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Trusted advisors and world-class internal auditors

internal auditorsI was recently privileged to receive a signed copy of Richard Chambers’ latest book, Trusted Advisors: Key Attributes of Outstanding Internal Auditors. Richard is the President and CEO of The Institute of Internal Auditors, a veteran of internal audit at the highest level, a friend, and an individual with whom I love to debate the practices of internal auditing and risk management. (I hope I am influencing his views on the imminent update of the COSO ERM Framework.)

I thoroughly recommend the book for any internal auditor, at any level.

Richard covers nine attributes of internal auditors who are seen by their customers in executive and operating management as “trusted advisors”. They are based on the results of a survey of CAEs and are grouped into three categories:

Personal:

  • Ethical resilience
  • Results focused
  • Intellectually curious
  • Open-mindedness

Relational:

  • Dynamic communicators
  • Insightful relationships
  • Inspirational leaders

Professional:

  • Critical thinkers
  • Technical expertise

I will let you purchase the book (now on sale to IIA members) and read it in detail.

It makes an excellent companion to my book, Auditing that matters. I focus on the design and staffing of a world-class internal audit function, with a portion dedicated to the attributes of what I consider ideal members of the team, while Richard focuses the whole book on the latter.

So how do you leap from a trusted advisor to a world-class internal auditor? There are a couple of points that I did not see covered. Maybe I am taking them to the next level.

The first is seeing your purpose, your mission, as helping the organization and its leaders succeed rather than simply avoiding failure.

Pointing out deficiencies, even when you also point out remedies, is insufficient to be world-class. For that, you need to focus on the issues that matter to leadership and then provide them with the assurance, advice, and insights they need, when they need it, in an actionable form that is quickly digested and acted upon. Give them what they need to achieve their objectives and strategies. In other words, help them succeed.

This requires that we have such an understanding and appreciation of the business and what it takes to run it that we are willing to recommend taking risk when that is right for the business. Sometimes, even taking more risk.

The second is related: being able to hold a productive and constructive hour-long conversation about the business with an executive without ever using the words ‘risk’ or ‘control’.

If you are to tackle the issues that matter and add value through your insight, then you need a truly deep understanding of the business and how it is and should be run.

That’s not an easy task!

These are just a couple of attributes of world-class internal auditors, people who stand out to management so much that they are usually offered leadership positions themselves.

What do you think?

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Norman D. Marks, CPA, CRMA

Norman D. Marks is an Author, Evangelist and Mentor for Better Run Business, as well as an OCEG Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Risk Management. Mr. Marks has been a practitioner and thought leader in internal audit, risk management, and governance for a long time. He has led large and small internal audit departments, been a Chief Risk Officer and Chief Compliance Officer, and managed IT Security and governance functions. Read more
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