If you want to be a successful compliance manager, you’ll need to possess a specific set of technical skills, organizational competencies, and leadership qualities. Those traits come with years of training and hands-on experience.
There’s also a set of overlooked skills — little qualities that make a big impact in the success of a compliance manager. Those who possess these under-emphasized traits are better leaders who build more successful compliance teams.
Here are several under-prioritized skills every compliance manager should develop.
The breadth of people that compliance touches is very often overlooked. Just because of the scope of a typical security and compliance engagement, you need to talk to everybody from your C-level executives, to HR, all the way down to the folks responsible for physical security and maintenance.
You could be talking to the gearheads who maintain firewall networks one minute and your company’s attorney the next.
That breadth of personnel creates the challenge of communicating effectively to different audiences. You need to be a chameleon — able to adapt to the audience you’re speaking with.
That means talking one way to the gearheads, and another way to HR. You need the ability to shift from the depths of technical details to high-level business impact discussions with the execs.
Most people don’t come by this skill naturally. Usually they’re good at communicating with one audience or the other. But it’s a skill that can be developed and mastered over time, if you’re purposeful about it.
Change is constant in compliance, and that includes staffing turnovers. Because you’re dealing with people across your organization, you’ll probably have to collaborate with first-timers every compliance cycle.
Often, personnel don’t have extensive compliance experience. You’ll probably have to explain things multiple times as new staff come in, or as existing staff forget and need reminders.
All of that continual training and retraining requires a lot of patience. Remember that compliance isn’t their full-time job, they have other work to do as well. You’re an expert in the field because you live it every day. Others in your company only pop in as needed, so it will take several repetitions before things stick.
You’ll need to remind personnel of their deliverables and due dates — often repeatedly. This is another realm where a good dose of patience comes into play. You’ll learn over time what mode of communication works best for different team members to elicit their needed inputs and when it’s time to escalate.
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When dealing with other teams — vendors, clients, you name it — the most important element is making sure their responsibilities are being done right. That doesn’t mean making sure they’re being done your way.
In the compliance arena, there are many roads to the same destination. Most of the time, you can have a handful to a couple dozen ways to fulfill a compliance requirement. Your job isn’t to make sure it’s done the way you want, but to remain objective and make sure it’s done right.
Who cares what tool or methodology or process another team is using, as long as the results they deliver to you meet the compliance standards you’re attempting to attain?
One of the most important tools in a compliance manager’s toolbox is being organized. Having all of your information at your fingertips. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your engagement. Knowing your status at a glance.
Whatever tool you’re using to collect and store your compliance assets, the absolute best way to gather data is to use a single collection method for every piece of information — and to actually use the system you have in place.
Be very diligent about training and reinforcing the methods that you’ve established for your evidence submission process. Don’t accept email attachments, text messages, updates in the hallway or hard copies — only take files that go through the one single sanctioned channel. No exceptions.
I’ve had numerous clients come back to me after a year or two, saying, “We thought you were the biggest effing pain in the ass that we’d ever met, because you wouldn’t let us make exceptions to the system. Now that we’ve gotten through it and we’re past it, we can see the value of the rock-solid historical record from our prior tracks.”
Successful compliance managers are hard-asses on this issue, and it’s to the team’s overall benefit.
Yes, studies have proven that multitasking doesn’t work. But there’s another kind of multitasking that’s absolutely essential to successful compliance management.
It’s not uncommon to have compliance engagements with several dozen (or more) different people involved. Numerous vendors are contributing, and multiple facilities are impacted. The company may be acquiring new businesses as well.
These engagements can get monstrously complicated as you go through them. It’s critical to keep multiple balls in the air at the same. Successful compliance managers have learned how to manage several things that are going on simultaneously, without letting anything fall through the cracks.
Generally speaking, a balanced and winsome attitude is huge. I don’t mean any offense to the security and compliance people of the world, but many of them are just so dry. It takes a certain type of person to embrace compliance, and it seems to be predominantly dry people for some reason. But when you’re leading teams and interacting with people at all levels of an organization, it helps a lot to show a friendly personality.
Don’t lose yourself to the struggle. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the stress and urgency of all the stuff you’ve got to do and the deadlines you need to meet. That kind of daily pressure can drag a person down over time.
Make a discipline of taking it all in stride. Don’t take everything too personally. Find a healthy outlet — physical recreation, daily meditation, a creative hobby, social time with friends and family — whatever it is that gives you balance and perspective.
Don’t let your career stifle your humanity.
TCT was founded to serve the needs of professionals in every area of compliance and security. We’re dedicated to helping you become a more successful compliance manager. Looking for more content to help you lead an effective compliance program? Subscribe to our blog, or reach out to our team.
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