What is normal?
Note – this is an excerpt from the Auditor Training Online Facebook Live, which you can see here.
At Auditor Training Online we're not normal….. I was going to say normal people, we are normal people! But we are dispelling the myth of auditors. We don't want you to be scared of us. We don't want you to think that we are in our grey or black cardigans with leather patches on our elbows or wearing a bow tie!
We want people to be comfortable with what an audit is and what the process is and who WE are as auditor's as well. We are just normal people and we are here to work with you. So that's why. I titled this article – Don’t be a Jerk!
I don't know about you, but I'm sure we've all had the experience of working with an auditor or having an audit conducted on our business from an auditor who, for want of a better word was a jerk. They just made the process so much harder than it needed to be and it makes you feel so uncomfortable.
I'm saying this from the perspective of an auditee. I've had auditor's conduct audits on myself and the business that have not conducted themselves well and have made the process scary and uncomfortable and it shouldn't be like that. I've also worked with auditors on an audit team. I was the audit team leader and had an audit team member who, how would you say it was sort of full of his own importance. His questioning and his angle throughout the entire audit was all about how he could turn their attention to himself so he could tell them about how awesome he was! That's not what an audit is about. I keep using this word, it's a collaborative process. Collaborative is about working together. I think that's a really strong personal behaviour for us as auditors - that we work together. We work together with our clients. We work together with our auditees. We work together in an audit team.
As I always joke, I don't get paid more to find non-conformances. Even if I do find nonconformances, it's a positive thing, but now I'm getting off track. I'll stick to the point of not being a jerk!
The 13 personal behaviours in ISO 19011
There are 13 personal behaviours that ISO 19011 includes. I do want to add a few of my own personal behaviours to this list but first I will go through these 13 ‘formal’ ones with you.
- Ethical – I always say do the right thing even when nobody is watching.
- Open minded – we see so many different things done in different ways and standard requirements interpreted in different ways, so we do need to be open minded.
- Diplomatic - so we have to choose our words wisely.
- Observant and perceptive - I like those two. To me, those two go together. I always tell the story with this when I walk onto a construction site, sometimes you can see stuff getting thrown in cupboards as you walk along. It's sort of like you're, breaking through a path in front of you and they're all like throwing leads and equipment into cupboards. It’s quite funny that they honestly don’t think that I’ve seen this all happening in front of me 😊 I also know if someone's taking me in one direction, I know I need to look over my shoulder because something's normally happening over there.
- Versatile - we have to be ready to adapt to change.
- Tenacious - keep on asking questions and digging.
- Decisive and self-reliant – I like putting those two together. We have to make decisions on the run, both for ourselves as auditors and the client or auditee. If we are a team leader as well as it’s our team and our audit. We have ourselves to rely on to make those decisions and reprioritize as needed.
- Acting with fortitude - this is an interesting one. We always have a potential for conflict when conducting audits, so I think acting with fortitude means guts and strength, and that we need to back ourselves. It’s easy to back yourself when you have evidence behind you, isn’t it? Because it's not our opinion.
- Open to improvement - give yourself feedback and take onboard any feedback.
- Culturally sensitive – absolutely and this should be considered right from the audit planning stage.
- Collaborative - The final one, and my favourite, which I have explained before about working together towards a common goal.
To me, these personal behaviours are more about how to conduct an audit. I think what is missing is more about the person themselves. So, it’s more personal, I suppose?
My own Personal Behaviours to add
Put simply it’s really about being a nice human-being. It's not hard to be pleasant, nice and genuine is it? Showing an interest in what our auditees and clients are doing. Empathy is another good one too. Listen, ask questions to show that you are listening and that you are understanding.
Can you see how much more personal these behaviours seem to be as opposed to the others that are included in ISO 19011?
Another three words that stick in my mind are open, transparent, and clear. That's just communication really don’t you think? So, if I just said communication, what on earth does that mean? Again, that's sort of the ‘how’, but when I say ‘open, transparent and clear’ it’s more about the openness of how you communicate to the auditee. These three words really mean to explain the process that you're going through and following throughout the audit. If you've identified something that has the potential to become a nonconformance, for instance, or it might just be an observation or an improvement opportunity, say it out loud then. There's no need to keep secrets. There's nothing to gain by keeping secrets and being this auditor that at the end of the closing meeting just slams down these nonconformances to show how tough and scary they are. That's not how the process is supposed to work. It's not a secret process. We're not detectives or spies or the quality police, are we?
We work with people to support them to improve their business. It also really means to speak a normal language - don't start quoting these words that are straight out of the standards. We, as auditors know what the language is but the majority of people that we audit they don't know the language. They are familiar with their own systems language as well as industry language, wo we need to use their language. Don't try and show how clever you are by sprouting off clause requirements straight out of the standard. Don't be a jerk - that aligns completely with where we’re heading with this - that's just showing off.
Now, another one that I can think of that I'm going to throw in here is humble. I've had a very emotional experience with this. I worked with an auditor a few years ago and this auditor was NOT humble. Honestly, by the end of the first day, I had it up to here listening to how good he was, and honestly, the clients and the auditees don't want to hear how good we are. It's not about us, it's about them, right? We're there to look at their system and they are not there to listen to us and our stories. We have to be competent before we go out on site anyway. So, it's not like we have to try and prove ourselves, right. It's not about us. Be humble. Make sure the time that you are there is spent listening to the auditee as they are not there to listen to you and your stories of greatness. The final one I have thought of is flexible. To me this is still in line with being genuine, nice, pleasant, open, transparent and clear.
If something happens on the day of the audit or days of the audit, and it's not going to align with the timetable that you sent through and something has to change, that's okay. Don't get hung up on it. Honestly, you are just making it hard on yourself and you're making it an unpleasant process for the auditee. We're there to work together. If someone's child has to be picked up from school or they get sick or there's been an incident or someone hasn’t turned up for work and the timetable has to shuffle around a bit, that's fine. Everything will more than likely still get completed. My timetable is scribbled all over by the end of an audit. It’s my lit checklist essentially, of what I need to cover. If something happens and changes, I just scribble on it and say, yep, okay. Instead of two o'clock this afternoon, let's catch up at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning. It's okay. It really makes the whole audit process so much more pleasant and comfortable as well. Because people feel comfortable with you what happens then? That’s right - they talk more, they share more with you because they're comfortable to do that. Because the audit process isn’t about catching people out on anything, it’s about working with them towards continual improvement.
Rebranding the word auditor
Supporting people to become a pleasant, nice, genuine auditor is what Auditor Training Online is all about. It’s about rebranding the word auditor and who we are and what we represent.
Jackie is a Founding Director of Auditor Training Online. She loves to help others and share her excitement about auditing, consulting and management systems bringing to you her own experience and stories as a certification auditor.