CEO of the New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership.
The overwhelming drive to shift to a compliance mindset is not an easy one for many of our employees, for all that it has been a ‘number one focus’ for almost every organisation, including schools and sports teams.
It seems the goal posts are always moving for many compliance-based decisions, so much so that you almost need a lawyer on speed dial to even change a light bulb!
Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration… but it does sometimes feel as if regulation and compliance have the upper-hand in the way we connect, make decisions and do business.
We can probably all agree that there is a place for compliance: keeping people safe, setting standards and guiding us through some tricky decisions.
The challenge is to balance compliance and innovation, to ‘think outside the square,’ solve problems and look for the new, while working under the rigor of compliance.
Over the past decade organisations have invested heavily in compliance education, to reduce the risk of hazards and ensure they meet the requirements of their insurers, as well as the Health and Safety Act.
Is this because they fear the penalties of inaction? Or are they simply motivated to do the right thing? Why are we seeing a growing number of organizsations challenged by the behaviour of their leaders?
Part of the answer lies in the timeline. Regulations and mandates began being embedded in the early nineties and as a consequence, we were set for 30 years of compliance focused leadership.
Organisations invested resources into getting their processes right and as things start to become part of ‘who we are’ and not just ‘something we do,’ we will see the need for the return of a people-leader.
Certainly the intention behind imposing a penalty is to direct certain kinds of behaviours and outcomes, but I get the sense that we have moved beyond that phase and into more progressive thinking.
In the new phase compliance is now the leveller and those who can offer more will be the successful generation.
This has nothing to do with age or gender and is simply delivered by those who are willing to innovate and take calculated risks; not the kind of risks that put lives as risk, but the kind of risks that provide opportunity.
This isn’t the era of taking shortcuts to save money or failing to understand. It is the era of technology and rapid change and both of those things require leaders who are brave enough to embrace the unknown – the very thing we have been trying to limit for the past 30 years.