• Alex de Jong

Being an auditor will make you a better trainer!

Updated: Oct 12, 2018

5 skills every trainer needs to develop from the world of corporate accountancy

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I guarantee you that no five-year old in the history of clichéd questions, has ever run up screaming to Mum and Dad:

"I want to be an Auditor"
This expression doesn't even illustrate how disappointed these poor parents would be on the inside.

Whilst you're still young enough to have wild dreams, ooze creativity and possess an untainted imagination; sitting behind an Excel spreadsheet, several tabs deep into a pile of client invoices, unsurprisingly doesn't come up on the agenda.

When I was five, I wanted to be a professional wrestler.

When I was five, my dad was an accountant.

He's still an accountant today. He's a #lifer

So, when I was five, my dad wanted me to be an auditor.

Surprisingly, in an industry famous for its lack of social competence, there's a few things you can learn in accountancy that will #supercharge your skills as a trainer.

1) Self-awareness

I wasn't very good at statutory audit.

I wasn't the worst in the world, like the auditors of Enron, but honestly I wasn't the best.

Apparently creative people aren't people fond of typing numbers into a spreadsheet.

After six months, I asked my manager if I could sidestep away from number bashing into Internal Audit.

The daily life of an internal auditor involves reviewing processes, interviewing people and writing reports.

I had to look in the mirror at my blind stops.

I had to be frankly and honestly admit what I'm good at and what I'm not good at.

Trainers need to be honest with themselves, so that they can be honest with the client, by asking questions like:

What are my strengths?
What are my weaknesses?
What am I not good at?
Am I on the right path?
Do I have the expertise to deliver this training?
How can I develop myself further?

Self-awareness is your internal radar.

You need to know what you can offer and where you fall short to guide your workshops and uncover areas of improvement.

2) Personal Responsibility

The firm I worked in, had a lot of corporate buzzwordy-sounding values like #GlobalAcumen and #WholeLeadership.

These sound nice on the outside at first glance, but as far as words go.... they don't actually mean anything.

The #1 Buzzwordy-sounding value: Personal Responsibility!

#PersonalResponsibility was repeated so dogmatically, even North Korea would be impressed at how effectively it was used as corporate propaganda.

As a 22-year-old who thought he knew everything, personal responsibility sceptically sounded like a way for people to shirk their own responsibilities off onto others.

As a 26-year-old who knows he knows nothing, personal responsibility sounded like it wasn’t a hacked up buzzword whatsoever.

Taking complete and utter responsibility for everything you work on and then owning it from start-to-finish, isn’t just a good approach to work, it’s a good approach to life.

When I moved into Internal Audit, I was forced to figure out nearly everything for myself.

No managers or team leaders with a grey-suited shoulder to lean on or cry to. Just a 20-minute meeting about the scope of the clients problem, then off you pop to figure it out for yourself.

I had to solve problems in:


Statistical reporting,

Fire safety,

Construction contracts and

Whether psychiatric hospital discharges had been written sufficiently...

to name a few.

I'm no #expert in any of the above.

I'm the kind of guy who writes a hashtag before writing expert, that kind of #expert.

Most times I had a few hours (if that) to soak up as much information as possible, before finding myself planted in front of a client who thought I was a highly paid, incredibly competent and knowledgeable individual who had looked at this issue a million times before.

He may look like a typical auditor, but beneath his fantastically groomed beard, he will address client problems ranging from budget reporting to manufacturing nuclear batteries compliant with the latest ISO regulations.

Every meeting...

Every interview...

Every cross-country journey...

I had to take full responsibility for.

Trainers need to take full responsibility for their clients: during the training, before the training, after the training and every thing that may happen in between.

From doing a proper needs assessment, assessing the value and ROI of your training, then designing bespoke slides, to showing up in the room an hour early, conducting a proper evaluation with the client and any follow-on activities.

Everything that happens in and out the training room, happens because of you.

3) Analysis

Remember when I mentioned that I had to solve some odd problems I knew absolutely nothing about.

I could do that quite effectively, because I put on the #AnalysisHat and dug deeper than a Welsh coal miner.

Years of audit taught me the art of balancing between the small details vs. the bigger picture.

It's a tricky balance but auditors like to #LiveDangerously

Some seemingly small anomaly might be one of the biggest pieces of information.

It’s all about uncovering the root cause of the issue.

It doesn't matter whether you're coaching one person with a presentation or helping eight people improve their ability to give their team feedback; you need to apply the same level of detailed analysis.

You’re being paid to keep your eyes and ears open, which means that:

  • The slightly shallow breath someone does before they begin their pitch, could be a sign of nervousness;

  • The thumb placement overlapping yours when they shake your hand, might mean they want to overexert dominance as an alpha male;

  • The loudest mouth in the training room with the funniest jokes who everyone loves, might be the most insecure;

  • Whereas, the seemingly shyest is actually the most confident with their presentation;

  • Also, you could be absolutely and utterly wrong with all the above.

#Truth: Analysis is the #1 business trait you can develop behind Sales and Marketing.

Everything becomes input for feedback.

Both trainers and auditors alike interpret the meanings of seemingly dissimilar things, connect the dots that others can't see and use this information to serve the client.

4) Create an experience

Only masochists like it when someone says:

“Today the auditor is coming in.”

People are interrupted from their day job to speak to a grey stiff in a suit about numbers.

Having an auditor come in can be a lot like going to the dentist: painful, insufferable and happens about twice a year.

At least you'll still have most of your teeth by the time the auditor leaves... as long as you've given them the deliverables in a timely manner #AngryAuditor

Which is why creating a positive client experience is vital.

You want to make the clients life #enjoyable by giving them something meaningful and of #value that will improve their work lives.

Same with training:

Give them something lively.

Create an unforgettable experience.

On an audit engagement: this could be an interactive report on a fancy iPad.

On a training engagement: this could be using music during your workshops.

Everything you do should be geared towards giving as much joy and positivity as possible so that the people you’re serving are left smiling… preferably with all their teeth.

5) Straight to the point

Towards the end of my audit engagements, I would write a report of issues and recommendations I had uncovered whilst at the client site.

These had to be sharp.

No room for fluff.

Short sentences.

Factual. Concise.

Every sentence fine-tuned so that it said exactly what it meant.

I’d proudly send my report to a manager who would hit my beautifully worded Word or PowerPoint document with dozens of comments and red ink.

This bad auditor has been forced to sit on the step by her manager for being too verbose.

Reports would be chiseled like Roman statues, so that every word read by the clients would actually mean something.

Much like a presentation or pitch, a report is perfect, not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.

As a trainer you don’t have time for #waffle.

Half-day, Full-day, Multi-day…. Doesn’t matter.

Get to the point.

Fulfill the objective you set out to, in an engaging way that creates a positive experience, but not to the detriment of the job you've been tasked to do.

Nothing less!

You’re not there to give a lecture or a theater performance.

You’re there to fulfill a need.

Give them exactly that.

You're always learning

No matter what job you do, you’ll learn many things that will help you for seemingly unrelated jobs further down the line.

Life is about the acquisition of skills and in doing so nothing is ever wasted.

Trainers use their years and years of life experience from birth through everything they’ve done to the present date to help people.

Whether it’s so-called “soft skills” (#newsflash: there's no such thing as soft or hard skills but that's a blog post for another time) or the more technical aspects of my job that have allowed me to help accountants turn numbers into compelling stories and visual presentations; nothing is ever wasted and by continually learning, you’re forcing yourself into a growth mindset where you’re always a trainer and always a student.

If you’re an accountant who wants to spice up your presentations and reports by turning numbers into stories; then let’s talk further about communication and training at speakwith@alex-dejong.com