All posts by Tania Seary

Throwback Thursday – #suckit – The Art of Speechmaking

There’s an art to great speechmaking, and we can all take note how to improve. But could it also be the key to finding great talent?

I’ve just woken up in Los Angeles and am still in awe of Cate Blanchett’s amazing acceptance speech at last night’s Oscars.

No – I wasn’t in the audience (maybe next year!), but watching with a group of friends in our Art Deco hangout in Santa Monica. It felt a bit like watching the AFL Grand Final from an apartment in East Melbourne. The action was only metres away, but there you were, watching it on television like the rest of the world.

Cate’s speech was the demonstration of a well educated, articulate, thoughtful, and endearing individual. She came across as a true professional who was both confident and competent – a rare combination.

As far as I’m concerned, her speech ticked all the boxes. She used this once in a lifetime opportunity to talk to the world about the wealth of Australian talent, the important role of women in business, and her number one passion, the Sydney Theatre Company.

 

And, I’m sorry, I have always tried to avoid writing negative comments about specific individuals, but Cate provided a VERY stark contrast to the best male actor who…quite frankly…in his acceptance speech reinforced a lot of stereotypes about the acting world and Hollywood. Enough said!

Don’t Get Sticky Fingers

Now, I know there will probably be social media furore over her comment, “Julia, #suckit.” The background to which Blanchett is staying close-lipped.

It would seem Cate’s has proved correct an earlier, very clever quote from Julia Roberts regarding social media: “It’s like cotton candy. It looks so appealing, but then you just end up with sticky fingers”.

Wow!  What a great analogy – sticky fingers.  Really made me rethink my little personal journey on twitter, which you can read about in “Who gives a tweet?”.

Anyway, back to great speechmaking. While scrolling through my Twitter timeline to learn more about Cate’s big win, I stumbled across AFL Boss Andrew Demetriou’s 11 minute resignation speech.

OK, so it’s not everyday someone draws a link between Andrew Demetriou and Cate Blanchett! But in a matter of 24 hours, both these Australians made great leadership speeches that will help define their respective legacies.

Both speeches had the following in common –

  • Paid respect to their respective “codes”
  • Showed humility and empathy
  • Recognised where they had come from and those who had supported their journey
  • Sent a clear message about their passions/key communication points
  • Thanked their family

Because of their statesman-like, intelligent and heartfelt comments, they left their audience thinking even more highly of their respective professions.

Your Speechmaking Checklist

It’s not everyday that we mere mortals are called on to make landmark speeches, but the checklist above certainly gives us some good reminders as we walk through our professional lives.

So when that day arrives, and you’re in front of the camera, audience, or friends, will you be able to deliver a compelling summary of your contribution?

Here’s some thought starters:

  • As we interact with our team, do we show gratitude?
  • Are we investing our energy in those people who will be part of the winning team?
  • Will we have contributed in a material way to the development of our “code” or profession?
  • Have we supported our family as much as they have supported us?
  • Do we have a view, an opinion, or a passion that we are actively promoting to others as we interact daily?
  • Are we living and working by our values?
  • Are we showing empathy and humility?
  • And what about our team and others we have dealt with along the way?  Will they be our greatest advocates?

Speechmaking – The Key to Finding Talent?

But the importance of oration goes even further than our own ability to present professionally it would seem. It could just be the key to finding great young talent.

I’m always looking for great talent to help build my three businesses – The Faculty, The Source and Procurious. So, when I came across advice in Forbes on “how to find the Millennials who will lead your company,” I really took notice.

The author, Robert Sher, advised us to be on the lookout for Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) who have had experience in speechmaking and debating.

He highlights that the world needs business executives that have a deep understanding of how to persuade, how to present clearly, and how to connect with an audience.

Sher notes that many professionals, “fall short when it comes to speaking and communications skills. Many are good at making Power Point slides, and some are good at presenting facts clearly—even recommendations clearly.

“But few practice, or are aware of the techniques behind moving the emotions of audiences; whether they be in a meeting, or in an all-hands gathering of hundreds of people. We all know that people spring to action based on emotions, then simply justify it with logic.”

Here is the truth about students who compete in speech and debate. They’ve spent hundreds of hours perfecting their speaking skills.  Many have done intensive research to write their speeches.

All have endured the pressure that competition brings. They have performed well intellectually under such pressure, and they’ve made connections and friendships with other high performing peers. All of these behaviours are excellent predictors of success on any leadership team.

Buying Tech – Your Fast-Track Ticket to the Top!

I’d like to make a correction. Tech buyers aren’t just our next CPOs, they’re our next Board members.

No, I haven’t misspelt “BioTech” in the headline here – I genuinely mean buying technology.

I wrote last week on Procurious that IT procurement professionals are best-positioned to become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers) or CIOs (Chief Information Officers).

But then, I decided to upgrade this career trajectory to Board level.

Why? Because I’d heard first-hand how some of the world’s largest industrial companies are turning their businesses on their heads. They are changing their focus so it’s less on manufactured goods, but services they can provide to complement those goods.

Banking on Future Tech

At last week’s ProcureCon IT conference in Amsterdam, banks, car companies, engine makers and other industries all made their way to the stage to tell a similar story. You see, they’ve all finally come around to Michael Porter’s way of thinking. It’s all about delighting and owning the customer – or, more specifically, the customer data.

Even the most traditional sectors represented at the conference made it clear that they are banking their futures on technology. Of course they’ll still offer their core products, such as making cars or managing money.

However, their key competitive advantage will be in the customer experience they create through understanding their customers’ needs and habits. The data they capture when customers use their products and services is essential for this understanding.

So – to be successful into the future, these bricks-and-mortar businesses are going to have start adding some very different (and expensive) topics to their Board meeting agendas.

Decisions might include:

  • whether to store all their precious customer data in the cloud or in data centres,
  • how to protect their IP and their customers’ privacy from hackers,
  • how to comply with privacy legislation, and
  • which technology vendors to tie their futures to (or not!).

These issues have existed in business for a long time, but they now come with such significant expenditure and risk profiles that they will warrant serious Board contemplation and approval.

But who on the Board will have the experience and knowledge to provide useful and constructive insights for making these critical business decisions?

Become a Savvy Tech Buyer

Enter stage left – the technology procurement leader.

I’ve been reading and writing about seismic shifts in the world of Industry 4.0, but today the penny finally dropped. I now realise what a huge opportunity the next Industrial Revolution is for procurement.

It is indeed a brave new world. To my delight it has become very clear to me that the fastest career ticket you can buy yourself to the c-suite, is to become a commercially savvy technology buyer.

Whether you are in IT procurement or not, you should be focussing on developing these four key skills to secure your ticket to the top:

Big Data Analytics

There is going to be a lot of customer data collected over the coming years. The companies that can extract the best insights from that data, and adapt their products and services to meet customer needs, will secure their competitive advantage.

Executives with a proven track record in complex analytics will be a valuable addition to the c-suite.

Data Security

Cyber security is already one of the most concerning issues for CEOs. This will only be amplified in the future as more and more proprietary information is created.

The executive team will need leaders who know about global privacy laws, the pros and cons of the cloud versus traditional data centres, and how to outsmart the latest human or robotic hacking capability.

The Digital Landscape

Companies are already in dire need of directors and executives who understand the difference between the Ethernet and the Internet. (Hint: it’s like comparing a glass of water with the ocean).

A whole new universe of technology options are forming as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 explode. Boards desperately need digitally native, tech-savvy executives who can quickly analyse opportunities, understand the competitive landscape and engage first-mover start-ups in a commercially astute manner.

Busting the Big Guys

This isn’t a typical competency that you would normally see listed on a corporate job description. But from what I’ve heard over the past two days, every company is going to need a group of strong, strategic commercial leaders who can ensure the organisation doesn’t become captive to one of the big technology suppliers.

Without naming names, there are a handful of global players who dominate the infrastructure, hardware and software space.

Whilst IT procurement professionals genuinely want to engage the niche players, requirements around scale, scope and compliance inevitably lead to the large technology providers. These are somewhat symbiotic relationships, but (as we all know) there are huge inherent risks to any monopoly supply situation.

Gain Experience and Grow

So, if you’re ambitious, my career advice to you today is this:

Do all you can to get yourself into a role where you’ll learn these sought-after skills. A role in tech procurement would be perfect; procurement second-best (because every procurement professional learns essential commercial and negotiation skills).

If you’re not in procurement at all, the IT profession is another place where you’ll be able to gain the experience required to tick some of these boxes when it comes time to be interviewed for the c-suite – or hopefully, the Board!

See you at the top!

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Here’s Why IT Procurement Leaders Are CPOs of the Future

The fourth industrial revolution is here. Change-resistant CPOs who see it as a threat will inevitably see themselves consigned to the scrap-heap.

The CPO of the Future, on the other hand, will seize every opportunity Industry 4.0 presents. And the profession is looking to IT procurement experts for leadership.

CPOs of the future

The procurement function is at a digital tipping point. To quote James Gregson’s analysis of Deloitte’s 2016 Global CPO Survey, “digital disruption will either reinvigorate or replace procurement’s value proposition”. In other words, if you’re not disrupting, you’re being disrupted.

Industry 4.0 marks the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing capabilities, where increasing automation and computerisation allow us to create smart workplaces.

From office printers that automatically order their own ink cartridges, to fully-robotised factories, the scale of change has been compared to the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Procurement, far from allowing itself to be left behind, must ride the wave of technological advancement to stay ahead. We’ve even seen the emergence of a new term – Procurement 4.0 – to encapsulate the changes that Industry 4.0 is making in the supply chain.

The vocabulary of CPOs is changing, too. The usual chatter around traditional practices such as sourcing, contracts and requisition-to-pay is fading away to make room for cutting-edge concepts like cognitive analytics, crowd sourcing, digital reporting, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

If you’re already in IT Procurement, then let me be the first to congratulate you! IT Buyers are going to be the CPOs of the future. Here are five reasons why.

  1. You already control an important chunk of the strategic spend

Global IT spending, according to Gartner, is expected to reach $3.5 trillion in 2017. As the future of business lies in the Cloud and with digital technology, it’s easy to predict that those professionals who are buying this future are best-positioned to lead the profession.

Arguably, no category of spend touches all areas of the business as much as IT. It’s a highly-specialised, big-ticket category where the buyer regularly deals with tier-one vendors.

Salary ranges, according to The Source General Manager Tony Megally, reflect the high-level impact of IT buying roles. “Generally, IT procurement managers’ salaries are 15 per cent higher than other specialisations. They are, without doubt, one of the best-paid categories in the profession.”

  1. Soon everything we buy will include an element of technology

Direct or indirect, goods or services, in the new world of Industry 4.0 just about everything we buy will have some element of technology. IT Buyers have the opportunity to add some runs to their career scorecard by seeking out innovative technology that solves previously “unsolvable” problems.

Take for example the decades-old safety concern around the fatigue levels of operators of heavy machinery. Mining truck drivers now have wearable technology (essentially baseball caps) that regularly conduct electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on the wearer.

The SmartCap knows when you’re approaching a micro-sleep even before you do. It then sounds an alarm in the truck cabin that alerts the wearer. The alarm can be routed to a remote monitor, who will stop the truck and remove fatigued driver from duty.

For the IT procurement manager, it’s important to understand the technology to manage it commercially. Which companies currently produce these caps? The earliest adopters are in the mining sector – what other sectors could benefit from this product?

What will it mean for safety standards across every industry where operator fatigue is a concern? Could your organisation be accused of negligence if you’re slow to implement this technology?

  1. You know how to drive change

Introducing new technology to an organisation is a major change process. More than anyone, IT procurement buyers are very aware of this fact, many having fought and overcome end-user resistance to new processes or systems.

Here at the threshold of Industry 4.0, the experience gained by battle-scarred IT change-management veterans will be invaluable as the pace of transformational change continues to accelerate.

  1. You’re an innovation scout

IT Procurement professionals have witnessed a huge amount of change in their search for the ultimate technology solutions over the past 20 years.

Take, for example, the evolution of the laptop. These have developed from bulky, suitcase-like machines in the 1980s, to sleek thin-screened notebooks in the early 2000s. However, the devices were effectively (and dramatically) made obsolete in 2010 when Apple released its first-generation iPad.

As technology increasingly becomes the product, we must keep options open to take advantage of the frenetic pace of change. This means shorter contracts, built-in optionality, and smaller, more agile suppliers who will drive innovation.

CPOs of the future will essentially be “innovation scouts”, with a major focus on finding, and profiting from, the next big thing in IT.

Organisations are also increasingly looking to supplier innovation to boost top-line revenue. This means the skill-set required to source from technology providers is fast becoming invaluable.

  1. You understand cyber security

88 per cent of U.S. CEOs are somewhat or extremely concerned about cyber threats. These CEOs are looking for technology savvy leaders across their business to protect them from cyber breaches.

Again, IT Procurement managers are ideally positioned to become experts in the cybersecurity challenges associated with the coming IoT wave, which will bring a rapid expansion of potential entry points for malicious software.

Whether you’re a problem-solver, change-management veteran, innovation scout, cyber-security expert, or all of the above, IT Buyers are already in possession of the ideal skill-set that will be needed by Procurement 4.0’s CPOs of the Future.

Procurious is at ProcureCon IT in Amsterdam this week. Stay up to date with what’s happening on Procurious, and by following us on Twitter.

My 5 Killer Job Interview Questions

How do you separate the diamonds from the rough in your next recruitment process? Do you have the killer questions to help?

killer questions

When I started all my businesses (The Faculty, The Source, and Procurious) I declared that I was building a culture, not a company.

Culture can’t be forced, but it also doesn’t happen organically. It stems from recruitment. It’s not always the best person, but the right person for the job, that can help foster company culture.

Leadership experience, technical skills and cultural fit are all important here, so how can you recruit someone that ticks all three boxes?

From all my years of playing interviewer, I’ve compiled five killer questions that separate the diamonds from the rough.

1. The “Tipping Point” Question

“What were the reasons for leaving your current job?”

Asking a potential employee why they decided to leave their job provides good insight into what makes them tick. It also highlights their personality and gives you a definite indication of what they don’t want to happen in their new job.

It’s also a good question to ask in exit interviews to ensure your business can learn from its mistakes.

2. The “Leader of the Pack” Question

“Tell me about something you’ve lead – a group, a team, a movement, an initiative…any situation where you were in the lead?”

This question resulted in the most surprising interview response ever. When I first established The Source, my procurement recruitment company, I was interviewing for the Managing Director role.

When I asked this question, one of the candidates paused and then answered, “I once led a revolt against management in a manufacturing company I worked for.” Wrong answer.

3. The “Mentor Me” Question

“Tell me about some people you’ve mentored and what they are doing now?”

If people stumble on this question, they obviously don’t have a track record in developing people. Furthermore, if they can’t talk to what their mentees are doing now, they really weren’t genuinely committed and interested in that person’s development enough to keep track of their progress.

4. The “Question” Question

“Do you have any more questions?”

I always want people to have lots of questions. And not just about them – their pay, their hours, the role and where they’ll sit – but about the business, about the industry, the issues we are facing, about our future.

To be successful in any business, people need to be genuinely concerned about their profession or industry, not just their own career development.

5. The “One Word” Question

One of my mentors gave me this tip. One of her interview questions was:

“If your friends could summarise you in one word, what would that word be?”

This question is great because it allows the candidate to drill down to the one attribute they represent but also aspire to be.

Want to hire someone who describes him or herself as “encouraging” or “meticulous”? Of course you do. Someone who describes him or herself as “Chatty” or “Brilliant”? Didn’t think so.

Reflect on Your Questions

So you’ve asked your questions, the interview is complete and you look to move onto the next candidate. Before you do so, remember the final important step – reflect.

This was a key piece of advice I received from one of our recruitment experts at The Source. It’s important to reflect on the candidate’s responses and behaviour to help determine where they fit in the organisation.

Hiring managers should always consider their current and desired workplace culture, and think about how the candidate fits in.

To do this, I often ask myself:

  • What were the energy levels like? Did the candidate have energy – physical, mental and spiritual (I know, sounds spooky…but think about it!)?
  • Did the conversation flow? Was the candidate both interesting and interested? Did I struggle to follow what they were sharing? Was the conversation stilted?
  • Would the person be a good representative of the team? Here, I’m talking about their values and approach, as well as the way they communicate and present.

With these interview questions in your repertoire plus some “reflection” time, you will be on your way to recruitment success.

Take the Disney Approach to Procurement

Take some advice from Disney – storytelling lies at the heart of every successful change programme.

disney approach procurement

Here’s a little-known fact – I used to work for the Walt Disney Company. Over twenty-five years ago I was a Marketing Co-ordinator in Disney’s International TV Department based in Soho Square, London.

The rest of the team (not me, unfortunately) used to travel to Cannes for the TV Festival each year to support our roll-out of Disney Clubs. It was all very glamorous (for some) and very educational for me.

In one way (at least), I was a perfect fit for a job with Disney. If you’ve ever caught one of my podcasts here on Procurious or elsewhere, you may have heard my voice.

Let’s just say it’s “unfortunate” – quite high in pitch, scratchy…not pleasant! Some of my friends at the time claimed that my role with Disney was actually as the voice-over for Minnie Mouse. Cruel, but understandable!

I learned so much during my time there, but today I want to focus on what I picked up by experiencing the Disney marketing machine first-hand. I am sure many of you have heard about “the Disney formula”, which involves a core asset (the story) being rolled out and leveraged in its many formats.

My short-hand way of summarising this phenomenally successful technique is to categorise the formula into “the book, the movie, the merchandise, the ride – and the tweet”.

Drive Procurement Change Programmes like a Disney Executive

CPOs today are paid to drive global change – but are the programmes we put in place really that effective? Deft change management is what separates the good from the great.

I want to encourage you all to take a very professional, systematic approach to driving change with this Disney-inspired formula.

The Book

At the heart of every Disney project lies the book, or the original script. For CPOs, our “book” is the business case for the change program. This proposal, or argument for action, is the foundation of your change programme that must win the endorsement of your senior leadership team. Without the business case, your campaign has no foundation and will always be on shaky ground.

My advice is to treat your “book” the same way that the world’s best authors approach their craft – write, re-write, and re-write again until you’re 100 per cent confident that you’ve created a rock-solid, engaging business case that meets your organisation’s requirements.

The Movie

Think about some of the lengthy classics that Disney has converted into film. Whether it’s The Jungle Book, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame or Treasure Island, the editors have managed to bring the story down to an average of 1.5 hours. Your “movie” is the public, dramatic expression of your story.

Not everyone will have the time, nor the interest, to read the business case for your change programme, so it’s important to condense it into a version that’s palatable for all. In the corporate world, this is often referred to as “the deck” – or even just a snappy executive summary. 

The Merchandise

Disney has always done an amazing job of licensing their characters to consumer goods companies. Procurement, on the other hand, is notoriously poor at marketing themselves internally.

I’m not suggesting that you order in a range of paperweights or mousepads to promote your change management programme, but it’s worth considering an effective logo or even a slogan that will encapsulate and amplify your message.

Why not reach out to your colleagues in marketing for their creative input? 

The Ride

When I worked at Disney all those years ago, the most profitable part of the business was their theme parks. As part of their marketing formula, amusement rides were based on Disney’s most popular movies and TV shows. But how can this be applied to your change management programme? 

Well, I once heard that if you want to get a message across to employees, you need to communicate it eleven times before it’s absorbed. Why eleven, I have no idea! This is where the ride comes in.

Once you’ve converted your “book” into a “movie”, hop on “the ride” which will repeat the same message over and over again until your program has been accepted.

It doesn’t necessarily need to follow the same track – best-practice communication involves delivering your message via multiple platforms (newsletters, emails, the company intranet, posters and social media) to keep the message fresh and engaging.

A Modern-Day Addition: The Tweet

When I was at Walt Disney, there was no social media. I’ve just checked the #Disney hashtag on Twitter and it’s incredible to see how many accounts they’re running concurrently: @Disney, @DisneyPixar, @WaltDisneyWorld, @Disney Channel, @DisneyMusic. This doesn’t even cover the individual hashtags dedicated to each new movie, along with a legion of unofficial, fan-based accounts.

Disney understands that social media is essential for getting their message to where their audience spends its time. CPOs need to take the same approach. Social media, used intelligently, is an irreplaceable tool in their global change management kit.

Yammer, Procurious and LinkedIn are just some of the many platforms that can be used to engage and influence your team to help them understand the why – and the how – of your change program.

I’ve looked to Disney for my inspiration due to having first-hand experience with their marketing techniques all those years ago in Soho. However, they certainly aren’t the only organisation with a magic formula.

If you’re considering a change management programme, save yourself some time and energy by finding your own inspirational company who demonstrate best-practice, steal their formula, and get to work!

ProcureCon Europe, now in its 17th year, is Europe’s most strategic procurement conference for CPOs and senior procurement executives. See the full range of topic and speakers at the event here.

Getting the Smartest Guys in the Room

Is it just me, or does it feel like procurement is forever running in circles? We’re spending a lot of time worrying about whether we are ‘at the table’, when the real question might be, “Are we on the menu?”

albert-einstein smartest people in room

Last year I had a one of those rare “A-ha!” moments. I was chatting to a CFO of a global company, with 50,000 people working across more than 30 countries.

He was in the middle of a major cost transformation and I asked him whether procurement was playing a leading role. He said he didn’t know.

More than a little surprised, I asked him politely how was it that he didn’t know. He responded:

“Well, when we have our team updates it’s usually via Halo and all I see is a group of faces. I really don’t care whether they’re from HR, Operations, Finance or Procurement. All I care is that I’ve got the smartest guys in the room, solving our problems.”

And that was my A-ha! moment.

Quality Rises to the Top

Procurement shouldn’t fret about promoting its brand or carefully crafting a value proposition because ultimately, the quality of our people will speak for itself. What we need to ensure is that we get the smartest people onto “Team Procurement”.

Today at ProcureCon Europe I’m sharing three short, sharp “big ideas” for how procurement can get the smartest guys in the room.

1. Set Daring Talent KPIs

The power of KPIs has become a hot topic among the Procurious community with discussions about how metrics can be used to influence procurement’s perception within the business.

In my blog article ‘Measuring the Unmeasurable‘, I suggested we ought to measure how many members of the Procurement team are promoted to enterprise-wide leadership development programs. You know, those rising star or high potential programmes. (When I was working in corporate, we called it “charm school”).

If CPOs were brave enough to call out this KPI as your bold aspiration for their team, it would have a double-whammy effect. Firstly, it would promote procurement internally as a source of real leadership talent. Secondly, it would increase procurement’s level of attractive proposition for ambitious candidates looking to really ‘get somewhere’ in their career.

2. Find a Millennial Mentor

If you want to attract the brightest stars, you need to understand how the next generation of talent thinks. One of the best ways to doing this is to find yourself a millennial mentor.

I have had more than a few millennial mentors in recent years who have taught me two important lessons. One, there is enormous power in social media. And, two, why job selection is more about their boss and how likely they are to champion and influence on their behalf, rather than the company itself.

At Procurious, we believe there is a direct correlation between the strength of your online brand and the calibre of millennial talent you attract to your organisation.  Put simply, in the minds’ of millennials: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist”.

3. Incubate Intrapreneurs

Leading global CPOs are not paid to reduce costs – they are paid to drive change. But implementing ‘big ideas’ in big companies is not easy, as we were reminded last year at The Big Ideas Summit by Rio Tinto’s Finance Director, Chris Lynch.

If you want to get the smartest guys in the room, you need to find and develop people who think and act like entrepreneurs, but can still work and importantly, get things done in a corporate environment.

Some questions worth asking yourself:

  • What are you doing today to promote the image of your team as “entrepreneurial”?
  • Are you attracting candidates who can innovate?
  • Do you have a culture that will enable ‘intrapreneurs’ to thrive and gain momentum?
  • Are your stakeholders willing to embrace entrepreneurialism?

What’s your plan for getting the smartest guys in the room?

How to Strike Gold When Seeking a Mentor

Finding a mentor is no longer limited to new starts. Now senior leaders are seeking the benefits of a two-way mentoring relationship.

Mentor

This article first appeared in Women’s Agenda.

I am 45 years old and own three businesses. Yet I’ve had three mentors in the past three months. A chairman, who is helping me navigate the new territory of being an international business owner, and two 25 year-olds who have coaxed and coached me on the power of social media.

Mentoring, it never sleeps.

Apparently I’m not the only “experienced” leader who has sought out a more junior executive to be my mentor. Reverse mentoring has become a bit of a trend.

Procurement and business leaders are facing a race to unearth new opportunities and remain relevant in a rapidly changing digital economy. This is causing a shift in the traditional mentoring framework – senior mentor coaching junior mentee – to one that is more collaborative and co-creative.

That’s not to mean traditional mentor relationships should be thrown out. My first mentor was the traditional type. She was someone I respected, who was more senior than me, who took me under her wing and showed me the ropes.

But the lines are blurring. Whether it’s someone with years of experience under their belt or someone with less years than yourself, finding the right mentor fit is key.

Today, many Millennials seem obsessed with finding a mentor, convinced that it is the magic key to career advancement. Sheryl Sandberg, makes the following observation in her book, Lean In:

“I realised that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming,” she writes.

“We all grew up on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after.”

The important truth is that mentors find you, not the other way around. Sandberg believes we need to stop telling mentees, “Get a mentor and you will excel.” Instead, we need to tell them, “Excel and you will get a mentor.”

So how can you increase your chances of a great mentor relationship?

1. Check that you don’t already have a mentor

Sometimes in large organisations there are lots of people advocating for you – you just don’t realise it. Open your eyes and ears to people who may already be informally mentoring you.

2. Get to know yourself and pinpoint where you need to grow

Self-awareness is one of the most valuable traits you can develop as a leader. We can all be our own greatest critics, but we need to take an honest look in the mirror and really understand and reconcile our opportunities for development.

Sometimes we can be attracted to people who are actually a lot like ourselves, when in reality we need advice from people who have strengths in areas we don’t.

3. Be brave and find an “unreasonable friend”

One of the key take outs I got from Craig Harper, High Performance Coach and Exercise Scientist, was that everyone needs an unreasonable friend. That is someone who just won’t tell us what we WANT to hear, but what we NEED to hear.

We need to be brave enough to have someone like this in our lives, and really take their feedback onboard.

4. Relax and let the relationship unfold

If you consciously know that you want a mentor, you will unconsciously seek out that person. Don’t push the universe too much. Wait for your mentor to evolve naturally, then cultivate the relationship in a measured, professional way.

5. You don’t need just one mentor

Don’t feel like you need just one person to give you the answers to all your development questions. We are surrounded by amazing people that we can learn different things from every day. I’m a prime example of that as I learn from people from all walks of my life!

The great mentors of my life have not been created through formal relationships. They have been created in the workplace based on mutual respect, my desire to learn and my mentor’s willingness to share knowledge, promote me to others and, most importantly, help me believe in myself.

Hitting The 30-Something Ceiling

Do you feel like a Ferrari trapped in a retirement village? You might be experiencing the 30-Something Ceiling.

ferrari-testarossa-05 30-something ceiling

Are you having restless nights punctuated with vivid dreams where you’re yelling at your boss? Have you started updating your CV? Or created endless spreadsheets mapping out cash-flows for your start-up? Have you been brainstorming company names with your friends?

If you’ve found yourself doing any of the above recently, you may have hit the 30-Something Ceiling.

We’ve all heard of the glass ceiling, the 7-year itch, buyer’s remorse, and a whole lot of other terms explaining regret and impatience. However, I think I’m the first to coin the 30-Something Ceiling.

Hitting the Ceiling

How do I know about this? Well, I was thirty once! But more importantly, I’ve had a number of very impressive 30 somethings work for me over the years. Managing their expectations, and keeping them challenged and satisfied, has been an important part of my job.

Let’s look at the (very generic and fabricated) facts about being a professional in the 30+ age bracket.

Firstly, I remember my early 30s as being some the best years of my life (so far!). The world seems to be your oyster. At that stage of your career, you more than likely have 10 years’ experience, which could involve 3 or so different jobs, you may have completed your Masters.

You are at the top of your game, you know “stuff” and are earning good money. And – from all reports – you have been doing a great job.

You have the wind at your back. So why do your boss and HR just seem to be blowing hot air? You’re asking yourself:

  • Why aren’t they giving you more responsibility?
  • Why are they making these crazy decisions?
  • Why don’t they get you involved?

My theory on why the 30-Something Ceiling exists? Why do professionals at this critical stage of their career experience high levels of frustration?

Because you’re like Ferrari Testarossa that has to observe the 15 mph speed limit in the retirement village you’ve been housed in. You have the speed, the power and the looks to win the race, but everyone around you is yelling “slow down, take it easy”.

Getting ‘In the Loop’

The real frustration occurs because you are just one reporting line out of “the loop” – the information expressway in organisations where all the real information is being shared.

You might think your boss and those above you are incompetent, because you don’t have any frame of reference for why and how the decisions are being made.

And, of course, your boss doesn’t understand your frustration or confusion, because they are in the loop. Your boss understands the context. But they can’t share it because they have to toe the company line.

In addition to the frustration of being outside the corporate information flow, you also feel like your abilities are not recognised. Companies are notoriously bad at recognising talent in a way that employees value.  An email of thanks, extra training, promotion, money, fame – anything would help – but instead there is silence.

Yet they are very quick to appoint outsiders on more money, with more seniority, only to discover that you (the incumbent) are actually much better!

Surviving the Ride

I know you’re frustrated, but long ago I settled on the theory that one of the biggest requirements for getting promoted in business was actually just being there.

That’s right – tenacity, tenure, endurance. So, if you want to get to the top, you need to find strategies to survive the ride.

You might want to throw in the towel, and go to another company or your dream start up, but remember, the grass isn’t always greener.

So before you submit your CV to a new employer, or your business plan to the bank, you need to heed some words of warning.

Remember when you leave a company you are leaving all the value of the internal networks and personal brand equity you have built within that organisation.

This is one of the reasons I started my own company – the thought of building my corporate reputation from ground zero again was quite daunting. (Mind you, I was extremely naïve. Believe me, building your start-up’s reputation from ground zero is even more intimidating!)

Breaking Through the Ceiling

I’m going to encourage you to stay with your big corporate career job and suggest what you need to do:

  • Acknowledge – recognise that you have hit the 30 something ceiling
  • Explain – highlight your frustration to your boss and ask if you could be given a little more context on why decisions are being made.
  • Build – Get yourself on high profile, corporate projects in addition to your day job. This will allow you to use up all that brain power and speed so you’re less frustrated. This has the added benefit of you gaining more recognition throughout the company.
  • Develop – Ask your boss (and/or HR) to be transparent about your professional development plan. What are the roles they think you could be targeting, and when?
  • Network – Keep building your network. This will help you learn, get promoted, and share your frustrations with others in the same situation.
  • Dream – Keep dreaming about other jobs and your own start-up. Write plans and keep them in the bottom drawer as insurance!

If you feel like I’m trying to encourage you to stay where you are and make it work, you’re right.  But just in case, you may like to read my article about quitting your job in style.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

The Big Squeeze – 5 lessons From My #first7jobs

Having to squeeze into a tight uniform for one of my first jobs taught me an important life-long business lesson.

tania-seary-tight-uniforms

We live in an age where people want to get to the top as quickly as possible, so they can share their career successes on their Facebook, LinkedIn, and of course if you’re in procurement, Procurious profiles.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the great leaders we see today had to start somewhere too. And it wasn’t always in a garage with a group of geeky friends, coming up with the next technology breakthrough!

In a recent internet trend, people shared posts with the hashtag #FirstSevenJobs, documenting their career paths over the years. Sheryl Sandberg added her seven-jobs list to the mix:

sheryl-sandberg-7-jobs

The hashtag originated with singer-songwriter Marian Call, then Twitter users, including celebrities Stephen Colbert, Buzz Aldrin, Regina Spektor and Lin-Manuel Miranda, shared their first seven jobs, which included gigs from washing dishes to nude modelling (yikes!).

Walk Down Memory Lane

Whether or not you think other people’s first seven jobs are of any interest or value, I wanted to prompt everyone in procurement to reflect on some of the important career lessons they have learned.

If you like, you can stop reading here now and take time out to reflect on your own career journey, rather than reading mine!

My first seven jobs (if I remember correctly!) were car washer, delicatessen assistant, waitress, waitress, waitress, and secretary.

Here are five business (and hopefully humorous!) lessons I learned from my first job in a delicatessen.

1. The Big Squeeze to be on Time

My uniform was the price for punctuality in my delicatessen job. If you were there late you got the last choice. In my case on one shift, this meant a uniform at least two sizes too small.

With my chest busting out of the uniform and my long legs protruding from the short skirt, I got a lot of unwanted attention that shift. Not to mention when I also slipped in a pile of hot chicken fat on the floor and went head over heels.

The embarrassment alone was enough to make sure I always got to work early enough to have my choice of uniforms.

Today one of my many personal flaws is punctuality. Whilst my ambition to squeeze as many productive things into a day as I can, my ability to deliver on time doesn’t match.

Procurious team member Kalem McCarthy studied music. In his interview with me he shared a valuable piece of advice he learned from one of his conductors – “Early is on time, on time is being late.” So being ready 10 minutes before practice began was actually being “on time”.

I couldn’t agree more. Being settled, ready with all your equipment to hand at the time of the meeting “kick off” makes a strong impression, and definitely leads to more productive use of everyone’s time.

2. The Cross-Eyed Customer

Now let’s get out of the orchestra pit and get back to my Deli thirty years ago.

Every week I would have a charming cross-eyed man come in. And (unfortunately) every week I would look over my shoulder thinking he was looking at someone else. Every week I would get mad at myself for forgetting this particular customer.

There’s no doubt about it. Working in hospitality teaches you a lot about people and really improves your communication skills, particularly dispute resolution.

One of my favourite characters in the movie ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘, Monsieur Gustave H., says that an angry customer is just someone who is afraid of not getting what they want.

At a time when procurement is talking a lot about business partnering and stakeholder engagement, I thought this was a worthwhile lesson to share.

Every customer is unique in both their personality and their needs – some for the better, some for the worse. But as our customers, we need to remember their needs, and for them cater as best we can.

3. The Holy Trinity – Your Boss, Your Team and You

On my first day in the Deli, my new boss came up behind me and whispered, “It’s time to go on your break”. I instantly knew my enthusiastic response “no, I’m OK, I don’t need a break” was not the answer she was looking for.

I’m not sure if I was meant to be part of a union, but that was certainly the way it felt. It was very clear that I didn’t have an option, my break was to be utilised right at that point!

As a young buck, I remember sitting in the break room bored out of my brain waiting to get back to work. I love working! But it was an important lesson learned early, because it turned out to be the same when I worked in manufacturing. You had to follow the team rules, norms, and work “rituals”, and respect the culture, and, of course, the hierarchy (aka the boss).

As most of you working in large corporates understand, it doesn’t pay to ever step too far out of line. It’s a tough line you walk – balancing being the intrapraneur, but not rocking the boat too much!

4. The Folding Stuff

I will never forget that first small yellow pay packet that had $13 rattling around in it. The fact that I’m remembering actually getting cash in my pay packet is something that really makes me feel old. That really doesn’t happen much any more…does it??

But I guess that reminds me, still, how hard it is to come by money!  When you compare what you earn with the hours you put in, it’s not a strong return!

So, watch your pennies, and invest wisely. Utilise all those great negotiation and cost saving skills you’re learning in procurement, and apply them to your personal life.

5. Your Network Will Get You Your Next Job

Hey, you’d be disappointed if I didn’t raise this point, wouldn’t you?!

If you look back at your career, I bet (like me) your earliest jobs were found through your network. Someone you had worked with, or worked for, recommended you to someone, who then offered you a job.

The best way to get your next great job, is to do a great job in the job you’re in! Everyone notices talent. Someone in your network will recommend you to someone in their network. The dots will connect!

Just keep doing your job well and building your network.

Why not tell us what your first three jobs were? And also, what have you learned over your career that has stayed with you?

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Career Espresso – 5 Minutes a Day Fast-Track to Success

There is nobody on this planet who cares more about your career success and advancement than you.

5-minutes-for-success

I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Of course you’ll have some super-supportive bosses, well-meaning peers, family and friends along the way. But nobody other than you will be investing anywhere near the same amount of time and energy thinking through your career options and developing the best strategies to progress you up that career ladder.

Take Control of Your Success

The only common denominator in your career is you”

This career advice was given to me years ago by a Global CEO, and it has always stuck with me.

And quite frankly, you are the one who is going to benefit most (fame, money, self-satisfaction) from getting ahead. You should be the person most motivated to get ahead.

And unfortunately, you are the only one who can actually do the work required. You can’t outsource your own professional development!

In today’s business environment, getting the training you need is tough. But the good news is that in five minutes (about the same time as it takes you to drink an espresso), you can get the daily information you need to keep your career on the fast-track to success.

No Budget, No Time, No Training?

Taking full accountability for your training is definitely the first step to fast-tracking your career. But you then face a number of other hurdles.

Large companies have cut budgets so severely, that there is rarely any money to attend, or travel to, the really great procurement conferences and specialised training.

Not only is training funding non-existent, many procurement teams have been forced to downsize to such an extent that they can’t afford to have too many people out of the office at one time.

This is dramatically different to the world in which your bosses grew up in where MBAs were funded, elaborate corporate leadership development programs were in place, and attending conferences were all part of the job.

But this is the reality of the modern economy. This is the business environment you are trying to develop in. And one in which you will also need to nurture and develop other future leaders.

You need to throw out your old conceptions of professional development and training and adapt to the brave new world. This is all about taking matters into your own hands and going digital for success.

Learn Online or Become Obsolete

Globalisation and technological change is disrupting every aspect of procurement. Even when you are motivated to take accountability for your own training, it’s difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on.

Global CEOs are aware of the need to motivate employees to take their professional development into their own hands, and dramatically up-skill themselves now and in the future.

For example, “Adapt, or else”, were the new marching orders for employees of AT&T earlier this year.

Faced with competition from not just from Verizon and Sprint, but also Google and Amazon, the telecommunications giant is now working aggressively to make sure its employees catch up and get ahead of the changing technology of the times.

Its CEO and Chairman, Randall Stephenson, isn’t afraid to mince words about what will happen if his employees don’t.

In an interview with the New York Times, Stephenson said those who don’t spend five to 10 hours a week learning online “will obsolete themselves with technology.”

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” Stephenson told the Times.

Anytime, Anywhere

We often joke about doing procurement training at home in your pyjamas. But this is exactly what you can do today.

You can access the latest thinking and procurement insights from around the world on your laptop, smartphone or other device, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

This means there is really no excuse for you not to be plugging those career competency gaps!

Start a Lifelong Habit Today

Starting today, for three weeks, challenge yourself to commit just 5 minutes a day to strengthening your career muscle by enlisting in Career Boot Camp.

By signing up to Procurious, you will wake up to a new podcast (five minutes), blog and lively discussions centred on a different career topic each morning – all to help you get into the best career shape of your life!

Getting involved in the Career Boot Camp will also help you start an important habit. Just a few minutes of daily learning can make the difference between you standing still, and delivering more impact through your role.

Get Connected. Get Ahead!

If you want Procurious to send an invitation to your procurement friends and peers to participate, we can arrange this. Simply reach out to our Community Liaison Manager, Laura Ross via e-mail.

Or, simply refer your team to enlist here.