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Mind of Jacka: No One Ever Asked

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Mar 07, 2024

I may have mentioned this before, but I am treasurer for the Geyser Observation and Study Association, a group of geyser enthusiasts who share a fascination with… well… geysers. The group does a lot of work around watching, researching, and writing about the geysers of Yellowstone National Park, as well as other geyser fields throughout the world. It is a community of fans, citizen scientists, and actual scientists.

(If you are interested, you can go to and get a taste for what the group is doing. Really interested? Drop me a line and I’ll send you a free copy of our newsletter, The Geyser Gazer Sput. And, no, I’m not making this up.)

Recently, the board of directors received a letter from one of our members — a long-standing member who was instrumental in the success of the group. It was a multi-paragraphed tirade laying out everything he thought had gone wrong since his personal involvement. Our president got together with the board, determined where we all stood on the matter, and put together what I thought was a well-reasoned response. Of course, the long-time member responded, and with such actions does a war of words begin.

No sense belaboring what is now transpiring. Instead, it is important to note that some of the long-time member’s original accusations seem to be misplaced. On the other hand, there were some comments that made us board members pause and rethink some things. Since we are in a bit of a rebuilding phase, the feedback was worth examining. I don’t see big changes in the future, but due diligence is forcing us to make sure we are doing things correctly, and that’s never a bad thing.

But here’s the kicker. (And kudos to our president for pointing this out in the response.) This was the first we had heard that this individual — someone who appeared to be passionately opposed to some of what had been going on for several years — let us know that he had serious issues with the way things were being run.

We’ve all seen this happen in business or our department or even in our personal lives. Someone’s concerns, never having been released, fester to the point that they explode in a deluge of denunciations regarding all things great and wrong.

I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but I’ll tell the story again. Farmers Insurance internal audit set up an internal discussion database. We wanted the company’s internal auditors — a decentralized group scattered throughout the U.S. — to have conversations and build bonds among the far-flung participants.

One day, seemingly out of nowhere, one of the auditors used the forum to unload on his supervisor, the department, and the company. His post was long, well thought out, and mean. Unsurprisingly, the discussion database was immediately shut down. But the thing that really bothered us was that the auditor had never previously shared his concerns. Rather than discuss his issues, he let them fester. Why hadn’t he told anyone before? (Actually, a great question, in and of itself, that deserves analysis at a later date.)

And therein is the lesson for every internal auditor. When you are out on an audit or talking and visiting with clients — how often do you ask them questions like, what is going wrong? What is bothering you? What would you change if you could? What are the situations where no one is listening to you?

You do not have to be in a formal interview to discuss concerns, it is just as valuable to bring it up in casual conversations. It also means having discussions with individuals at all levels. The best information invariably comes from those residing on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Another story I’ve told before bears repeating. During an interview with one of the clerical personnel in a claims office, I asked my favorite closing question: “What question do you wish I had asked you?” Her response, “I wish you had asked me about my supervisor.” What followed was a detailed conversation regarding potential fraud that led to that supervisor seeking employment elsewhere.

There is someone who has something to tell you, but they aren’t going to tell you about it until you ask.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Mike Jacka is co-founder and chief creative pilot of Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.