Coaching your Audit Team

Coaching your Audit Team"Coaching brings more humanity into the workplace", Myles Downey

Coaching is an increasingly popular tool for supporting personal development.  Research recently published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that a whopping 90% of organisations now use coaching in some shape or form.  Of the 500 companies surveyed, over half (51%) consider coaching a key part of learning and development.


So, are YOU getting enough?

Actually you might be getting, and giving, a lot more than you think. In this article, we explore what is actually meant by coaching in its many guises, what makes it special and how it can benefit organisations and individuals within the audit profession.


‘Coaching is the Universal language of change and learning’, CNN

There is no single, straightforward response to the question ‘what is coaching?’  You will inevitably have come across it already in its many different forms: sports coaching, life coaching, executive coaching.  But in the context of the work place what we’re really referring to is non-directive coaching, as opposed to the sort of skills coaching you’d get from Messrs Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger.

In the 21st century, non-directive coaching has become the "hot" area of personal, professional, and business development. Why?  Quite simply because the traditional means of support and management have the inherent limitation that the ‘instructor’ has to know the answer.  Non-directive coaching is about getting the coachee to figure out the solution for themselves.  Not only does this mean that anyone can be a coach, it also means that the learning is quicker, goes deeper, and is much more likely to be retained.


‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ Chinese Proverb

And that really is the crux of the difference between non-directive coaching and: managing, advising, instructing, demonstrating and all those other well-meant interventions, including directive sports-type coaching.  In other words non-directive coaching is sustainable; it gives ‘skills for life’, skills transferable between situations, environments and organisations.

And please don’t confuse coaching and mentoring, two terms frequently used inter-changeably in the business world.

Mentoring can incorporate coaching but it’s invariably delivered by a more experienced colleague, familiar with the mentee’s professional role and operating environment. The mentor guides and teaches, drawing from their own experience, passing on tips, knowing, and sharing, the answers. Just like the sport’s coach who’s ‘been there, done that’.

In non-directive coaching, it’s not necessary for coach to be more experienced or more senior than coachee, to have the same background or hands on experience.  Purists claim that the absence of any similar experience actually maximises the effectiveness of the coaching.  If you’d like to explore this phenomenon in more depth, check out the Inner Game series by Tim Gallwey who discovered that ski coaches were more effective than tennis instructors in enabling tennis players to improve their game!


Sounds great: so how do we do it?

Quite simply, instead of directing, telling or instructing, non-directive coaching involves listening, asking effective questions, summarizing, paraphrasing and reflecting back.


Sounds simple: but is it really that easy?

Well, no...Take listening and questioning; as auditors we use these skills every day, they’re the bread and butter of our job.  In coaching we need to take these key skills to the next level, employing:

  • Incisive questioning for understanding, to get to the heart of the issue, with challenging, insightful questions
  • Active listening for meaning, hearing what is REALLY being said

And responding with:

  • Incisive questioning for understanding, to get to the heart of the issue, with challenging, insightful questions

And so on... for guidance on advanced questioning and listening skills, check out our March 2009 article, Communication for Auditors.

‘Coaching is the art and practice of inspiring, energizing, and facilitating the performance, learning and development of the player’. (Myles Downey)

And in the meantime, this is what else you need to know:

Coaching is:

  • A practical skill but also a style of inter-relating with other people
  • Performable by anyone, regardless of experience or seniority
  • Predicated on the fact that every individual has the resources to discover their own solutions,
  • About the now, the future and moving forward
  • About facilitating change, progressing towards an agreed objective
  • An interactive partnership
  • About unlocking potential, through raising awareness and inspiring new ideas
  • About creating self sufficiency, personal responsibility and empowerment

A coach will:

  • Build rapport and trust
  • Be a catalyst for change and action
  • Be independent and objective, non-judgemental
  • Prompt action, reflection, learning


And for optimium clarification, here’s a scenario:

Audit manager: Can you help me figure out a dilemma?
Audit senior: What are you looking to achieve exactly?
Audit manager: My goal is to come up with a plan to meet our audit objectives within the newly imposed tighter deadline.
Audit senior: What are your options?
Audit manager: Well, we could... [brainstorms options]
Audit senior: What else could you do? (challenging to think harder)
Audit senior: How are you going to figure out the best option?
Audit manager: I’m not sure
Audit senior: Where could you start?
Audit manager: I could go through and look at the pros and cons of each option
Audit manager: [brainstorms pros and cons]
Audit senior: What haven’t you considered yet?
Audit manager: Well, I suppose I haven’t accounted for...
Audit senior: Now that you’ve identified all the options and potential obstacles, what are you going to do next?
Audit manager: I guess I’m going to get my head down and figure out the best way forward based on all the information and ideas I’ve come up with.
Audit senior: Who or what else could help?
Audit manager: I’m going to bring in the Resourcing team and also get some advice from the Audit director.
Audit senior: And what’s the first step?
Audit manager: I’m going to book time in the calendar tomorrow to talk to them and book some time to work up a solution
Audit senior: When will you do this?
Audit manager: Right now!


Just think of the applications for non-directive coaching:

  • Improving performance
  • Building skills
  • Solving problems
  • Achieving behavioural change
  • Goal setting
  • Motivation
  • Identifying and tackling obstacles
  • Identifying and resolving conflict
  • Giving feedback
  • Expanding thinking and ideas
  • Improving productivity
  • Better team working
  • Improving collaboration and communication

Coaching skills are an essential part of good leadership, management and team playing.  So what are you waiting for? Go coach!

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