3 Rules to Lead a Stress-Free Audit

audit lead auditor Feb 08, 2021

Leading an audit or being an audit team leader is one of the crucial audit skills. Auditors should learn and practice the skills necessary to lead a team and audit in a stress-free way.

Some organizations prefer stringent auditors where the audit report shows every minor observation. On the other hand, some organizations see the audit as a tool to help them improve their performance. Regardless of the audit type or how serious it is for an organization, the auditor needs to consider some factors to have an effective and stress-free audit.    

Auditing is about building trust. It is not about finding faults. It requires a mix of skills and competencies. When you have been assigned as an audit team leader to conduct an audit, you should take into account some important key factors such as:

  • How to conduct an effective and meaningful audit?
  • How to manage the stress of your team, yourself, and the person or organization you audit?
  • How to be a proper audit team leader?

As a team leader, you are in charge of the audit and your performance should help you to get the best audit outcomes. The audit outcomes are not limited to the audit findings or audit non-conformities. As a team leader, you should be able to focus on the big picture. The audit is about building trust amongst various interested parties.

The interested audit parties are not always the clients or the outsider of an organization, but it can be the organization's employees being audited or your audit team members.

Here are the three rules auditors should follow to deliver a meaningful and stress-free audit:

 1. The audit is not a fault-finding process. Mean it when you say it

The audit is about building a healthy working relationship where you can freely ask questions from organizations within the scope. In response, they will feel comfortable being open and honest with you. "The audit is not about non-conformities, but compliance". We have all heard of this quote in the auditor's opening meetings. But how serious we are when we say it. We can allow the organization to rectify the minor findings with no associated risks that can be fixed during the audit. Allow the auditees to correct what they can at the time of the audit. Reporting every observation may not add value to the organization and sends a bad signal that the auditor is merely focused on picking up micro observations.

2. Consider the learning curve

As an auditor, you always learn something when you visit an organization. It is the same scenario for the auditees too. Within the organization, a person or a group of people is often assigned to implement the requirements you are auditing. This role may not be the only task assigned to the staff, and they have other things to do daily. On the other hand, auditing and working with the standards is normally the auditors' daily work. Giving a proper audit to an organization would enable the auditees to gradually learn about the requirements and educate themselves to be more mature in implementing the requirements of the standards.

 3. Be a team leader

The team leader delivers a meaningful, effective, stress-free audit. Knowledge about the standards and management systems is necessary but insufficient to conduct an effective and meaningful audit. Skills such as effective communication with your audit team member are crucial. Organizing an audit team, working with the team members, and acting as a leader are key to running a smooth, effective, stress-free audit. Here are some tips that help you to act like an audit team leader:

  • The audit is not about non-conformities. Emphasis on this fact helps your audit team member be more relaxed without feeling any pressure from your side as an audit team leader to find non-conformities.
  • Respect their comments and findings. Listen to their point of view and respect the fact that they are mostly as experienced as you or even more so and could have been assigned as an audit team leader instead of yourself.
  • The audit team leader's role is to finish the report and close the audit. As a team leader, you can change the audit non-conformities grade if you realize what was proposed has to be changed. Consult with your team member if you plan to change their non-conformities grading and explain why before doing so.
  • Ask the audit team member to adhere to the audit plan and timing.
  • Encourage the audit team member to give you feedback after their daily audit meetings. This will help you have a healthy and constructive discussion about the audit with your team member.
  • Run a daily wrap-up or pre-close-out meeting with the auditee to explain your audit findings and allow them to verify your audit findings.

Following the rules above will allow an audit team leader to act professionally and effectively to deliver a meaningful and stress-free audit. Exercising and focusing on communication skills and conducting an audit post-evaluation review with the audit team will improve skills and competencies in running a smooth and stress-free audit.

To learn more about leading an audit, we have prepared a special course for you:

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