The role of a head of internal audit can often be lonely. Most of us have experienced intimidating behaviours, designed to influence us to change our reports, delay messaging, or turn away from issues that we believe to be important. Of course, critical challenge and debate is both appropriate and desirable. The majority of executives understand the line that should exist between these positive interventions and intimidation. I have had fantastic colleagues, happy to simply have a coffee and reassure me that my experiences are shared. Similarly, we all have examples of incredibly strong, supportive senior executives, who actively promote our services and our valuable advice.
However, for many organisations the current crisis is challenging the business like never before. Leaders and managers are aware of the need to support their teams in adapting to these challenges. But, are leaders across the business showing equal consideration to internal audit? Or are we either being asked to simply stop working, even where there is a critical mandate, or being criticised for raising concerns that are simply a ‘distraction’, (even when those concerns are time critical and a response to the changing risk environment).
As a head of internal audit, I know that self-doubt creeps in easily. I invest hugely in understanding individual motivations and empathising with the challenges of my auditees at all levels of the organisation. I don’t relish in any way those situations where my team uncovers issues that I know will challenge the business or that have the potential to undermine individuals. However, I know that getting underneath the risks and giving genuine insights and pragmatic recommendations, openly and transparently, regardless of how difficult they are, is simply at the core of my role. Without this the system of risk management and internal control cannot be effective. When risks are heightened and rapidly evolving this becomes even more important.
So, how do we remain resilient through this crisis?