Negotiating for success

Internal audit can only affect an organisation through the actions of others. Auditors themselves have no operational responsibility. The ability to negotiate and influence is therefore essential if audit findings are to have a meaningful role in organisational success.

There are numerous theories and a plethora of literature on the topics of negotiation and influence. This paper explores some of the key concepts through the lens of a chief audit executive (CAE) in terms of helpful tools, building relationships and developing a talented team.


Influencing - the ability to affect the development or behaviour of someone or something

Negotiating – an exchange aimed at reaching an agreement

Persuading – inducing a change of mind or action

These are highly interchangeable terms that are often positioned together but mean very different things. The diagram demonstrates their relationship using practical insights from research.

Source: Bruce Woodcock, University of Kent Career Services


To understand these constructs, auditors need to first acknowledge that they in the sales industry; selling advice and improvement opportunities for internal control, risk and governance. Selling is not about manipulation and being pushy, “the key to this business is personal relationships” as declared by Tom Cruise’s character in the classic movie Jerry Maguire. The same is true of the internal audit profession.

An important facet of being a CAE is relationship building, creating safe environments where trusted conversations can take place, such long-term associations however are not always possible, particularly for auditors. When meeting people for the first time or re-engaging with casual acquaintances, an effective approach is to build rapport.

In his book, Never Split the Difference, ex-FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss reveals nine practical tactics that the FBI teach operators to being more persuasive in negotiation. They work on the premise that compromise is not a…

"The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority"

Ken Blanchard, management guru