FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

January 20, 2014

Lessons from a Soccer Manager for the Compliance Practitioner

Soccer BallCompliance leadership can take many forms and inspiration can come from many different sources. I was reminded of this when I read an article in this past weekend’s Financial Times (FT), entitled “How I coach Ronaldo and other secrets”, by Simon Kuper who wrote the piece based upon his interview of Real Madrid manager, Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti grew up professionally playing in Italy’s Seria A, the top league in that soccer-crazed country. So he brings a player perspective to his job. He also rose in the soccer coaching ranks, with stops at Juventus and AC Milan in Italy; then Chelsea in England; followed by Paris Saint-Germain in France before taking over the reins at Real Madrid in Spain. So he has been both a practitioner and an executive. I found some of his thoughts on coaching very insightful for the compliance practitioner.

Coaching a Multi-National Team – Translating Your Compliance Program into Native Languages

While at AC Milan, Ancelotti coached a wide number of different nationalities so being able to communicate with them was critical. This was important when coaching in Italy but Ancelotti found it much more difficult when he moved to England to take over as the manager for Chelsea. He said the hardest part of the communication piece was how “to show emotion”. As any compliance practitioner for an international business concern recognizes, communicating in a multiplicity of languages is a paramount skill.

This is an area that is receiving increasing attention from the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a component of a best practices compliance program. In the FCPA Guidance, under the Ten Hallmarks of an Effective Compliance Program, it intones that a company’s Code of Conduct and it’s compliance policies need to be clear and concise. However, equally noted is that the Guidance makes clear that if a company has a large employee base that is not fluent in English such documents need to be translated into the native language of those employees.

Trusting Your Players – Getting Buy-In For Your Compliance Program

While managing Chelsea, before the 2010 FC Cup final against Portsmouth, “Ancelotti did something unusual: after naming the starting 11, he asked them to decide the match strategy themselves.” He recalls: “Everyone said one thing. For example, [goalkeeper Petr] Cech said, ‘You have to control the space behind, to avoid the counter-attack.’ That season we played 60 games, and 60 times I made the strategy. So I think the players understood very well what they had to do.” When asked why he would try something so risky before such an important match, Ancelotti responded, “I was sure the players followed the strategy, because they made the strategy. Sometimes I make the strategy, but you don’t know if the players really understand.” His tactic worked and Chelsea beat Portsmouth 1-0 to complete the rare double of winning the English Premier League and the FA Cup.

What Ancelotti had hit upon was engaging his players. You should view every interaction as an opportunity to tap into the expertise of your workforce. This requires you to let employees say what they think. One of the first (and most insistent) questions you will face as a compliance practitioner is explaining how and why the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) applies to a country and culture far from the United States. Another related question is often along the lines of the endemic corruption in a country and how the business unit personnel cannot do business any other way. Let your co-workers express these thought and sentiments and then explain why the law(s) applies and how they can do business going forward. The business unit will usually have a solution to these problems and if you can get them to engage with you, it may well be a solution for you and the company. My experience is that they will generally have the correct response for you, even if they do not understand the nuances of the FCPA, UK Bribery Act or other anti-corruption law. But if you can have the employees understand that it is there program, you will have greater buy-in and greater participation in your compliance regime.

Managing from the Ground Up – Thoughts on Building a Compliance Program

After his stint at Chelsea, Ancelotti moved on to Paris Saint-Germain in France. Here he found a different set of challenges. The first was dedication to the program and lack of professionalism. As Ancelotti explained, “The problem of the English player – sometimes it’s difficult for them to understand that they don’t have to work 100 per cent in training. There are some training sessions where it’s important not to work 100 per cent. The French don’t understand why they have to work 100 per cent every day.” This attitude was acerbated by factionalism; the team was made up of ethnic factions. Ancelotti said, “We had the South Americans, the French, the Italians,” and “The relationship is not easy. The South Americans like to play with each other. The Italians the same. The players were not used to having a winning mentality.” Simply put, he had to change the attitude of the players.

How can you begin this process in a compliance regime? Writing in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) authors Linda Hill and Kent Linebeck, in an article entitled “Are You A Good Boss or a Great One”, said that leadership had three imperatives, which are to (1) Manage Yourself; (2) Manage Your Network; and (3) Manage Your Team. These three imperatives provide a good framework for the compliance practitioner.

Most employees ask the question “Can I trust this person?” Leadership results, in large part, by the answer to this question. Trust has two components; the first is that the leader has confidence in his or her own competence; and the second is that employees have trust in the manager’s character. This means that your motives are good and that you want people to do well. If these characteristics are present a manager should be able to influence others.

Next building key relationships throughout an organization leads to the road for success. This means nurturing a broad network of company employees who can influence specific areas and the departments within a company. As scarce resources must be reckoned with on any project, the person who can show the interdependence of seemingly disparate groups, which may have conflicting goals and priorities, is the manager who achieves the most. This relationship building can be a key way to influence others within an organization over which a manager does not have direct control.

Lastly, managing a team is a different dynamic than managing one-on-one. If a manager can influence a team, they have a greater chance of success as employees tend to be more creative and productive when working in groups. Accountability to other team members and a genuine conviction that they are all in it together can lead to a group coalescing into a team. The culture of any team is important: values, standards and norms guide employees in what is expected of them. Attention must be paid to all team members and recognition for individual efforts within the team can bring greater effectiveness as well.

To be a great compliance leader, the compliance professional must use all of these techniques. To achieve many compliance goals within a company requires a manager to exert a great amount of influence. The techniques set out by the authors provide direct tools for the compliance professional to utilize in this task. Managing employees within any compliance department is the first step. A compliance professional must reach out across an organization to all groups and departments to develop relationships, which can be used in furthering a company’s compliance goals. A compelling team creates the foundation of this strong network and a strong network will allow your compliance team a path to achieve its goals within the company. But knowing where you are going is only half of the journey. The authors end with the admonition that “you need to know at all times where you are on the journey and what you must do to make progress.”

Obviously Ancelotti has been successful at many different stops in his career. Some of the tips that Kuper wrote about in this article can be useful for the compliance practitioner dealing with a diverse multi-national employee base.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2014

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