This is the continuation of a series of blog posts discussing how the traits required of entrepreneurs mirror those of internal auditors. It is based on a blog post from the Center for Creative Leadership. The series started here, and you can follow these links to see the previous competencies: flexibility, learning agility, and relationship management.
I love this profession. I've been involved with internal audit now for close to 35 years. You don't stay with a profession this long unless you love it or are a raving masochist. I really don't like pain. So, there is no other alternative — I must really love being an internal auditor.
But there have been moments.
I've been cussed out, threatened, ignored, defamed, dismissed, told I was ignorant, told I didn't understand the business, told in no uncertain terms I could not review an area, had to lay people off, had to fire people, worked for an incompetent, worked way too many hours, worked on unimportant projects, had flights cancelled, had flat tires, had engine breakdowns, been told I wasn't a good auditor …
I love this profession but, just like you, I've taken a few lumps.
The point is that internal auditors can never let the trials, tribulations, and jerks get us down. It is not easy. I would argue that our profession tends to take more lumps because our role, purpose, and mission within the organization is not well understood. That means we are more likely to be ignored, forgotten, or reviled
But if we believe in the profession of internal audit — if we believe the work we do is important and crucial to the success of any organization — then we should have the resilience to fight back and persevere.
Here's a quote for you. "[It] isn't for the faint of heart. It requires grit, discipline, stamina, and composure to deal with all the ups-and-downs, uncertainties, and head-spinning changes that come with the territory."
A perfect description of what every internal auditor faces, right?
Well, actually, that comes from the Center for Creative Leadership's blog post mentioned above. They are talking about resilience as it relates to freelancers. Here's two more quotes. "Inner strength and calm are necessities even when things are not going well," and "Then there are the inevitable bad times. That's when resiliency really shows its worth."
Hard to believe they're not talking about internal auditors, isn't it? Because we require grit, discipline, stamina, and composure; we require inner strength and calm; and we require resiliency — the ability to face it head on and keep moving.
Even when internal audit is seen as a partner and valued member of the organization, there are detractors who constantly battle us, others whose bad experiences taint their perceptions, and even our biggest fans who can inadvertently (or advertently) take actions that harm us.
Haters gonna hate, the uninvolved gonna stay uninvolved, and the clueless gonna remain without a clue.
That is why resilience may be one of the most important (and seldom discussed) core competencies for the successful internal auditor. And resilience for internal auditors is rooted in our understanding of, trust in, and belief in the importance and value of the work we do.
We will fail and others will fail us. But we cannot just brush such failures off, ignore them, or seek someone else to blame. We have to take responsibility (even if it isn't our fault) and then be responsible for coming back to the challenge and persevering.
I recently read an interesting definition of optimism: "Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks." I like it because it isn't the typical Pollyanna-like definition normally associated with optimism. It is a description that has real-world application. And, I think it also works as a definition for resilience.
So, for internal audit, let's call it optimistic resilience: The ability to believe in the missions and goals of internal audit and do all we can to achieve that mission and those goals no matter what obstacles, setbacks, and landmines are put in our way.
Because our work is worth doing. And because, above everything else, internal audit is a noble profession.