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I started a new job as a trainee auditor and so far I’m enjoying it. I’ve not made any major mistakes but one thing that is clear to me is that I have to change the way I think about the job. I’m sort of in a supervisor role and have two people working on a project I’ve been leading.

One of the people I’m supervising made a mistake, which led us to losing a customer. Some people have said it’s not my fault, while others have said I should take some responsibility. Personally, I should take some responsibility for it because I didn’t do a handover. I assumed the person would be fine.

My question is this: I need to change the way I think about the job. I’m learning lessons as I’m going along and seeing how I should approach tasks. I need to change this thinking. What is the best way of doing this? Writing it out? Visualising ideally how I should deal with situations?

Any replies / answers / suggestions would be appreciated.

(addition): Thanks for the replies people. Overall, nothing happened; we did lose the customer but it wasn't a big deal overall. We'll try and win them back again later down the line.

Feedback from all here was much appreciated. From now on, I'll post more specific questions.

Thanks again,

Lee.

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    "Trainee auditor" sounds like an entry level position to me but that's a bit at odds with supervising two people. Can you clarify (in an edit) your experience and position here along with whether you have management authority over them? Also note that the question you ask here is hard to answer as we prefer a specific, practical question over "can I get your thoughts?". Check the tour and help center for how this site works.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 21:46
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    As written, this question is unlikely to be answerable. Figuring out how best to document/ incorporate lessons you learn is likely to be a very personal thing. Some people are going to do best with some sort of journaling system (of which there are dozens of possibilities). Others are going to want to write out detailed checklists. Others are going to want to think about it while they're doing yoga or doing their daily run. Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 21:55
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    that is a question without concrete answer. It can be very job-specific. Consult your manager, consult your peers. Is there some practical situation you want improved? Like "X happened because of Y, how can I avoid x in the future?' Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 23:08
  • I don't really understand this question. You say you "need to change the way you think about the job" - in what way do you feel you need to change your thinking? The example you provided doesn't really narrows it down.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 12:23

6 Answers 6

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In terms of blame, it's rarely black and white. And it is rarely a single person's burden. Ideally multiple people should have to make a mistake for there to be impact.

If you're a supervisor, you do share some of the blame. That's rather unavoidable.

I somewhat agree with @Kilisi that there should be good procedures and guidelines to follow, but I would say in the absence of them we trust humans to make sane decisions. In business, and in life, it's hard to account for every eventuality. Nevertheless, every mistake made is a chance for procedures and guidelines to be updated.

There is a saying my boss used to use: people don't fail, processes do.

Because you are a trainee, you should have some sort of mentor to discuss things with. Hopefully you can learn from their mistakes going forward.

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  • "people don't fail, processes do". As an automation engineer i'm used to the opposite :D
    – Rolexel
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 14:53
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Some people have said it’s not my fault

They're correct, you're a trainee, if you fail it's the responsibility of the trainer. There should be clear guidelines for anything important. If you're outside the guidelines, then that would be your fault. But lack of guidelines isn't.

Putting a trainee in a supervisory position is not unheard of but it's usually with clear instructions and procedures to follow. And oversight of their progress by the people who ultimately are responsible for the project.

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Always differentiate between Blame/Fault and Responsibility.

Blame is pretty much worthless, and is political theater. If you were blamed for it, versus not blamed for it... what does that ultimately change for things as a whole?

Responsibility is much different - in a way, it's "Potential Blame." Imagine one of my coworkers messed up something and caused an outage - which caused management from 3 levels up to get involved. And I tell them, "We have a problem with our Floobar process. I'm going to revamp how we do this, and I guarantee you that we won't ever have this problem again."

I didn't take blame for it. But I did take responsibility. If there's another Floobar problem, I'm on the hook. I'm responsible for making sure it doesn't happen again. And it won't happen again.

I'd like you to re-read your original post, and look how you've conflated Blame/Fault with Responsibility. This one sentence (and your confusion about it) is the best possible indication of the issue:

One of the people I’m supervising made a mistake, which led us to losing a customer. Some people have said it’s not my fault, while others have said I should take some responsibility.

Was it your fault? Should you take the blame? No.

Should you take responsibility? Absolutely!

That's the part you need to change the mental stance on. It doesn't matter what caused the past problem - that's done, and it can't be reverted. Instead, what matters is: how do you go forward and make sure the problem doesn't happen again?

Take responsibility. Figure out what you can do to prevent the problem from occurring - and then implement it.

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Having a concrete idea helps. What I like to do, is thinking in the evening/weekend about what went badly and what I will try different next time. Also, I spent sometime thinking about what went well. FIrst, to appreciate the good stuff more and keep high spirits. 2nd, so that I get more consistent at doing the good things. This also helps others, if you didn't praise somebody for something, but in the evening realise that you could, you can still do it the next day. This helps retaining positive behaviour!

Also, you could ask for some mentoring in the company. You could also ask the person involved for suggestion. He messed up, maybe he has some ideas and what could be tried differntly.

also: you will never be prepared for everything. But you will get better with experience.

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Your job is complex and not routine: auditors, by definition, look for out-of-the-ordinary situations.

If you ask, "explain this client to me like I was your 11-year-old niece", then you can teach yourself to understand the basics of each client situation. If you can encourage the people you work with to ask the same sort of question, you'll help develop a culture of understanding in your team.

And, of course, learn from your mistakes with a non-accusatory review of each client engagement, successful or not.

Remember: every experienced person has learned from their mistakes.

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I'll strike a different note here.

If you're a supervisor of the two folks, you share some of the responsibility. The same as you share some of the praise when good things happen. As a manager, you "deliver" through your team - be it a small 2 person team, or a 1000 person organisation. I think it's best to acknowledge this, even bring it up if folks perhaps try to downplay this, and work to solve it.

Mistakes will happen in every field. It's a fact of life. If it was preventable, then you can work towards improving the team and it's processes to not allow it in the future. In engineering, we use checklists, automation, trainings, etc. to solve such problems. Might or might not apply in auditing. If it wasn't preventable, then in the end a mistake is a mistake - some % will happen regardless of what you do and folks should not feel bad about it. It should even be factored in by the business.

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