“People Skills” are considered an integral part of the essential skills that must be acquired by the internal auditor. It aims to change the negative impressions that some employees may have about internal auditors into more positive perceptions. This is accomplished by creating a positive image of the internal auditor by describing him/her as an expert who is seeking to help them, instead of a policeman who is trying to highlight their mistakes. The most important aspect of people skills is diplomacy.
Diplomacy is a science with rules that must be learned. However, there is a thin line between diplomacy and hypocrisy. The first, diplomacy, is decency, understanding, and sensitivity to others while the second, hypocrisy, is an immoral attitude to reach a certain aim. Therefore, internal audit needs a high level of diplomacy or wisdom to differentiate itself from hypocrisy in order to effectively achieve goals by mastering many skills:
- Communication: It is defined as the best ways to share information and convey meanings, feelings, and opinions to others in order to influence or persuade, whether via verbal or non-verbal communication. The well-known therapist, Virginia Satir, says: “Communication is a process of exchanging meanings between two persons.” Based on the above, the conclusion is that successful communication has to be established on two milestones:
- Building a strong relationship with others and harmonizing with them.
- Transferring information and ideas to others and influencing them as required.
- Negotiation: Negotiation is ongoing discussions, talks, and communication between two or more parties as a result of an agreement or disagreement with regards to common interests. The parties naturally tend to compromise to reach a win-win solution. This is the right concept for negotiation, as it considers it a “collaboration” rather than a “confrontation.” It is a chance for two parties to work jointly to achieve a goal not attainable by either of them alone.
- Persuasion: Is a mental process to influence the thoughts of others, a way to achieve objectives. Effective persuasion embodies successful communication skills and is a milestone for success. Therefore, some have considered it the parameter to measure a person’s keenness to succeed and reach his/her goals. As Omar bin Al Khattab, said: “Speak so that you may be known, since a man is hidden under his tongue.”
- Criticism: Criticism is a method to recover from setbacks if such criticism is determined and focused on the (wrong) behavior, instead of focusing on the person. It must be constructive and should not be intended to frustrate others or damage the relationship with them, but rather improve it. It is aimed to be communicated in one-to-one meetings and not in public.
- Influencing others: The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whenever forbearance is added to something, it adorns it; and whenever it is withdrawn from something, it leaves it defective.” The one who calls for something and does the opposite says to the people I want you to know it and believe it doesn’t work, but don’t you see that in me. Keep silent after saying a statement of doing something and allow the person(s) to think. As such, you are conveying great messages to them as they themselves understand that they are great.
Finally, I would like to mention that the auditee is a human being who is formed by his/her beliefs and emotions. He/she is not a machine that does exactly as it is told and the internal audits needs to use his/her “people skills” to build a relationship with the auditee and for them to understand the recommendation and to implement it. Without people skills such as diplomacy, internal audit will not be as effective and the organization as a whole will not benefit.
KHALAF ALWARDAT is financial expert, trainer and auditor, accredited locally and internationally in the fields of accounting, financial and auditing. (To comment on the article, email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org)