All posts by Procurious HQ

Coronavirus: What You Need To Know According To These Procurement & Supply Chain Thought Leaders…

What do these thought leaders think about covid-19 when we asked them recently at Big Ideas Summit London 2020?


As of yesterday, the number of coronavirus cases topped 500,000 worldwide – doubling in just over a week.

While we can all do our part to stop the virus spreading, there is an added pressure on procurement & supply chain professionals with the business world on our shoulders.

So, we seized the opportunity recently at our Big Ideas Summit London to ask some of our favourite thought leaders what we can do when it comes to coronavirus.

This is what Group Procurement Director at Just Eat, John Butcher had to say when we asked him ‘What’s been your #1 risk with the coronavirus and how are you mitigating it?’…


Procurement Digital Transformation Lead at Diageo, Amit Sheth had a slightly different response when asked the same question…


Strategic Supply Chain Risk Expert and Professor of Supply Chain Management, Omera Khan had this brilliant bit of advice when we asked her ‘How can companies manage supply chain risk in times of crisis?’…


We’re living in extremely uncertain business and economic times at the moment with many sources indicating that a deep global recession is coming. So, what should procurement be most worried about? This is what Rachel Stretch, Consultant at John Lewis & Partners suggests…


Pressure is something that procurement & supply chain professionals everywhere would be feeling right now. So, last, but certainly not least, we asked legendary Rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward ‘How do you work under pressure?’

Want to stay ahead of the curve with all things coronavirus and supply chain? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

Crisis Mode: What Will My Procurement Career Look Like This Year?

It’s been a disastrous year, but still, we’ve all got one big question: What will my procurement career look like this year?


Over the past month, many of us have been glued to our phones with a sense of dread, waiting for the next phase of the coronavirus crisis to hit. But with many countries now in lockdown, things in China slowly returning to normal, and early signs that the infection rate is declining in Italy, we can all breathe easily, knowing that life will, at some stage, return to normal. 

But what will that ‘normal’ look like, especially for our careers in procurement? There’s no denying that this year will be like no other year when it comes to what we might experience at work and what our career trajectory might look like. To find out exactly what this might be, we spoke to someone on the true frontline of procurement careers:  Imelda Walsh, Manager of The Source recruitment, a specialist procurement recruitment agency. Imelda’s insights are both fascinating and optimistic. In this uncertain world, it seems like procurement professions may have the opportunity to shine … here’s why. 

Critical business changes – and how work is being impacted 

With news that 94% of the world’s supply chains have been disrupted, there’s certainly been a lot going on at the organisations Imelda partners with, which include some of the world’s largest mining companies, banks and health organisations. Imelda says that the situation has been an ‘eye opener’ for many of her clients: 

‘There’s been so many risks they now need to focus on, including mitigating risks from their supply chain, working with local suppliers, or even workplace health and safety relationships with suppliers.’ 

Yet supplier risks haven’t been the only risks that businesses have needed to manage. With the majority of the world now working from home, Imelda says that her clients have been extraordinarily busy sorting out the logistics of what this might look like for their people: 

‘With clients moving to working from home, it has put a strain on their hardware and systems, which they are sorting through. But fortunately, many of them have invested in good technology over time.’ 

Is anyone still hiring?

If we’re in an industry that’s been affected by the coronavirus, which, realistically, is most of us, we all want the answer to the million-dollar question – is anyone hiring?!?

Want to hear more of Imelda’s fascinating story? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

We’re stronger together. Join us now. 


How To Debrief Suppliers… And Why You Need To

Debriefing after a procurement process is an important chance for reflection and giving feedback to bidders. Follow these 5 tips to ensure you debrief efficiently.


Debriefing respondents after a procurement process can seem a thankless task – and provokes an audible sigh. 

This is not because there is no love for the market, it’s because you’ve just come out of a lengthy, action-packed process. A queue of the next million projects to do is staring right at you. 

Why should you debrief respondents? 

Debriefs are an easy way to add value to future projects. They develop market capability and the capacity of the market to understand you as a buyer. They offer you a chance for self-reflection and learning.

Read on for 5 tips on how to nail debriefs

1. Provide feedback in the outcome letter

The place to start in debriefing respondents is with a general statement of strengths and weakness in the outcome letter you send after the process. 

This is often enough for respondents to understand where they lost out. It can save you the time of having to engage with every company who participated in the process. Sometimes some simple, short feedback is all that is needed.

For example:

Thank you for submitting your response for [insert project name] opportunity. Your submission has been assessed by an evaluation panel and we are writing to inform you that you have not been successful on this occasion. The panel noted team composition and relevant experience as particular strengths in your response. However, the response lacked evidence in regards to methodology and project timelines. This is critical for us to assess how the outcomes will be achieved. 

2. Run a solid process

Following a solid process with structured evaluation and accompanying notes forms the basis of a good debrief. There is little point running around after the process trying to gather information. Good luck trying to get stakeholders engaged to have a conversation about something that is months old! 

Tip: when individual evaluators are marking the responses, make sure they are instructed to write statements of strengths and weakness as they go. Also, follow this up in a moderation meeting with the evaluation panel and ask them to summarise one positive and one weakness before moving on to discuss the next supplier. 

This will be captured in the minutes. Further down the track any member of your team can access the file and select enough information to create a debrief.

3. Don’t wing it

Have a template and complete it before speaking to a respondent. Two templates are helpful to fill out. 

One is a template that guides the conversation with the respondent and is for internal eyes only. The other is a stripped-down version of the same template that can be released to the respondent after the conversation. 

So, what should be in it?

  • An outline of the process undertaken
  • How many responses you received from the market and how many passed the first stage of compliance
  • A reminder that the purpose of the debrief is to provide feedback on their response, not an opportunity to relitigate the process that has been undertaken. Feedback provided is based on the respondent’s performance against other responses and not necessarily a direct criticism of them – rather, it’s a statement of how they performed against others 
  • Where they ranked and what the scores were (removing the names of any other suppliers)
  • (Optional) You can include a range of the pricing responses but I tend to just provide the ranking
  • How they performed against each evaluation criterion
  • The strength and weakness statements from the evaluation panel
  • Ask the respondent for feedback on the process and how your company performed
  • Remind them of how they can keep an eye out for future opportunities to work with your company

4. Involve the right people

Make sure you choose who to take into the debrief wisely. 

For example, the subject matter expert may not have the best social skills. Choose someone who has the right expertise and the right level of authority. 

Most respondents are happy to have feedback. It is very rare that I have had aggressive or angry suppliers. The mitigation strategy to combat this is to be prepared and restate that this is not a chance to relitigate the process. 

Save time and conduct debriefs over the phone.

5. Don’t forget the winner!

Debrief the successful respondent to ensure they understand what it was about their bid that made them stand out from the crowd. 

It helps to build the relationship before the contract is inked.

Recently I was involved in a project in which the financial breakdown with the response was so detailed that it helped to add weight to their response. It helped to evidence that they could back up their claims.

When delivering this news during contract negotiations, it was surprising to the successful company. They said it was extremely valuable for them to understand what we value and the reasons why. They stated it would help their future bids as it improves understanding of the buyer’s viewpoint.

So keep these 5 tips in mind to ensure you deliver swift and effective debriefs to suppliers.

Life At The Coronavirus Epicentre: Is This A Glimpse Into Our Future?

Are you ready for what’s to come? …


Every day, those of us in Australia, the US and Europe are increasingly feeling the full force of the coronavirus. In Italy, where the situation has escalated, the country has been fully quarantined. Countries all over the world are implementing strict restrictions on incoming travellers, and with no end in sight, the stock market continues to plummet.

One Procurious member who has already survived the worst of the crisis, and has come out the other side, is Paul Ryder, President of the International College of Finance at the Bank of China in Shanghai. Paul shared his fascinating story with us about what he’s experienced during the last few months, including special intel on China’s current supply chain situation. His insights are perhaps a glimpse into our future … will we be able to get the coronavirus under control, or will the sacrifice feel too great? 

When the news broke … 

The scenes of chaos we’ve seen worldwide and even worse, the harrowing decisions Italian doctors are now having to make, have become what we all now accept as consequences of the outbreak. But in stark contrast, Paul says that when the virus broke out in China, he felt the response was quite controlled: 


Want to hear more of Paul’s fascinating story? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news over an 8-week content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. 

We’re stronger together. Join us now. 


5 Of The Most Controversial (But Useful) Ideas To Come Out Of Big Ideas Summit

Big new ideas don’t always meet with universal approval – but sometimes the most controversial ideas are the most useful.


Last week Procurious had the pleasure of spending the day dreaming big with some of the brightest minds and expert thinkers from inside and outside our profession.

Yes, it was the time of year for Big Ideas London – and what a day it was!

Our speakers delivered keynotes across a huge range of topics, from social media and procurement technology to smart pills and why winning at IT tended to make you the winner in the long run. Each session brought its own insights into the current and future state of the procurement profession – providing, as ever, tangible ideas for our audience of senior procurement professionals to take back to their organisations.

Bu there wasn’t always agreement. Discussion abounded, both inside the room and outside on social media, as to what procurement needs to do to evolve and what the next 10 years will look like. 

Some ideas proved far more controversial than others. But every single one was useful for the audience.

We’ve picked out 5 of the most controversial, but still useful, ideas from the day. 

And you know we’ve had some great discussions when the use of smart pills to ‘hack’ your brain isn’t one of the most controversial concepts from the day!

1. If you’re going to be boring on social media, you might as well not bother!

Social media is disrupting everything it touches. And social selling lies at the very heart of the business model. This doesn’t mean everyone is selling a product, but social media platforms can be vital tools for procurement when it comes to finding what they are looking for.

According to Tim Hughes, CEO and Co-Founder at DLA Ignite, 92 per cent of B2B buyers start their search online. And by using social media 78 per cent of salespeople are outselling their peers. 

But the idea on which Tim focused was how people are perceived on social media when they appear in searches.

Social selling products is one thing. But social selling can also mean promoting yourself on social media as a professional, an expert thinker, an influencer – or even the next manager young professionals want to work with. 

For too many professionals and experts, the perception of them on social media isn’t good. You’ll find profiles lacking key information and not providing any evidence to back up claims of experience and knowledge. And, for many, profiles that are downright boring!

Tim’s view is that if your profile is boring then it’s not even worth your time getting involved. Tim used the example of two global experts in a niche market – one with a wealth of information across all of his profiles and the other with barely their name on the page. 

Who, as a user, are you going to approach for advice? Even if the person with no information is the global expert, you’re going to look elsewhere.

Social media is absolutely the way to go, but you need to commit to it and share all the right information in order to make an impact.

2. Technology solutions providers have failed procurement

Eighty-one per cent of firms who have invested in technology solutions for risk management aren’t satisfied with the results. What are we all doing and why would we accept this, asked Justin Sadler-Smith, General Manager at Basware.

But Justin wasn’t finished there. In what was a bold and controversial statement from the general manager of a major player in the technology solutions market, he argued that technology solutions providers have failed procurement. Failed in their software, failed in their support, failed to provide what was required beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.

But, according to Justin, this failure was a two-way street. Procurement teams had to share a measure of the blame because they had accepted these solutions (with a shrug) as ‘good enough’.

This led to a great opportunity for our first keynote hashtag of the day (#goodenoughisnolongergoodenough) and a healthy discussion on exactly what the profession needed to be doing in the future.

3. It’s time to rethink the Triple Bottom Line

You’ve heard of product recalls – Toyota; Samsung; Pfizer; Mattel – but how about recalling an idea? It might sound strange but that’s exactly what John Elkington, the founder of the concept of the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), has done.

The thinking behind the recall was outlined by Professor Omera Khan, a strategic supply chain risk expert and champion for sustainability in business. The concept of the TBL is still sound, according to Omera. But as sustainability becomes even more critical the TBL needs to be stronger to challenge existing concepts and really make supply chains sustainable.

Supply chains need exponential or fundamental, rather than incremental, change – and to stop marching to the drumbeat of old ideas and concepts. Omera talked about creating regenerative supply webs that will help prepare procurement for the future and the ‘green swans’ that are inevitably heading our way.

4. CPO to CVO

If there was one idea that lit the blue touchpaper in the room and on social media, it was this controversial suggestion by Diego De La Garza, Director, and Philippe de Grossouvre, Business Development Director, both at Corcentric.

The duo discussed what the procurement profession was going to look like in 20, 30, 40 and 50 years’ time. Even with this long-term view, Diego and Philippe emphasised the importance of procurement understanding where it came from in order to better understand its future. 

It was the idea that procurement will become recognised as a part of finance in the future that really got discussion going. The movement from CPO to CVO (Chief Value Officer) would give a wider-ranging strategic role, but could it also take procurement thinking back 20 years to when this idea was first espoused?

The audience was split on whether this was the correct approach. Does procurement need to go backwards to go forwards? You decide.

5. RIP the RFP?

The final controversial idea was one that had the most experienced professionals in the room recoiling in horror. OK, not really, but it was a theme that was brought up time and again over the rest of that day. 

Once again we return to Justin Sadler-Smith’s keynote and the idea that procurement is too wedded to traditional concepts to really evolve.

The biggest cause of this was the continuing use of RFP/RFQ/RFx in sourcing activities. Justin argued that in a world of big data that can be analysed almost instantly by technology and AI, why would businesses continue to use valuable time and resources on an RFP? 

Could the same answer not be found from stored supplier data, compared and reviewed as required?

Or could there be a balance? Rather than taking RFP/RFQ/RFx away altogether, organisations should be looking to use them in the appropriate settings. 

Think tenders for multiple millions or billions of pounds/dollars. Or follow Chris Fielden at Innocent, for whom going to market can help provide genuinely innovative solutions to problems that raw data analytics just couldn’t provide.

Whether you’re a traditionalist or a futurist, this debate is not going away any time soon.

Dream big – like a champion

So there you have it. We dreamed big and created some great, new, big ideas for you to take away to think about and discuss in your organisation. You may not agree with all of the ideas and you might not agree with our list, either. 

But the important thing, as our final speaker Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach, noted: ‘Do not underestimate where new ideas can come from, so always keep yourself open. Practice “Relentless Learning” and you too can develop the DNA of a champion.’

4 Tough Interview Questions First-Time Procurement Leaders Are Asked – And How To Answer Them

How can you make the most of your background and experience when interviewing for your first leadership role?


There are phases in your career that are both exciting and terrifying. Most would agree that none are so scary as your first leadership role. 

What do your team think of you? How on earth do you performance-manage someone? How do you manage the expectations of those above you if the members of your team aren’t performing? 

All these questions will most likely plague you on a daily basis. But they’re also the exact questions you need to answer if you’re interviewing for your first (official) leadership role. 

In order to unravel the mystery of what a good interview for a first-time leadership role might look like, we chatted with Tony Megally, highly experienced recruiter and General Manager of The Source

Tony gave us insights into how common it is to be interviewing for a first-time leadership role, what you’ll most likely get asked and how to answer. 

You want to become a leader. Should you change organisations to do so? 

Meet Praveen. She’s a Category Manager at a large bank. She’s been in the position for 4 years, and she’s ready to step up and take on a new challenge. She sees a team lead role at another large bank. Should she apply?

‘There’s definitely a few things I’d recommend for Praveen – or anyone in this situation – to consider before applying,’ says Tony.

But what are these things? Tony recommends that before you apply externally to become a leader, you should all explore all opportunities within your own organisation to do so: 

‘If leadership is in your sights, you should have put that into your career development plan and be actively working towards it with your manager.’ 

But what if there simply aren’t any leadership opportunities? Should you apply externally then? 

‘It depends,’ says Tony. 

‘Most often, the business that is looking externally for leadership talent will be doing so because internal capability is either lacking or requires development. So you’ll most likely need to have proven leadership experience to be able to bring value.’ 

How NOT to answer leadership interview questions 

When it comes to how you answer leadership interview questions, Tony says that if you haven’t formally been recognised as a leader or you don’t have a great deal of experience, there are still many great ways to quantify what you’ve achieved. 

But there’s one thing you should never do when talking about your leadership experience and that is: not be honest. 

Tony says: ‘To be able to position yourself for success, you need to be totally transparent about your experience.

‘It becomes obvious [that you’re not being honest] when you’re being asked about the experience you claim and you’re unable to support it by providing thorough and relevant examples.’ 

Question 1: ‘Talk me through your team leadership experience.

If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is about your leadership experience. But even if you haven’t had a leadership position in title, there are a number of ways you can answer this, says Tony. 

He says you should talk about how you’re developing the required skills through things you’re already doing in your job.

For example: ‘You might be a senior member of your team and have taken on the “unofficial” role as the 2IC. 

‘Or perhaps you’re actively coaching and developing peers or other junior team members, or you’re leading a project or a change initiative. These are all great examples that support your leadership ability and should be discussed as part of your experience suite.’ 

Question 2: ‘Can you give an example of how you’ve led people through change and achieved a positive outcome?

In the current business environment, managing change is an essential skill for a leader – more so than ever. But as change can be inherently challenging, businesses want to know their leaders can not only manage change but also do it in a way that gets a positive outcome.

When you’re asked this question, Tony says, you need to emphasise two things: 

  • How you have led people?
  • How did that leadership lead to a positive outcome for the business?

But the example you give doesn’t have to be from an ‘official’ leadership role: 

‘Say, for example, you volunteered to lead a high-profile project. You’d talk about the scope of that project, your role as the leader and how you influenced, engaged and managed others, even if those people are not your “official” reports and were instead business stakeholders or individuals allocated as resources as part of the project team for which you were accountable. 

‘You’d then talk about how your negotiations or perhaps great communications with stakeholders resulted in the project saving X dollars, reducing risk, etc. Whatever the outcome was, you’d make the link between your leadership skills and that.’ 

Tony also says that when you’re leading in this capacity, it’s great to validate the outcome you’re discussing by talking about how the project was received by the business’s executive leadership team: 

‘Ideally, the project you’ve led will have been noticed by senior people in the business. Being able to validate your great results by saying “XYZ executive gave this feedback” is instrumental for highlighting your ability to both manage people and results but also your ability to manage up.’ 

Question 3: ‘Tell me about a time when you performance-managed someone.’ 

One of the most challenging questions first-time leaders get asked is about performance management. It’s challenging because if you haven’t had an official leadership position, it’s hard to quantify this. 

But there are ways around this, says Tony. He recommends drawing on other experiences you’ve had, even if they’re outside of work: 

‘I’ve met countless people who in their professional careers are not formally in leadership roles, but they might be leaders through their own side-hustle, or through other paid or voluntary employment.

‘This leadership experience is relevant. As long as you’re able to provide thorough examples of how you performance-counselled an individual and the process you went through, it’s OK to discuss this in an interview.’ 

Question 4: ‘Talk to me about what techniques you use to motivate a team.’

One of the big transitions we all need to make when moving from an individual contributor role to a leadership role is to begin to think more about our team and less about ourselves. This new way of thinking, Tony says, is something that most organisations want to see in their first-time leaders:

‘Leadership, at its core, is about people and what comes with that is having a general concern for the needs of others. The quicker first-time leaders recognise this, the better they will be at their job.’ 

Tony believes that for this question, you can use outside-of-work examples if you need to: 

‘At an interview, detail how you’ve motivated groups of people – for example, perhaps you’ve coordinated social or sporting activities, or helped to identify capability gaps and then provided training as a motivational tool.’ 

Tony says that if you can provide an example of a time when you motivated people in challenging times, you’ll be doing particularly well: 

‘One of my favourite [examples to hear] is where people have boosted morale in times of significant change.’ 

Interviewing for your first leadership role will most likely be tough. But preparation is key so ensure you have quantifiable answers to all of the above questions. 

Have you interviewed for a leadership role for the first time? Was there anything else you were asked? Do you have any other recommendations? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feeling Unlucky In Your Career? Here’s How To Change That.

How do you make good fortune come your way?


This year, many of us may have had cause to feel unlucky already. Perhaps the Australian bushfires have given us the opportunity to shine at work – or perhaps they’ve left us feeling overwhelmed. 

The coronavirus might be wreaking havoc on our supply chains. Or more personally, maybe we’ve already missed out on a job or promotion we really thought should be ours. 

When we think of bad luck and its inverse, good luck, we often think about being in either the right or wrong place, at the right or wrong time. We think of it as something that just happens; an act of good or bad random chance. 

But it turns out, luck isn’t as random as we’d like to believe. A number of renowned psychologists studied ‘luck’ for decades, and discovered that it’s about so much more than chance. 

You can, in fact, create your own good luck. And you can do so by employing 4 basic principles that will rapidly increase the amount of good fortune that comes your way. 

Here’s what the 4 principles are and how you can employ them at work.

1. Maximise chance opportunities 

The first principle that psychologists found increases your luck is to maximise your chance opportunities. It makes sense, of course – the more opportunities you expose yourself to, the more likely you’ll be to succeed. 

But maximising your chance opportunities isn’t just about exposing yourself to them. You also need to take advantage of them when they come your way. 

A great way to do this is to be open to meeting new people and having new experiences, and then seeing the positive in everything. You simply never know what might lead to your next big break. 

It’s easy to see how this principle applies at work. Is there a new project you could put your hand up for? Could you go to a not-strictly-necessary meeting and strike up a conversation with a leader you’ve never met? 

The more open you are and the more chances you take, the more likely that one of these opportunities will come to fruition. 

If you’re looking for more chance opportunities in procurement, join Procurious. You’ll gain instant access to more than 37,000 of your peers. 

2. Listen to your intuition 

Opening yourself to more opportunities means you’ll invite both the good – and inevitably, the bad – in. In doing so, you’ll need to learn to listen to your intuition, to ensure you make better decisions about what’s right for you.

Think of your intuition as effectively a filtering system. With more opportunities, you need to take advantage of the best ones to increase your luck (success).

Intuition can be tricky to describe, but we’ve all felt it. Whether it’s a job we’ve gone for only to doubt whether we’ll like the manager, or a supplier we’re unsure of, we all sometimes feel things aren’t quite right. But we may not trust our judgement. From a luck perspective, we should. 

Honing our intuition can be difficult, though. In order to do so, psychologists recommend taking time to consider our decisions, avoiding stress and meditating so we can better connect with how we’re feeling.

3. Expect good fortune

A little over a decade ago, a book by a little-known author, Rhonda Byrne, went viral. That book was called The Secret and it promised that all readers needed to do was ‘invite’ good things to happen to them, and such things would come about. 

The book was soon widely rubbished by sceptics. It became the subject of countless hilarious memes. But as it turns out there was an element of truth in Byrne’s observations. 

Creating good luck in your career isn’t just a matter of inviting it. But research does show the lucky people do have a positive outlook, insomuch as they expect their future to be a success.

This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lucky people will persist when trying to achieve their goals (even if the chance of succeeding are slim). And they’ll positively interact with others on the journey, opening up ever more opportunities. 

This is another example in which it’s easy to draw parallels to the workplace. If you’ve missed out on a promotion this time, keep your manager on side, stay positive and keep trying. This will exponentially increase your chances of success. 

No one is going to want to promote you if you’re bitter and negative all the time, regardless of your performance or how hard you work. 

4. Turn bad luck into good luck 

Are you stewing on that time when a co-worker made you look bad or stole your idea? While it’s normal to do so, lucky people have special ways of dealing with the inevitable bad fortune we all experience.

Practising their techniques can help you literally turn bad luck into good luck. 

Here’s what researchers found they do:

  • Lucky people often imagine how things could have been worse –this helps them see the positive in any situation. 
  • Ultimately, lucky people believe it will all work out in the end. Sure, your co-worker might have stolen your idea, but you’ve got plenty more to offer, right? 
  • Lucky people don’t dwell on bad things that have happened to them. This enables them to focus on their next big opportunity. 
  • Lucky people take control of situations and take constructive steps to prevent bad situations from happening again. If your co-worker has made you look bad, let them know! 

Go out and get that luck

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte said: ‘ability is of little account without opportunity’. And that has never been more true, especially when it comes to your career.

So go out there and make your own luck. And when you succeed, know this – your success is the result of your effort, not chance. 

How have you made your own luck? Tell us in the comments below. 

Building A Team This Year? Talent Alone Isn’t Enough . . . And Here’s Why

What are Sir Clive Woodward’s 3 essential qualities that go beyond talent and will build a great team?


With the war on talent alive and well, especially in procurement, if you’re hiring you should be more than satisfied with finding the most talented employee, right? 

Wrong.

While most of us would be thrilled to secure top talent, Sir Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach and keynote speaker at Procurious’s Big Ideas Summit, thinks that talent is simply a starting point. 

In his latest book How to Win: Talent Alone Is Not Enough he explores this theme in detail. He describes how beyond talent, there’s a myriad other qualities that are required for true success. 

And if anyone would know, it would be Sir Clive. Not only did he lead his rugby team to a history-making victory against Australia in 2003, but he’s also held many high-ranking corporate leadership positions. He now runs his own software company, Hive Learning – the peer learning platform for building culture-critical skills at scale.

But if talent is only a starting point, where do you go from there? Ahead of his address at this year’s Procurious Big Ideas Summit, we sat down with Sir Clive and discovered what he considers are the essential qualities of a great team.

1. A sponge, not a rock 

‘I always want to hire the most talented people into my teams, but this to me is the starting point and not the finish,’ says Sir Clive. 

‘I will never underestimate the importance of teamwork. But I have this saying that “Great Teams are Made of Great Individuals”. If you have great individuals in your teams, the team stuff becomes a lot easier because you have motivated people, giving their all and are dedicated to the overall goal.’

But what makes people great? It’s certainly more than talent, as Sir Clive points out.

One critical quality, he says, is that people on your team need to be open to continually learning and developing. They need to have a perpetual growth mindset, and be ‘sponges’, not ‘rocks’: 

‘I see a lot of individuals that start out as sponges when they join an organisation but sometimes the longer they have been with an organisation, they can drift into being a rock.’ In coaching language these people are unteachable, uncoachable.

Sir Clive thinks that from an individual and leadership perspective, once you’ve become a ‘rock’ you cease to be able to reach your potential. 

Yet equally, if your team are ‘sponges’ you must be willing to metaphorically give them something to absorb, says Sir Clive.

It’s your role as the leader but also each person’s as a team player to be continually pushing: ‘Many people hire very talented people, as I do. But you have to keep investing in mentoring and leading these people to harness their talent – but this must be a two-way thing.’ 

2. Working well under pressure

This year so far, we’ve had the Australian bushfires, the coronavirus and Brexit . . . and that’s just the external pressures procurement is facing. 

Stress and pressure is all around us, especially in the increasingly complex business environment. 

To combat this, a great team needs to work exceptionally well under pressure, Sir Clive asserts, which, again, comes down to the individual’s ability to work under pressure. 

‘In the military, there’s a saying that in a crisis, people fall back to their lowest level of training. The message here is: train hard and train well. You’ll need it.’ 

Many leaders who believe their people have never had to work under pressure have trouble understanding how this is a quality that can be ‘trained’.

Yet it’s absolutely possible, says Sir Clive, who is a fundamental believer in the brain’s ability to do just about anything it wants to: ‘You would be amazed at what’s possible, you really would. Even if you haven’t worked under pressure before, you can retrain your brain; your people’s brain. It’s amazing what you can do.’ 

Sir Clive is certainly the expert on working under pressure. Back in 2003, the English team were level with Australia in extra time in the Rugby World Cup Final. They ended up being the ultimate example of performing under pressure when star player Jonny Wilkinson moved the game from a draw to a victory by kicking a drop goal in the final minute of extra time. 

3. Attitude is everything 

Ever had a brilliant employee who tries to undermine you at every opportunity? Or a know-it-all who understands procurement back-to-front, but whom your team hates? 

If you’ve experienced the dreaded ‘attitude’ in your team, you’ll relate to Sir Clive’s final advice when it comes to your people and your team: Attitude is everything. 

Being a sponge is important and performing under pressure equally so. But attitude can be everything when it comes to performance, says Sir Clive: ‘Everyone in your team needs to have a good attitude. It’s the absolute cornerstone when it comes to performing at your best.’ 

Other pearls of wisdom 

Did you know that Sir Clive thinks that you can tell a lot about a person from their tardiness? And that you need a checklist, not a to-do list, to help bring a vision to life? 

Hear more of Sir Clive’s game-changing advice at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit, due to be held in London on 11 March. Not in London or can’t make it? Attend online for free by registering here for your complimentary Digital Delegates pass.

You’ve been fired or made redundant. What do you say to your next boss?

If you’re not proud of how you left your last job, should you lie or tell the truth in your next employment interview?

If it’s never happened to you, it seems like the unthinkable. But if it has, rest assured you’re not alone – being made redundant, or worse, getting fired outright, is a common experience. 

Every year, at least 3% of people are made redundant due to corporate restructuring or downsizing, and many more are either let go or reach a mutual decision to terminate their employment.  

Yet the fact that getting fired is common doesn’t make it easy. And one thing that many people find challenging is how to describe what happened, especially when talking to a recruiter or prospective boss.

Should you lie? Or should you simply tell the truth? If you do tell the truth, do you risk sabotaging your new role? Or if you do lie, could even more be at stake? 

Your reputation and the industry 

Being made redundant or getting fired can be an extremely unpleasant experience. You might feel angry or ashamed, and as a result, may want to ‘save face’ by telling a recruiter or prospective manager that you left for another reason, or that you’re simply still at your previous organisation. 

But Imelda Walsh, manager at The Source, Australia’s premier procurement recruitment consultancy, cautions all procurement professionals against doing this. 

‘Procurement is somewhat of a niche profession,’ she says, ‘and everyone is interconnected. If you aren’t honest, you do run the risk of being caught out.

‘We’ve actually been in the situation a few times where a candidate hasn’t been honest about their reasons for leaving and we’ve discovered this through our network.’ 

Beyond the risk of being ‘found out’, Imelda doesn’t recommend lying simply because of the damage it can do to your personal brand. 

‘If you’re honest,’ she says, ‘it shows you have integrity. If you’re not, it casts doubt over your whole personal brand. It takes an entire career to build a positive personal brand, but only a few minutes to destroy one. 

‘The risk simply isn’t worthwhile.’ 

Deal with your emotions first – don’t vent 

There are undoubtedly many emotions associated with being fired or made redundant, many of them negative. Our natural human response is to take everything personally and to want to vent. But an interview isn’t the time for this, cautions Imelda. 

She says that prior to attending an interview, you need to make a concerted effort to deal with your emotions. In addition to this, you should plan, ahead of time, how you’re going to describe how your employment ended, and ensure you stick to this when you’re in an interview.

‘When candidates aren’t prepared, they tend to go into too much detail about why they left their previous employment,’ she says. ‘This inevitably turns into a vindictive and personal whinge, which can quickly derail an interview.’ 

As recruiters and hiring managers are trying to ascertain your skills, experience and cultural fit, Imelda recommends avoiding at all costs too much focus on the reasons you left your past employer.

How to talk about being fired

Most people would assume that abruptly being asked to leave or mutually decide to leave a role, especially after a short amount of time, is a bad look when you’re re-entering the job market. 

But Imelda doesn’t see it that way: ‘We see a lot of people, really talented people, who mutually decide to leave their role.

‘This can be because the opportunity that was sold to them was misaligned with the reality of the role, or because a change of management has changed their situation.

‘In this case, leaving is the best thing to do. Better that than try to stick it out and do further damage to your career.’ 

If you find yourself in this situation, Imelda recommends being honest, albeit with a professional veneer. She recently encountered someone who did this perfectly: ‘We had an exceptional candidate here recently who said “There was a change of management, and the new team wanted to take the business in a different direction.”

‘After the interview, he discreetly said to me: “Two other people left in the same week as me. I’m sure you can read between the lines.” 

‘Recruiters understand this. We know that not all managers are great, but that a manager can make or break your happiness at work. This is a legitimate reason for leaving or mutually deciding to leave.’ 

How to talk about being made redundant

In years gone by, redundancy was uncommon. But these days? Not so much – 1 in 4 people will be made redundant at some point in their career, with some being made redundant many times. The idea of a ‘job for life’ is rare, and some companies restructure as often as every few years.  

Imelda recommends that if you’re made redundant, simply say so.

‘One of our clients completed two redundancies within less than two years,’ she says. ‘As recruiters, we have a macro view of the industry and we see redundancies all the time. If this has happened to you, just tell us.’ 

Have you ever been made redundant? How have you described it? Tell us in the comments section. 

Are you a procurement professional who wants the best career, technical and leadership advice, plus the opportunity to connect and network with more than 37,000 peers, worldwide? Create a free profile on Procurious today. 

How To Lead Differently This Year

What can we learn about leadership from the rugby field? A lot, it seems…


Have you ever headed into a supplier negotiation and joked you’re ‘going out into battle’? Ever finished a successful project, and said ‘you’re kicking goals’?

There are few physical similarities between our procurement desk jobs and the rugby field. But the way we lead our teams should be exactly the same, says Sir Clive Woodward, former coach of the England rugby team and keynote speaker at Procurious’s Big Ideas Summit.

Woodward, who coached the England side to its historic 2003 World Cup victory, believes that sport and business has more in common than we think.

‘There’s no difference between sport and business,’ he asserts. ‘In both, you need to create champion individuals and a successful culture.’  

And if anyone would know, it would be Sir Clive. 

Not only is he one of the world’s most revered rugby coaches, he’s also had a successful career in business. 

Prior to coaching, he worked for nearly two decades at Xerox in various leadership positions, as well as managing his own leasing company. Now, one of the things that he does is run a software company that helps leaders – in business and in sport – build culture-critical skills at scale.

For Sir Clive, creating a winning culture might come easily. But, as anyone who’s recently led a team will know, achieving ‘success’ in this age of mass transformations, technological change and unstable environments can be quite a challenge. 

To help, Clive has 5 ‘big ideas’ he uses to help leaders and teams achieve big things. 

1. It starts with respect

Winning and maintaining respect, according to Sir Clive, is one of business’s greatest challenges. Yet at the same time it’s a great opportunity. 

Sir Clive says that contrary to popular opinion, respect isn’t won simply by attaining a certain job title: ‘You don’t get respect simply because you’re the leader. Just because I’m the head coach or the chief executive doesn’t mean people are going to respect me.’ 

Instead, Sir Clive says that we all need to focus on the quality of our actions. 

This is particularly important for high performers, who are always striving for better: ‘You get respect because of what you do and by the quality of your actions over a sustained period of time.’

2. Talent and egos 

On talent in general, Sir Clive thinks that it’s definitely a leader’s job to try and hire the most talented people.

But what managers need to realise, he says, is that sometimes the most talented people aren’t the easiest people to work with: 

‘Everyone’s different, you can have mavericks, egos. There’s no simple way of doing it – if you employ the most talented people, sometimes they’re not the easiest people.’

But, he reminds leaders, this is part of the job that while not easy can still be managed:

‘As a manager, it’s my job to work with them [talented people, even if they aren’t easy]. The best way to manage them is on a one-on-one basis, explaining to them the philosophy and that we need them to be totally part of that process and that we’re trying to make them better at what they do.

‘I’ve not met anyone talented who doesn’t want to get better.’ 

3. Teachability

While talented people may (or may not) be easy to work with, they do need to be teachable, says Woodward. 

He says that an individual’s willingness to learn is critical when it comes to building winning teams: ‘The ability to accumulate knowledge around their role gives people an awareness of what they need to do to continually improve on what they already have.’

Knowledge, though, is not simply academic learning, Woodward asserts. It’s much more than that: ‘Knowledge is a passion for seeking any kind of self-development. It’s not simply collecting diplomas.’ 

4. 100 things, 1% better

To create a winning procurement team, you need talented, teachable people. But their talent is only a baseline – says Sir Clive.

And you need to be constantly improving them to improve performance. Contrary to popular belief, this ‘improvement’ need not involve seismic shifts in any particular area. 

Woodward says that you’re better off focusing on micro-improvements in a number of different areas: ‘Building on several areas in a small way frequently yields dramatically better outcomes. If you go into every aspect of what you do and break it down and improve those things by 1%, it all adds up.’ 

This philosophy has worked particularly well for Sir Clive in rugby: ‘In rugby, we understand all the parameters – we break it down into as much detail as possible and try and do every bit of it slightly better than anyone else.’ 

And, as in rugby, in business you can’t simply improve and then stop.

Constant performance improvement needs to become part of your culture: ‘You have to always be [improving] and just because you’ve improved something one day doesn’t mean you can’t improve it the next. It has to be the ethos of everybody.

‘Everybody in that team has the obligation, if they think we can do something better, they need to hold their hand up and say it.’ 

5. Innovation can come from anywhere 

Procurement teams are increasingly expected to be innovative. But who is responsible for that innovation? 

Everyone, according to Sir Clive, even people outside procurement, as they may bring different perspectives: ‘[When you’re looking for new ideas], it’s important to canvas the input of independent third parties in order to pool as much knowledge and ideas as possible.

‘These ideas can come from anywhere, not just leaders. Using other people you like and respect and [who] are bright enough to look in can give you amazing new thoughts and ideas.’ 

As appealing as this sounds, Woodward does concede that it can be challenging within organisations, although ultimately necessary: 

‘[Introducing new ideas] can be potentially troublesome, particularly when there is an already entrenched way of doing things. 

‘There’s no easy answer to that, there’s no magic fix. The only easy answer is to sit down, explain to your team, even in one-on-ones and then empower them to get involved.’

Sir Clive Woodward is the keynote speaker at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in London, due to be held on 11 March 2020. Tickets are sold out, but you can secure a digital delegate ticket here (free for a limited time).