What are the qualities that make a great procurement boss?
Gossip, scorekeeping and throwing you out of the office certainly don’t sound like the traits of a great leader… but read on and you may change your mind.
I’ve been told that in this day and age employees choose bosses, not companies, when choosing their next job. In 2014, our Procurious community provided their thoughts on what makes a great procurement boss. So, as we kick off the New Year, I thought I would share five things I think you should look for when selecting your next procurement boss.
Ask yourself, are they a CPO who:
- Kicks you out of the office. As helpful as water cooler chit chat and Google can be for finding answers to your questions, there is nothing more valuable than getting out of the office and meeting with your customers and suppliers. Your internal customers will be impressed that you have made the effort to come and visit them and understand how they use the product or service you are buying for them. Similarly, actually visiting a suppliers’ office or plant will help you understand a lot more about that category you buy and identify new ways to add value.
- Fills you in on the goss’. While it’s not appropriate for your boss to share all the intricacies of what’s happening within the upper echelons of your business. It’s important that you know enough corporate gossip so that you can expertly manoeuvre yourself and your projects through the minefield of personalities and relationships that make up your business. Stakeholder engagement is one of the most important skills required to be a successful procurement professional, so understanding “the lay of the land” is critical to your success.
- Helps you keep score. Whoever you are in an organisation, you need to demonstrate the value you are delivering. In procurement, this often means savings, but it should mean so much more than that. Your boss should work with you to explain how your role links to the delivery of the overall business strategy and how all the different dimensions of your role deliver value – efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer service and other non-cost related value drivers are all important conversations to your CEO.
- Has a game plan. Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy, but they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver and how you need to develop in the coming year. The best CPOs I know are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained up in the skills they need and to build peer networks that will develop their leadership skills. The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this, because they know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged… and retained.
- Is a bit of a procurement rock star. If your CPO is well known and has a strong peer network, this provides you with a type of insurance policy that they know what they’re talking about and will hopefully be a great teacher. However, you need to be careful that they’re not so committed to building their own profile out on the speaking circuit that they’re not providing enough support to their team. A healthy balance between managing their internal and external relationships should provide you with a leader that connects you and your organisation with the outside contacts it needs to “stay in the loop”, while keeping everyone on track within your organisation.
How you are going to assess your potential new boss against this checklist when you are outside the organisation? This is where your network becomes invaluable. You will know someone who knows someone (use LinkedIn or Procurious to see the connections) who has worked for your target boss. Contact them, have a chat, see how the CPO measures up. The most telling sign of success is how the CPO’s employees have been promoted both within and outside the organisation…