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I am an IT Auditor, and the lead for my team. I have a team member who is blindly following directions and referencing previous work done. Last week, I was sitting with him doing peer QA of audit work papers before presentation to management.I asked him why de chose to test in the specific way he did, and deliberately did not allude to whether the his work was appropriate or not.

The test method he chose was appropriate, but the reasoning he gave left much to be desired. Where I would have expected him to defend his work on its own merits, considering the risks in the process and understanding of the internal control environment, he said he did the work in the way he did because it was the way I did in the past. Such answer shows that professional judgement vital to succeed as an auditor is not developed fully. If another auditor or a member of management were to challenge his work, stating that the testing was done a particular way, because it had been that way in the past will not fly.

This person has asked me in the past what he can do to be able to move up in the organization. I fully support him being promoted, but without being able to independently defend his work, analyze evidence, and report appropriately, I cannot recommend him for promotion. Since I asked this question about 1 year ago, his technical skill has dramatically improved such so that delegated the piece of work asked about in that question to him to try for this year. However, his judgement is still lacking.

How can I, as the team lead, speed up his learning in this area, and allow him to defend his work on its own merits without excessively leaning on me and my work?

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IN a case like this it is essential to keep asking those questions and not let him get away with an unacceptable answer. So he answers he did it because you did it before. You say, that is not going to be acceptable to management, I need you to be able to describe why this is an appropriate technique. And then wait. The earlier in the process you ask these questions the better. Ask at the time he chooses the technique not just in the rush to finalize a report.

I don't know if you have ever taken him along as an observer when you present similar things to management, but seeing what kinds of questions and answers are part of the process is useful before he has to defend his own work. So with a junior person. bring them along as much as possible. Then after have a critique session where you talk about what was said and why and how effective or not effective it was.

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You've already asked him to explain why he did it that way. He gave you an answer that isn't acceptable to you, so rephrase the question -- "Why is it a good practice to write this type of test in this situation?", Tell him that relying on past tests is not an acceptable answer, and you would like to hear his reasoning on the matter.

It is likely that his judgment is there, but explaining things is troublesome and annoying, so he just cited a past item as an excuse. You just need to force those answers out of him. If his judgment is indeed not strong enough, forcing him to explain himself each time will help develop that judgment.

Let him know that this is to help him move up in the company (as he has come to you for advice, and you said you would support his promotion). If he is serious in his desire for advancement, he will go along with you. If he does not take these questions seriously, then he may not be the best option for advancement.

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"Gotcha" questions are not the way to guide someone to better things.

The approach you should take is the Socratic method. Ask questions, then ask follow up questions.

Also, what is the environment there like? Does it encourage deviating from the norm? What is his background, did he come from a company that follows regulations and rules to the letter?

You develop members of your team by encouraging expression, not by conducting inquisitions. From the tone of your post, it sounds more like you were looking to find fault than to build him up, and he probably senses that.

Strict adherence to the established guidelines is more an indication of fear than a lack of ability, and again, from the tone of your post, he doesn't seem to be completely unjustified in his feelings.

Since he's already approached you on advancing, he clearly lacks no drive or ambition.

This is why I keep going back to fear.

If you want to develop him, you're going to have to get him to a point where he trusts you enough to open up a bit. Don't be so confrontational next time. Sit with him a few times INFORMALLY to see what is going on, then build from there.

  • This does seem like a "gotcha" question. The employee probably didn't know he was expected to answer as if it were a manager or another auditor asking the question. He probably thought it was an honest question rather than a test. – AffableAmbler Feb 5 '18 at 20:21
  • +1 for the Socratic method suggestion. I can tell that it is effective in fomenting interest and learning capabilities, as well as group learning and mentoring. – DarkCygnus Feb 7 '18 at 4:48
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How can I, as the team lead, speed up his learning in this area, and allow him to defend his work on its own merits without excessively leaning on me and my work?

Few things you can do to "make" him learn faster, besides motivation (positive feedback, encouraging) and good coaching (shoulder-coding, daily meetings, code reviews, induction on the company's best practices).

Also, as a team lead, one of the most relevant qualities is to know when to "let go" and delegate to your team; only by doing this is that they will really learn how to handle difficult/real-life situations without guidance.

Perhaps you have been "spoiling" them in some degree, by telling them the answers/solutions right away, instead of having them meditate on it for a while to develop their own criteria and experience.

Try instead to do it that other way; kindly guide them through the solution-finding process, asking follow-up questions and pointing them to the right way, so they can reach the solution on their own (with your help of course). Only this way they will truly learn how to get to that solution (this answer also presents such method with a more official name).

In other words: Don't give them the fish, teach them how to fish instead.

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