Open minds: The audit leaders toolkit

The Open Minds series puts cost-effective and concise learning at your fingertips. Designed to be delivered to teams from one to many as training by an audit leader or for individuals/groups to use as a refresher. This dual purpose script is crafted to be read aloud and for personal reflection.

Difficult conversations

Why is this important to me?

Some people are able to dodge difficult conversations their whole career. Auditors do not have that luxury. They cannot be avoided. The skills to manage them must be developed. As auditors we are often the bearers of uncomfortable truths or the generalist in a room full of subject matter experts.

Have we fully honed the skills for delivering findings, effecting change and garnering information?
Is too much time spent recovering relationships rather than celebrating the success of an audit?

We are going to take a little time to explore the power play of conversations and the role of self-talk. And also share tips to help turn those potentially stressful exchanges with stakeholders into opportunities for constructive dialogue.

Defining difficult

Any subject matter or information can be challenging to deliver if potentially contentious or sensitive. Conversations become difficult though when powerful emotions are uncontrolled or the stakes are high. It is too easy to say that tough topics are to be expected in our profession.


Possible examples include the discovery of fraud, redundancy, control failings and highlighting the incompetence of a trusted colleague. There can also be clashes of personality or style that make for difficult dialogue. Essentially a conversation is difficult when the person in the hot seat is feeling the heat.


As auditors the question we have to ask ourselves is; are we powerful, adept communicators?
Are there times you’d rather be anywhere than walking into an audit meeting?

A difficult…