How to get genuine cooperation from difficult people

I was the agent on duty, and the woman in front of me was livid. She accused the FBI of harassment and invasion of privacy. As the duty agent, it was my responsibility to listen to her claims and determine whether they had merit.

It quickly became evident that she worked for an individual who had been indicted for money laundering and racketeering. So yes, the FBI had interviewed lots of people to get a better idea of who else might be involved. As one of those interviewed, she was determined to battle it out with me and accused the FBI of overstepping its boundaries.

FBI agents are seldom described as warm and fluffy, but neither are they the snarky, shoot-from-the-hip investigators often depicted on TV and in the movies. The reason is simple: Their goal is to calm down a person to the point where they not only see reason, but also agree to cooperate with an FBI investigation.

Sun Tzu wrote in “The Art of War” about how to win battles without a fight. Many of those strategies could also be applied to modern day life.

You may never cross paths with a criminal or engage in warfare. As entrepreneurs, business owners, or leaders, however, you willl encounter difficult clients, customers, and team members from whom you will need cooperation to do your job.

Here is how to get genuine cooperation from difficult people.

1. Remember, our first reaction is to not collaborate

Success in most jobs today requires the ability to develop strong collaborative ties with others. Kare Anderson shares a potent reminder in this quote: “Speak sooner to a strong sweet spot of shared interest to strengthen friendship and generate more opportunities.”

The key word is “sooner,” and here is why: Our emotional limbic brain system is survival-driven. Its sole purpose is to keep us safe, so it warns of us potential threats in our environment. Its first reaction to the unknown or the uninvited that shows up in our life is to run away!

Obviously, not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety, but the limbic brain system does not know that. Furthermore, it doesn’t differentiate between events and people. In the absence of positive information about an individual you meet, the limbic brain system warns you to distrust that person. This happens subconsciously, before you have time to think about it.

How to make it work for you:

  • Move quickly when you want to get difficult people to cooperate with you so you can alleviate their innate instinct to react negatively.
  • Don’t attack someone else’s idea, as doing so puts them into a fight-or-flight mindset. Remember the advice of Sun Tzu -- break down the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
  • Start off friendly. When you make your point in a friendly manner, you disarm them. It also keeps them from going for a defensive stance or position.
  • Show respect. Make an effort to respect the other person’s point of view, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to you

2. Control facial responses

The way the brain connects and relates to others is through a series of mirror neurons that light up when we see others perform an action that has specific intent behind it. For example, when we see someone smile in delight, our mirror neurons light up, too, and we smile back. Our brain likes to share the emotion of the person in front of us.

This is why facial expressions are so important when we want to get cooperation with difficult people. When we see someone experience an emotion, it activates the same circuits in our brain.

How to make it work for you: Control your facial expressions so you only show a positive response to the other person. Their mirror neurons will register your emotion, and their automatic brain response will not be to move away from you.

Remember, the flight emotional response is always the easiest to arouse, so be careful in what you say and how you say it if you want the other person to cooperate with you.

3. Share personal stories

Another way to activate mirror neurons and deepen connections is to share your personal story. People who have good social connections can plan, think and regulate emotions better than others.

When we tell the stories that have shaped the way we think, those stories can have the same effect on those who hear them. According to Uri Hasson, the brain of the person who tells a story can synchronize with the brain of the person who listens to it. The thinking part of the brain is activated as well as the emotional part of the brain.

This is how we can plant ideas, thoughts and emotions in the brain of the listener. When our stories resonate with another person, our brains become aligned. The fact that we’ve been able to share a common meaning (through the story) makes it easier to communicate on other issues. Hasson’s research further indicates that communication is even more successful if it is a dialogue rather than a one-way stream of information.

How to make it work for you: Your story will have more impact if you can convey how an  incident or decision has influenced your life or goals. Describe a challenge you faced, explain why you made the choice you did, describe the outcome and share a lesson you learned from the experience. Wrap it up and invite the listener in by adding something like, “I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself at a crossroads like this ...”

4. Refuse to let it escalate

In his book "The Political Brain," Drew Westen writes that when people see or hear information that conflicts with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic go dormant. And the parts of the brain that regulate hostile attacks light up.

When an argument starts, logic stops. Therefore, persuasion stops. It devolves into a fight, and that brings another emotion to the situation. At this point, no one cares who is right or wrong, and that is a sure way to fail.

How to make it work for you: Back up your assertions with data. If you want to be taken seriously, use information that has credibility and is backed by research.

You can disarm a potential argument or disagreement by simply saying, “You’re right.” This immediately neutralizes the situation by showing respect for the other person’s point of view, even if it does not coincide with your own. Once the other individual is disarmed, you can follow up with something like, “I see how you feel (or think), but here is another way to look at the situation…”

5. Appeal to higher moral ground

I took the higher moral ground with the irate woman in the FBI interview room. I agreed that it was unpleasant to have the FBI snoop around and ask questions about her. But, once I explained the higher logic of how the FBI had tried to identify accomplices involved in her boss’s racketeering scheme, she agreed that only if we interviewed people “in the know” would law enforcement be able to gather the evidence needed.

I appealed to a higher moral ground when I explained how the FBI followed the rule of the law to protect American citizens. She eventually became an FBI informant!

I have found that mental toughness often has less to do with being tough than with being emotionally savvy about what is going on in the brains of those around me.

How to make it work for you: Try to appeal to worthy motives or universal truths that are hard to dispute. If you can appeal to a "service above self" motive, it provides the listener with an inner satisfaction. Determine if the difficult person is motivated by achievement, affiliation or power. People who are achievement-oriented like to work on concrete tasks where excellence is valued. Those who are affiliation-oriented want to work in groups. Finally, power-motivated people prefer to be in charge and need personal recognition.


LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. Quy is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.

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Artificial Intelligence Can Help Leaders Make Better Decisions Faster

Listening to your gut will be much safer if you also listen to the machine crunching the data.

Selling ideas when you’re the new leader on the block

Imagine this scenario: About two months ago, you landed a new gig as a leader at a respected company. You’ve done all the right things to set yourself up for success by priming the pump with these activities before Day One on the job. For the first month, you listened, networked, took copious notes and asked lots of questions.

And wow, there are so many opportunity for improvement; the list of ideas is a mile long! It’s exciting, and you’re ready to start making some changes.

Hold up there, partner. Although your enthusiasm is admirable, take a momentary pause. Before you start pitching ideas for change, know this: if you go about it the wrong way, you’ll get the cold shoulder. Worse, you might earn a reputation for not understanding the company’s culture, which could have long-lasting implications for your success.

Selling ideas when you’re the new leader on the block takes a strategic mindset, which can get overlooked in the rush of excitement or pressure to produce immediate results. Here are five things to consider to help make your case more persuasively:

Patience is a virtue

This is especially true if you’re a leader of leaders, because you have multiple constituencies to nurture and communicate with. New ideas that require a deviation from the status quo require patience, observes a senior manager with Kelly Services in this article about stepping up to senior management. “Everybody is in a different part of the journey to incorporate the change,” she notes, so it’s important to curb your enthusiasm. Even if you’re ready to roll, others most likely are not.

Don’t blow things up just yet

tSome leaders are brought in to “shake things up” and they take that advice to heart. The only problem is, sometimes they shake so hard that people are concussed. Although it might be that the entire corporate ecosystem needs a reboot, people in the trenches (as well as your middle management team, who will be your allies in communicating change) need time to adjust. Look around and decide if you need to wait or go into immediate triage mode.

Determine what the culture will support

No matter how great your solution is, some cultures simply won’t support it. When selling your idea, “find where the culture works in your favor,” advises leadership coach Eric Hicks, who held senior management positions at Cigna and JPMorgan Chase before starting his coaching consultancy. He admits to learning this the hard way. “You are not really likely to implement programs or ideas that are significantly counter to culture in your first 90 days,” he says. And it doesn’t help to say, “at my previous employer, this worked well,” he notes. If anything, that signals the kiss of death for an idea.

Take a page from marketers

Savvy communicators know that it takes time for people to gain comfort with new ideas. If your idea is radical, make it seem more familiar by pairing it with something that audience already understands. This concept, coined “MAYA” by industrial designer Raymond Loewy, stands for "Most Advanced Yet Acceptable." For example, when online eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker was in its startup phase, it had to overcome the objection of how people would get fitted for eyewear online. The company was dubbed the “Netflix of Eyewear.” Pair your idea with something that people can relate to, and it will gain traction more quickly.

Co-create with others

This final idea is less about sales and more about enlisting others. “You need to really take some time to understand the nuances of the culture” before you pitch ideas,” says Hicks. People will support that which they help to create. Rather than “sell” people on a solution, look for ways to draw people into your idea and work with them to co-create a solution that all will support.

It’s understandable that a leaders who’s new to the job wants to make an immediate and positive impact. Before you make any big moves, be sure you’ve taken the time to ensure that the company’s culture, along with your key constituencies, are on board with your ideas. Patience, collaboration and savvy marketing will go a long way to paving the road to success for new ideas you wish to implement.


Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

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3 leadership fads that undermine your success

We’re barraged daily by tips and tricks about how to improve our performance – how to hack our sleep, better manage our boss or be our most authentic selves. If we could follow all of that advice we’d become fully engaged, highly motivated, star performers. Unless, of course, some of that advice is actually wrong.

Let’s face it -- we’re uncritical consumers of information. We accept that the news in our Facebook feed is accurate. We believe that Gwyneth Paltrow offers dependable health care insights. So, it’s no surprise that we embrace reasonable-sounding ideas about how to improve our work performance, especially if they’re advanced by people with Ph.D. after their names. 

Unfortunately, some of the best-selling books and most-promoted advice on performance are more likely to waste your time than boost your success. This includes three fads that you may know well: focus on your strengths, be an authentic leader and strike a power pose. Here’s what those fads claim and what to do instead:

Please don't focus on your strengths

There have been millions of books sold that suggest you’ll be more successful if you focus on what you’re good at or hope to be good at. The advocates of that approach call those your “strengths.

The concept that you should focus on your strengths seems like a wonderful recipe to be happy at work. You don’t have to confront any hard truths about what’s holding you back or risk failure by trying something new.

However, there’s absolutely no independent scientific proof that people who focus on their strengths perform at a higher level or develop faster than those who don’t.

 On the other hand, there is research that shows: (1) we have to change our behaviors to be successful as we move up in an organization, so today’s strengths may be irrelevant tomorrow; (2) we each have fewer strengths than we think we do (if we define a strength as being meaningfully better at something than others); and (3) our weaknesses will slow or stop our career progress.

Focusing on your strengths will help you be better at the exact same things you’re good at today, but won’t help you be good at anything else.

What to do instead: Your strengths are your strengths because of your intelligence, personality and career path -- they’ll never stop being your strengths. If you keep turning up the dial on them, they can actually hurt your performance. You may be seen as a “one trick pony.” You may show the less attractive extremes of that strength (i.e. the insightful observer who becomes the cynical critic). Rather than focusing on your strengths, ask the most successful people you know which skills and behaviors you need to move to the next level or big experience. They’ll be happy to identify a few non-strengths for you to focus on.

Authentically bad advice

 It seems difficult to argue against being an “authentic” leader if the alternative is to be an “inauthentic” leader. Maybe that challenge is what has allowed this idea to gain traction among leaders and consultants. The concept started with the best-selling book "Authentic Leadership," which stated that more authentic leaders -- open, self-aware, genuine -- were needed to bring the country forward.

Yet, leading academics at Stanford, INSEAD, and Wharton business schools have attacked the concept, and the science suggests that great leaders actually change their behavior and style to meet the needs of the moment. That means that always being the authentic you could hurt your performance more than help it.

Authenticity is often used as an excuse, as in, “I can’t change; that’s just who I am.” That sentiment is laughably false because we each control our behaviors. Other times, it’s the domain of leaders whose egos drive them to show the world how special they are.

What to do instead: It’s certainly helpful to understand the authentic you but your success depends on understanding the “you” that others need to see. Your style has to match the changing needs of your audience in order for you to successfully manage or communicate. In tough times, they may need to see a more compassionate “you.” When someone’s not performing well, they may need to see a more demanding “you.” That means that the authentic you might not get to come through every time. That’s fine. Science says that we can easily fake behaviors and that people believe those fake behaviors are genuine.

Remember that being a great leader or colleague isn’t about you; it’s about others. Forget authentic. Be the person that others need to see.

Take a stand (just not that one)

Launched like so many leadership fads, with a scientific paper and a popular TED talk, power posing comes from research that showed a boost of testosterone occurs when you stand in more aggressive postures. The authors claimed that, “High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.” In other words, if you just stand the right way, you’ll feel ready to take on the world.

That sounds cool, but it’s 100% untrue, according to one of the article’s co-authors, who later came clean about the experiment, and to other scientists who tried and failed to replicate the original research. That hasn’t stopped more than 48 million people from viewing the TED talk, or the power- posing concept from seeping into the category of urban legends.

What to do instead: Just stand any way you want to -- it really doesn’t matter.

There’s only so much time you can devote to being successful at work, so stop wasting that time on unproven leadership fads. Be a critical consumer and realize that management advice that sounds too easy to be true, very likely is. There are no shortcuts to success, just hard work and determination. 


Marc Effron is author of "8 Steps to High Performance: Focus on What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest), published by Harvard Business Review (August 2018). Effron founded and leads The Talent Strategy Group and consults globally to the world’s largest and most successful corporations. He co-founded the Talent Management Institute and created and publishes Talent Quarterly magazine. His prior corporate experience includes senior talent management roles at Bank of America and Avon Products. His prior consulting experience includes starting and leading the Global Leadership Consulting practice at Hewitt Associates.

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How much impact can you have?

Generating impact through better management is integral to organizational success.

Here are three questions to evaluate your impact.

  1. How are you making things better for people? Put simply, if you cannot manage, you cannot lead. Effective managers set clear goals and help people achieve them. They stand ready to support and to evaluate for results.
  2. How are you making things better for the organization? Alignment with strategic intentions is essential to managerial effectiveness. When a department is not in alignment, it gets crosswise with the larger organization.
  3. How can you continue to expand your impact? This question gets to the heart of what you can do to improve your ability to manage yourself. Are you keeping abreast professionally?

As a manager, you have influence over others. How you employ that influence creates impact.

Your leadership depends upon your ability to manage well, including bringing out the best in people on your team.

What you do matters to people as well as to the organizations they serve.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Global Gurus ranked him No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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Simple productivity hacks to immediately improve your effectiveness

Perhaps you find yourself continually challenged to meet escalating expectations and "do more with less." Or maybe you aspire to a life centered around a three-day or 25-hour work week. Or, you may just feel like you’re slogging through each day, accomplishing less than what’s possible and desirable.

If you’re like most Americans, you want to be more productive. In fact, research conducted by suggests 80% of us want to be more effective -- and even identified the dynamic of "efficiency envy" in one of three subjects who admitted that efficient people make them jealous. Productivity advice abounds in the form of books, courses, podcasts and more.

But, let’s face it: Long-held habits are hard to change, especially given the stress and speed of business. What’s necessary are straightforward, doable strategies that simplify your day and transform potential into productive outputs. Strategies like:

Buy into your biorhythm

Much of the advice about productivity centers on when to do what. Whether it’s eating "frogs and veggies" first to make the rest of the day easier, stepping away at noon no matter what or leaving mindless tasks for late in the day, these are generic suggestions that may or may not meet an individual’s unique needs.

Instead, carefully evaluate your personal energy system. When are you clearest, quickest, most curious, less energized? Lean into your biorhythm and leverage your own personal highs and lows to construct a schedule that aligns activities with the energy you’re capable of deploying at any given time.

Diminish decision-making

Decision-making is central to many workplace roles. It’s also a highly demanding activity that requires considerable mental energy and can compromise productivity. As a result, it’s critical to preserve cognitive resources for the decisions that directly drive outcomes and results. This means reducing the volume of less valuable or impactful decision making. (Think Steve Jobs’ uniform, where no unnecessary mental processes were deployed on wardrobe choices.)

Beyond pre-planning what to wear, consider pre-planning your day the night before. Spend a few minutes to flesh out your calendar beyond pre-arranged meetings to include the actual work you’ll do, hour by hour. Schedule in specific time to address email, respond to phone calls and even work through projects and stress over problems. Then, don’t think about it again. Trust your previous night’s self and obediently follow your plan. You’ll be amazed at the mental resources that are freed up for higher value work.

Master mono-tasking

Multitasking has been proven to be a fantasy. The brain is incapable of doing two things at one time; it’s simply switching very quickly among tasks. And when the tasks are cognitive in nature, multitasking actually results in outputs reflective of a lower IQ. But, in today’s technology-flooded, distraction-inducing environment, focusing on just one thing at a time can be among our greatest challenges. A few easy behaviors that might help include:

  • Setting a timer for 25 minutes, making a deal with yourself that you’ll stay on task just for that period of time. Then, take a break.
  • Silence all notifications. The pings and dings are seductive distractions that fool us into feeling like we’re accomplishing something.
  • Hide your inbox. An onslaught of new messages can trigger a threat response. Living out of our inboxes can trick us into feeling virtuous and highly customer-focused. But, in reality, we’re simply enjoying the short-term gratification of checking something easy or urgent off the list at the expense of addressing more important issues.

Catch your breath

An oxygen break may be even more effective than coffee to improve your productivity. Pausing each hour for just a minute or two to take five or six deep, cleansing breaths nourishes the brain, energizes the body, settles the nervous system and offers a reset for the next phase of work to be done.

Sit strategically

Perhaps our school teachers had it right when they placed students in specific spots around the classroom. Recent research suggests that seating productive workers near others who tend toward quality versus quantity can boost organizational performance by as much as 15%. So, considering who you associate with and making a simple move toward high-performing hard workers might be your best productivity strategy.

Reflect, recognize, refine

And finally, conclude each day with intentional reflection. Create a ‘done’ list before crafting tomorrow’s ‘do’ list. This offers multiple benefits. It allows you to evaluate your results, determine what’s working and what’s not, and recalibrate your efforts. But, equally importantly, it provides a chance to celebrate what’s been accomplished.

And even if you haven’t yet reached the finish line, you can soak up the effects of your progress, which Theresa Amabile of Harvard has found to unlock motivation, engagement and satisfaction at work.


Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazines top 100 leadership speakers, Julie is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller, “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” a respected speaker on a variety of topics, and a regular contributor to many business publications.

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3 Ways Leadership Has Kept Best Buy Standing Tall While Its Competitors Fell

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from how Best Buy rebounded after nearly closing its doors during the 2008 recession.

How to build workplace symmetry and win

"To any action there is always an opposite and equal reaction." ~ Newton's Third Law of Motion

On Oct. 12, 2000, the USS Cole was attacked while refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 more were injured. It was the deadliest attack against a US naval vessel in over a decade. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.

Though the horrors of 9/11 were still 11 months away, the US was now in an asymmetrical war. The new kind of struggle, which pits nations or groups with disparate military capabilities and strategies against each other and features such irregular tactics as counterinsurgency and terrorism, would force the Pentagon to rewrite its rules of engagement after decades of following a playbook driven by World War II and the Cold War.

(Though the Vietnam War had changed the rules of engagement decades earlier, the US had not truly adapted. When it led the attack against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, it was all fire and brimstone. In contrast, the 2000s struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a full array of stealth and counterinsurgency techniques.)

Though the battlefield is far from the ideal workplace metaphor, the sad truth is that many employees come to work each day feeling embattled.

There certainly exists unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety, with more than half of workers of the opinion that their bosses do not care enough about their need for work-life balance. Add that to an increased workload and a feeling that many have about having no say in decision making, and there’s no wonder that the sabotaging employee has become a growing concern to bosses.  

What do bosses do to engender such angst and ill will?

Let’s return to our military analogy. Some bosses act like they’re the biggest vessel in the water. They think that the power invested in their title gives them the right and even imperative to act authoritatively. This leads them to fall out of touch with their people as well as with market realities. When employing conventional, traditional top-down management tactics, they fail to tap into their people’s true talents, while muffling creativity and driving down engagement. They become infatuated with a particular way of doing business and lose the dexterity needed to adjust and win in a highly competitive, ever-changing market.

For leaders to succeed and bring out the best that their people have to offer, they have to be able to engage on multiple levels. Sure, they still need to maintain a level of authority and provide the “eye in the sky”, visionary guidance that sees beyond the moment and drives ingenuity. But they also must find ways to proactively create positive, “hand to hand”, ground level engagement with their people that produces winning results.

Here are some strategies that can help bosses win in any situation:

  1. Communicate often. In “The Red Circle,” co-author and former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb contrasts two ships to which he was stationed during training. One, where the captain rarely communicated with his soldiers, ranked poorly and suffered from low morale. The other, which featured regular messaging from the captain with clear, directive communications, was of the Navy’s best. Her men would run through a brick wall for their captain.
  2. Get connected. Strong leaders find ways to connect with their people. They build strong relationships, which encourages their people to come to them with concerns, knowing that the feedback that they share will be valued and possibly acted upon.
  3. Listen well. To succeed in today’s business world, leaders must be proactive, skilled listeners. Leaders who make themselves accessible for conversation and listen regularly are well informed of the goings on in their workplaces. They better understand others’ opinions and attitudes and are able to take this information into consideration when making decisions. Read more about developing listening skills.
  4. Build trust. Trust sits at the core of all relationships. One way that leaders can help to increase trust and reduce the defensive posturing that is all too often found in today’s organizations is to create a culture that encourages risk-taking. Risks are easier to take when there is less at stake. If I err in good faith and am encouraged to try again, odds are that I will. If I offer my opinion at a team meeting and my views are respected regardless of their ultimate acceptance, then I will likelier pipe up the next time. Learn more about trust building.
  5. Simplify decision-making. Empower your people to make decisions and fix problems. Give them ways by which to cut through any bureaucracy to share ideas and alert higher-ups to potential threats.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new e-book, “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing.”

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Compliance is good, but not enough

“We’ve got this,” you say to yourself. “Our organization has a robust compliance program. We can point to a myriad of ways that we have adhered to all the expected requirements. We’ve dedicated ample resources, and we have implemented a host of internal controls and program initiatives. If ever we have to defend our efforts to uphold a standard of conduct, we’ve done the best that we can do.”

But have you really?

Unfortunately, one need only look at some of the headlines today about organizations facing scandal -- senior executives stepping out of line; corruption; conflicts of interest; fraud.

In a number of instances, the companies that have found themselves embroiled in controversy have also had robust compliance programs in place. Some of them even had award-winning programs. So it begs the question: Is it worth the effort?

The truth is that if you have implemented a comprehensive compliance program in your organization, you have done a very good thing. Every effort by an organization to encourage appropriate business conduct makes a difference. You are not wasting time or resources.

But that said, according to findings from the latest Global Business Ethics Survey, when it comes to the actual impact of an ethics and compliance program, if all you have done is to focus on compliance, you have not done enough.

The bottom line is this: There is a big difference between an organization with a robust compliance program (a minimum standard program), and an organization that has taken steps to implement a “high-quality E&C program.” The difference is evident in the buy-in of leadership and the breadth of the program. It is also evident in its impact. Organizations that have implemented high quality E&C programs significantly outperform compliance programs in reducing risk, as well as in preventing and detecting wrongdoing.

According to the June 2018 Global Business Ethics Survey, a longitudinal study of employees in for-profit organizations, there is evidence that a high-quality program is more likely to have a favorable effect on employee behavior than a minimum-standard compliance program. For example, employees in an organization with a HQP are:

  • Twice as likely to report suspected wrongdoing to management;
  • Four times more likely to express satisfaction with their company’s response to their report of wrongdoing; and
  • More than four times likely to say that they work in a strong ethical culture.

What makes an E&C effort an HQP? HQPs are based on a shared set of business principles and objectives that are recognized and embraced throughout an organization. The way they are framed may vary, but as one example, leaders in an HQP say that:

  • E&C is central to business strategy;
  • Risks are identified, owned, managed and mitigated;
  • Leaders at all levels build and sustain a culture of integrity;
  • The organization encourages, protects and values the reporting of suspected wrongdoing; and
  • The organization acts and holds itself accountable when wrongdoing occurs.

It is these types of principles that, when implemented throughout an organization, aid in the development and maintenance of a strong ethical culture. And the stronger the culture, the lower the risk of noncompliance. For example, in organizations with strong cultures, employees are:

  • 38% less likely to observe Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations;
  • 76% less likely to observe False Claims Act violations; and
  • 65% less likely to observe other white-collar criminal activity.

Results like these cannot be attained in an organization with a minimum-standard program. Taken together, the business world cannot profess a strong commitment to integrity, then implement minimum-standard compliance programs and expect exceptional results. If corporations today want to remain resolute in their commitment to integrity, the quality of their E&C efforts must improve.

A comprehensive description of a high-quality E&C program, with supporting business objectives, is available to the public..


Patricia Harned is CEO of the Ethics & Compliance Initiative. The mission of the ECI is to empower organizations to build and sustain high quality ethics & compliance programs. The ECI is an alliance of three nonprofit organizations: the Ethics Research Center, the Ethics & Compliance Association and the Ethics & Compliance Certification Institute. Harned has been featured in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today and CNN, and has been a guest on Federal News Radio and the “Diane Rehm Show.” She was selected by Ethisphere Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics in 2014 and 2015, and was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior in both 2010 and 2011 by the nonprofit organization Trust Across America.

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