All posts by Tania Seary

Take the Disney Approach to Procurement

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

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?”

Pumidol/Shutterstock.com

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.

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.

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.

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.

Talented New Mothers – Please Don’t Quit!

Are you a new mum? Thinking about starting your own business? Tania Seary lays out the benefits for new mothers of staying employed in the corporate world when children arrive.

The wait leading up to our launch of Procurious was killing me.

It was like re-living those last few weeks waiting for a baby to be born. There’s not much I could do other than hope and pray for a safe delivery. Fortunately we launched successfully and have had some great traction so far.

This waiting period, in conjunction with my eldest son’s 9th birthday (yikes!), and the daily juggle between work and family, gave me cause for some reflection on the whole topic of motherhood and career.

Australian procurement superstar Georgia Brandi recently posted this very thought-provoking article on LinkedIn written by Sramana Mitra. Dramatic opening paragraph aside, the rest of the story covers just about every tricky point of this highly political debate. To stay at home, or not? To work for someone else, or yourself?

Career Super Women to Working New Mothers

I’ve had some flashbacks of those awkward first days transitioning from career super woman to working mummy. Highlights of which mainly focus around breastfeeding, but, given we have a mixed audience here, I’ll save some of those stories for another forum.

I could write a book about my journey as a working mother. But in the interest of brevity, I would like to put forward my thoughts on the benefits of staying employed by a company, vs. opening your own business, when women become new mothers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love owning my own business, I have had a fantastic time, working with, and for, some great people. But it hasn’t been easy. Also, my business was a few years old when I had my first child, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I first “went on maternity leave”.

Employee vs. Mumpreneur

I had a lot of reasons for wanting to start my own business. Primarily I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – I wanted to create a specific workplace culture, more than a specific company. And twelve years on, I’m happy to say that culture is alive and well.

I also wanted to do my own thing, be free of the corporate hierarchy which I found very frustrating. I was tired of being judged by peers and leaders I didn’t always respect. This of course was a very naïve reason, as you will always be judged – when you’re in your own business, your clients/customers are the ultimate judge!

I also wanted to have children and travel with my busy husband. So there were lots of forces driving me to do my own thing.

But of course, the path I chose took a lot of hard work and perseverance. It took a year before we won our first big client, so I had to fund the business (and myself) during that period.

And then we needed to (and still do!) keep proving ourselves and winning new business, while we’re working on producing quality outcomes. When I had my children, I asked different people to help run the business, with varying degrees of success.

But in the end, it has all worked out. And if you’re feeling an affinity with all the above, I fully encourage you to pursue your dream.

However, I can also see many benefits in remaining employed by someone else during your child-bearing years.

Here’s my top 5 reasons to work for an employer when having children:-

  • Do it for the Sisterhood

Australia (and the wider world) still has an appalling lack of female representation at the highest levels of business. The more women that actually stay in the workforce will provide us with the greatest chances of increasing the number of women in the senior ranks.

  • Do it for the Money

How much money you generate from your own business in the early days totally depends on the business model. However, in my case, I had to fund the business for at least the first 12 months of operation. You need to be prepared for this loss of income.

On the flipside, if you stay with a corporate employer today there is more financial support than ever before. When you return to work, you will continue earning at the same rate as previously, and hopefully continue on your career trajectory, which will be compensated with salary increases.

  • Do it for the Recognition

I am going to make a broad assumption that most corporate women have reached their late 20’s, mid ‘30s when deciding to have children. This means you have reached a certain level of success and have built a reputation within your internal stakeholders, suppliers and other third parties.

Starting a new business is very humbling (I’m trying to be positive here). You will have many setbacks on your journey to success..and when you do achieve success, it will be only you and your team there to recognise you.

In a corporation, you will be recognised and rewarded (well, not always, but more so than working for yourself!).

  • Do it for your Development

There’s no doubt that you learn a great deal running your own business, but nothing as formal (unless you organise and pay for it yourself!) as the quality and frequency of training you receive in a large organisation.

Think about it. Companies train you on everything – from Microsoft office, to the latest legals, compliance and your professional training. And there’s maybe even the odd corporate off-site or incentive travel.

  • Do it for your Sanity and Self-Esteem

Really, this is a point in favour of either working for yourself or someone else.

If you’re the kind of gal that finds domestic life a struggle, just knows she needs to work, or has the all-important financial imperative – then you will no doubt need to get back into the workforce in some capacity.

I’ll never forget those early days going back to work. Buying a cup of coffee from my favourite barista, then sitting at my desk in a zen-like state for at least five minutes soaking up the serenity.

That was heaven. It saved my sanity and definitely kept my struggling self-esteem somewhat in tact.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have I been too harsh on the entrepreneurial option? We’d love to hear from all the new mothers (and any career super women who are also supermums) on how you made the choice.

Beware the Scary Old-World CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.

I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.

My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.

If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.

There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.

Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?

You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.

They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.

This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.

Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.

The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.

My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.

Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.

Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.

They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.

The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.

Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.

Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.

We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Use Every Sales Trick in the Book: Procurement’s Guide to Business Partnering

Procurement professionals know just about every sales trick in the book. How can we turn these tricks to our advantage in business partnering?

As a procurement pro, you’ve seen it all – the pitches, the gaffes, the strategies, the crash and burns. You also have your long list of personal success stories – the sales people, and sales strategies, you have personally unraveled and re-engineered to meet your company’s needs.

But then there have also been the spectacular defeats, where an absolute master of the sales spin has left you feeling like mere putty in their hands.

These negotiation experiences have, perhaps unknowingly, left us with a rich repertoire of successful sales techniques, which we really should be leveraging to master our own destiny.

We need to leverage these important sales learnings, and improve how we ‘sell’ our services into our own organisations, in order to master the art of ‘business partnering’.

Procurement Business Partnering

Fortunately, I am able to call on the collective thinking of a dozen of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies as I ponder this question, because business partnering has been the hot topic at the last few Productivity in Pharma Think tank sessions.

The discussions have focused on what skills and characteristics lead to successful business partnering, and those skills that help the procurement function become a ‘connector’ inside and outside the company.

How to be Liked

But going back to my story, let’s look at what we have learned from the best salespeople we know, and how we can adapt this to our approach to business partnering.

Be a “playmaker” – Let’s face it, you have probably genuinely “liked” the salespeople who have been most successful in convincing you to buy from them.

So how do you go about getting your stakeholders to “like” you and “buy into” the service you are offering? Some global procurement teams are actually applying a bit of science to this challenge.

Heads of Procurement know, like many other things in life, if you get the relationship right, everything else will follow.

Novartis, for example, uses a very sophisticated business partnering framework. The first step of this is “knowledge of self”, whereby each procurement executive completes a personality profile analysis. These profiles are then considered against the stakeholder to find the “perfect match” for the business partnering relationship.

Stakeholder engagement skills are also become an increasingly important part of the procurement recruitment process. Heads of Procurement are looking for a somewhat elusive set of skills that will orchestrate the supply network and create a vital link between the various functions in the company.

They are looking for executives who can create that all-important “bond” with their internal stakeholders, as well as their supply base.

Giles Breault of The Beyond Group says, “If you are going to write ‘business partnering’ on your CV then you must have these skills: the ability to engage and speak the language of your internal customer; the ability to lead projects as an equal partner; and intrapreneurial skills that help you operate like you are the CEO of your own business.”

Applying Sales Tricks

The “Play Maker” is a personality profile identified in the Game Changer Index (GC Index). This type of person is interested in people and relationships. They take the view that how well things get done in organisations will reflect the quality of relationships.

As the Game Changers would say, procurement teams wanting to improve their internal business engagement should look for people who “get a buzz” from the challenges of managing the process of influence, or those people who see themselves as a potent agent of change.

But once we have recruited the right skill set and matched up the personalities as best we can, we need to revert back to those all-important learnings from our sales friends on the other side of the table. Namely:

Remember why we have two ears and one mouth – The best salespeople listen more than they talk. Is your procurement team remembering this important 2:1 ratio when they interact with your stakeholders? I suspect that most procurement teams could benefit from listening more to their stakeholders and really understanding their business needs.

Fight the battle on the number of fronts – As we all know, the best salespeople have a multi-level account plan. They align the various levels of people within their team with the decision makers within their customer’s organisation.

They implement a consistent, tenacious plan and stay on message to achieve their goals. Does your procurement team have an account plan for your stakeholders? Do they stay “on message”? Are they focused on sticking to the plan?

Have single point accountability – This was a topic raised at a dinner hosted by Lucy Harding at executive recruiters, Odgers Berndtson, in London late last month. Most organisations can’t afford to have a separate role, or full time staff member, dedicated to business partnering.

Delighting the customer needs to be part of everyone’s role, but who is ultimately accountable for satisfying each internal customer needs to be made clear.

Have a story to tell – a USP – Procurement spends a huge amount of time listening to the unique selling proposition (USP) of its sales people and suppliers. We need to craft our own stories about our service, how we can help the business, and why we will drive value for stakeholders.

Ultimately, it’s about making our stakeholders, (who are really our customers), feel the love. As I wrote in a previous blog, building credibility, listening to our customers, and translating this into knowing what they do and don’t want, is critical for the process of business partnering. 

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Are You One of Procurement’s Game Changers?

As disruption is increasingly recognised as a strategic business skill, being one of the game changers is a highly coveted role.

In a world increasingly recognising ‘disruption’ as a strategic business skill, where an army of highly talented and ambitious professionals are fighting their way to the front line in the war for talent, the idea of being identified as a ‘game changer’ is quite coveted.

After all, we all want to get named on the high potential talent list, don’t we?

Game Changers – A Bad Thing?

That was the premise that started the procurement talent discussion at the Productivity in Pharma Think Tank in London. But then there was a revelation.

Despite media hype and discussions at high brow HR think tanks about these ‘unicorns’ – game changing individuals – it turns out that being a game changer isn’t necessarily a good thing.

You see, what most large organisations actually want are executives who can execute the strategy and implement. In other words – get stuff done. What has been discovered is that game changers can sometimes lack EQ, and have the potential to bulldozer their way through an organisation, eventually proving themselves to actually be too disruptive.

Those organisations who actually do need a disruptive or transformative force are now separating out these individuals from the rest of the pack, and placing them in “garages”, “incubators” and “shark tanks”, to use their unique skill sets for good, not evil.

Increasing Collaboration

In fact, well known procurement search and interim consultants, Langley, put forward a case that procurement should actually be the “great integrators”.

“Today’s procurement professionals need to integrate the link between company, suppliers and the environment. They need to be able to bring the outside, in,” said the Managing Director of Langley, Cristina Langley.

In talking about the talent he is trying to attract to his organisation, Tyson Popp, CPO at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, further reinforced this need for an increasingly collaborative style. Popp mentions that he is looking for talent with “an intellectual curiosity and a need to connect across the organisation”.

The Science Bit

The good news is there is some science behind this debate. The Game Changer Index (GC Index®) has been created by eg.1’s CEO Nathan Ott, and Chief Psychologist Dr John Mervyn-Smith, in collaboration with Professor Adrian Furnham at UCL.

The Index was developed in response to client demand for a more useful way of identifying people who could implement transformation. It was born from a frustration with the way that traditional tools, such as Belbin and Myers-Briggs, neglected this special group of talent.

The team believed that Game Changers were fundamentally different from ‘High Potentials’ and ‘Traditional Leaders’, and would not be identified by existing, antiquated assessment tools. This was an issue for businesses searching for individuals who could drive transformational change.

This was the foundation for the development of The GC Index. The tool, through several phases of research, highlighted the ways in which individuals differed in terms of Imagination and Obsession. Those high on both emerged as the Game Changers.

Applications in Procurement

Despite me having given game changers a bad rap earlier in this story, and given that my personal mission is to change the face of procurement globally, I really do hope we have a lot of CPOs out there who are game changers. That is, transformational leaders who can deliver paradigm-shifting change. The real issue is how best to enable them to succeed in a structured environment.

The GC Index® identifies these dynamic individuals, but has evolved to also assess four other profiles, which are equally valuable and are necessary to ensure genuine, long term, game-changing transformation.

These profiles could apply to anyone within your procurement team. However, I thought for demonstration purposes I would share my thoughts on what the generic procurement roles for these profiles could be:

  • The Strategist – This could be Category Leaders. They have an ability to analyse patterns and trends. They will be most comfortable leading by giving a focus to action, through direction and purpose.
  • The Implementer – This profile could best be characterised as sourcing professionals and transactional (P2P, etc.) executives.  They are essentially task-focused individuals, driven by a need for tangible achievements. These are the leaders who will be in the ‘thick of the action’, and get on with things.
  • The Polisher These people lead through setting standards, and could therefore be best characterised by our Compliance and Procurement Process Excellence leaders. They are demanding of themselves and others. Their mantra will be, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. They instil belief in people in action, and in the possibility of a better world. This definitely sounds like our best practice procurement leaders!
  • The Play Maker – This probably epitomises the poster-child version of the modern-day procurement professional. Perfectly placed right in the intersection of all four profiles, this individual is interested in people and relationships. They are, therefore, best equipped to take on the all-important task of stakeholder engagement, but also managing upwards (C-level) and outwards (supply markets). Play Makers at their best will lead through building productive relationships and helping others to do the same.

Apparently Richard Branson is a playmaker – not only driving outcomes, but making sure the whole experience is enjoyable, even potentially playful! (Heaven forbid in procurement!)

Making a Contribution

So the real question is, how do you develop your skills to maximise your success in this new corporate reality?

The good news from eg.1 is that you don’t necessarily fit into one box. Their data shows that while some individuals have a dominant profile, they also have an ability to ‘flex’, moving, for example, from being a Strategist, when the situation demands it, to being an Implementer.

The other good news is that just about all leadership styles can work. You just need to understand what your style is and play to your strengths. And as Nathan Ott commented at this year’s Big Ideas Summit:

“Not everyone can be a Game Changer, but everyone can make a Game Changing contribution.”

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.