Auditing Yourself

Jim MoodyBy Jim Moody, CAE
CSA President

We’ve had the auditors out this week at World Headquarters in Beautiful Downtown Tyrone. We’re not required to have an audit, but I’ve always been a believer that having a regular review by outsiders helps you see things you don’t otherwise see. It also helps keep honest people honest while building trust with a board of directors.

 At the end of the day, we will have assessed our operations, made sure things are in the right place, and received an opinion on how we are positioned to go forward.

It reminded me that sometimes we need to stop and do the same thing with ourselves. When was the last time you stepped back and considered whether you were effective in your job? How about fulfilled? Dare I even ask about happy?

I have worked with a couple of clients recently at different ends of the age spectrum. Both were at career crossroads and had the need to evaluate themselves and decide how they wanted to proceed. Frankly, I’ve been at that same point over the past couple of years.

How do you know you need to conduct a self-audit? Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you feel like you have more to achieve in your current position?
  • Do you feel energized by your job?
  • Do you know what “next” is for you – whether it’s within your current organization or somewhere else?
  • Do you have the desire to keep learning?
  • Do others on the team feel like you are contributing your fair share?
  • Do you feel like your work makes a difference to the team and the business?

If you answered “yes” to all of these, congratulations. You are a unicorn. You probably don’t need to do a lot of introspection or auditing. The majority of us, however, could use a bit of auditing.

Conducting the audit is the easy point. For any of those questions above that you answered “no” to, ask yourself why you feel that way? What are the circumstances that lead you to be less than you want to be?

Once you know the circumstances, determine whether you have the ability to make changes yourself, or if you need the assistance of others. Are there any barriers to getting to “yes”? What changes do you need to make to get there?

Sometimes it’s simply shifting your mindset. Maybe you need to acknowledge that you are in a rut and simply need to find a new challenge for yourself. Sometimes it may mean having conversations with others whose assistance you need. Sometimes it’s having conversations with people who might be in your way.

And sometimes it means that you have completed the work you were meant to complete in your role. You have to make a choice about whether you can be content or whether you need to find some other role.

For one of the people I worked with, the choice was pretty clear. He not only was unfulfilled, he was miserable. Some of that was internal, and some of it was because of the work circumstances he was in. After just a little while of talking it through, he knew it was time for him to exit, so we spent most of our time talking about how he would create his “next.” It’s always easier to move toward something than away from something. The relief he felt after admitting to himself that it was time to go was palpable. He now has the opportunity for another lap around the track and end his well.

For the other person, the situation was different. He was being pushed into a role he didn’t think he was cut out for nor one that he wanted. Sometimes family business is like that – it pushes people into places they don’t want to go, and it’s really tough to express those concerns when it’s family pushing you into those places. This person didn’t want to let the family down, but all he saw in front of himself was a role that failed to take advantage of his strengths and forced him to focus on things he knew were his weaknesses. Ultimately that leads to disengagement and bitterness. In his self-audit, it became clear that he had only two options: lead that life of misery, or have a difficult conversation with family members. He chose Door No. 2, and it really wasn’t a difficult conversation at all. Turns out, there was a big misunderstanding about what he wanted. Once others understood, they were happy to keep him on the path that made him happy and fulfilled. And he will be a significant contributor to the business for years to come.

For me, it was Covid and a heart attack that led me to my own self-audit. I’ll write about that process and how I arrived at my decision in more detail later. But the upshot is that I realized it was time for me to pursue something else and allow someone else to breathe fresh life into this organization. A search committee is working to find that person, and I’ll stay around to help them hit the ground running. 

At the end of the day, we are all in control of our own happiness. If we are unhappy or unfulfilled, we have the opportunity to make changes that lead us to a better place. Unfortunately, some of us forget that we have that power and end up as pieces of unhappy furniture, simply collecting a paycheck. Please don’t be that person.