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Scaling Up

Blogs Laura Soileau, CIA, CRMA, CPA Aug 01, 2019

​Are you the smartest person in the room? Spending time with professionals who are more skilled can push auditors to become even better at their jobs.

​My son recently moved up a level in his karate class. This transition not only helped him achieve his goal of being in a class with more experienced students, but also allowed him to train at a more advanced level. However, following his transition, he was also the youngest and smallest student in his new class. 

All was going well with the new class until one afternoon last week when he was upset after class. As we chatted about why he was upset, it boiled down to one of his sparring partners who "didn't take it easy on him." I guess my son expected that because he was the youngest and the smallest in the class, the other students would not perform at their maximum effort when squaring off against him. 

I used the situation as a teaching moment, explaining to him that one of the reasons he moved up was to train at a higher level. I further shared that although it was challenging to be up against the more advanced students, it would also make him more skilled in karate in the long run.

As often happens following conversations with my son, I thought about how this concept of spending time with people more skilled than we are — what I refer to as scaling up — translates to what I sometimes encounter from a professional perspective. It is sometimes human nature to want to be the best among our peers. This desire to be the best can have some positive attributes when it comes to pushing ourselves to be better and do more. 

However, when we limit our competitive drive to only those in our immediate peer groups, we may actually limit our growth and development. Specific thoughts that come to mind include:

  • Spending time with those who are more skilled than us can play a role in making us better. Competing at a higher level forces us to push ourselves harder than we might otherwise. Specific examples include taking training classes or continuing professional education that we may not have otherwise taken because we want to position ourselves to interact with those who may have more expansive knowledge than we do in certain areas. I can remember being driven to pursue additional certifications because I felt my knowledge lacking in certain areas. The knowledge I gained through studying for these certification exams ultimately made me a better internal auditor.

  • Spending time with those who exhibit different skills and mindsets can elevate our thinking, expanding the viewpoints by which we evaluate ideas. As we spend time with people who think about things differently, we also begin to think about different perspectives when weighing decisions. This expanded evaluation can ultimately lead to a more robust decision-making process, leading us to consider more points of view than we may have otherwise. In this light, it is critical to evaluate risks from multiple points of view to better understand the potential risks that exist, the impacts of those risks, and mitigating factors.

In the long run, scaling up will increase our effectiveness as internal auditors. After all, if we consider ourselves to be the smartest person in the room, how strong will our drive be to keep learning? Some examples of how scaling up can benefit our audits include:

  • Thinking more comprehensively about the risks in the processes that we are auditing.
  • Seeking out more points of view than we may have otherwise.
  • Identifying new approaches to testing the areas included in the scope of our audits.
  • Developing reporting tools to more quickly and effectively present our audit results. 

Laura Soileau, CIA, CRMA, CPA