Trust and Compliance

Yesterday’s Carnival of Trust post got me thinking about the relationship of compliance and trust.

“Compliance lays out policies and checks to make sure you are complying with those policies. Trust, but verify, and mostly verify.”

I equate trust more with the ethics side of business: Doing what you should (or should not) do, based on principle. Compliance is focused more on things you can’t (or have to) do. Compliance is mandatory.

Trust is focused on personal interactions. Compliance is focused on corporate interactions. Ultimately, a company is made up of a network of personal interactions.  You can’t mandate trust. You can’t require trust. You have to earn trust.

Being trustworthy means more than merely complying with the rules. Rules generally set some minimum standard of conduct. Breaking the rules – being non-compliant – will usually label you as being un-trustworthy. On the other-hand, there are enough bad rules and overly strict corporate policies that sometimes being non-compliant with your internal rules will make you more trustworthy externally.

In the end, the goal of compliance and the goal of trust-building should be the same: better personal and corporate behavior. They just get there by traveling different roads.

The American business culture is increasingly moving to a rules-based regulatory environment. Hence, the growth of compliance. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s good if it will stop bad behavior. Of course, it’s always hard to figure out if you’re stopping bad behavior. If you are catching more bad actors it could be because you are getting better at identifying the bad behavior. or it could be because there is more bad behavior. If there is a decrease in catching bad actors, maybe you are just doing a worse job of catching the bad actors and not stopping the bad behavior.

It’s bad if compliance is acting as a substitute for trust-worthy, or ethical, behavior. It’s hard to envision the vast majority of rules as being anything more than minimum standards of behavior.

As a compliance professional, I need to make to sure that I focus on how compliance can promote the business goals and promote trustworthiness within the organization. Compliance professionals need to work towards making themselves trustworthy individuals.

If you can find it, that is. by Jessica Hagy in Indexed, used by permission

Twenty Dollar Image is from Wikimedia Commons. Enlargement of the 20-dollar bill. Enlargements conform with American copyright law if they show only small parts of the bill.

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