In March, I will be presenting at SOPAC 2016. SOPAC is a national four day conference held by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and let’s just say… I can’t wait to attend because these people will expose me to an entirely different world of new insights and perspectives.
I was kindly invited to present after I conducted a short session on the importance of building networks to the Victorian chapter of IIA.
— Andrew Blunden (@AndrewBlunden) September 17, 2015
They proposed that I conduct two sessions at the national conference: one to the graduate auditors as their guest speaker at their evening cocktail function on the first night and another on Building Networks Using Twitter as a master class.
Now the only thing about internal auditing is what I know through my husband and let me add that it’s very little. Let me just say that we don’t talk about governance, risk, compliance and regulations after work.
You see, that was my original perception of auditors.
What Do You Mean Auditors Are Not Men in Black?
In my head, I grappled with the stereotyped image of auditors.
I thought they were people who were sticklers for processes, procedures, details, rules, legislation and regulations. They struck me as the type of people who wore dark sunglasses, crisp business suits and carried brief cases into offices. You never knew when they were going to arrive or when they were going to leave – and you basically kept out of their way as they took over a board room for a month (the same board room that you were going to use for a training room and now they inconveniently tossed you out and had to find an alternative venue for your training program).
Or, alternatively they could have been part of your organisation, wore brown cardigans and basically told you what you couldn’t do and why. (Can you see the extreme stereotypes that were floating around in my mind?).
So just like stealth, they came into organisations as a team – or as an individual – and then constantly asked people to fetch them stuff like long forgotten financial records while they pored over each line of transaction trying to piece together a story of where the money went and asking some pesky questions along the way.
They were not exactly scary people but were an…inconvenience.
Ah, I have such an overactive imagination.
Of course, the was the same impression I had of external management consultants such as the McKinseys, Deloittes and KPMGs of this world but they’re an entirely different beast.
The Auditor Image in my Head BUSTED!
Luckily my husband helped me blast this stereotype into smithereens.
At one stage, I even started thinking that I would love to have been a performance auditor because it resonated with the work I do as a performance consultant. Although I don’t wear dark glasses and snappy suits, I do ask a lot of questions and I piece together where the gaps are and help organisations devise a strategy and programs to help their people to solve business problems through collaboration.
So the idea of being a performance auditor started to look quite attractive to me until the idea of having to do accounting snapped me back to reality.
When I was asked to present at SOPAC, I had a bit of an anxiety attack because my stereotyped image was not going to serve me well speaking to this group. I HAD to find out more about the role of internal auditors, the opportunities and challenges they face as a profession in today’s age in order to customise my presentation to make it suitable for them.
In my head, I was thinking that auditors may question the value of what I was espousing…these are the statements I’m likely to be faced with:
“Work out loud? Why? How will this help my client because I deal with their private, sensitive and confidential information.”
“Learn socially? All I need I to know is what I can interpret from the financial records. It’s there in black and white. The story is always in the numbers.”
“Build my networks? As an auditor, I have connections to senior leaders across my client organisation anyway. This doesn’t relate to me.”
“Question things? We follow rigid checklists and processes to ensure compliance. You don’t question the law.”
“Social media? I get all my information from Deloitte’s Twitter account”
and so it goes on…
So as you can see one of the biggest chasms in my head that I had to explore is that auditors strike me as people who value long term audit planning and measurement methods and then balance this with new skills that require agility and flexibility in a workplace that is experiencing a massive magnitude of change.
If I thought Learning and Development people had it bad trying to keep up with change, I imagined that auditors have it twice as hard. They have to balance two worlds. On the one hand it’s compliance, assurance, risk and legislation while doing it when the world and the workplace is complex, volatile, and uncertain.
How’s that for their challenge?
So I had to go out and meet some auditors.
How Did I Meet Auditors?
One of the ways I decided to tackle the challenge of creating a presentation for an audience of auditors was to go out and meet a few of them. I even spoke to a graduate of accounting who had recently left the auditing field to seek out other areas that were of more longer term and meaningful relationships with clients. “Less tick and flick mentality” (her words, not mine).
Speaking to auditors gave me a whole new appreciation and perspective of their job because for the first time I realised that there were different types. Others work within teams while others work alone in their client organisations and all have their fields of specialty.
Speaking to them and their challenges was quite an education for me. It made me think of my own role as a performance consultant. There were striking similarities (working with a wide variety of clients, identifying problems, stakeholder relationships and influence) also startling differences (related more to things I mentioned above).
Ultimately though their value is that they provide their client with assurance, insight and objectivity.
It made me realise that, unlike corporate learning and development teams and consultants, auditors are in an enviable position of having a clear line of sight across departments in organisations – as well as having the ear of senior leaders.
So they’re in a field of authority and influence.
For young auditors, what a great position to be in at such an early stage of their careers! In this day and age, they’re in a perfect position to make a real difference – however, their age and inexperience may be against them when it comes to authority and influence especially when in front of senior people.
So this was the angle I decided to take for my graduate presentation.
I was going to focus in on the aspect of how they can build their authority and influence using social media and social networks focussing on the two particular skills: Building their Networks and Narrating their Work to this Network.
I’ll provide some personal stories of my work with graduates and how we used these to share what they were working on in their organisations and how the indirect benefit of this was identifying the hidden knowledge, skills and talent around entrepreneurial, business development and community leadership skills that these young people had outside of work but were never drawn upon by their employers because they were not aligned with their job descriptions, or these attributes were not deemed important by the graduates themselves who were following a standard and set career path in their organisation.
If you would like to see the presentation, check out the Slideshare below. The presentation will be on Monday 7th March so look out for the #SOPAC2016 hashtag on Twitter to get involved in the backchannel.
So I’m looking forward to SOPAC because it’s going to be a learning experience for me to be surrounded by people who I know, will challenge me to think of ways to present the value of social networks in other ways. I hope that at least, I will give them some food for thought that they can consider and find a way to incorporate and apply it into their own work so that it benefits themselves, their clients and their organisations.