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Qualities for Auditors

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									                                                                                INform 6
                                                                          Personal growth
                                                                             James Smith
Become a better auditor

For many auditors the job has become one of ever greater demands. At one end of the
scale there is the strain of increasing paperwork burdens. At the other there is a client
who your company wants as a customer, but who you know does not meet the
requirements of the standard. With high levels of stress and falling job satisfaction,
James Smith asks: what personal skills does an auditor need?

ISO 19011 highlights a number of principles for auditors, like ethical conduct, fair
presentation, due professional care, independence and an evidence-based approach.
The standard goes on to set out the personal attributes that will enable auditors to act
in accordance with the principles of auditing and these are:
     ethical
     open minded
     diplomatic
     observant
     perceptive
     versatile
     tenacious
     decisive
     self reliant

But as well as these skills, there are other qualities and attributes that a good auditor

The ability to gather evidence sub

All auditors need to be able to gather audit evidence. In environmental auditing much
evidence can be gathered using the senses. It requires an inquisitive stance and the
desire to find out what is actually happening. Auditors will also need to be able to
engage in a wide range of topics and ask all manner of questions. It is important to
stay focused and not to become side-tracked by areas that are not directly relevant to
the audit.

Sorting evidence and decision making sub

Once audit evidence has been gathered it needs to be sorted into what is relevant and
what is not. In assessing audit evidence there also needs to be a decision-making
process. This is usually against the criteria that the audit is being conducted against
and this will be the standard and the client’s documented management system. This
process is conducted in a detached way and may be at the end of the day before giving
feedback to the client.

Putting the picture together sub

Auditors need to be able to understand systems and how they work. This requires the
ability to quickly formulate a picture of the client’s management system, the
organization and the key features within it. A good auditor should then be able to
work out an understanding of the cause and effect linkages within the client’s
                                                                              INform 6
                                                                        Personal growth
                                                                           James Smith
management system. This is also the level where audit planning takes place. Putting
the audit plan together requires an appreciation of the audit flow and what would
constitute a logical sequence of events.

People skills sub

Auditors need to have exceptional people skills and the ability to deal with all types of
people. For many auditees the auditor may be feared and not particularly welcome. So
having the ability to put people at ease and understanding life from the auditee’s
perspective is an important quality. It is also important for auditors to show respect. It
is, after all, the auditee who is paying for the auditor’s time.

Audit management sub

All audits have a certain dynamic which is unique to the organization being audited.
The auditor needs to have the ability to manage the audit process against the audit
programme. This means ensuring that the pace of the audit is right for the programme.
The pace has to be set within the limits of what both the audit team and the client
organization can sustain.

Vision and instinct sub

Many auditors have the ability to walk into an organization and within a short period
of time have an instinctive knowledge of what the state of play is within that
organization.When considering audit findings a good auditor will be able to build a
picture of what the situation is within an organization and then translate that into what
it might mean for the organization in the future.

Adhering to the rules sub

All audits have rules; from the rules within the clauses of the management systems
standard through to the organization’s own rules for conducting audits. A good
auditor needs to understand those rules and make sure that they are adhered to. This
often stems from a lack of understanding of the specific requirements of a particular

Leadership sub

Leadership is obviously a quality needed by lead auditors. A good audit team leader is
someone who is accomplished across many of the skills needed for auditing and who
has the ability to demonstrate this to others.

Letting the client decide sub

When they reach a certain level of proficiency, some auditors like to think that they
know best and start to advise the client accordingly. In fact, the auditor is simply
presenting an accurate picture of what the state of play is. It is for the organization to
determine what direction it will subsequently choose to take.

A personal development programme sub
                                                                             INform 6
                                                                       Personal growth
                                                                          James Smith

You can make some sort of assessment on the above qualities and work out your
strengths and weaknesses. Some people might be good at adhering to a line, for
example, but are not so good at working with people. Other may be good a finding
audit evidence and not so good at building it into a picture.

Most auditors get feedback and this can be very useful to in terms of discovering
where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Planning for change is the important first
step. There is no right or wrong way, but the main thing is to have a plan to clarify
what you want to accomplish.

About the author

James Smith has 15 years’ experience of environmental auditing and he is an Institute
of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) principal environmental
auditor, ISO 14001 lead assessor and member. Before joining the environmental
profession he worked in the petrochemical sector as a chartered engineer. He provides
ISO 14001 consultancy, audit and training services to a wide range of organizations,
including advice on legal compliance evaluation. He can be contacted on e:

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