Confessions of an auditor — the adventures of Blue intern
The scene - the busy season for audits is heating up and everyone is hard at work. It’s Blue intern’s first time working with a large audit team and also the first time his Manager has assigned him to review the work of another intern.
Blue intern - Pink, are you done updating those workpapers, bruh?
Pink intern - <Staring intensely at the computer> Yes! Just formatting the tables with pink and black borders so it looks pretty!
Blue intern - haha, okay, send it to me once it's done. I'll tell the Manager he can look at it today
3 hours later...
Blue - Have you sent it yet?
Pink - I can't save the file. Everything's crashed - I've lost all my work!!! *wail*
<Blue is giving Pink the, "I am disappointed in you" look>
Pink - *crying intensifies*
"All right Blue, where's that workpaper you promised me?"
Blue - Audit Manager?! <Surprised Pikachu face>
When you're at a mid level team lead position, things can get complicated before you have a chance to understand what's going on. You have your own deliverables to manage and you're also responsible for the work of your junior team members.
While managing your own workload may have become easier to handle, given your experience, it's the 'delegation and review' aspect of the role that can become tricky if not properly managed from the beginning.
Have you ever been in a situation like the one Blue intern was in?
If so, the first reaction is usually one of surprise, followed by embarrassment for having to request more time from the Manager, possibly even feel a great deal of annoyance at the junior intern for not having done his job correctly.
There are two ways of dealing with this :
- When things don’t go according to plan, it’s best to own up and work with your stakeholders to agree a new deadline, which Blue is now forced to do with his Manager (damage control)
- The second is to plan ahead and minimise the need for damage control (owning the process and the outcome)
One of the biggest indicators of readiness to be promoted to a position to lead junior team members is the ability to own processes and outcomes.
While damage control will be necessary occasionally, the primary mode of operation should be one where projects are managed without inordinate delays or troublesome issues.
In Blue's situation, the best way to do this would be to monitor the project at various checkpoints and allow time for his review of Pink's work well before the Manager reviews it.
While this seems obvious in hindsight, it's always difficult to muster up the discipline to stick to a process where disruptions can be handled without derailing the project entirely.
It takes practice to achieve this and find one's own style of managing projects involving direct reports. However, it is also easy to slip into the habit of always doing 'damage control' while projects are managed. This mode of working my still get you across the finish line, but it will do so at great cost.
As paradoxical as it sounds, the project leader that is good at damage control may even look good because they are able to douse fires so well, though it would make more sense to ensure there are no fires in the first place.
To quote Sun Tzu, "having true wisdom means preventing difficult problems from arising in the first place. Ironically, this highest form of efficacy will often go unnoticed by many people, since the leader’s work seems so effortless and subtle"
It's important to note that this is a separate skillset altogether, and being good at your primary job description won't guarantee that you'll be good at managing projects without investing in learning about it.
It's helpful to talk to your performance managers / counselors to provide the right kind of support on your journey to becoming a seasoned professional.
As you go on this journey, always prepare for loads of unexpected surprises and misfires along the way. Remember, no matter how crazy it gets, there will always be a way out. You just have to stay calm enough to see it.
When you're blindsided by unexpected disruptions to plans, remember to take a deep breath.
There's nothing a few deep, mindful breaths can't solve.
Always in your corner,