CPE for Government Auditors

Audit interviews can change color very quickly

Audit interviews can change color very quickly

An auditor sets the tone for an audit interview

In relating to others—especially the ultra-sensitive, elusive creature known as the audit client—we do well to imagine ourselves as lead chameleons. Chameleons change colors with the environment they are in. It is your job, as lead chameleon, to create the tone—the color, if you will—of the audit interview.

Here are two aspects of being a lead chameleon to consider—your authority and your color.

Your Authority—Keep It

You must remain in charge. If I in any way show my audience that I don’t know what I am doing or that I don’t have things totally under control—then one of my participant chameleons will endeavor to take over my class—always with disastrous results. If participant chameleons aren’t led they become uncomfortable and start leading you—usually by the nose.

For example, in one of my early facilitation gigs I was helping a team implement the balanced scorecard. We had successfully created a mission statement and then I got a little stuck about what to do next. The tricks I had up my sleeve—that worked with the last client—would not work with this one. I had many options, but couldn’t decide which would be the best one.

I made the mistake of letting the audience know that I was considering my next move. This, unfortunately, opened the whole thing up for discussion and a few of the more vocal chameleons expressed very strong opinions that things should proceed a certain way. Half an hour of spirited debate ensued.

When I finally made a choice of how to proceed, several members of the audience were insulted that I did not take their idea and refused to participate for the rest of the day. JOY!

If I had just led the group—made a decision and moved ahead—they all would have followed, being the chameleons they were. Even the stronger chameleons would have come with me.  Opening it up for debate, in that instance, was very messy.

Now when I get stuck and unsure of myself, I call for a break and go think about what to do next. I may consult a few of the participants, but not all 30 at once!  I then come back into the room totally committed and sure of what the next step is.

If you are unsure of what to do in an audit interview, do everyone a favor and ‘fake it till you make it.’ The client wants you to lead. That way they can worry about their own part in the meeting. They don’t know how to lead audit interviews nor do they want to know.

If you walk into an audit interview or an entrance conference unsure of yourself, with no clear agenda, the client will have no choice but to take over. Then they are in the lead and could possibly remain in the lead throughout the audit.

I am not saying that we are there to dominate the client or to act like a subject matter expert.  I am also not saying that you don’t apologize when you make a misstep or that you aren’t real and human.  I am saying that the client is much more comfortable when they know that you know what the next step in the process is and push the meeting along so they don’t have to!

Your Color—a Nice Blue/Green

Audit interviews can change color very quickly

The auditor sets the tone for the audit interview. Are you a calm blue/green or an angry red?

When I walk in the classroom, my mood and attitude sets the tone for the entire day. I imagine myself as a calm, blue/green color. (Hang in with me here!) If I come in to the audit interview cranky and out of sorts, the chameleons in my audience will become cranky and out of sorts. If I come into the room as a red chameleon, the audience will start turning red. Sometimes I have witnessed the bad attitude spreading throughout the room person by person.  Red is bad. It will take a lot of work to get the group comfortable again.

Let’s say—for example—that I smashed into my neighbor’s car coming out of my driveway that morning and I am mad as a hornet that I am now late and that I may have my insurance canceled because this isn’t the first accident this year and… (obviously, this did actually happen to me).

If I walk in to the classroom in this foul mood the participants are going to feel it. They will not know what is wrong, but they will be uncomfortable with me for some reason. This may result in all sorts of squirrely behavior.

To center and calm myself before I started class, I said this mantra to myself, “I have plenty of money. I have plenty of money.” (Mantras don’t have to be true!) I also prayed for a better attitude.

I suggest that you calm and center yourself before you meet with the client because if you walk in to the audit interview with any sort of negative attitude, it is going to show.

I know you know how to calm yourself down (and hopefully it doesn’t involve anything illegal!). Do your best to maintain your blue/green color no matter what happens.

And if the client is turning colors other than blue/green, you’d be wise to do something about it before the color starts seeping onto the other chameleons or getting beyond your ability to handle.

There are a variety of ways to deal with an upset or out-of-sorts client/chameleon. I think it will suffice it to say here that you need to be conscious of when the client’s color changes in an audit interview and then make a conscious choice about what to do about it. Try to avoid any knee-jerk reactions that could cause more trouble.

For more about how to lead an audit interview, please enjoy the self-study book, http://yellowbook-cpe.com/product/interviewing-skills-for-government-auditors


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