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I’ve had one of those weeks where I’ve learnt so much. I do not mean I’ve been on a course or read lots of technical documents. I mean I’ve learnt a lot about relationships, people and human interaction. A few damascene moments have come to me.

On my way home back from the cinema this evening my partner and I noticed a very drunk, older man, staggering around precariously outside a local hotel. He was near the stairs but seemed okay, if a little wobbly. As we walked on he seemed to disappear out of sight. I said ‘oh he’ll be okay’ but my partner insisted we walked back to see if he was okay. Thankfully we did, he was face down at the bottom of a flight of stairs with blood on his face. We managed to pick him up and take him to the hotel he was staying at. He was fine. But what this taught me was the strength of human compassion and the value of support.

Bizarrely this seemed to link to the film we went out to see, Blue Jasmine, a Woody Allen film. This film is well worth a view, but without spoiling it, the film follows a woman, fallen from a super-rich New York life, staying with her sister as a last resort in her hard times. She seems to be without compassion for others and her sister, and throughout the film is thoroughly self centred. She reaps the reward of this approach.

I’ve noticed this compassion with the audit teams I have been lucky to work with. This is the case in the private and public sectors.  It is interesting how busy audit teams work to support each other. The work schedule in teams I’ve worked with has often been heavy and the team, including me, has often dealt with it as best we can. The lesson and the learning I’ve had is the way members of the team have gone about supporting each other. I’ve been offered coffee (no one normally offers me coffee), some offer support through leaving others alone and giving them space, some through humour and keeping the mood and energy up of the team, others through taking time to train and demonstrate to others, still others by encouraging learning and development.

My damascene moments have been two-fold. Compassion for others is a good thing. As auditors we are trained to be judgemental, analytical and generally fairly pessimistic. Yet these characteristics do not seem to overcome auditors in the way they work. They are human, normal and quite reasonable people in my experience. I think I’ve been lucky to work with teams that balance the left and right brains’ use in their work. The second is that compassion is found in so many diverse ways and people. I have written before on this blog about diversity and how difference strengthens internal audit work and opinions. I have taken on board now, the message, that this applies to teams too. The more diverse, the more human, the more surprising and the stronger they are.

There is the old adage that people recruit in their own image. Yes, I know that I like certain traits that are similar to me and those I hope to demonstrate and value. But I know being surrounded by more of me is a very bad thing. I need people who think, act, feel and work differently to me to make a team balanced and workable. I honestly get more pleasure from managing audit teams that are complex, human, difficult, different and challenging, supportive, amazing and creative. They have the capacity to surprise, delight and amaze far more than my earlier career days in a more homogenous professional services firm. I now have the pleasure of working away with small sub teams and the combinations always demonstrate strength and delivery, but also support and encourage each other.

For me work is pleasurable. I have always had a strong task focus (I thank my big four days for this). As I have matured I recognise also a strong human focus. Management is less, in my view, about controlling staff and people, more about encouraging, developing and freeing people. Do I get this right all the time? No, probably not, but if anything, this week has taught me I should at least try.

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