A long time ago in an audit universe far, far away, I was having a conversation with a fellow audit manager. We were in one of those "in my day" type conversations that included "these kids today." (And to add a bit of irony to the story, my hair was nowhere near as white as it is now, the wrinkles were not as deeply etched, and, in general, I look back at myself and think, "What was that young whipper-snapper thinking?" Anyway…)
The main focus of our lamentations regarded how little the auditors working for us knew about internal audit, the industry, and our company. We kvetched for quite a while until one of us suddenly stopped and provided this bit of blindingly obvious insight. "Do you know why we know so much more than they do? Because we've been at this a lot longer than they have; they don't have the 10/15/20 years of experience we have. Why do we expect them to know as much as we know after just a few years?" And with that, we paused and contemplated our temerity. And then, well, I don't remember for sure, but I'm willing to bet we started complaining about something else.
OK, probably not the exact words that were spoken, but whatever was said similarly expressed the realization that we had been given a lot more time to become the "experts" we seemed to think we were.
Here is the quick, easy, actually-get-to-the-point-earlier-than-later-like-I-usually-do point of all this. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to forget how little you used to know. And the more you assume that others know what you know.
Recently, I read this quote from Leita Hart-Fanta, founder at YellowBook-CPE.com:
"I often hear audit leaders complain that the staff is not using their brain. And that is simply not true; they are just using their brain to get on top of the basics of how an audit works."
It is far too easy for any of us with any experience to forget what it is like getting started — the learning, the time commitment, and the struggle. And, as we all know, just when you think you know something, there's always more to learn.
And, as a bit of lagniappe, there is an even bigger picture to all this. Here's Seth Godin talking to Tom Peters about extreme humanism:
"It … is about realizing that people do not know what you know. They don't want what you want. They don't even see what you see, and that's OK. Because if we are not willing to go where they are, it's naïve to think that they're willing to come to us."
We have to understand that others do not know what we know. For the new internal auditor, our experience in the profession and the organization outstrips the knowledge they are only beginning to gather. For the client, our understanding of the role, benefits, and value internal audit can provide may be an aspect of the profession they have never seen. And for any human being with which we interact, the life we have led will not match the life they have lived, our knowledge will not match their knowledge, and our experience will not match their experience.
Accordingly, we cannot expect the new auditor, the client, or any other human being to come running to us, begging for our understanding, unless we are willing to come to them, both parties recognizing that each has a piece of the bigger picture that will lead to unexpected solutions.
Be willing to be patient, be willing to train, and be willing to learn.
And be willing to remove yourself from whatever lofty position of knowledge, power, and empowerment you feel you are due.