What I’ve learned through the challenges of 2020…
I find myself talking a lot about courage these days. It comes up in conversation with my Compliance Officers, colleagues, friends, and my family. I've been humbled and inspired by the stories of courage, many from the last few months, that I've been lucky enough to hear. For this reason, I wanted to write about Courage on Compliance Officer Day 2020.
This is not a white paper on the psychological depths of courage, nor is it a historical analysis of this awe-inspiring noun's reverence in ancient events and fictional depictions. This is just a simple view of the word, its meanings, and its effect on the work we do as Compliance Officers. Everyone knows what courage means, and I think most readers will recognize the importance of courage in a Compliance role.
What most people may not know is that the first definition of courage (or corage in Old French) was quite different than the meaning it carries today. Corage meant from the heart, as opposed to strength in the face of adversity, which is a contemporary definition of the word.
These two definitions embody what I believe to be the key trait of a great Compliance Officer. Moreover, I think they can also be used to calibrate the compass that guides our direction in how we work and how we decide. For example, when we decide who to bring into our team.
I recently spent nearly half of the interview slot talking about courage with one candidate. Upon further reflection, it became clear that my interest in this character trait was present in my hires or recommendations for hiring in the last several years. For me, once job candidates have had basic requirements vetted, courage becomes the most important consideration in selecting talent for my organization and a specific position in my company.
Skills can be improved and learned, but it's a rare feat to instill courage when it is missing.
Why spend so much time in an interview talking about courage instead of, for example, leading high-risk investigations? I'll tell you why, because that Compliance Officer is going to need courage as much as, perhaps even more than, investigative skills. I find this to be especially true when that Compliance Officer leads projects in which uncomfortable findings start rearing their ugly head.
No recommendation to terminate an employee is taken lightly, but it's one thing to recommend termination for grave offenses when the key person is a largely unknown employee, but quite another matter when the Compliance Officer makes the same recommendation for a well-known, "rainmaker" involved in equally grave irregularities. Situations such as these require today's definition of courage.
While today's definition of courage applies to many scenarios we face as Compliance Officers, some of the most gratifying moments of my career came when using the word's old definition – from the heart.
I find the old definition is key in navigating the treacherous waters of the "can vs. should" dilemma. Compliance Officers have the responsibility, some might say luxury, to look beyond the next Q's results and think about the implications of corporate decisions that may very well be legal and even usual, but perhaps not in the best long term interest of a team, a department, the company, or even society. This is when it's most important to speak from the heart.
There you have it, a few simple ways in which courage shapes what we do and how we do it. Witnessing acts of courage or corage will always inspire.
This is why I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to dedicate these brief words to you, Dear Courage, both young and old.
May you continue to guide us faithfully through the adversity of the difficult terrain ahead and may you allow us to speak from the heart to create a better tomorrow.
Luis Canuto, Deputy Group Compliance Officer
Schindler Elevator Corp.