Successful businesses attract and retain good, smart, and skillful people. These people look for employers who give them freedom to express themselves and embrace and encourage their ideas in a safe space.
Steve Jobs publicly stated he sought to employ people who were smarter than he was. Thus, he did not fear them; he accepted they may criticize his business, but through that criticism his business could benefit. There can be no doubt this philosophy and policy helped to make Apple the company it is today.
As compliance professionals we have an important role to play in helping businesses to aspire to and replicate the Apple model. We must confront and challenge the three Bs: bias, bullying, and blind spots.
If we operate with a bias, conscious or otherwise, we close our minds and consequently suppress thinking and ideas. Of course, this impacts the positive evolution and development of our businesses.
In practice, this means we need to constantly operate with an open mind and demonstrate we do so. We must listen to business colleagues who express frustration with compliance requirements that may hinder their business. This does not mean we adjust the requirements, but we do look for alternatives and provide explanations based upon solid foundations and anchored to legal/regulatory requirements. This way our colleagues will support our endeavors and open their own minds to the need for compliance.
Bullying is bad for business; there is a long list of defunct firms managed by bullies who failed to listen, imposed their ideology and strategy, and rejected challenges and criticism. Smart people do not stay in environments and workplaces where they feel intimidated, constrained, and even frightened. They leave, and simultaneously their innovative thinking departs with them.
Bullying suppresses innovation and intimidates people who determine not to challenge or constructively criticize failed or inefficient processes. Good business leaders encourage challenge and celebrate innovation.
Regarding blind spots, if you are unaware of something happening, you cannot react to it. Earlier this year Apple lost a court case brought by employees who had been subject to security checks after they finished their shifts at retail outlets. Some employees were held up for more than 20 minutes as they and their bags were searched. When current CEO Tim Cook became aware of the lawsuit, he is reported to have said, “Is this true?”
Apple will now pay employees and former employees as much as $60 million. No company is perfect, but we must ponder whether the CEO would have approved of such a policy had he been aware of it. I recollect a trader with a bank once telling me he would call me if he needed me, otherwise there was no need for me to look at his business. Of course, I looked at his business.
Compliance professionals need to always be looking for blind spots within our businesses, as well as bias and bullying. If we can’t see it, we can’t police it, and that is our job.