through genuine values and character ethic rather than power with no basis in integrity.  Authenticity and courage to be oneself, even when that means being alone or feeling lonely or insecure, are both critical for honesty, truth, and credibility.  These are all personal traits which are crucial for establishing an inner moral compass and which translate to the group level, where individuals model conduct consistent with it to scale across the whole organization.  Brown’s work is therefore incredibly helpful for encouraging employee engagement where cultures of fear are discouraged and the ability to speak up and out – both for whistleblowers but also for all employees who have questions, doubts, ideas, or challenges to share – is real.  Brown’s inspiring TED talk on the subject, entitled “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the most viewed TED talks in the world, and discusses the importance of real connection and security for communication and engagement:

Also, check out this talk from Brown on trust, self-awareness, and building a values-based culture that depends upon relationships based in integrity, and consider how this could be applied in not just interpersonal connections but also organizational interactions:

  • Eckhart Tolle – Eckhart Tolle is a German-Canadian author whose books on spirituality and psychology are admired by people of many different religions and faith backgrounds.  Recommendations of Tolle’s works from Oprah Winfrey have driven them into the popular mainstream, and so his writings are also applicable of course to individuals seeking to live a purpose-driven life.  One of Tolle’s central themes is that thinking and awareness are separate, independent states.  A higher sense of consciousness, peace, and character is derived from rejecting ego and obsession with the uncertain or unknowable, and instead focusing on present-tense considerations and conditions.  Tolle’s books The Power of Now and A New Earth both develop this philosophy in which the present moment reigns supreme.  This is a useful construct through which to view compliance risk management, rooted in practicality, reality, and concrete conditions rather than abstract expectations or outdated controls.  As discussed in this post about the moral hazard of “future-proofing” against risk, a robust compliance controls framework is realistically grounded in actual business needs, not the hypothetical or the idealized.  The tension between thought and presence, or simple, practical focus on the objective at hand, will be discussed further in next week’s post about behavioral economics, with coverage of Daniel Kahneman’s thinking “systems,” and is a common theme from last week’s post about psychology with Malcolm Gladwell’s “thin slicing” for quick choices.  Consider the concept of “excessive thinking” as a negative habit or a heuristic which may actually impede ethical decision-making, as described by Tolle in this talk:

  • Byron Katie – Like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie is another spiritual writer and speaker whose methods and ideas have found their way into the self-development and coaching mainstream.  Katie’s main process is called “The Work,” which is a method for individuals to confront, challenge, and get past beliefs that they may hold deeply that nevertheless hurt them and prevent them from being their best selves.  Many people rely heavily on habits and long-term beliefs that are so intimately woven into their personalities and behaviors that they don’t even notice them in order to inquire whether they are helpful or true before relying on them.  Katie’s process urges people to question these beliefs and thoughts and to even consider that the opposite of the troubling conviction may be the truth.  This kind of deliberate, confrontational thought process is reminiscent of dilemma analysis (for more on that see this post) and is similar to a root cause analysis or other deep-dive that is integral to compliance program evaluation and review.  It’s also so important for encouraging ethical decision-making and supporting integrity as a main cultural value to confront these long-term or even innate routines and heuristics in order to avoid making choices in a narrow or non-cognitive framework that might not include the most ethical options.  To learn more about the power of self-inquiry, and to consider how this process might be applicable to ongoing compliance planning and risk management, check out this talk from Katie:

Check back next Tuesday, March 6, for a post on theories to apply from behavioral economics – including an overview of the works of Dan Ariely, Richard Thaler, and Daniel Kahneman among others – for corporate compliance programs.

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