Among questions children ask of adults, perhaps the most common is, "Why?" When told, "Clean your room," "Do your homework," or "The sky is blue," children often respond "But why?" Then as we age, our innate curiosity decreases and conformity and harmony become a greater priority. We fear asking why may be interpreted as provocation, disrespectful, or even a waste of time. Our worries intensify, and the desire to fit in can overwhelm our curiosity.
For internal auditors, asking why is vital to professional development and success. It helps us understand the organization — not only our role in it, but the greater purpose we serve and contributions we provide. Asking why is necessary for seeing the bigger picture of our work.
Effective internal auditing requires a questioning mindset. Audit leaders, of course, need to communicate project goals and explain how they serve client objectives and contribute to the organization. Even so, encouraging employees to ask why, as well, helps them obtain a better understanding of each assigned task and a greater appreciation for its significance. Plus, increased engagement empowers and motivates employees, helping ensure everyone is energized and focused.
Individual empowerment enables employees to take ownership for their work, thereby cultivating a sense of pride. They view project success not just as a win for the organization, but as a personal achievement. Continuously encouraging employees to ask why and provide feedback helps sustain that sense of pride. And by doing so, managers provide team members a voice on decisions that affect projects. The resulting employee buy-in can lead to improved work quality and interpersonal relationships, and better alignment with client needs.
Asking why can also increase camaraderie and collaboration. When auditors inquire about how each person's role impacts a project or client, they develop a better appreciation for other members of the team. Increased awareness of team members' roles can foster mutual respect and enhance cohesion. And when employees respect one another, it stimulates knowledge exchange as team members become more comfortable sharing ideas with one another, thereby helping to reduce team conflict and nurture employee growth.
While visiting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters, U.S. President John F. Kennedy asked a janitor what he did at the agency. The janitor replied, "I'm helping put a man on the moon." The janitor realized his part in accomplishing the overall objective. To some people, the janitor was cleaning the building, but he understood his role in helping make history. This greater understanding illustrates the depth of commitment and sense of purpose employees can possess when they see the bigger picture — often stemming from a sense of curiosity and a willingness to ask why.