Compliance

Getting Leadership's Love; Here’s How to Make it Happen

Batya Steinherz
April 27, 2022

The (work) life of a Compliance leader can be tough.

Not only are you tasked with managing, well, Compliance, throughout the organization, you also must navigate through a slew of various players from security people, to information stakeholders, to leadership.

While all are delicate relationships and must be handled with care, the relationship you need to cinch the most is the one with leadership, as it will serve as the basis for all other relationships. Moreover, without their backing and appreciation, your job will be much more challenging, as you’ll lack the necessary funding and support needed to grow your Compliance program.

Getting this relationship right is central to succeeding in your role. But alas, support from leadership is often in low supply; we recently conducted an industry-wide survey of Compliance leaders from across the US and found that more than 50 percent of respondents at hyper-growth companies and beyond feel that leadership doesn't necessarily support their initiatives. And at startups and scale-ups, the outlook is even more abysmal – less than 30 percent of respondents feel that their leaders care about or support Compliance activities and initiatives.

Changing the executive buy-in narrative

It shouldn't be this way – and it doesn't have to be this way.

We sat down with Compliance leaders, Terry O’Daniel and Prabhath Karanth to find out how they managed to get leadership to see the value in Compliance. These are professionals who raised their Compliance programs through infancy, transforming them into organization-wide business generators.

Here is what they have to say:

Prabhath Karanth: “Leadership perception of Compliance, in my opinion, depends on the business organization, and on who you're reporting to. I have been part of a CTO-led organization, a CIO-led organization, legal-led, etc. And one thing they all share in common is the desire for efficiency. They want to know that the company can go to business faster, so of course, they are very interested in the efficiency that you bring in your Compliance program, from a processes perspective, as well as an automation perspective.

Moreover, Compliance is a team sport; it is absolutely critical to get alignment and understand that it’s not just about you. You need to understand what these folks (the CTO, CISO, CEO, etc.)  are thinking and understand things from their perspective to be successful here. I’ve found this approach to be extremely helpful.

In other words; know your audience, speak their language, and cater to their needs and concerns.

Terry O’Daniel: “I find that there's a way in which you can build the marketplace for the services that you can provide, and that is really helpful when you join a new organization or just want to level up and show your value and that of Compliance. I'm a fan of finding low-hanging fruit to fix a problem and then using that as an example.

I think actions speak louder than words, especially if you're in a hyper-growth environment and often, you can get more credit and goodwill this way, rather than trying to convince people that you're there to help them. Instead, just show how you can solve a problem. This builds the sense that you're all sitting on the same side of the table, all pushing on the same side of the rock, whatever metaphor you like, and it gives them this inherent sense that if Compliance could help us solve this problem, it can likely help in other areas.”

In other words; go for quick wins and show your worth as a problem solver.

Take their word for it, both have been instrumental in building epic Compliance programs at companies ranging from Adobe to Salesforce, to Netflix, and more. When they talk, we know we’re listening.

Still want more insider tips on getting exec buy-in?

If you want to learn more about how to get leadership buy-in, read our new guide, “How to Get Executive Buy-in (or, The Art of Making Leadership Fall in Love With Compliance)”.

In this guide, we’ll explore how:

  • aligning with leadership's goals
  • delivering information on a consistent basis
  • demonstrating an ability to learn and change

among other tips, will help leadership start to view Compliance as a business-critical function.

Culled from industry leaders and veterans, including O’Daniel and Karanth, these techniques are proven to demonstrate to leadership the value of Compliance across the organization and thus, help secure the backing you need to drive growth.

Yes, getting the appreciation Compliance needs and deserves can be tricky, but with the right formula, it’s more than do-able.

Here’s to your continued growth!

Batya Steinherz
Veteran explainer of complicated stuff. Loves all things coffee and cyber security-related (yes, even Compliance). Content Marketing Manager at anecdotes.

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