Adam Rutan, Director of Internal Audit at Cardinal Health, has probably always been an approachable, amicable person with a whole lot of common sense. When I met Adam several years back, not only did his natural qualities come across easily, but also his commitment to people and audit was obvious.

Creating audit teams that work well together is one of Rutan’s passions. And what he reveals about how to build a good team requires introspection on the part of the director and manager. Of course, skills and experience rate high, but how can you ensure that you’re getting the best people for the job? After all, there are no perfect people out there – and no perfect auditors. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Like a puzzle and its pieces, we find the most qualified candidates we can and try to make all the pieces and parts of each individual fit together to create the perfect picture of an audit team.

Below, Rutan shares his strategies and learning moments of how to build an audit team that works well together.

Strategy 1: Know what type of leader YOU are!

There are two types of teams: teams in which everyone on the team has to adapt to the leader (leader-centric), and teams where the leader adapts to everyone on the team (staff-centric). Both styles can be successful, but the approach to building a team around each style is very different.

For leader-centric teams, the best fits are usually individuals with very similar skill sets.

For staff-centric teams, the best fits are usually individuals with skills that are complementary to the other members of the team.   

Over the years, I have found that a lot of people fall into the leader-centric category but don’t own it. They think – or will say – they fall into the staff-centric category because they want to be inclusive. While being inclusive may come across as honorable, it doesn’t set the team up for success. Know who you are and embrace it. It doesn’t make you a bad leader to be leader-centric; it makes you a bad leader to put your talent in situations where your auditors won’t be successful.

Strategy 2: Know your biases and do things to overcome them 

Here is an example - about a year after I became a Director, my managers pointed out that I had developed a preference for candidates who were very social (i.e., extroverts). If someone came into my office and we had a good conversation, I was ready to make an offer immediately and would ignore any other red flags. After thinking about it, it totally made sense. In my new role as a Director, most of my interactions were very high level. I wasn’t in the day-to-day grind of projects anymore so those skills mattered less to me. To correct for this bias, I pulled myself out of the interview process for junior staff roles and we agreed that my managers would bring the candidates to meet me only if they were split amongst themselves or wanted feedback on something specific.

We also added a case-study component to our interview process. Interviews inherently favor the extrovert – this is a bias. A practical component to your interview process can give introverts a better opportunity to shine and also will expose the extroverts who talk a good game but can’t back it up.   

A good follow-up on this is Susan Cain’s Ted talk, The Power of Introverts.

Strategy 3: Be honest with yourself

Know what skills are must-haves and which skills are nice-to-haves. Someone I know was interviewing for a junior staff role recently and they told me, “I liked the candidate, I just wished they had more experience.” I asked them, “How much more?” to which they responded, “two to three years, maybe.” I see this all the time.  If you are having this conversation, the fact is you don’t want a junior staff person. You want a bargain. You want someone who can operate at a senior staff person level but take lesser pay and title. This will limit your options and you’ll pass on some talent that in six months will grow into what you wanted anyway.  

Strategy 4: Be honest with your candidates

There are a couple of shops in our market that make a lot of promises that I know they can’t keep. They tell people things like, “You can be a manager in 6 months,” when they have two manager roles in the group and the people in those roles have been in them for 10 years. Yes, this may help you land the candidate today, but in the long run, the candidate will see you were not honest and you will have a bigger problem on your hands.  

If someone is looking for a specific type of opportunity, and it doesn’t align with your values, strengths, or track record, just say so. This may cause them not to accept an offer, but they will appreciate the honesty and may refer someone else down the road.

Conclusion

More than 2000 years ago, the Delphinic maxim appeared on the Temple of Delphi, “Know thyself.” Socrates later taught, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” It’s always nice to take a step back, reevaluate, regroup, and improve.

What tips have you found helpful when hiring an audit team? Let’s keep the conversation going below!