So it’s that time in every CAE’s life where their audit service gets its external quality assurance (EQA) review. Although I’ve been a CAE for over 10 years now, it’s the first formal contracted out EQA I’ve undergone (as a consequence of other processes being in place or timing with client organisations). In previous roles I had annual EQA reviews by peers. This time it is a full fully arm’s length assessment.

I think I have been relaxed about it. Not because I am insanely overconfident or arrogant, but because I have a constant hope that I can genuinely learn and improve what I do and how I do it. I am actually looking forward to someone wanting to engage with my thoughts, my world, my challenges, my views, and the future.

I am certain not everything is perfect, or that there are things that could be improved. I am however very comfortable with the building blocks of my service, the people that work with me. They are a motivated and hard working team. A team committed collectively and individually to being better and the best. Part of that is because we work for an organisation that tries to help and change the world. Part of it I would like to think is because I demand, and hopefully inspire, the best in all of my team.

I had the extreme pleasure to see another two members of my team qualify as a professional internal auditors. They have worked hard in tough work and home contexts to achieve their qualifications. They did this not for the status and label of the postnominal letters, but for their genuine edification. Seeing their genuine happiness at qualifying got me thinking about what makes me happy?

So as I reflected on my team’s ability to tackle issues and challenges collectively and to help and motivate each other, I also reflected on what makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong, being in a leadership role can be draining, tough, challenging and, at times, dispiriting. Yet it can also be awe inspiring too; to see people really grow and develop.

So another pleasure I have is seeing the effect of an audit report really transform thinking and development of others or client organisations. A good audit report should sometimes take a client’s breath away. At first because of the sheer cheek and audacity of it, or because it says the unsayable, or because it tackles the most difficult challenges, the most painful truths, or because it is balanced and helpful, or because it has listened and brought contextual analysis to the issues and risks at hand. Then later, because it prompts growth in clients organisationally and individually in their staff.

It also makes me happy to be working in a co productive manner on assurance reports with my team. I love shaping, challenging, being challenged and then coproducing fantastic audit products. I love working with bright and stimulating colleagues. They make my day when they are excellent.  I am happy to showcase the team I work with; they’re fabulous.

What else makes me happy as a CAE? I think adding value to my client. I evaluate success as what I bring to the client and how I improve the clients I work with. For in the final analysis, if we judge quality as performance rather than conformance, it should be what difference we make to our clients.