Preparedness 101

Last week I was talking about the power of names, mentioned I had more thoughts on the subject, and indicated I would continue in that same vein (though a little more seriously). Well, events have transpired (not particularly monumental events, but events nonetheless) that are making me forestall that conversation until another day. (Next week? That’s the plan, but…)

“What was it that caused this change in plans?” you might ask. Well, last week I was interviewed by a reporter. Shocked, you might then ask, “Why would a reporter want to interview you?” Decent question. (Better than some the reporter asked, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll call that foreshadowing.) Surprisingly, he wasn’t interviewing me because the years of outstanding speeding tickets had caught up with me. (In fact, while there are, indeed, a large number of such tickets; I always pay them or go to traffic school or fight them in court or find some way to bring them to some type of conclusion. I’ve had a lot of practice.) And, no, he wasn’t interviewing me as part of a human interest piece about auditors who were around in the Pre-Calculator days of internal audit. (Point of human interest — to the best of my knowledge, auditors never used slide rules. And if you don’t know what a slide rule is, Google it and don’t remind me I’m old.) And, no, he wasn’t interviewing me because I finally pitched that internal audit no-hitter. (Nine straight audits with no findings. Came close, but…)

The reason I was interviewed is that, well, I have this book that the IIA published a few weeks ago. Without being too self-aggrandizing, suffice to say that Peter Scott approached me with the idea of co-authoring a book on how to audit social media, and The IIA published Auditing Social Media at the end of March. For those simply dying to have their own copy, you can purchase it here at the IIA bookstore. But enough about the book (did you buy a copy yet?). The reason I was being interviewed is that the reporter was, apparently, doing a story about the risks of social media.

I say apparently because it was kind of hard to tell the subject based on the interview itself. Let us say that I was absolutely stunned by that interview. The gentleman (I will not share his name) called and told me the publication for which he worked (I will not share its name). I wholeheartedly agreed to the interview. (See self-promotion as evidenced by the previous paragraph.) He started by reading the notes his editor had sent him. He then asked some very general questions about which I strove to blather. About five minutes in, he reread a section of the editor’s note and followed with the inexplicable phrase, “What do you think my editor meant by that?” This did not happen just once, it did not happen just twice, it happened at least thrice.

I was flabbergasted. (Not so flabbergasted I couldn’t go on prattling. I have many “friends” who will vouch for my ability to continue no matter what the situation.)  And, after the third time I was asked to use my psychic skills to predict his editor’s innermost thoughts, I became a bit peeved. Later, speaking with some friends about the incident, we laughed about it, but also discussed the frustration of talking with a reporter who had apparently done no prep, no research on the subject, nor even developed a cohesive approach to the interview.

This was inherently shocking because reporters are supposed to be professionals. They are supposed to understand their craft and the way to get the job done right. (At least, that’s what my son the journalism major says.) And to watch such an unprofessional approach, while humorous, was galling.

Lesson for all of us. When we are doing any interview, any interrogation, any discussion, any meeting, we have to be fastidiously prepared. (I know you already know this. However, I also know the reporter already knew it. But here we are, talking about how he failed at what he supposedly already knew.) There are any number of techniques to be used when talking to our customers and stakeholders, and I’m not going to try and tell you what will work best. But for every meeting, customer conversation, and interview you better have a plan. That is, know the objective of the discussion, know what it is you want to say, anticipate what you think you will hear, and be prepared for all the questions you might get. Know your approach cold!

I repeat — I know you all learned in this in kinderauditgarten. But, because it is so basic to many of us (particularly those of us from the aforementioned Pre-calculator ages), it can be very easy to assume we are prepared, start the interview/conversation, and suddenly find ourselves reading the interviewee the e-mail we got from the CAE, asking a few questions, and then, out of frustration (because we don’t really know what we are trying to do), asking the following question.

 “What do you think my VP meant by ‘find out if controls are adequate’?”

 

Posted on May 16, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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