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​Fighting the Same Old Battles

Is working with clients giving you a strong sense of déjà vu?

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​In the book Writing Down the Bones, author Natalie Goldberg tells a story about motivational speaker Tony Robbins. A client he had worked with multiple times consistently haggled over price, schedule, etc. He decided it was time to change the dynamics. As they sat in the 10th-floor executive suite, the client began the battle once again. Robbins reached into his thousand-dollar suit, pulled out a water pistol, and began shooting it at the client. The executive was startled, but quickly understood the message. “We’ve been here before. Why are we wasting our time?” He laughed and signed the contract.

How often have you sat in the same room having the same discussion with the same clients? How often have you quarreled over miniscule points, debated the choice of individual words, and quibbled over insignificant corrective action details, repeating discussions you have had time and time again? 

One cause for these repetitive conflicts is education. Do the audit clients understand the work we do? Do they understand how we reach our conclusions? Have we done enough to explain it to them? And have we pointed out they are repeatedly arguing the same points?

But auditors need to use these situations to better educate themselves, as well. At a past employer, it took our audit department just a few audits of branch claims offices to realize our debates with the regional claims manager occurred because he thought our sample sizes were inadequate. Were they too small? Probably. Was he asking for more than was necessary? Probably. But as soon as we provided the testing he was looking for, the debates were much shorter.

Still, we may need to shake things up sometimes — make the client realize we’ve been through all this before and that we can all save a little time by moving beyond the normal bickering and getting to what needs to be discussed. One client fought us tooth and nail on everything we reported, insisting on multiple meetings to hash out every report. Deciding it was time to upset the apple cart, I started the meeting by asking, “What will it take for me to get you to drive out of here with this audit report?” My verbal water pistol worked — the report was ready to be issued one hour later. 

In all things we must challenge the status quo. But we may not realize how true this is when it comes to the daily give and take, conversations, and debates we have with our clients. Look for such instances and decide if one side or the other needs to be better educated. Or is it a case of falling into the same old patterns? To paraphrase Goldberg, step through the resistance right now and do something new, something surprising, and something great. And when you see yourself, your team, or the client falling into the same patterns, break out the squirt gun and shake things up. 

Mike Jacka
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About the Author



Mike JackaMike Jacka<p>​​​​​​​​​​​Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU, worked in internal audit for nearly 30 years at Farmers Insurance Group. He is currently co-founder and chief creative pilot for Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS). In <a href="/_layouts/15/FIXUPREDIRECT.ASPX?WebId=85b83afb-e83f-45b9-8ef5-505e3b5d1501&TermSetId=2a58f91d-9a68-446d-bcc3-92c79740a123&TermId=ac8af301-e15c-49bc-9c04-b97c2e183a4b" data-feathr-click-track="true">From the Mind of Jacka​</a>, Mike offers his wit and wisdom on the internal audit profession.</p> Jacka blog posts


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