Nothing Important Happened Today

According to The Mental Floss History of the World (a nice little romp through all of the world’s history in 500 pages put together by Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand), the diary entry for King George III on July 4th, 1776, was “Nothing important happened today.” Oops. 

Ah, to know the things that are truly happening around us.
 
It reminded me of a lament I heard again the other day (one I have heard many times in the past). “Why is it we only hear of great people dying? Why do we never hear that great people have come into the world? Why do we never hear "Today the woman who will cure cancer was born" or “Today the man who will end all war graduated kindergarten’?”
 
It also reminded me of the time, quite a few years ago, when our CAE was discussing outstanding fraud investigations. He was looking at the year-to-date numbers and commented that they were low; that there had to be more fraud going on out there. Three days later, I got notification that led to a $100,000 fraud. (He advised he would never complain again.)
 
This is a message about communication, about relationships, and about connecting with people at work. Which leads to the question, how does your department handle relationship management with its customers?
 
Far too many audit shops seem to focus on the “management” part of relationship management. They manage meetings and they manage the schedule and they manage the people and they manage their way right out of learning anything. The real focus should be on the relationship – and how you manage that to its best advantage. Successful relationship management is about making discussions about risk, rewards, achievements, day-to-day accomplishments, setbacks, travails, excitements, and any other activities as natural as saying hello in the hallway. It is about finding excuses to talk. It is about searching out conversation. It is about working with our customers outside the “auditee” relationship.
 
I was speaking with someone (a CAE) at a conference lately about this subject and he indicated that his department had a very robust relationship management process. “For example,” he said, “I meet with the CFO three times a year.” I wanted to add “whether you need to or not.” 
 
Standard, scheduled relationship management meetings are merely table stakes. And having them at only the C-suite level means table stakes at a penny-ante game. To establish the kind of relationship auditors need with employees of the company, it means a personal commitment to know and relate to the people involved. It means stopping by an office and talking.  It means seeing if the individual is free for lunch and talking about their (and your) kids and family and interests. It means meeting for dinner after a late night of work. It is an investment of yourself to an individual/to a person.
 
And it is also about relationships at all levels. I know I’ve told the story before, so I’ll make it brief. Some of the best auditee relationships I have (senior managers I work with and who have become our strongest advocates) exist because we worked together and got to know each other when we were lowly professionals – not a manager amongst us. It was not that I was cultivating the relationships because I thought they might be important someday. It was because I was a human first and an auditor second. Building the personal relationships was just what any decent human being should do.
 
So, yeah, nothing important happened today. At least that is what the auditors who are sitting in their cubbies typing madly away at workpapers think. At least that is what the auditors who are busy trying hard to be so “independent” and “objective” they refuse to share a cup of coffee think. At least that is what the clichés of our profession think.
 
But something fantastic happened in your company today. Maybe it was the birth of the idea that will mean the company’s survival. Maybe it was a promotion to management for someone who will one day be the CEO. Maybe it was merely the fact that someone had a real good day at work. Or, maybe it was the birth of a co-workers’ child. Just be sure you’ve got your head out of the auditing sand long enough to hear the cries of something important when it is being born.

Posted on Mar 11, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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