Audit Advantage: Communication Styles and Flexibility, THE 21st Century Core Competency



Readers of these pages will be highly familiar with my prolific writings on communication skills for auditors. A whole third of the Audit Advantage Series is dedicated to the art and science of communication. The Auditor’s Communication Strategy takes you through the process, breaking down the mechanics of communication into bite-sized learnings. I’ve proclaimed Auditor. Ace communicator. Super hero! tendering tips and techniques on sharpening the saw: active listening, insightful questioning and body language. And what is more, you don’t need to look too closely at my writings on audit careers to discern the theme of communication threaded throughout each and every article and piece of advice.

Communication counsel is ubiquitous on these pages; and for this I make no apology. Communication skills are important in every career, but for auditing they are a fundamental competence, critical for accurately and effectively collecting, interpreting and disseminating information. So what more could there be to say on the subject? 

Remember VUCA? I introduced the acronym Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous right back at the start of the Audit Advantage series. VUCA describes the challenging environment we operate in today with its unprecedented challenges. The antidote to VUCA involves shifting to Vision from Volatility, to Understanding from Uncertainty, to Clarity from Complexity and to Agility from Ambiguity. And underpinning this antidote is the fundamental requirement to have highly adaptable communication flexibility. That is whether you are self communicating (EQ), adapting your approach to context rife with change and ambiguity or aligning to individual/organisation preference or culture.

The good news is that there is a glut of communication models out there to help you hone the agility of your communication. So let’s take a look at some of these.

Visual Auditory Kinaesthetic

This may be the model most familiar to you as we have covered it previously. We each have an innate preferred style which you can figure out by listening to cues, in your own speech and in the words of others. A team member describing an accounting balance as ‘looking about right’ suggests a visual thinker and you may find it more effective to communicate with them through diagrams, graphs and phraseology like ‘can you see it?’ or ‘just imagine’. 

Here are some examples of words people use for the 3 main modalities:

  • Visual: see, look, envision
  • Auditory: hear, sounds, rings a bell
  • Kinaesthetic: feel, grasp, get hold of

And some indicator phrases that offer clues:

  • Visual: appears to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt
  • Auditory: call on, describe in detail
  • Kinaesthetic: boils down to, get to grips with

For a more comprehensive list and a questionnaire to ascertain your own preferences click here.

In order to communicate effectively we need to acknowledge these signals, be aware of our own natural inclinations and adapt our approach to our partner’s style.

Active Logical Connector Thinker

Which of these styles sounds most like yours:

  • Takes an active role in the communications
  • Connects and empathize with others
  • Takes time to think and respond
  • Follows a logical path

These are the four basic styles of an alternative communication model, along with a fifth option, the ‘combiner’ which cuts across two or more of the basics. You can explore the full detail of each style here. Once again this is also about flexibility; when you have ascertained your own preference, you can then look to the other styles to court more of a combiner approach, developing the ability to adapt to context and to other individuals.

The adaptability model

Michael O’Connor and Tony Alessandra describe the process of adaptability as a formula combining flexibility with versatility. Flexibility is about attitude and refers to willingness to adapt, while versatility is about aptitude or ability to adapt. Potentially then, there is a two part process to developing your communication agility which is set out in the bullet points below. However, vigilant readers will have spotted that none of this is new to the readers. Every single one of these concepts has been covered already on these pages by our comprehensive professional development programmes. Click through on the links to access the detail.


  • Confidence – self belief
  • Tolerance – open to new and contrary ideas
  • Empathy – an ability to build rapport and appreciate another’s view of the world
  • Positivity – a positive attitude and mindset
  • Respect for others – a drive to appreciate others’ needs in relation to your own


  • Resilience – ability to overcome setbacks, barriers and limitations
  • Vision – the ability to imagine, innovate, create options
  • Attentiveness – knowing when to act and when not to act
  • Competence – involves expertise and a can-do problem-solving attitude
  • Self-correction – willingness to seek feedback, admit you are wrong and course-correct

And another thing…

Despite the fundamental importance of communication skills to auditing, I am constantly perplexed at their apparent under valuation. Most CVs are stuffed full of tasks and activities, technical prowess and specialisms, but very few really give weight to the honed set of diverse communication skills, too often taken for granted. Think again auditors!  Mature, highly skilled communicators are keenly sort throughout today’s job market. Whether you are looking to take your transferable skills into a new career direction, make a strategic role change or a bid for promotion, I would strongly urge you to leverage the value in your undisputedly, highly developed, highly desirable, hot suite of communication skills!


Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.

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