Changing social norms
Transparency is at the core to combat wrong social norms.
Why do I say it takes courage? After all it is the new rule, it should be easy to speak up for it.
But it is not, because, one of our most powerful motivators is to be part of a group and to do what everyone else does. And this is made even more risky, if the person we speak up to is someone with more power, someone more senior.
you need to enable your teams to do it. And for the difficult challenge of speaking up, you need to tell, teach and encourage your team to speak up. One way to enable your teams to speak up is to teach the skill. How to speak up without offending or attacking someone, while still creating a sense of urgency and importance, can be learned. And more importantly it needs to be practiced. Trainings we offer very heavily lean on practicing to get more comfortable to actually doing it in real life. The good news is, once you start yourself and your team on this journey, you enter a virtuous circle with every step reinforcing the process:
We have now discovered, that one of the important behaviors for transparency and a strong risk & compliance culture is “speaking up”.
Are there other behaviors to create new social norms towards this goal?
Decision taking is another one
How decisions are taken, in an organization, in a team is very important for their culture – and it’s almost never spelled out, let alone discussed or agreed on. One may argue, that there is no one way, decisions should be taken, that it depends on the situation. And that is correct. Nevertheless, making it transparent, is important, because there are other things stemming from how you take decisions. Early in my career I was a project manager, fairly junior still. We were deciding how to proceed on an issue my project was part of. The COO called for a meeting with many different stakeholders, across all hierarchies. The issue was discussed back and forth with everyone, regardless how junior having an equal voice. After everyone had their say, the COO took a decision. He explained the reasoning and while the decision went against my opinion, I understood and was ok with it, because I felt every argument was heard. This COO didn’t call for a vote, the decision was his alone, and that was accepted by everyone, because of the transparency and the fairness of the process.
I have seen all kinds of decision taking throughout my career. If you can find win/win solutions and build true consensus among people, that works really well, because everyone really buy-in afterwards. But those kind of situations, are rare. More often, I have seen, people giving up, not even speaking up in the first place, decisions been taken for reasons not really understood or worse for reasons perceived as unfair and self-interested. A democratic vote has as much potential to frustrate as an autocratic decision. If you want to avoid this, there are several aspects, that are important for decision taking:
- The process how the decision is derived should be transparent!
- All the pros and cons should be heard!
- The reason for the decision needs to be understandable!
- People need to feel the decision is fair.
And how does decision taking relate back to social norms and more importantly to a strong risk & compliance culture. First of all, it is always a decision to take or not take a risk. Or to decide in the interest of the organization or in your own. Not taking a decision would be the ultimate problem, because the organization either moves to a standstill or all decisions are escalated up, which would create a bottleneck and severely slow the organization down.
Therefore, decision taking is at the core of a risk & compliance culture just as transparency is.
If you have an organizational culture, where everyone understands and aligns with the rules, e.g. acting in the customer’s best interest, and has learned how to and, more importantly, has the courage to decide, and does so transparently, you will create an organization of much greater adherence to the rules and at the same time of agility and coherence.