Effective compliance: Influencing the Board

Effective compliance: Influencing the Board

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Barriers and obstacles put in place by the C-suite can make even the best thought out compliance programme difficult to deliver.

But for general counsel, working out how to influence the board, both in terms of gaining true buy-in and making senior directors aware of the consequences of not backing a compliance programme, is often one of the hardest challenges they face.

At the Legal Leaders General Counsel Forum conference in May, in which LexisNexis was the headline partner, attendees discussed their successes and failures in influencing the board, resulting in some valuable best practice tips on the approaches that are most likely to win favour.

Know your business

Aligning your advice to the identity of the company, its strategy and vision is key. Compliance policies need to mirror company values, threats and challenges; for example, if competition law and cartels present a threat, the board particularly need to be prepared for dawn raids.

Carrot or stick?

One of the perennial issues for GCs is whether they should be applying ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ in delivering their message to senior executives. One GC observed: “The board get fed up of being told about fines and sanctions. Use your sales and communication skills to draw out the positives and incentivise them.”

Another added: “Don’t first go in with a problem – go armed with solutions and options.”

Consider the audience

In working out how you will deliver the message, it pays off to consider the personality of your audience. A further GC said: “It’s important to tailor your advice to who the board are and what their characters are like.”

This point was reflected within a World Café brainstorming session, perhaps the highlight of the conference, where one group said: “You must adapt your style of co

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About the author:
Sophie Gould is the Head of Lexis®PSL In-house. Sophie worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including seven years as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group. She has also run a legal risk and compliance training business.


Since joining LexisNexis in 2009 Sophie has worked on developing our legal and business content for the in-house legal community.  She also runs various networking and mentoring groups for in-house lawyers and works with schools to promote social mobility within the legal profession.