Launched by two like-minded compliance pros, The Seven Elements Compliance Book Club started as a “why not?” and has since grown into an established group, attracting leading experts to host book discussions and provide commentary.
What if you threw a party and no one came? Anyone who has mailed a batch of invitations or launched an email about a virtual gathering can relate to the mild anxiety associated with having people over. What if the chairs — or the boxes on a Zoom screen — remain empty?
If there were any concerns prior to the debut of The Seven Elements Compliance Book Club, its founders worried needlessly. Ellen Hunt and Caitlyn Tobey simply made a few social media posts about their plan to launch a virtual, compliance-related book chat, and a few clicks later they had “likes” and signups from more than 100 eager readers.
Pent up demand, anyone? In this era of semi-isolation, the compliance community is perhaps a bit starved for connection and hungry for opportunities to explore the themes and ideas that apply to the challenging career path they’ve chosen.
Enter Hunt and Tobey, who told CCI they hatched the idea for the club while Zoom-chatting during a recent Compliance Career Connection meeting (another virtual event aimed at providing this community with online opportunities to network and learn). Hunt has deep roots as a compliance professional, and Tobey is a mid-career compliance pro. Both are active on LinkedIn and have robust professional networks.
“Ellen made this offhand sort of comment about wanting to start a virtual, compliance-focused book club,” Tobey said. “I thought that was a wonderful idea, so I reached out to her on LinkedIn. I said, ‘If you want to do it, I know I want to do it, so why not do it together?’”
And they told two friends, and so on, and so on
The pair then leaned on another duo, inviting co-authors Lisa Beth Lentini Walker and Stef Tschida to co-host the club’s inaugural meeting. About 20 readers logged into the virtual meeting platform April 6 for a rousing discussion of “Raise Your Game, Not Your Voice: How Listening, Communicating, and Storytelling Shape Compliance Program Influence” (Dallas: CCI Press, 2021).
The club’s meeting format included open remarks from its founders followed by a Q&A with the authors, with questions seeded by Tobey and Hunt. Next, club members were sorted into breakout sessions for deeper discussions of the book’s themes, more Q&A time with the authors, and — of course — networking.
“It was such an honor being selected as the inaugural book,” Lentini Walker said. “Connecting and communicating in compliance and ethics is so critical to a healthy and rewarding career, and Ellen and Caitlyn are helping to facilitate an environment where learning and sharing can happen monthly. What could possibly be more exciting than pursuing scholarship in our profession while meeting new friends?”
Connecting authors with readers
Hunt says she feels the group is poised to make a true difference for the compliance community, especially those who seek to share knowledge and influence as authors.
“I like to believe we’re helping familiarize people with a stellar body of work that’s out there in the ethics and compliance field…[and] giving the authors an opportunity to present their work,” Hunt said. “So, beyond networking and mentoring, we’re taking steps to support and uplift the entire compliance profession, and the community sees more of what they may be missing.”
The group’s second meeting, like the first, drew about 20 participants. Co-hosts May 11 were Lisa Fine and Mary Shirley, compliance professionals who co-authored “Sending the Elevator Back Down: What We’ve Learned from Great Women in Compliance” (Dallas: CCI Press, October 2020). The book is a compilation of wit and wisdom gleaned from the popular Great Women in Compliance podcast, which Fine and Shirley co-host, and its theme centers on the notion that once a person has achieved a certain level of professional success, they should “send the elevator back down” by intentionally encouraging and helping others.
Shirley told CCI this week that it was rewarding to have one book club participant ask for specific tips on how to “send the elevator down.”
“[The club participant] commented that she hasn’t had anyone send the elevator back down to her, and she wanted to hear ideas of inspiration for implementation. We loved that she wanted to pay it forward even though she felt she hadn’t benefited from someone else sending the elevator down to her first,” Shirley said. “I think that shows the book is making a difference and getting people to consciously think about the positive impact they can have on others and make a concerted effort to send the elevator back down.”
Comparing notes and offering support
Tobey suggested the club may also offer an outlet for compliance professionals who feel overwhelmed or isolated.
“[Many compliance professionals] work in a small corner of a company where there’s really no one in their organization with whom they can talk through issues,” Tobey told CCI. “We’re giving people a place where they can look around and realize they’re not the only ones facing these sorts of challenges. They’re not alone.”
Book club member Amy Landry, addressing a small group in a break-out session at the May 11 meeting, agreed that club meetings can serve as a sounding board for solutions.
“Compliance can be lonely. We’re often viewed as ‘The Department of No’ or the police of our organization,” Landry said. “So, it’s nice to hear stories from others that have faced this and how they were able to overcome it.”
Next on the reading list
The club convenes again at 7:30 p.m. EST June 7 with author-host Rob Chestnut, former chief compliance officer for Airbnb, leading a discussion of “Intentional Integrity” (New York: St. Martin’s Press, October 2020).
Following a hiatus for the summer, The Seven Elements Compliance Book Club will be back in September.
“There’s a long and still-growing list of books we need to cover,” Hunt promises.
Better start reading. Care to join? Drop a line to SevenElementsBookClub@gmail.com.