What comes after tax season? For many organizations, it is an audit. This can be a very high-stress and high-intensity event. Here are a few tips from Hayward Suggs, Soft Skills That Wow!, to help your audit go smoothly!
Soft Skills That WOW! Leadership Development Series:
Preparing for an Audit
A-U-D-I-T, five (5) little letters that can strike fear in any organization or individual. No matter how hard you have worked, how satisfied those you serve are, you may still shake and shudder when you learn you are about to be audited. But there is good news, you can effectively manage your individual and organizational anxiety while dramatically increasing the odds of not only surviving your audit, but thriving. Want to know more?
No amount of last minute work activities will make up for major performance flaws in your place of business. If you know you haven’t been taking care of the most critical elements of your work you will be far better off spending your time fixing your problems than trying to cover them up.
However, if you have been doing your work as prescribed, you should be fine. A good auditor will always point out something you can improve on. That’s their job. If they do their job and you do yours everyone should feel good about the outcome, if not the process. Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about success.
Here are a few soft skill tips to add velocity to your organization, team and individual success:
You, the Individual
1. Go to bed, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep for two consecutive nights or more leading up to the the audit. Nothing reduces anxiety and enhances performance like a good nights sleep. Stay away from heavy caffeine consumption the night before and the day of your audit. It can make you jumpy, irritable and amplify negative thoughts. No one needs you on edge, there will be enough anxiety in the room without your 7th cup of Starbucks Grande Extra Dark.
2. Eat! Breakfast and lunch hunger pangs can be distracting and fatiguing. With low blood sugar you can become forgetful, irritable and just plain nonfunctional. It could be a very long day, make good nutrition and hydration part of your audit success plan. No fuel, no drive.
3. How you dress, speak and act should convey respect for the auditor, your organization and yourself. Be sure to lose the gum, bring the heels down an inch or three and remember the deodorant, there will be sweat.
This is also not the day for your lucky, burnt orange checkered blazer, lime green silk pants and sky blue NIke shoes. Tight fitting clothes, revealing neck lines and the dreaded boxer short display takeaway from your professional appearance. This is not the company picnic or cotillion. Dress for success, yours and the organizations.
You, the Team
1. Good team members, know they have to do their jobs first for the organization to be successful. Don’t start doing someone elses job without asking permission first. Don’t point out failures or flaws in team members and don’t be a know it all/do it all. If you are not the identified team spokesperson, do not speak for the team. Consult your team leader, If in doubt, reach out.
2. Your voice carries, watch what you say about your team, the organization, and the auditors. Don’t play your voicemail messages on speaker. The audit team doesn’t need to over hear your personal or business conversations because of thin office walls. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and be genuinely positive in your communications.
3. Be uplifting, purposeful and abundantly supportive to your team members. Especially the ones who tap dance on your last nerve and those who didn’t invite you to their Super Bowl party. Don’t be a doomsayer. What your team says, they will believe. So Say Success! Henry Ford, the auto maker, said it best, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t either way you are probably right.”
You, the Organization
1. Remember, It’s not about you, its about the organization. Odds are many people are counting on your company to be successful and are pulling for you. Clients, consumers, customers, vendors, funders, stakeholders and Boards.
People want and need what you provide, don’t jeopardize your organization’s well being. As a leader, do everything you can to be prepared, be proactive and responsive. Don’t personalize feedback, don’t blame others, don’t overreact to bad news. Lead with confidence, charisma and care.
2. Believe it or not, auditors are human beings with real feelings too, I actually saw an auditor cry once. Be prepared. No one likes to wait for excessive periods of time for something that should be readily available, especially when you had months to get ready. Also be sure to put the audit team in a comfortable space with unimpeded access to restrooms and water. Do not allow the auditors to be disrespected or mistreated. Leaders set tone.
3. Be professional, how you dress, speak and lead should convey respect for the auditor, your organization and yourself, Be polite, being impatient, rude, condescending or flat out uncooperative will not help you or your organization. Every now and then, you may even get a rude auditor. Don’t fan the flames by overreacting, you cannot go wrong by remaining professional. Lead with style, grace and legitimate power. Model the behavior you want to see in your organization. People will listen to what you DO!
Here are ten quick Knockout tips to bring Soft Skill WOW! to your next audit.
- Dress for business comfort, not business casual, look the part.
- Be on time for meetings, discussions and deliverables.
- Shake hands firmly, web to web, with your body fully facing the person you are greeting.
- Establish good eye contact when greeting or speaking.
- Maintain good posture, be upright, don’t slump when walking or talking.
- Address the auditor by last name with Ms.,Mrs., or Mr. as appropriate, until directed otherwise.
- Speak in concise sentences, don’t babble. Watch your uhms, ahs and other utterances.
- Take care of others, bring water, snacks, tissues.
- Treat everyone with kindness, dignity and respect. Yes the auditors and your team too.
- Bonus Knockout Tip: Don’t Take Credit, Give It.
Don’t do the auditors job, do yours.
In closing, most auditors are highly trained, skilled and prepared. They don’t need you directing their focus. Be respectful of their knowledge, skill and time.
Stay out of their way, they should know where to find you if they need you. Don’t talk too much and don’t speak to issues that have little or nothing to do with the task at hand. Inappropriate self disclosure or malicious comments about the team or organization discredit you, the company and the great work you do.
Yes, the auditor will find something wrong, but it’s seldom fatal. Acknowledge it, plan for it, fix it and move on. And don’t be surprised if the next auditor has a problem with the last auditor’s recommendations, it happens. Don’t personalize it. Remember, It’s not about perfection, it’s about success, yours, the team and the organization.
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