Internal Auditing is a profession that is open to quite a few different types of individuals. What I mean by that is, auditors can derive from varied background including accounting, finance, computer science, science, English, literature, biology, chemistry, social services, etc. As a result, it can be difficult to nail down the skills necessary to succeed. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) developed an Internal Auditor Competency Framework that identifies several key skills divided across the following knowledge areas – Interpersonal Skills, Tools and Techniques, Internal Audit Standards, and Theory, and Methodology. Individual components within these knowledge areas are vast. However, without discounting the content of the framework, I believe there are, at a much higher level of course, three essential traits necessary to be a top performing auditor.
- Passion and Proficiency
Auditors must be there (physically and mentally) to satisfy stakeholder and client needs. Some auditors only communicate with clients when it is time to perform an audit engagement. And while sometimes this may be necessary due to certain limitations (i.e. staff size, spread out locations, etc), it does not promote relationship building (see Building Credibility with Audit Clients). I believe auditors should make it a point to “visit” most audit clients at least once per year (the more often the better but at least once). Today, technology makes it possible to use video conferencing when budgets are tight. This will at least allow auditors and clients to faces with names read via email. Several years ago, I worked for an organization where there were accounting officers in remote locations. These accounting professionals expressed that they did not “like” a few senior members of the audit staff because they never visited. They went on to inform me that they actually respected me because of the effort made to visit (they mentioned nothing about my ability initially). Now grant it, my travel schedule to the location was not heavy, but it was just enough to make the client feel respected and important.
Passion and Proficiency
Auditors must be proficient. This probably does not need to be said. As mentioned previously, the IIA maintains a competency framework that details some required skills. Change is definite. Therefore, auditors must continuously assess and update their skills. Now, I believe passion plays a significant role in proficiency. People are typically good at activities they like. Of course, there are many exceptions, but I’m speaking in generalities. For example, a computer programmer most likely is passionate about coding. As a result, many programmers eat, sleep and breathe code.
First the auditor must show up. Then, they must find their passion and become proficient. Finally, the auditor must actually perform. Presence, passion and proficiency is no good if it is not put to use. Putting the pieces together requires an organization that provides the tools necessary for success (read the article about what to do it you do not have the appropriate tools to do the job).
In summary, to be successful, auditors must show up (have a presence), find the passion, be proficient and actively perform. Omitting any of these elements can have a drastic impact on internal auditing success.
What are some items you deem critical for the success of an internal audit professional?