What happens when a Compliance Officer gets out from behind his desk

An amazing trip lies behind me and my head is still spinning a little from the many different impressions of my “Tour de Turquie – 5 cities in 5 days” which I did in the last week of July.

Having recently kicked-off our Ethics & Compliance „Samurai“ group of Field Force Champions, my purpose was to give this project a little “shove” to get it started better. So I planned to visit a few Samurai in their cities throughout Turkey and have an informal meeting with them and their colleagues.

The objectives of the meetings were mainly for me to introduce the Samurai as local first point of contact and to have them explain the new program; and most importantly to listen and better understand the daily reality of the colleagues from the field – how our culture journey and ongoing organizational transformation affected them; and overall show them I as their Compliance Officer really cared about them, that their problems and feelings matter to me and that I am there for them to listen, understand, and then support and help; in other words: to serve them.

In our annual Ethical Climate Survey had conducted 2 months prior to my trip, we saw some interesting results regarding “perceived pressure“, “trust in colleagues”, “trust in direct manager”, “perceived possibility to achieve one’s objectives by sticking to the rules” and “comfort raising concerns about the way we work or about a decision by direct manager without fear of any retaliation”.

I should mention that the survey results were overall quite positive, but there were some areas with a high variability of answers – ranging from very good to very bad – and with percentages of negative answers that were higher than I wanted them and this gave me some concern, so I wanted to understand it more deeply.

So I took these meetings as an opportunity to ask our colleagues directly (mostly without first line managers present) to achieve a better understanding of the daily reality behind their answers given in the survey.

I covered a distance of some 5.100 km on this trip, starting off from Istanbul to Sanliurfa on Monday, continuing via a stop in Ankara on Tuesday to Samsun on Wednesday, Adana on Thursday and finally Kayseri on Friday.

I was surprised by the warm and cordial reception in all locations. I was really touched and derived a lot of energy from this.

The colleagues were truly happy and said they had never or only rarely before had the experience that someone from the headquarters (even a executive committee member) came to see them and genuinely cared about them, their personal work/life realities, feelings and ideas. As I said, this was highly motivating for me and gave me a lot of energy which I truly needed: The meetings took several hours, the longest lasted 4 hours.

Intensive conversations, all in Turkish of course, and accounts of the daily reality of pharma sales representatives in Turkey. After the meetings, I continued with some ad hoc informal one on one meetings with my Samurai, a first line manager or a local rep.

I took notes as best I could during the meetings and afterwards. Some common themes emerged which I am now digesting a little more by organizing my notes and will then reflect with members of the country leadership team back in Istanbul at the headquarters.

Some opportunities for immediate action also popped up in the talks and I started initiating some actions right away during the travel week, connecting the right people to get a definitive answer to a question, straightening out some misunderstandings. Some other quick wins I discussed with my team upon my return and took note of addressing and communicating back to the field right in the week after my visits.

For me it was an amazing experience. I was almost sorry when the week was over, even though it was physically and mentally exhausting. I took home with me a treasure trove of insight, inspiration, ideas for future projects, personal motivation and a deep sense of satisfaction.

I also was proud of my Samurai, the way they had organized the city meetings, helped me moderate the sessions, how they employed the insights from our initial Samurai training – and how they kept referring to me as their “Sensei” also in front of their colleagues.

I definitely will to continue my visit program doing maybe one such visit per month, in particular to smaller, remote places where we normally don’t go so much.

And in the headquarters I will get up from behind my desk more, reduce communications by email to people in the same building even more and try to build a daily habit of “wandering around” on the open plan office floor one level below mine, where the “business colleagues” are, and directly engaging with other managers and associates on a daily basis.

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