Best practices for team development: you're only as good as your team--successful team development strategies.

 
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You're only as strong as your weakest link. The question is: how do audit leaders ensure that their weakest link is anything but, and conversely, how do audit staff ensure that they continue to develop professionally to add more value to their organization?

The answers to the two questions have a lot of overlap, as we discovered when we interviewed four internal audit leaders who have put best practices in team development to use to build and maintain their audit functions. Below are five key takeaways from our conversations that continue to be evidenced by leading internal audit functions around the world.

Hire the Right People

"Of course," you say, but how? As Jeff Stone, vice president-internal audit, ethics & compliance at Duke Energy Corporation explains, "When we hire people, one of the criteria we use is whether we believe this person can be promoted a couple of levels ... not are they ready now, but is the raw material there. We're looking for people that we can develop into leaders." So what skills and attributes do potential leaders possess? "We need people with the ability to communicate," says Stone. "They need to be able to take a complex topic and communicate it succinctly and simply." Beyond the soft skill of communication, he looks for people that are willing to take a hard, tough look at themselves. "I look for self-critical people, not self-promoters," says Stone. "Self-critical people will take feedback and absorb it. Self-promoters will deflect it."

Adopt the Mantra: Communication, Communication, Communication!

Once you've hired the right people, set the right tone at the top by stressing the importance of communication. You must be able to communicate effectively with audit clients, audit committee members, executive management, supervisors, and team members to learn what each entity needs from you and be able to provide insights into what the company can do better.

As Jeff Browning, CIA, senior vice president and chief audit executive corporate audit services at Fiserv, emphasizes to his team, "I always say that audits are done for people, not to them and conducting good audits requires building good relationships. Relationships are all about trust so you must communicate throughout the entire audit process, not just at the end." To this end, Browning is a strong proponent of any training opportunities for his team and himself that focus on strengthening communication skills.

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