I was partnering with a colleague recently to present at a conference. The day of the conference, we arrived at the site early to get a feel for the venue and to address any last-minute logistical items. After we took care of our administrative tasks, we waited in the café area of the conference site until it was time for our presentation. While waiting, we had a great vantage point from which to observe various people in the training facility. As we spent time watching people come and go, it occurred to me that you can better understand the present state of mind of others by observing how they carry themselves, whether they are at the office, the airport, a conference, or anywhere else.
A few specific styles that I have observed with respect to how people carry themselves include those listed below. From a personal perspective, at different points in time, I have found myself exhibiting each of these styles.
The person who walks very quickly and purposefully.The downside of this approach is that it can signal that the person is too busy or too important to interact or have a conversation with those they pass along the way to their destination. In this situation, others may be less likely to reach out based on the perception that the person doesn't have the time to talk with them.
The person who walks with their head down, deliberately avoiding eye contact.The obvious disadvantage of this approach is that it can indicate that the person is intentionally avoiding interaction with others. In this case, others may be less likely to reach out based on the perception that the person isn't interested.
The person who has his or her head buried in their cell phone.Although I begrudgingly admit that I've been this person from time to time, this is actually a pet peeve of mine. In addition to the safety risk this presents, it also signals lack of engagement with the present situation.
The person who walks around with earbuds in their ears.Similar to the person buried in his or her cell phone, this person can signal lack of engagement with the present situation.
The person who takes in his or her surroundings when passing through and forces eye contact with others.Clearly this person signals that they are engaged, interested, and approachable. Further, through taking in his or her surroundings, this person is positioned to make observations regarding the culture and general mood of the particular situation, organization or department. From an internal audit perspective, this information can play a role in being able to assess and further evaluate other observations that the person may have identified through the audit to better understand the potential root cause, as well as impact.
There may be points in time when each of the above approaches (or other approaches not included here) may serve a particular purpose. That said, I believe there is value in being aware of how others may perceive us and their willingness to interact with us based on how we carry ourselves. If we always seem to be in a hurry or if we purposely avoid eye contact, we risk creating an environment in which our internal audit customers or team members may not be as likely to reach out to us to express issues or concerns. Alternatively, if we intentionally seek interaction with our internal audit customers and team members and demonstrate that we have the time to talk with them, we are able to foster a culture in which our customers and team feel like we are interested in listening to what they have to say.
On your next audit, I encourage you to intentionally create an opportunity for interaction with your internal audit customers. I also encourage you to take a similar approach with your team. Be deliberate in building a personal culture in which your customers and team feel comfortable coming to you with issues, concerns, or general feedback to help improve the internal audit customer experience. It will likely save time and effort, while also making the internal audit process more satisfying.