Leadership requires listening and letting people know they can speak the truth.
[The story you are about to read is pretty darned true. At least, it is as true as my memory allows it to be. As the author Olin Miller said, “Of all liars, the smoothest and most convincing is memory.” So, while this may not be perfectly accurate, it is close enough to the truth to bear witness to the points I want to make. As always, we’ll see where the voyage takes us.]
This story happened quite a while ago. Not “Once upon a time…” a while ago, but more than 20 years ago. (Hence the previous warning about memory.) Everyone in our audit department had gotten laptops and, for the first time, we were working in shared databases that contained all our workpapers. New and exciting times. One of the things we put together was a discussion database — a place where any of the department’s more than 100 auditors could join in and start up discussions. We were a decentralized, dispersed group with offices spread from Los Angeles to Florida to Chicago to Texas, and all points in between. Accordingly, we hoped this database would facilitate communication among this far-flung crowd, providing them with a forum to share ideas while getting to know each other better. Our intent was that the discussions be about internal audit. But, in the beginning, we had no restrictions.