This is the second article in a two-part series by Dan Clark. Click here to read his first post, “Taking Your Internal Audit Career to the Next Level: Quick Tips to Express Your Team Support.”


Passion vs Emotion

I have a habit of reading or studying while having the TV on.  It makes the studying seem less tedious and I actually retain a lot more of what I read.  In these instances I’ve noticed that I tend to gravitate to shows like CSI, Body of Evidence, Dateline or other investigative shows. 

If you’re not familiar with CSI, each episode consists of a crime being committed, followed by an investigation aimed at uncovering the guilty party. Naturally, I automatically link this show to auditing in that, at least most of the time; while no crime is committed, internal auditors must investigate and let the evidence lead them to the conclusion.  Also, while we may not necessarily always know what “crime” was committed, the investigative techniques are completely transferable.

Inevitably, in these shows, when the investigators react with emotion (or let their emotions drive their investigation) they harm the process and/or the team and arrive at erroneous conclusions.  I’ve seen this happen to me personally in certain audit engagements where I’m so incensed at the supposed ignorance or intellectually challenged actions by an auditee that I begin to look at everything from a less than objective point of view. It’s easy to do, but I can confirm that it’s also the wrong thing to do. It’s something I work hard to control and I generally succeed. 

As I reflected over my own actions I realized that it’s hard to separate “passion” from “emotion.” Often, we, as human beings, interchange the two even though they aren’t the same thing.

As I continued to explore this interesting conflict – passion vs. emotion – I ran across this and thought it valuable to share. It highlights a very thoughtful truth: one that can help us all by bringing perspective to not what we do but to how we do that which we do. 

There is nothing wrong with having passion for what you do. Passion supports the search of truth and ensures objective momentum to a conclusion. Passion drives discovery, education and ultimate victory.

As an internal auditor, there's nothing wrong with having passion for what you do. @mistieurope

Emotion, on the other hand, is not passion.  Not properly managed, emotion can derail the positive effects of passion by tainting the perception of facts and clouding the judgement of the story.  Emotion drives separation, distancing and conflicting emotions.  Passion motivates individuals and teams to achieve great things. Emotion stalls progress while passion drives it. Emotion drains while passion excites and motivates.

So, once we have been able to separate passion from emotion, how do we change ourselves so that we can take advantage of passion and not be derailed by emotion? Here are some examples.

Emotional Derailer’s to avoid:

  1. If you don’t get along with a client and can’t control your feelings, let someone else take the lead in that relationship. There’s nothing wrong with a co-worker being in front when it may be a detriment to do it yourself. We can’t get along with everybody all the time.

  2. Remember, we’re auditing processes and controls so don’t make your comments, verbal or written, personal. Unless there is egregious mismanagement, our criticisms should focus on weak process and control and not on an individual manager or employee.

  3. If someone misrepresents something to you (unless it is intentional or fraudulent) don’t react. Instead, use your influencing and communication skills to educate and clarify, without prejudice. In most cases, you’ll find that your clarifications will be well received if you presume a simple mistake was made rather than a conspiracy being contrived.

  4. If you’re wrong in a conclusion, admit it and move on. Don’t harbor the embarrassment of your error. After all, if you are wrong it’s on you not them. The fact that they point it out – and it does irritate us – shouldn’t cause us to emotionally react because that will cloud our judgement as we move forward in the engagement.

Leveraging Passion:

  1. A very simple example of passion is to help a coworker complete their tasks during an audit. Often, we’ll finish our own work and then move on to something else while other teammates struggle to complete their own assignments. A passionate auditor will find ways to help their teammates complete their work allowing any credit to flow directly to the teammate.

  2. Take a few extra minutes to explain the potential impact of an issue to those that will need to address it. Not only does that action show you consideration for helping your client, it could eliminate negative pushback because all parties understand your point of view.  Too often we explain and issue to a manager but not to those affected by it. Taking a few minutes to work with the staff is a great way to build support, respect, and demonstrate that your passion is all about educating and making things better.

  3. Passion can be demonstrated in presentations to businesses, clients and others. Educating others about the role that audit can take in making processes better provides a forum to exhibit all that is positive about the audit profession. Outside of an audit engagement, with conflict, examination and issues, a presentation, staff meeting discussion, even a newsletter, can help people better understand your approach to audit, the value of your contribution, and build fans over the long run.

  4. Be positivite. Speak and act positively, even in negative situations. Providing solutions to even the most difficult concerns, showing the positive side of implementing controls, speaking and supporting the right balance in your work with clients, all of those are examples of passion at work.

Remember to be passionate: learn a lot about your position; research new information; educate your team and the business about emerging risks; share news articles with clients; be positive and reflect the energy that drives success.

There’s a lot to be passionate about, but think twice before acting or reacting with emotions. Work hard to not confuse passion with emotion or to let emotions overrule passion.  It may not get you the results you expect.