When Your Professional Assets Become Your Liabilities

Richard Chambers, CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA, shares his personal reflections and insights on the internal audit profession.


Are you one of the best and brightest internal auditors in the profession? Are you dedicated, determined, and detail-oriented? Are you knowledgeable and self-reliant, and so you almost always have the correct recommendations for complex internal audit findings? Great! But be warned: Your professional assets can become liabilities.

These leading qualities would normally serve you well in the internal audit profession. But all of us are fallible, and far too often our “blind spots” are closely linked to our strengths. I have identified several characteristics that successful internal auditors normally possess. However, I also have noted circumstances I have observed in professionals when these attributes became albatrosses:

Are you the most dedicated auditor in your department? Maybe you work long hours to verify just a few more facts or to interview just a few more people. Normally that’s a career plus. But if your passion for completeness gets out of hand, you soon may find that scope creep gets the better of you and undermines the timeliness of your engagements. There are only so many hours in the day, so try to keep in mind that spending too much time on one audit might mean not enough time for the next one.

Are you widely admired for your industry experience and technical knowledge? If so, you bring important strengths to your career. But nobody’s knowledge is complete, and the more experienced you are, the more likely you may be to rely on past facts even when the situation may have changed. There’s also a temptation for auditors who are viewed as “experts” to try to live up to their reputations by giving an opinion even when they don’t have all the facts. Even the world’s most experienced experts need to ask for help on occasion. Try to remember that asking for a second opinion doesn’t make you seem less of an expert, and the people you ask for help will probably be flattered that you sought their opinion.

Is your work highly accurate? It’s great to have a reputation for professional infallibility. But everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and the danger is that if you are almost always right, it may be difficult for you to admit your mistakes when you are wrong. After all, you haven’t had much practice at it!

Are you extremely detail-oriented? Attention to details is important in internal auditing, but if you are particularly detail-oriented, you may become so focused that you sometimes lose track of the larger picture. Try to remember that too much detail in an audit report can actually detract from delivering the most important messages clearly and concisely. Often, we only need to tell the reader what time it is — not how the clock works!

Are you passionately committed to bringing about positive change? Enthusiasm is important. But if you are particularly determined to bring your audit customers around to your point of view, be sure you keep in mind that they may also have valid points. Auditors need to be able to consider new evidence fairly even when the evidence doesn’t appear until the closing meeting (or later).

That’s my opinion — you may disagree. If you have a different opinion, or maybe just another example of where great auditors sometimes go wrong, please let me know.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012 by Richard Chambers

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  1. About the Article - It does makes one introspect and evaluate the level of professional development as you've added the behavioural touch to it.

    Another area of concern could be IA's relationship with the clients and other stakeholders as with time, a feeling of supremacy may hamper or diverge from the main cause! 


    Many Thanks


  1.  Wonderful thoughts.

    there is also this question of 'Material signficance' that are brought up / pointed out in the Audit report closure meetings.  While it does not bring down the 'value add' by IA, at times, 'Basics' are ignored / discounted in the guise of  'materiality'.  I guess it is important for the internal auditor to be aware of the 'probable impacts' and address it in the report accordingly.  

    Many thanks



  1. for Are you widely admired for your industry experience and technical knowledge?

    I think "group opinion" is more fair and objective, which is not only from self awareness of the  “experts”, but also how to express the opinion of the team, some mini internal procedures is needed.

  1. 'detail-oriented" and  " larger picture" is a good point of view.

    For individual auditor, there always should be a sound aroud to remind himself, there is a chinese set-phrase, which is, make best use of the advantages and bypass the disadvantages.

    For a team leader, he/she should understand well his team members and collect different members with different respects of advantage to get a joint power 

    Back to system and procedure, person is subjective more or less, while system and procudre  is useful to overcome the shortcoming from subjectiveness. e.g. a systmetical plan and procedure, meanwhile a standard in measuring work quality and effectivness.

  1. Reality Check for internal auditors. At times we do get carried away and must remember the suggestions given in the article.
  1. Richard, Thanks for the thoughts - we all, as professionals and individuals, need to reflect on how we can continually improve. Another professional asset which may become a liability is your standard of ethical conduct. If your findings indicate conduct which in your opinion is less than ethical, you are obligated to bring this concern to management. Management may deem the conduct as "the way we do business". This leads the auditor to one of several choices: 1. Sit back and shut up (and keep your job). 2. Stand up, do the right thing and hold management accountable (risking your job). 3. Leave the organization (which is easier said than done in this economy). ---IMHO Gary O. Galdi MIM, MPA ? CIA, CFE, CGAP

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