Early Birthday Celebration

One advantage of having a spring birthday is that the weather is typically pleasant. The weekend ahead of Jon’s 60th birthday was no exception. Clear skies, mild temperatures, low humidity, and gentle breezes made for beautiful days and brisk evenings.

Arriving at camp in the early afternoon, we ate a fast lunch before settling into our work routines. Jon had to complete his annual compliance training, which is aimed at helping UT Southwestern employees exercise sound ethical judgment, act with integrity and transparency, and understand their responsibility for institutional policies and compliance obligations. In truth, it was a 90-minute snooze fest. We’re sure the institution’s instructional designers mean well, but once again they failed to hit the target.

Too many organizations look at compliance training as “required” and a “check-the-box” activity, which leads to a design approach of telling employees what they should and should not do. Too often, the mindset around compliance training stems from its purpose–to tell employees what the legal department, policy team, or executive leaders require. These groups dictate the content and presentation.

The first and most important problem with compliance training is the fact that compliance is about complying. What makes most larger organizations successful and effective is their diversity of thought and the uniqueness of the individuals on teams. Having a diverse group of employees comply with a company standard seems restrictive and contradictory. Still, it is important to agree about a set of standards that everyone can expect and count on. Then, our differences become inclusionary, a way to build unity.

Compliance training is about defining the behaviors an organization wants its employees to demonstrate. It shouldn’t be about adherence to policies and do’s and don’ts. It’s not engaging or fun to tell employees everything they shouldn’t do (for example, don’t harass co-workers or share confidential information); it’s much more beneficial to say, “We stand for these principles, and we expect you to do this, and in return, you can expect the organization to put in place processes to support and protect these principles.”

It wasn’t an ideal way to start the weekend, but at least he checked the box.

We eventually settled into Date Night mode, with cocktails, cookout, and campfire. We ended the evening visiting our friends Jay and Wendy ahead of their departure for Louisiana.

Next day, we engaged in our typical activities ahead of an evening visit to the lovely home of Jon’s manager and his husband. Their place was beautifully finished and furnished. After a signature chocolate martini and appetizers, we enjoyed turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and asparagus, followed by a 60th birthday surprise: a yellow cake with chocolate frosting–Jon’s favorite–topped by two number candles to remind him of his milestone (as if he needed a reminder).

Sunday also afforded our typical pursuits, although Jon broke with custom and spent a few hours catching up on work. Tomorrow, Jon’s colleagues will treat him to lunch, and Cliff will prepare a favorite dinner (authentic beef Stroganoff).