If you have been in internal auditing for a few years, you’ve probably seen it happen. When you start your entrance conference, everything is going smoothly. You’ve prepared carefully for the meeting, and you have cordial relationships with your audit clients. Suddenly, however, your clients are frowning, and communications seem to have become a one-way street. It’s almost as if a door had closed. Management’s arms are crossed defensively, and they no longer seem to want to agree with anything you say. At times, you might not even be aware of why the change took place — you only know that the chance for open communications and sharing of ideas seems to be fading away.
What went wrong? You might never know. But even if you don’t know why the last entrance conference deteriorated so rapidly, there might be a way to help ensure it doesn’t happen again. Every situation is different, but here are a few specific statements that often seem to raise hackles during entrance conferences.
An internal audit entrance conference should be much more than just a moment to say hello at the beginning of a new audit. It is our opportunity to make a strong first impression, to create healthy working relationships, and to motivate our clients to work with us toward positive outcomes. The entrance conference can set the tone for the entire engagement. Unfortunately, however, an entrance conference can also be a point at which working relationships are damaged. Too often, mistrust is created or other barriers are established simply because of a misplaced word or thought at the beginning of an engagement.
We only get one chance to make a first impression. Let’s make it a good one.