If you are a compliance officer (or wearing that hat), you will no doubt be called on to consult to leadership on compliance-related issues. These issues typically take the form of regulatory requirement inquiry, organizational policy interpretation, or potential violations. Sometimes these questions can come up at the worst of times (e.g. when you have no time), or leaders will push back on your answer (e.g., “You want me to do what?”). If that is the case, this article will offer some tips I have picked up when consulting to leaders, whether management, physicians or boards of directors. These tips have helped saved time and obtain that all important buy-in from leadership.
Back to Basics. When fielding an issue from leadership, gather facts at the most basic level and then work up from there. Often times the leader reporting the issue is so close to the facts they assume you know what they know. This is especially true if they are asking a question relative to a technical departmental procedure. You can not be the expert in every department, so don’t be afraid to ask very basic questions. Typically, what I will do is ask “can you walk me through this like you would to a pre-schooler.” I have found it makes the leader pause to think about how to explain something they otherwise would not have to think about because it is so routine in their world.
Regurgitate your Understanding. After connecting the dots, I will summarize my understanding of the issue and specific questions being asked. Regurgitating this information serves two primary purposes. First, it closes communication gaps to make sure the leader and I are on the same page. In the end, this saves time otherwise spent chasing down questions not on-point to the issue. Secondly, it will help obtain buy-in because you are demonstrating that you understand their concerns and position.
Know Your Audience. When consulting on any compliance issue, I want to know my audience to more fully understand the issue. Given the strained relations between hospitals and physicians, healthcare is a fiercely political environment. To that end, I have found that when I do my homework on all parties involved (including past working relationships, points-of-view and motivations, etc.), it helps me make sure I know why the question is being asked. Additionally, it helps me in finding a workable solution for all parties involved, which in turn, serves in obtaining their buy-in. A couple easy ways to approach knowing your audience include taking an active interest via questioning in the work they do and shadowing to help understand the realities of the world in which they work each day.
Start From a Mental Place of Maybe. Lastly, one final tip that has helped me over the years is starting from a mental place of “maybe” when thinking about my eventual answer. Regulatory issues are a world of grey because they need to fit various circumstances. If I am consulting to leaders I want to start from a place of maybe, because maybe to them means I am keeping an open-mind to finding a workable solution. There will be times when no is the truly only answer, but you should only get there after exhausting all other options first.
Conclusion. It is important to keep in mind that as a compliance officer, strangely, you need issues to be employed. To that end, keep in mind with every challenging question, also comes opportunity to grow and develop professionally. If you start from a place of “maybe” and put effort into fully understanding the issue upfront, you will obtain respect from your leaders and save time in the end. Even if you are not able to find a solution, keeping an open mind will demonstrate that you respect their positioning. In the end, they will respect yours, even if the end result is not the answer they wanted.