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Emotional Intelligence and Your Profession

Recently, I’ve been working with auditors–my former life as a financial analyst provides insights into work style patterns in their profession and how they compare to many other professions. Below, I’ll be highlighting emotional intelligence sub scales, as described by Multi Health System’s EQi 2.0© instrument, one tool for thinking about these kinds of patterns, so that you can think about how these ideas might apply to the strengths and struggles of your own profession.

Research exists on some of the biggest problems facing the audit profession. The Dallas chapter of the Institute for Internal Audit found that

  • The audit function is often undervalued by other corporate leaders
  • Audit teams often struggle to recruit, develop and retain employees
  • The overall image of the profession needs strengthening; it is seen as less than public accounting and other financial professions.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see how the audit profession’s core strengths, especially independence and assertiveness, might create these issues. Every strength has corresponding blind spots. If you need to be objective and independent, buildinginterpersonal relationships, emotional expression and empathy can seem not only counterproductive but outright dangerous. Think how this might contribute to the first two problems the industry cites.

In addition to creating blind spots, overusing any strength can cause problems. For example, if assertiveness helps convince people that audit recommendations are vital to an organization’s cyber security or fiduciary oversight requires, that assertiveness can quickly slide toward aggression, sabotaging implementation. This may contribute to the overall image of the profession. Being subject to an audit doesn’t exactly create warm fuzzies!

Not Stereotypes but Archetypes

Stereotypes, though, about auditors, aren’t as helpful as unearthing true “archetypes.” You see, industries and companies and professions all have “archetypes”–which might be described as the values and behaviors upheld as the norm or as best practices or as the “right” way to be. This is different from the stereotypes we hold about, say, math teachers or accountants or sales reps or just about any career path. The archetypal norms often match with core competencies that further knowledge, wisdom and best practices, such as independence and assertiveness for auditors.

However, these strengths often slow down obtaining the very results they need to get. The auditors I spoke with quickly identified three areas the industry as a whole might lift up as worth developing:

  • Empathy, the very opposite of their strength of objectivity. “If we understand the needs of those we audit and employ reality testing around how our recommendations will affect their work, not just around financial or cyber risks, we can communicate in ways that might decrease resistance and lead to greater compliance.”
  • Interpersonal relationships. “We need to ensure that we work as teams, learn to mentor new auditors, and build relationships, while still remaining objective, with other areas in our companies.”
  • Optimism. “Others see us as ‘ticket writers’ or bearers of nothing but bad news and criticism. We need to do a better job of highlighting what is being done well, improvements, and other reasons people should be smiling, rather than message upon message of holes and leaks and pending doom.”

What About Your Profession?

Consider the strengths of your profession. And then, get real: How do they create blind spots and problems when overused? Try using a tool such as EQ as a framework for thinking through what gets in the way of the vital work you do.

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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