So-called blue zones are areas on earth where residents live exceptionally long (and happy) lives, often reaching the age of 100 or older. Ellen M. Hunt explores how to create an ethics and compliance blue zone in your organization.
By creating lifelong habits from diet to exercise, to having a purpose and a supportive social network, individuals in blue zones not only live longer, often to 100 or more, they are happier and healthier, according to researchers. While some blue zones seem to be dwindling, new ones have emerged and there is evidence to suggest that by creating the right surroundings anyone can create their own blue zone.
So why not create your own ethics and compliance blue zone? Here is what you’ll need to get started.
Strong Sense of Purpose
Without a doubt, ethics and compliance professionals have a strong sense of purpose, a key element to living in a blue zone. We don’t wake up in the morning wondering what we need to do and why we need to do it. Unfortunately, for some of us, there are times when what we do as ethics and compliance professionals doesn’t seem to matter or be valued by others.
Purpose-crushing behavior that we have seen time and time again can rattle anyone’s sense of purpose, such as:
- Promoting the “rock star” who meets his goals but takes ethical shortcuts.
- Limiting your access to data and information.
- Finding out that not only did you not have a seat at the table, no one thought to invite you at all to important meetings, but afterward you are given responsibility for the “deliverables.”
When rattled, take stock. It’s human nature to focus on the negative and assume the worst-case scenario, but you need to flip the script. Ask yourself if you would really rather be doing something else. What knowledge, talents and experience do you uniquely have that you know have made a difference? Count each time you made a difference. Chances are your contributions matter more than you think and they outweigh the events that make you question your purpose.
Most of us get our daily diet of the seven elements, peppered with news of today’s most recent scandal, and salted with new regulations, sanctions and enforcement actions. This might be the equivalent of eating a Big Mac with large french fries. There are some healthier options out there. Add some variety to your diet by finding out what your CEO, CFO and CHRO read every day. Subscribe to some of the newsletters they subscribe to. Find out who they think are the thought leaders in your industry and follow them. Switch them up regularly. By expanding your palate, you increase your chances of having a seat at the table.
We are not talking about the physical kind but mental exercise. If the same old, same old isn’t creating the environment or the behaviors that build on the organization’s ethical culture, why are we still doing it? You need to stretch your thinking by doing things you haven’t done before and exploring options. Some refer to this as “out of the box” thinking, while others may refer to it as a growth mindset. Whatever you want to call it, take some time to exercise your brain to think differently each day. Having a daily diet that is not exclusively related to ethics and compliance will make this exercise easier.
No one can have too many friends, and there is wisdom in the saying that you should build your network before you need it. A revelation of living in a blue zone is that we all need our networks, and we need them all the time. In the blue zone of Okinawa, Japan, groups that come together for a common purpose are known as moai. They provide support not only when times are tough but always. If you don’t have such a group, create one. If you have one, create another.
Moai is often in abundance at conferences like the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and Compliance Week; use these events as a springboard for continuing to gather. Is there a local meet-up for ethics and compliance professionals? If not, host one. Not only will your moai help you with your daily diet and exercise, they will continually reaffirm your purpose as you will theirs.
As the saying goes, the more the merrier. The more ethics and compliance blue zones we create, the more happy and healthy ethics and compliance professionals there will be, who in turn will be better positioned to live out their purpose of creating and sustaining ethical cultures.