Every reputable learning institution offers leadership development training nowadays. So why did the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada feel compelled to develop its own Internal Audit Leadership Development Pilot Program in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the University of Ottawa?
The short answer: To develop the right kind of leaders for its unique needs. Why? Well, consider this:
- Over 50 per cent of current Chief Audit Executives (CAEs) will be eligible to retire within the next five years.
- The average time in position is 44 months.
- Strategic thinking and engagement have been identified as top competencies to further develop.
- At the management table, CAEs face the unique duty of having to fulfil their corporate responsibilities while protecting the independence of their office.
The long answer: There is already a growing demand for qualified candidates to fill CAE positions in a timely manner. While there are highly educated and technically qualified internal auditors waiting in the wings, future leaders will require the tools, the time and a safe space to move beyond audit operations and broaden their overall management experience.
Identifying and Developing Talent Must Happen at All Levels
The Comptroller General of Canada, Bill Matthews, observed early in his tenure that we were good at developing entry-level recruits and executives, but that in between, opportunities were far more limited. With that in mind, talent management efforts were expanded to reach further into organizations and identify seasoned internal auditors who have the interest and potential to become CAEs in the next three years.
The following program requirements were identified as critical in the development of the next generation of CAEs:
- Learning content must be relevant to the internal audit community and readily transferrable to participants’ current jobs.
- Focus must be on further developing leadership competencies through self-reflection and interactions with senior officials.
- Program should follow the 70-20-10 model for learning and development (Lombardo and Eichinger, 1996), where 70 per cent is learned by doing, 20 per cent from other people and 10 per cent in the classroom.
As no public offerings met all of these needs, the Internal Audit Leadership Development Pilot Program was designed under the title: Reflect. Influence. Empower. Lead.
Eighteen employees were selected to participate in the program which ran from November 2014 to March 2015.
To get started, participants conducted a self-assessment to establish a baseline, outline expectations and define objectives. A half-day kick-off session introduced the concepts of journaling for the purpose of ongoing self-reflection and on-the-job learning activities, such as attending a management meeting to observe specific competencies in action. Participants also discussed leadership issues and the professionalization of the internal audit function with the Comptroller General.
A second session focused on the competencies needed to effectively “manage up” and influence others through self-awareness, constructive conflict management and building trust. Participants also committed to meet three times in smaller groups, called action learning circles, to bring theory into practice by sharing challenges and receiving peer feedback.
The third component was devoted to people management. An interactive workshop offered a candid discussion with an experienced CAE, along with exercises on active listening and delivering acknowledgment and feedback. Participants also benefited from individual coaching sessions throughout the program.
The final component was to integrate lessons learned into participants’ life-long leadership development journey. A wrap-up session, which culminated in the graduation of the first cohort of participants, featured advice on leadership from senior executives such as the Chief Human Resources Officer of Canada and the Chair of the APEX Board of Directors. It also included a panel discussion with two CAEs and the Chair of a Departmental Audit Committee, as well as reflections from the participants themselves.
Nurturing Potential … Cultivating Future Leaders
Participants’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The program’s success was attributed largely to the strategic partnership among IIA Canada, the University of Ottawa and the Office of the Comptroller General, which resulted in privileged access to skilled resources, senior government executives and relevant academic content.
The Office of the Comptroller General is conducting an assessment of the pilot to determine whether this kind of experience-based developmental program can yield future leaders effectively.
With 33 percent of participants so far being either promoted or qualified into executive staffing pools, the future of this approach to cultivating the community’s top talent seems promising indeed.
An expanded version of the program with participants from the broader comptrollership community will run from December 2015 to May 2016. The supplementary goals of the second pilot will be to promote greater horizontal collaboration and to sharpen business acumen.
Jennifer Robinson is Director, Audit Communities, Office of the Comptroller General of Canada