My five-year-old recently started playing spring soccer. As the season has gotten off the ground, it has been entertaining watching his team learn the fundamentals and terminology of the sport. I have great respect for his coaches, who have exhibited extreme patience in instructing the team on how to play the game. Through watching the team's practices and games, what has been most interesting is that one of the biggest lessons they are learning is teamwork.
As you can imagine, when you have a team of five-year-olds learning to play together, each of them wants to be the person who kicks the ball, particularly when it comes to scoring, and sometimes to the detriment of their team. That said, my son's coaches have emphasized the importance of teamwork and the role that each player has in the ultimate success of the team — not always an easy lesson, regardless of age.
Similarly, in today's internal audit environment, teamwork is absolutely critical to success. In part, because things are so complex and the world is moving so quickly around us, it is important to have a team of people with different backgrounds and different experiences to provide different perspectives on risks — it cannot be done in a vacuum.
For internal auditors who are a part of a large team, I encourage you to actively seek opportunities for collaboration across your team — collaboration among auditors with different levels of technical expertise, education, and backgrounds, as well as IT and operational auditors. Further, within and across your project teams, create a sense of partnership among your team members such that they are well-positioned to learn from their co-workers' previous experiences.
We've all been in conversations in which we've identified an audit finding that we've struggled to accurately and concisely articulate in our draft report. After spending an inordinate amount of time on the draft report, we feel as if we've finally gotten it right. However, when we share it with a co-worker, the individual immediately indicates that he or she has had a similar experience and shares the way the auditor documented it — really helpful information, only it came a little late.
I realize there are also some people who work as the only internal auditor in their organization or who are part of a small internal audit team. If you are in this situation, you may agree that teamwork is important, yet you may struggle with this in terms of not having a team at all or having very few teammates. This difficult position is where involvement with The IIA can reap great benefits by enabling you to network with other professionals who may be in a similar situation. Further, identifying people with comparable roles within the organization's second line of defense, such as compliance, can assist in fostering an informal teamwork environment.
In terms of teamwork, creating a culture of collaboration with a focus on people will lend itself to employee engagement, further strengthening the team. In addition, establishing an environment where everyone feels included and that their ideas are valued also creates a culture of engagement and teamwork. Moreover, building an atmosphere where auditors look out for one another and pick others up when they are down will make our teams welcoming to others, ultimately helping to increase what the team is able to accomplish.
Although I don't like to think of myself as old, I've been in the internal audit profession for more than 15 years. There are many things that are second nature to me that I sometimes do on autopilot. What I realize when I bring some of the newer team members in my department into our processes is that their questions and curiosity about what we are doing and why can sometimes lead to more efficient and effective practices.
In my organization, we've handed over the reins of new hire training to our staff and seniors, under management-level supervision and direction. This not only gives them ownership and accountability for the training, but it also creates an environment in which the training is designed with a continual emphasis on developing a strong foundation for the newest members of our team.
Regardless of whether we are learning to play a team sport for the first time or we are working within our audit teams, teamwork is critical to success. When we each play our role on the team, playing to our strengths and valuing the input of others, we best position our team for ultimate achievement.