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Public trust of companies is at an all-time low. The Chief Compliance Officer position assures the public that your business is a good corporate citizen. Most effective compliance officers are proactive about rules, detail oriented, and business savvy. A good CCO makes your company more efficient, profitable and transparent. But it takes the right soft skills. Understanding the most important traits that bind together the best compliance officers will help you hire the best CCO.

1. Superb written and oral communication skills

Your CCO will partner with the board, auditors, regulators, and even the public. So that CCO must understand the audience and communicate in their own language. Each conversation may involve the same factual background. But the language used with those groups is different. A CCO must navigate those nuances with confidence.

Your CCO should also translate the regulations into everyday phrasing for employees that is neither too specific nor too general. This requires the balance of a communicator with skill. A talented CCO will see the risk associated with a matter and write policy that is easy to remember. A CCO will need to make difficult decisions that communicate the tone for the company’s integrity. This requires not just intestinal fortitude, but excellent communication of those critical decisions.

2. Rule enforcer with respect for others

A CCO is the top cop of the organization. His obligation is to enforce the rules even if it compromises his deepest relationships. The best results happen when a compliance officer speaks softly, listens without interruption, and speaks bluntly. Treating everyone as a suspect is counterproductive. Focusing on empathy builds trust with others. Hamilton Lindley, a compliance manager with Neighborly Brands says that, “Being kind to others informs me about the pulse of the company. When discipline comes, I fashion a solution that follows the rules while treating the person with respect. That creates a culture where people continue to come forward with situations before they become real problems. They know that the rules will be enforced with fairness. ” A good CCO puts people first with the courage to speak uncomfortable truths that others avoid.

3. Strategic thinker and team player

Clear regulatory violations are found by competent CCOs. But it is the hard-to-see violation—that unintended improper consequence of an originally proper act—which is the problem that talented CCOs create systems to avoid.

A good CCO exercises caution in pursuit of a goal. A bad compliance division is viewed as The Department of No. It is easy to find a reason to not do something. But the talented CCO works to find solutions without giving up her role as the company’s chief of police. Your CCO must find flexible ways to achieve your company’s goals by adjusting the businesses plans to prevent regulatory problems in the future. A good CCO will change tactics depending on the circumstances.

4. Apply equal treatment under the rules

Although an entry-level worker can undermine the company’s business, it is usually the person with more power that causes larger problems. A good CCO understands his obligation is to the shareholders and the company, not the individual managing the company now. A CCO “must think long term for the company’s interests, not short term for individual gain,” Hamilton Lindley said.

5. Constant changing with best practices

A good CCO will adapt to a changing regulatory environment while keeping the values and ethical integrity of the company. This means implementing technology that appropriately tracks a company’s operations. When faced with an emergency, a talented CCO will balance optimism with realism. A CCO will stay in front of best practices by networking with other compliance officers about enforcement trends.

Bringing it Home
CCOs must have character beyond reproach, deep knowledge of the rules, and the right soft skills to be an effective leader for your organization. A leader like a CCO will effectively develop a program that moves others to act in an ethical way. And empowering a CCO will lead to a better long term future for your company.

For more information, please visit or read Hamilton Lindley’s blog at
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