John Weathington, President & CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc.
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Audit Presence

How to Control your Image in an Audit

The next time you find yourself facing an audit think about this. A famous New York University established that when someone casts their eyes on you 11 major decisions are made based on your image within 7 seconds. Whether you realize it or not, your image is an asset or a liability that can either make you or break you. What impressions are you giving to your auditors?

Most people don’t know they can control their own audit, because they assume the auditor should be running the show. This simply isn’t true. And since your image plays a huge part in controlling the audit, I turned to image expert Angie Katselianos for some additional advice. Ms. Katselianos says your presence in any situation emanates from inside—it cannot be faked. Applying this to an audit situation brings us to my first and most critical piece of advice:

Audit Presence Tip #1: Know that You Are Acting Ethically and In Control

You have to know within yourself that two things are absolutely true; you are ethical and have nothing to hide, and you are in complete control of your processes. There are subtle things about the projection of your image that you cannot control, but can absolutely be perceived by an auditor. This should come as words of warning to people that are trying to hide something, like the person who hides behind his defense lawyer knowing he’s guilty. You cannot cover up unethical behavior, even with the best training and tactics. In the game of Poker, when a person subconsciously signals to players what he’s thinking, it’s called a “tell,” something even professional players fall victim to. Walking the ethical route is the only way.

Angie Katselianos, Image Expert:

Developing a magnetic style and personal brand that conveys confidence, competence, and credibility goes more than skin-deep–-it's an inside out job. It involves: recognizing who you are, building upon your distinct inner qualities and values, aligning these with your professional goals and target market's values, and ultimately reflecting that integration in your personal appearance and style.

Audit Presence Tip #2: Dress for Success

It’s no secret that the way you dress says a lot about how you feel, and vice versa. Ms. Katselianos shares with us that in Italy, when an auditor shows up at your doorstep, you would think they just walked off the catwalk at a fashion show. This is no accident; they obviously know the effect image has on an audit.

You need to dress sharply in an audit. If your auditor is wearing something business casual, you should be dressed in a suit. If your auditor is wearing a suit, you should be dressed in a better suit. The point is not to intimidate (which is probably what your auditor is trying to do), but exert power and control. This leads to my final tip.

Audit Presence Tip #3: Act Confident but Not Arrogant

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, so before we go any further lets highlight the difference. Dr. Alan Weiss taught me that confidence is the honest to God belief that you can help someone, and arrogance is the honest to God belief that you don’t have anything left to learn. You need to walk right up to the confidence line without crossing over the arrogance line. If you get arrogant, you and the auditor will be on opposing sides. This is not what you want.

Make direct eye contact, and stand up straight with your shoulders back. Smile, but do not smirk; this signals contempt. The easiest way to do this is to keep your thoughts in the right place. You are there to help the auditor understand that you have everything under control.

The path your next audit takes will be determined within the first seven seconds of meeting your auditor. An improper image can actually lead to a costly and time consuming investigation. You can avoid all this by first being the person the auditor wants to see: ethical and in control. Without this first component nothing else matters. Then, when the auditor arrives dress for success, and act confident but not arrogant. If you’re facing an audit, take some time today to make necessary adjustments to your audit presence, even if it’s just buying a powerful suit.