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How to Create Amazing Audit Results—On Every Project, Every Day

Getting managers to take action—even on important issues—can be difficult for auditing professionals. There’s no doubt about it. But that’s because we’re not always focused on providing an amazing audit experience, which is key to creating amazing audit results.

Why Getting Amazing Audit Results Is Challenging

Let me share a story with you…

It was during lunch at a full-day Continuing Professional Education (CPE) seminar. My tablemate Fran looked at me with a frustrated expression.

“What’s up, Fran?” I asked.

His reply was heartfelt and dead-on for many of us professionals in internal and government auditing.

“I’ve been at it for over 20 years. Now as a Chief Audit Executive. But I’ve preformed, led, or managed hundreds of audits. And I’m tired.”

“We’re all tired at times. It goes with the territory,” I replied. “Auditing is both mental and physical. It takes incredible energy, and it takes a toll over time.”

Fran corrected, “No, I’m not tired physically or mentally—although both occur from time to time. I’m just tired of giving it my all, working with my team, surfacing important issues that really do need attention and correction. And then watching the managers and staff we serve in our work nod their heads in agreement, but do nothing. Not always. Not every day. And certainly not every manager. But far too often. What else can we—that is, all of us—actually do about it?”

That was an eye-opening moment for me. And it was largely because that day’s training I was privileged to lead was on auditor behavior and communication skills. These are things we have traditionally (and to this day) referred to as “soft skills.” We were covering:

Clearly, these skills and related training content remain critical to the effective execution of our audit project work. But with Fran’s help, I realized what was sorely missing. There was no mention of how to actually sell our ideas so that they stick and ultimately influence management action where it’s needed.

How I Began to Fill the Auditing Skills Gap

That “Aha!” moment for me felt like a slap in the face. I wondered how I could have missed such an obvious skills gap in my own 35-year auditing career at the time. And it set me on a new path over the next five years.

I worked with a world-class sales coach; did over 20 full days of live training; read books on behavioral economics, psychology, and leadership; and conducted trial and error (and a few massive failures…) in my own audit projects.

All of this led me to where I am today, which is clearly much better equipped to do the following:

Despite what you’ve read in the preceding paragraphs, this article isn’t about me. It’s about you. And Fran. And every other internal and government audit professional who has been frustrated and disappointed by a lack of audit results in the form of management action.

Office meeting in the conference room.

Where Customer Experience Comes into Play

In my search for answers, I also found Shep Hyken. Shep is an acknowledged world-class expert on customer experience. We’re all familiar with the idea of customer service. But Shep dives much deeper by examining the entire customer experience—the emotional reaction to a service experience.

His book Be Amazing or Go Home addresses “Seven Customer Service Habits That Create Confidence with Everyone.” I found these so powerful I read the book twice in one snowy afternoon. And I realized that quite possibly delivering amazing audits—not just good audits—was the missing piece in my quest to improve audit results.

Shep starts with a definition of the word amazing from Merrian-Webster: “causing great surprise or wonder.” And I’ll pick up that theme with a two-part question for you and me.

Do our audit projects amaze? Do they cause great surprise and wonder?

I know mine had missed that mark. You be the judge of yours.

I decided to take Shep’s ideas on creating an amazing customer experience and convert them into a framework for action that applies to every auditor on every audit, every single day. With this framework, we can build on our foundation technical skills, layered on top of our behavior and communication soft skills. That way, we’re able to provide an amazing audit experience for everyone we serve. (And, quite honestly, nudge them toward positive corrective action in the process.)

7 Things to Do to Improve the Audit Experience

Having such a framework can be invaluable in improving the experience you deliver for better audit results. Here are a few ideas to save you the time and expense of building one on your own. Keep in mind this is just a modest checklist to get us all thinking about this next-level stuff.

  1. Be 100% mentally and physically present and focused—every hour of every day.

In your audit project work, are you 100% mentally and physically present and focused?

  1. Accept that as auditors, we are always on, and those we serve are watching.

Do you accept that because we hold ourselves out as experts in business controls, compliance, and process improvement, those we serve are entitled to watch us and judge?

  1. Be early for everything, including meetings and project deadlines.

Are you always early for every interview, meeting, discussion, and deadline?

  1. Show up ready every time—no exceptions.

Do you prepare ahead of time, so you’re always ready?

  1. Be predictable and consistent.

Can others count on you to be predictable and consistent?

  1. Focus on Upstream Solutions to every risk, issue, and exception.

In your audit work, do you go beyond finding issues and exceptions, providing meaningful consultative solutions-focused recommendations?

  1. Seek Better!

Do you seek to be Better! each day? Better! today than yesterday? Better! next week than right now? And Better! in every single audit project action step and interaction than we have all been up until now?

That’s it? Nope—not even close. But it’s a start.

These questions aren’t designed to pass judgment on past practices and results. Rather, they could be a springboard for looking toward intended future audit results.

Use this simple, high-level checklist right now to get your thinking aligned with the potential for amazing audit results on every project from this day forward.

Are You Ready to Improve Your Audit Results?

Together, let’s declare this the last day. The end of just meeting audit customer service expectations before heading off to the next project. And absolutely the end of boring audits.

How about, instead, making today the start—day one—of delivering amazing audits on every project, every single day, to get amazing audit results?

That’s a tall order to fulfill. But it can be done with the tools at hand (both technical and especially behavioral).