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​​The Risks of Living in Turbulent Times

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News of violent acts snuffing out the lives of innocent bystanders assaults our senses seemingly on a daily basis. Heart-wrenching events, such as last week's deadly terrorist attack in Spain, leave many of us weary, and worse, pessimistic about the future.

A few months ago, terrorism hit especially close to home for the IIA family when one of our affiliate leaders lost a childhood friend in a deadly bombing attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sadly, I'm sure this was not a unique situation, given The IIA's reach in more than 170 countries and territories.   

Over the years, I've written a great deal about risk as it applies to the profession of internal auditing. In 2014, one of my blog posts spoke to the "extraordinary headwinds spawned by a turbulent environment in which risks materialize virtually overnight." Then, I was addressing global financial and business markets being rocked by cybersecurity breaches, geopolitical instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, refugee crises, and more.

Risks that raise concerns for internal audit practitioners can also extract a human toll. But this sad truth should not ignore a constantly heightened sense of alarm amid these terrifying times. There are those in our profession who are not just auditing at the speed of risk. They are, quite literally, living their lives at the speed of risk. One of my colleagues here at IIA headquarters, Guilherme Lopes, spoke volumes when he commented: "One of the things that really amazes me is how people in places such as Afghanistan and Yemen continue to strive and promote the profession despite war, famine, and geopolitical crisis."

Indeed. Whether it comes in the form of a terrorist attack, famine, disease, or cataclysmic weather event, those who are in the business of assessing risks and building value for their organizations may find these accounts particularly upsetting. Perhaps such news presents an opportunity to step back and assess the risks in our own lives as we try to figure out strategies for managing risks in the organizations we represent.

In trying times, we would all do well to remember that the world really knows no borders. We strive on a daily basis to demonstrate what can be accomplished when, in such a diverse and evolving environment, we remember and focus on the things that bring us together.

For those who may find themselves thinking that the profession requires much in the way of guidelines and standards that must be met, perhaps a little perspective is in order. Let us consider — and not just in passing — the passion for the work of internal audit held by those with a dangerously close seat to the front lines, those whose regular route to the office may include passing soldiers on the street.

One of the Core Values at IIA headquarters in Lake Mary, Fla., is this: "Commit to Shared Success." What exactly does that mean? "Acting professionally, with empathy and maintaining a positive attitude, we work collaboratively, listen carefully, and value everyone's perspectives and contributions."

That seems a particularly valuable message to take to heart as we in the internal audit profession continue our quest to "Work Smart," another of headquarters' Core Values. It proclaims, "Displaying courage, as well as passion for our work, we boldly pursue new ideas, recognizing that the best solutions come from the power of working together and embracing inclusive thinking."

It is my hope that these values might serve as touchpoints in good times and bad, and that we might always be cognizant of the value of working together and of reaching out to our peers in global hotspots with messages of support and concern as they continue to do great work under challenging circumstances. Whether you're on deadline with an audit report or trying to simply get through a challenging work day, it's important to keep in mind:

  • Always put your safety and health first and be aware of your surroundings. Being an internal auditor should never mean being a martyr.
  • Be courageous in your work, but remember there's a fine line between courage and recklessness. Trying to be too courageous might result in winning a battle but losing the war.
  • Take into account the culture in which you are operating.

Our hearts are with the survivors and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in Barcelona. At The IIA, we have a saying: "We Are One IIA." Today, we are one world.

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