Courageous Auditing - Fixing the Flaw in Auditing Education



With years of auditing experience to my name, I have come to recognize the flaw in auditing education. Beyond technical training, little is offered to enhance and develop an auditor’s Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

I have been an auditor in Australia for almost two decades and over this time have come to extensively pinpoint the failure of our auditing system. Auditing is a lifelong practice – one that only really begins once an auditor’s initial training in completed. Fundamentally, an auditor’s training does not (or should not) cease at their technical training. Yet for many, this is the case. Having personally entered the field from a point of frustration, I was determined to avoid falling into the compliance-only mindset adopted by many colleagues.

I define this compliance-only mindset as those auditors who use techniques drawn by the fear of ‘being caught doing the wrong thing’ as the incentive for the organisation to comply with the required standards and indicators. This style of auditing typically guarantees black and white comparisons with the path of least complexity chosen.

In many ways, an auditor’s education fails through the isolated focus on IQ over EQ. Whilst being important in every business environment, EQ is integral in the formation of effective and capable auditors. Where auditors with this compliance-focused manner fail is in their inability to provide the additional insights and value-added intuition that is associated with an equally heightened IQ and EQ.

A huge component of successful auditing falls within the EQ umbrella and examines an auditor’s self-awareness. This awareness means recognizing that the auditor’s personal attributes, baseline beliefs and intent can make – or break – any audit experience.

As these personal skills are not highlighted in an auditor’s education, there is the challenge to find these skills independently. For me, I learnt to always be evaluating. With these gaps only widening, my advice for bridging them is to remain inquisitive, push for feedback, continue learning and practice, practice, practice.

Learning from auditors who excel, I have seen they collectively seek feedback from their peers and superiors and are genuinely receptive when this feedback is negative. The acknowledgement that they do not – and cannot – know everything also appears to be important!

I anticipate this coming decade to bring increased auditor scrutiny, but whether this compliance-only mindset will shift is difficult to anticipate. The reality is that today’s auditors are increasingly expected to keep pace with the changes occurring in the business world – or risk stagnation. And, today’s businesses and organisations do seek this higher-level insight from their auditors rather than a checklist approach.

With courage at the forefront, I implore auditors to step back and consider the value their auditing provides.


Written for by Kathy Rees, author of Courageous Auditing


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