Compliance Tips to Keep Your New Year Resolution

Ryan Whitney
Managing Editor
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2017


With the chaotic 2016 behind us and 2017 underway, many people are working to maintain the resolution(s) they set for themselves to ensure that last year’s failures are not repeated. Sadly, more than a quarter of us have already broken these resolutions and by the end of 2017 only 44% will succeed. These statistics are not encouraging. Psychologist and sociologists will no doubt throw themselves into the search for underlying causes and, in time, offer their own solutions. In the meantime, the field of regulatory compliance offers some surprising solutions and a model to increase your success rate.    

We often stereotype people based on their profession:  Accountants are boring, physicians are arrogant, artists are self-righteous, truck drivers have heart tattoos with their mother’s name scrawled inside, attorneys are logical alcoholics…you get the point and you’ve probably seen them all on TV or in movies. These stereotypes develop because someone has experienced them from someone and extrapolated hints of truth to everyone in that profession. I know because my father is an engineer. Give him some duct tape and a Phillips screwdriver and he can fix just about anything.

But what about those of us who work in compliance? What is our stereotypical skill? The answer is that the profession has not developed one; compliance is still relatively unknown. However, our skill set includes – problem solving, planning, attention to detail and follow up. In other words, people in compliance can make great New Years Resolutions and then stick to them. Since I work in the profession I am, of course, choosing the positive stereotypes because they are absolutely true. So now let’s begin.

Step 1: Set your goal.

Maybe this is a bit obvious but think of it like a new regulation handed down from an agency. Your life is the entity that must comply with this new resolution. The good news is that you are also the agency who sets the regulation/resolution so it can be on your own terms. This goes for timing too. Sure, 2017 has already begun but time is a human construct. You can start at any moment. Haven’t made a resolution yet? Make one. Already broken your resolution? Try again. But whatever you do, make sure you know what your resolution is and make it specific. Write it down if you must. Some of the most common resolutions can be found here.    

Step 2: Find someone to hold you accountable.

Tell someone about your goal. Insist that they call you out when you are not following through. This person can be a friend, family member, doctor, therapist, roommate, priest, co-worker or whomever you trust. It can also be more than one person. This person or group of people is your oversight committee. This will put subconscious pressure on yourself to follow through because if you don’t, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting others down as well.

Step 3: Learn how to do it.

Before you begin bettering yourself, you must first educate and train yourself on how to do so. If you want to lose weight you must research diet and exercise regiments on how to shed the pounds. The worst thing you could do is just walk into a gym and start throwing heavy things around without knowing what you’re doing (you will also annoy the regulars, trust me). If you want to quit smoking you may want to consult a doctor and explore the various methods (gradual reduction, patches, quitting cold-turkey, etc.). Maybe you want to re-connect with your faith. Research some churches/temples/mosques to find what’s best for you. There’s nothing worse than going to mass expecting choir hymns and instead the congregation decided that the youth group’s electric guitar version of Amazing Grace was the more divinely inspired musical choice. If you don’t start out using the proper or “best practice” methods, you’ll soon become frustrated and give up.

Step 4: Create an enforcement mechanism.

Set reminders for yourself. This can be calendar notices, alarms, notes on the mirror etc. This will be unique based on what kind of resolution you have made. Tell your oversight committee to remind you if you’re having trouble. Give yourself rewards that don’t jeopardize your goal (for example if you’re trying to quit smoking don’t reward yourself with a cigarette). Make sure this enforcement is positive, not punative. If you fail one day you must remind yourself that mistakes happen and to continue onwards. Just like an entity reporting a compliance breach, you don’t want to discourage mistakes from being recognized. Be honest with yourself and learn from the slip ups.

Step 5: Track your progress.

Put simply: develop an audit to monitor your resolution. Again, this will be unique to your resolution but as someone employed in the compliance field, you’re the best person to design a plan and bring new meaning to the term “self-audit.”

Step 6: Don’t give up. Ever.

This is a more inspiring phrase than response and prevention but it’s the same general concept. The truth is you will screw up. You won’t always keep your resolutions all of the time. The appropriate response to this is to keep trying and keep trying new things/methods to increase your chances of success. Each person reacts differently to various methods of inspiration, goal setting and ways of achieving their goals. What you want to prevent is situations in which noncompliance with your resolution is more likely to occur. If you are trying to cut back on staying too long at your after-work watering hole it would be wise to prevent yourself from going to bars even if you tell yourself “I’ll just have water.” Perhaps you’re struggling to get to the gym in the mornings. Go at night after work, see if your workplace provides gym breaks during the day, do shorter workouts in the mornings and double up on weekends, bike to work. There are many ways to turn your resolutions into reality. But they might not always be the first thing you try. When the inevitable noncompliance arises, respond the way a compliance officer would. Analyze the cause of the noncompliance, determine whether more education and training is needed or a new policy is needed and then follow up with the change to see if it has improved the situation. If you don’t see improvement, try something else just don’t give up. You only fail when you actually stop trying.

Best of luck to you all and have a great 2017.