Conducting an Internal Audit — On Yourself
James E. Martin
July/August 2012, eSide Supply Management
Vol. 5, No. 4
Aiming the magnifying glass inward isn't easy, but it is necessary if you want to advance your career. Here are five questions to ask yourself (and answer) honestly.
Like most supply chain professionals, you probably cringe when you hear: "Internal Audit will be reviewing your procedures." You may think, Why bother? Don't they understand I'm here to save the company money and do the right thing? It's those mavericks I try to corral who should be audited. This is just a waste of time.
But, is it?
By design, an internal audit identifies weaknesses and strengthens positions. When it's over, it rarely ends as we imagine. In fact, we often emerge in a better position than we were in before.
Shifting the Focus Inward
So, why not conduct an internal audit on yourself? It's not easy; admittedly, it's downright awful. But, it needs to be done. A personal audit can help you identify your own weaknesses and flat spots.
Here are some personal audit questions you need to ask yourself.
- "What's my value to the organization?" You should be able to make the case in two sentences, or in a 10-second-or-less statement. These days, attention spans are shorter than ever. If you can't already make your case for why you add value in that amount of time, you'd better figure out how — and quickly.
- "Do I create problems, or do I solve them?" Problem-solving is an underrated strength. I'm not sure how or why so many problems occur in the business world, but they do. Being someone who can identify and solve them makes you an asset to any department or organization. Figure out how to be a problem-solver, and people will come to you first for advice and issues. And, they'll always want to get your buy-in.
- "Do I like where I work?" I've had days where I dreaded going to work at a particular organization. Not surprisingly, I wasn't productive.
Does your organization make you feel that way? How productive can you expect to be in such a poor state of mind? If you don't like where you work, take steps to get out. Yes, it's easier said than done. Nevertheless, it needs to be done.
- "Who's the most senior person I can approach to discuss problems or concerns?" Are you given access to decision-makers in your organization, or are you being blocked? Not being given the chance to shine in front of senior management is a problem. You have to evaluate how you're either encouraged to step into your boss' shoes or shielded from all the action.
For example, I wrote one boss's presentations to the deputy CFO. But, I never met that high-level executive, aside from sharing an occasional elevator ride.
- "Finally: Am I liked in my organization?" This is a difficult question to ask, because most people won't answer you honestly — at least, not to your face. If given the chance to respond anonymously, what would your peers/coworkers say about you?
In my experience, many people have no idea or sense of how they're perceived. One person I worked with thought he was liked by everyone. In reality, no one could stand him! Not being liked is a career killer.
Moving Forward, Armed With Awareness
As with any good audit, once you've answered these personal-audit questions, you need to address what changes are in order. Making personal changes is one of the most difficult undertakings in life. Just think about how hard it is to break simple habits — even bad ones! Yet, doing so usually improves your life.
Make the changes needed for self-improvement. You'll emerge a stronger person — one who's capable of surviving any challenge.
James E. Martin is a principal of AKS Partners in Melville, New York and chair of the ISM Global Group. To reach this author, please send an email to email@example.com.
For more career advancement resources, visit the ISM database.
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