Category Archives: Career Management

Confident or Arrogant? The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

Confident? Arrogant? What traits impress employers the most? And which ones could cost you a job? It would be good to know before you apply for that new role…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It probably comes as no surprise that when hiring, firms are looking for people who are confident. In fact, this personality trait is a top priority for six in ten employers (61 per cent) – only slightly behind being reliable (62 per cent) and just above being honest (58 per cent).

So, when looking for a new job or a new promotion, a confident character is the one you need to project.

After all, being see seen as self-confident and self-assured inspires others to believe in your ability to do the job. And nobody is going to get hired if they admit they are “not sure” they can do something or “will give it a try”. What are needed are positive answers like “Yes” and “Of course”.

However, don’t go overboard in boasting about your abilities and or bragging about your achievements. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance when making that first impression. Cross this line and it can be career suicide.

In fact, employers believe arrogance (which scores 65 per cent) is worse than dishonesty (at 62 per cent) and is the No. 1 turn-off when hiring new recruits, according to a new survey from independent job board, CV-Library and CV-writing firm, TopCV.

Personality is now the Deciding Factor

“Historically, assessing job seekers was contingent on two factors – experience and skills – but our survey reveals that more intangible qualities, such as personality, are determining which candidates rise to the top,” says Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV. 

“Today’s hiring managers are tasked with assessing whether a candidate will fit in with the company culture, and this determination is primarily based on how the candidate behaves during an interview.”

So, it is not just your CV that can make you appear arrogant. You also have to be careful with your body language – as well as the language you use too.

Facts Beat Fiction Every Time

Getting this balance right means starting with the basics: skills and experience are still vital to secure an interview and, as such, score slightly ahead of personality.

So, focus on these and be factual and truthful (remember dishonesty comes a close second to arrogance in the list of top “hates”). Quantify each statement so that each “claim” can be verified. Rather than stating that you are a “confident and competent team manager”, demonstrate this using facts and stats.

For example, “I directly manage a team of six”, “Over the last three years, the cost control programme that I manage has resulted in £Xk of savings” or “I have helped to mentor five junior members of the team who have all been promoted.”

It is a case of “show” rather than “tell” on both your CV and during the interview.

If you have ever heard the expression “Confidence speaks for itself”, then you will know what I mean. Leave an impression that you are confident and competent without actually using these words.

Cheats and Liars are NOT Welcome

Do not be tempted to lie: it is relatively easy to check things like your job title or years you have worked for an organisation. Not only could this cost you a job, it might not be necessary anyway.

 “In the current market, where skills shortages are making it harder for companies to find the right hires, employers are increasingly opting to recruit on potential over experience.

“So, if you’re looking for a new job right now, you’re in a good position; as long as you impress with the right personality traits,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library comments.

Interestingly, when asked to choose between experience, education and potential, employers believe potential (62 per cent) is more important than experience (35 per cent); while only 2 per cent say education is most important. 

So why jeopardise your future claiming to have 1st class Hons degree when you only have 2:1? Employers (on the whole) really don’t care. However, if they check and find you have lied then you have failed to meet No 3 and No 4 in the top traits list – honest and honourable.

How to Avoid Crossing the Line

During an interview, when you are racked with nerves and desperate to make a good impression, it can be difficult to get the tone right. Your enthusiasm might come across as having too high an opinion of yourself…not a good look.

Remember, confident people have high self-worth, while arrogant people overcompensate for having low self-esteem.

To avoid falling into the latter category, spend some time boosting your self-confidence.

Start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses

The better understanding you have of your abilities, the higher your self-worth. If you are not sure what your strengths are, ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.

Focus on these strengths when identifying new opportunities – if you are a team player, then look for roles where this is important. However, if you like to be told what to do, roles looking for a “self-starter” might not be for you.

Be honest with yourself to be honest with others

Arrogant people are not good at acknowledging they have weaknesses and are not great at hearing criticism either (so if this sounds like you, then be aware that you could come across as having an over-inflate ego). Remember, nobody is perfect and it is important to acknowledge that this includes you!

Also, if you are asked one of those tricky interview questions such as “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”, you need to have enough self-awareness to recognise your weaknesses. Saying “Nothing” is the fast-track route to rejection.

Mind your language (verbal and otherwise)

Being self-centred is another character trait employers dislike so avoid talking about yourself all of the time – think of some questions to ask the interviewer and take an interest in what they are saying. Tone down your use of ‘I’ and do not constantly interrupt (it shows you think that what you have to say is more important than what the interviewer is trying to tell you).

Also watch your body language. Leaning too far back, smirking rather than smiling or being too relaxed might make you appear arrogant. But avoid going too far the other way – folding your arms across your body, failing to make eye contact, uncomfortable silences and lowering your head do not convey confidence…and that is your goal.

Stop Freaking Out, Checking Out and Burning out

So much to do, so little time to do it. Are you one of the people who need to stop freaking out long enough to stand out?

Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels

You’ve got a million and one things to do today. The house must be immaculately clean before bedtime, you haven’t made lunch for the kids, a three-hour morning meeting in the office looms and you simply can’t delegate a single task – because only you know exactly what needs doing and how it needs to be done.

In times like these it might be worth taking a step back, reflecting on your current state of mind and getting your boundaries in order before you freak out, check out or burn out.

We’ve all been there, or know and love someone who’s been there. It’s easy to feel trapped in a cycle of self-inflicted pressure and high expectations. But according to Alison Hill, a professional psychologist (or self-titled “head mechanic”) who has spent many years tweaking the minds of top performers in some of the world’s largest companies. It is possible to stop oscillating between these three states and embrace a fourth alternative: to stand out.

I recently interviewed Alison for the Inside Influence podcast and she offered some amazing tools to stay in that mode.

Know your boundaries

For Alison, knowing your boundaries means being really clear about what’s ok and what’s not ok for you personally. When you set your boundaries in any given situation; whether it’s in the workplace or in your personal life, you need to establish what’s your ‘flex’ and what’s your ‘non-negotiable’ line in the sand. When you take a moment to unpack where all of your energy is going and where your biggest frustrations and anxieties are coming from, setting your boundaries becomes easier.

For example, if you’re due in a meeting that you know you don’t have the capacity to be present at (physically or mentally), there are more options than simply going or not going.  As Alison suggests, you could attend some but not all of the meeting, give someone your notes to take along, join the meeting via Skype to avoid unnecessary travel, talk to someone on the phone to get the key points, or send a representative in your place.

Go guilt-free

So many of us want to live a big, bold life. We want to influence the world around us and do grand, amazing things. And yet, we often come to the realisation that this desire impacts our energy, time, health and well-being.

Alison came to a point where she was completely overwhelmed. Her ongoing worry was that if she were to drop just one ball, her whole world would come crashing down. When she finally allowed herself a day to rest and recuperate, there was so much noise reverberating in her head: “What are you doing? You can’t do this! This is valuable family time! How can you be so selfish that you take a day for yourself?”

Yet, she argues, it has to be ok to just let it all go. Hating yourself for being selfish will mean you don’t get anything out of this reset time. Spending time justifying your actions to yourself and alleviating guilt lays on too much pressure to be perfect; to be high-achieving even in a time that’s supposed to be relaxing.

Support freak outs

If you’ve managed to maintain your boundaries and reined in your lifestyle to reach a level of contentment, how do you then support those around you who are going through a period of freaking out, checking out and burning out?

When someone enters a meeting flustered or agitated, the natural response is to go into solution or fix-it mode. Your troubleshooting instinct is to immediately get to the bottom of what’s going on and determine how to fix it so they (and you) can move on.

Whilst this can be useful, Alison argues that the most important response is compassion. Think about what you can do right now for that person. It might be as simple as making them a cup of tea or listening while they get something off their chest. Or it might be something they can’t talk about at that moment, and need some time away from the office.

It’s also important to avoid taking on a colleague’s freak out as your own. Often we can find ourselves getting caught up in a story that may have nothing to do with us. Let that go, listen, support and focus on being a role model instead.

Live a stand-out life

The idea of living a stand-out life conjures up images of fame, celebrity and influence. But, for Alison, that’s not the point. This point is really focusing on building alignment between your intention and your purpose.

Having a clear sense of purpose can transform even everyday things – such as conversations with a colleague or time spent with your children. Ask yourself: why am I having this conversation, why am I spending time doing this activity? What is the intent, and does it match with my overall purpose? Then act accordingly.

Standing out comes from a combination of decisions. However most importantly, it involves focusing on the things that light you up. Then deciding to no longer waste precious energy on anything that involves you freaking out, checking out or burning out.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or http://juliemasters.com/inside-influence/.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Leave The Stories To Marketing

Are we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories...

By Johanna Altmann/ Shutterstock

Once Upon a Time……And so the story goes….. There wouldn’t be too many of us who cannot remember even one story from our childhood. It might be something we liked to have read to us on repeat, no doubt driving our parents crazy with our enthusiasm for the same thing over and over. And as we develop our own experiences, we create our own stories to capture the big moments.

Who hasn’t been to a milestone birthday, wedding or other celebratory event where the speeches section of the evening engender dread that they will never finish? Or laughter and delight at the humour and good nature of reflection and personal insight?

On a professional level, we develop stories also. Our resume becomes the formal story of record of our work history, references the story of our previous performance. We share stories about an interview we had, a great outcome we achieved, as well as a failure for something that has not gone as intended.

Science of Stories

The science of story telling is something well out of my area of expertise. I know enough to be able to rather simply explain that there seems to be a consensus that as humans, we had storytelling in us from the get-go. Before we wrote, we spoke, and stories were the way that individuals and tribes shared achievements and tribulations, their history and their myths. 

Studying classics, I participated in more than a few heated debates on whether Homer really did author The Odyssey in the way we understand authoring today, or whether he simply documented stories told by others and deftly added his by-line to a transcript that has become a classic for many different reasons.

Organisations tell their own stories too. It is not just Hollywood that understands the commercial value and engagement of a superhero’s origin story (As big of a Marvel Universe fan that I am, I have to give it to DC for the Wonder Woman movie). How powerful is the origin story in helping us understand the culture, intent and values of an organisations?

In my time with Hewlett Packard, the story of Bill and Dave in the garage was told over and over, and with IBM, the legacy of the organisation in its role in advancing racial and gender diversity, as well as its integral role in the Apollo space mission were part of the stories that help employees understand the scale and capacity to achieve great things that the organisation is capable of.  

Organisations Telling Stories

In today’s digital world, it’s not only the mature organisations that understand the value of the story in creating and evolving their brand. Digital natives tell stories of their inspiration, entrepreneurs tell stories of the many failed attempts to become an overnight success, and if you spend any time on social media, you will have read, followed or liked personalities, products and groups for the stories they shared that would have resonated with you.

It’s actually the stories that form part of the personal or organisational brand; the idea for Facebook originating in a dorm room, Air BnB from a trip to San Francisco with no accommodation available and Space X as a lifelong ambition of a very, very young Elon Musk.

On a more practical level, organisations tell stories about their products, or their services. It might be the juxtaposition of the before versus the after scenario capturing us with the promise that we too will be able to replicate the same level of success if we buy or consume.

Or it may be the a carefully crafted script on how a product is made, the people who made it, and how it will make our lives so great we are likely to wonder how it was possible to live without it. Other times, it is much simpler.

Product placement on the screen allows us to create our own story; that we too can be like the people in the movie and share their success, superpower or characteristic that made them so memorable (I am not sure this aspiration should extend to villains however owning a car based on a great car chase may be fair game).

What Can Leaders Learn?

Savvy marketers are well aware of the impact of stories and how they can initiate dopamine and oxytocin and translate this to brand awareness, a purchase and more importantly, brand loyalty. It’s what makes consumers stick with you, even when confronted with products or services that don’t meet market expectations, and it’s also what drives profit and growth. The challenge and cost of keeping a customer is much less then the cost of attracting new ones.

So what can leaders learn from all of this? Aren’t we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories.

Attract the best talent

If it is a great strategy to attract new customers, why would it be any different for attraction of employees? In a market where employees have choice about how they work and who they work for, organisations looking to secure a reputation for employer-of-choice would do well to have their leaders understand that stories matter in attracting those who not only perform well, but also align with the values and mission of the organisation.

And as with customers, hiring the right people is only a very small part of the talent challenge. Retaining employees in environments that are challenging, constantly changing and demand more, can be a competitive advantage.

Connect and engage

When stories are shared, they can create connection and engagement. In fact, they can also create empathy. And in today’s digital environment, the constant change, always being on, and the reactiveness of many organisations means leaders need to be vigilant to signs of change fatigue and disengagement.

Storytelling can span reasons for an initiative, shared success, and even foster a learning environment from failures. They can help leaders and organisations re-write the narrative on culture, performance and why what is being done matters, helping harness purpose through inspiration and a focus on the outcome. Hopefully with some learning and laughter along the way.

Fillers and Facelifts: How Far Do Men Go to Look Young at Work?

With more over-65s staying in the workplace, how can young people stay competitive in the recruitment game?

Photo by Wendy Scofield on Unsplash

Let’s dispel some myths. Its men – not women – who are most likely to experience age discrimination at work.

And you don’t actually have to be that old to be a victim.

Nearly four in ten say that age has been a factor preventing them from advancing in their career since turning 40. This drops to just a quarter of women.

From then on, (whatever your gender) things only get worse. You are most likely to experience age discrimination aged 51 according to the Hiscox 2019 Ageism in the Workplace Study.

So, some of us are resorting to desperate measures to stay young particularly anti-aging procedures from dermatologists. ever heard the expression, “If you want to get ahead, get Botox”?

Well, in the USA which naturally (or maybe not so naturally) leads the way, the number of injectable filler procedures on men has risen by 99 per cent since 2000 with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons saying cosmetic procedures are up 29 per cent over the same period.

So, what will you do when you’re 65?

If ageism is a problem in your 40s and 50s, imagine how damaging it could be to your carer when you hit your 60s.

Whatever you think of your job today, can you really imagine doing it when you are heading for 70 – or even older?

The state retirement age will rise to 67 from 2028 and then to 68 and possibly 70. So most of us will have to keep working for many years to come.

But if it is hard to get ahead in your 40s and 50s, who is going to employ you when you are in your seventh decade?

Older Jobseekers will be Everywhere

By 2050, one in four people in the UK will be over 65 (it’s currently around one in five) according to recent forecasts from the Office for National Statistics.

That’s an extra 8.2 million older people – a population the size of London – and many of them will be wanting to work.

The next decade or so will see people who were born too late to benefit from generous ‘gold plated’ final salary pensions reaching retirement. Without a decent retirement income they may have no option but to keep in work. Also many want to keep working – feeling they are too young to spend the next few decades playing golf and pottering around in the garden.

More than half of those age 65 plus say they are ‘not ready to retire’ according to insurer Aviva.

That means there will be plenty of them looking for a job – and if you are one of them, how can you compete?

Plan Ahead and Play to your Strengths

What do more mature employees have to offer compared to younger ones? Well, topping the list are invaluable skills, experience and knowledge that they can share with colleagues.

You might believe keeping these to yourself, will protect you – but most employers don’t value these attributes (yet). So, build up a reputation for mentoring and developing younger colleagues.

Continually Up-skill to Remain Relevant

Also address the misconceptions about older workers – they have out-of-date skills, struggle with the latest technology and find it difficult to learn something new.

Some of these myths are based on truths. Four in ten Baby Boomers (born between ‘46 and ‘64) in the UK feel they ‘don’t have the skills needed to win a new job’ according to a Docebo survey with around half feeling younger employers had better tech skills.

Mature workers might be reluctant to demand extra training – not surprisingly. It effectively tells your employer your skills are not up to scratch. So stick to online learning tutorials (preferably ones which lead to recognised qualifications that you can put on your CV). Search coursera.org, udemy.com, futurelearn.com and look at courses offered by professional organisations.

De-Age Your CV – It’s Easy

Well, the good news is that you don’t have to pay for fillers, veneered teeth or spend every waking hour in the gym in a bid to defy age.

One of the biggest challenges once you hit 40 is finding a new job. As increasing numbers of applications are now made online, it is a computer algorithm (rather than a real person) who decides whether you are up for the job. And it’s much easier to fool a computer than an eagle-eyed HR professional who can spot the crow’s feet around your eyes, the sagging jowls and the incongruously youthful business suit.

Also, with candidate shortages, you are increasingly likely to be approached for a new job, rather than applying. So make yourself as appear as employable as possible in the virtual world. You can then work on your real-world appearance when it comes to the interview.

So get rid of:

  • Listing what you did in your first job and early 20s (unless you are in your early 20s!). A longer career history is a tell-tale sign that you’ve been around for quite a long time.
  • Dates – unless they are more recent. So no need to write the dates you were at school or university.
  • Your age – amazingly (even though this is not required for most jobs) some CVs still feature a date of birth. Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of age, so they are not allowed to even ask! Don’t tell them.
  • O Levels and any other qualification that no longer exists – today, it’s GCSE equivalents that count.

Then add in:

  • Every single quality required on the job advert – if a computer algorithm is searching your CV or application letter, you want it to recognise you have all the skills required. If you don’t quite have the skills listed, try to find a way of including them. For example, “Leadership experience or experience managing a team” could relate to managing a project (with your colleagues) even if your job title is not team manager.
  • Proficiency in the latest software and technology – even if it is not a requirement. It will portray you as “tech savvy” rather than a dinosaur.

But don’t:

  • Tell an outright lie – you can fool technology some of the time, but organisations do check qualifications, references etc. So make sure your social media profile, particularly LinkedIn, matches your CV.

6 Sure-Fire Ways To Become A Head Of Supply Chain

We explore six ways that can guarantee you that dream head of supply chain management job…

head of supply chain
By fizkes/ Shutterstock

Firstly, take time to find out what the job is really about. At its simplest level in manufacturing, for example, it means leading the sourcing and procurement of direct and indirect materials from suppliers, production, warehousing, transport and the distribution to the customer and/or end consumer.

A simple supply chain

Secondly, jobs may not even have similar titles: it could be Executive Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Supply Chain Director or just Head of Supply Chain. The job content differs widely across industries so no two jobs at this level are the same.  There is no one definitive job description.

Whatever the title, the Head of Supply Chain is responsible for integrating and optimising all the processes that are involved in every stage of getting a product or service to a customer. If your desired role is in an industry such as agriculture, healthcare, or I.T and telecommunications, there are other considerations including security, waste, safety, managing returns and many other different risks. 

In reality, it has become much more complex. It may rather look like this.

Let’s look at the 6 ways that can get you that dream job.

There is no substitute for experience

Prospective or current supply chain managers that aspire to reach the top job in supply chain should acquire in-depth working experience in at least one of the functional areas within supply chain.  Heads of Supply Chain, in the list of the top 25 leading global supply chains as identified by Gartner in 2019, have all got extensive and relevant work experience, usually in their industry sector.

In fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG), global leaders also need expertise in distribution technologies, emerging markets and sustainability.  For example, Sandra MacQuillan, the Executive Vice President, Integrated Supply Chain at Mondelez International, has “a wealth of international expertise in sustainable supply chain and technology strategy, with vast experience in packaged goods at global companies where she has built world-class supply chain capabilities,” according to the CEO.

Get an educational qualification   

The competition for the top jobs is tough, without a recognised qualification it is almost impossible to get hired. An exception may be where the candidate has a spectacular skill in a tight niche where there are no other suitable applicants, but this is rare.   

The most common route into supply chain management is to take a foundation business, finance or engineering degree, and then an advanced diploma or certification in an area such as logistics or procurement within supply chain management.

Demonstrate the required technical skills

As a leader, it may not be necessary to be an expert on all the technical skills that exist in your teams, but some level of proficiency in most of these will provide you with a certain level of respect. 

  • Knowledge of the raw materials, manufacturing processes and distribution methods in your business
  • An understanding of business and management principles and strategic planning
  • Well-developed analytical skills and attention to detail
  • Knowledge of economic and accounting principles, ERP/MRP systems, forecasting, and budgeting

Show your ability to lead others and drive change

Building relationships and influencing others are fundamental to the role.

Change management is ultimately about people and your capability to guide them in a particular direction.  Some of the elements that lead to success in leading a team are:

  • An open and participative style when collaborating with influential stakeholders and their teams
  • Well-developed verbal and written communication skills and the sense to know when and how to use which channel 
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced dynamic environment while keeping calm under pressure
  • Solving problems based on available information
  • Dealing with ambiguity while providing positive outcomes and minimising risks.

A leader will spend a fair portion of their time on employee competency development, building capacity and understanding what people need to perform well.

Keep up with the program!

Because the role is essentially process driven you should be comfortable when implementing new technological solutions. Digital technologies are inserting themselves all over the supply chain from data analytics and e-sourcing through to automated picking and drone deliveries.

The implementation of digital solutions is redefining supply chain operations at leading companies such as BASF, Cisco, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, BMW and many others. As Head of Supply Chain you may not need to be head geek, but you will need to understand the basics of the various applications of each type of technology and be alert to trends. 

Have a global view with a local focus

The head of supply chain often has global responsibilities that entail maintaining supplier relationships across continents and cultures. Understanding these complexities is essential in supply chain planning and its execution. 

It is becoming increasingly important for supply chain leaders to have had global business exposure, either from working in virtual teams or preferably having completed international assignments.

David Cutter, as President, Global Supply & Procurement, for Diageo, a major supplier of alcohol beverages, is responsible for a world-class supply chain delivering their brands to over 180 markets around the world from over 100 production facilities located in some 30+ countries.  

Leading firms are looking for those people with process-driven experience, often in similar size companies, attained from outside their home country.   

There is no one accepted preferred career path or basket of skills that you need to become the head of a supply chain.  However, you will need to be able to apply modern methodologies and solutions to a wide range of responsibilities across the entire supply chain. 

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs.

Procurement Across Borders – Understanding CQ Action

Are you able to adapt your behaviours in cross-cultural encounters? Your final step may be to take more account of your CQ Action.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Throughout this series of articles we have been looking into Cultural Intelligence (CQ) and it’s relevance to working across culture, distance and time.

We have already explored 3 of the 4 main components of CQ which are CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge and CQ Strategy. We will now discuss the fourth component which is CQ Action.

So What is CQ Action?

CQ Action (Behaviour) can be defined as your ability to adapt both your verbal and non-verbal behaviour when engaging in cross-cultural encounters. Being able to flex your behaviour helps you to respond to others in a way that conveys respect, builds trust and rapport and minimises the risk of miscommunications. CQ Action is in effect the manifestation of all of the other aspects of Cultural intelligence. It is behaviour based on motivation (CQ Drive), cognition (CQ Knowledge), and meta-cognition (CQ Strategy).

There are 3 key aspects to CQ Action, the first is verbal communication. When working across culture it is very important to be conscious of different verbal communication styles. Some cultures are very direct in their communication styles while others are not.

For example, people from South Africa and Israel tend to be very direct and forthright. They readily share their opinions. Compare this to people from Japan or Korea, who are far more indirect with their speech patterns. They tend to be much more circular when they say things. It is important to listen carefully to how people are talking or we may miss the point.

A client shared with me recently that one of their team members realised that the Chinese team with whom he interacted never said ”no” as part of their cultural context. Every time he gave them large quantities of work, they kept saying “yes”, even though they had difficulty in meeting the deadlines. On further investigation, he discovered They simply weren’t explicitly saying “no” in the way he expected or understood.

CQ Actions Speak Louder than Words

The second aspect of CQ Action is around non-verbal communication. This describes your body language – how expressive you are, how you use your hands and your facial expressions. This differs greatly in various parts of the world.

An example of this is touching of the head, in some cultures this is an endearing and friendly gesture, while in others it can be very offensive. Some cultures say a lot without using many words while other cultures use hand and facial expressions to add further meaning to their words.

Developing an understanding of non-verbal cues across cultures can take significant time and patience however by doing so you will better able to adapt yourself into a cross- cultural situation which will hopefully result in more fluid relationships.

Understanding Vocal Cues

The third aspect of CQ Action is Speech Acts. Speech acts refers to how much silence we use when speaking, how often we pause and the time spent in between pauses. If you come from a Western culture, you will understand that when there is a silent pause in a meeting, someone will automatically jump in to break the silence.

In other cultures, people are very comfortable sitting with the silence- no matter how long it continues. Thus, part of CQ Action is becoming familiar with these subtleties so that you have the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures.

When working with a different culture, you may possess a great deal of knowledge, have the best strategy and be really motivated however if you are unable to execute or implement these aspects effectively then success will be very limited.

CQ Action involves implementing the appropriate social etiquette and behaviour to suit a diverse range of situations and people which in turn leads to a diverse and sincere connection.

The Leadership Styles That Work Best

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions.

By Flamingo Images/ Shutterstock

There is a lot of complicated management theory about management and leadership.  There are detailed guides to choosing the correct management style.  Should your leaders be Authoritative or Visionary or Transactional or a Pacesetter or a Servant or Democratic?  You could spend your life studying the mountains of research and still be none the wiser.  But the reality is likely to boil down to just one rule.

Don’t hire psychopathic leaders.

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions. A recent study has found that a staggering 82 per cent of hiring decisions concerning leadership roles select an inappropriate person. Companies are choosing the wrong person for the leadership role an alarming rate of only once in every five hires.

Leadership Talents = Engaged Employees

Gallup has spent two decades studying the performance of 27 million employees across hundreds of organisations. They have calculated that the innate leadership talents of managers account for 70 per cent of the variance in employee engagement from company to company. 

In an average company in 2018, around 50 per cent of the employees were disengaged and a further 13 percent were actively disengaged. An actively disengaged worker has a miserable work experience and would quit tomorrow if they had any other choice.

The research shows that employee engagement is strongly linked to customer ratings, profitability, productivity, staff turnover, safety incidents, staff theft, absenteeism and product quality. There is however an easy solution at hand. 

The research also shows that increasing the number of hires of talented leaders can significantly increase the engagement of employees.  If the percentage of actively disengaged employees can be reduced below 10 per cent, then earnings can be increased dramatically. 

Lowering Active Disengagement

In 2012 Gallup examined the performance of 49 publicly traded companies and compared their results with engagement results from their survey data.  They found that companies that did manage to lower active disengagement experienced on average 147 per cent higher earnings per share than companies with more typical levels of active disengagement.

Hiring more talented managers can therefore have a massive and direct impact on the bottom line and a significant array of critical business measures. Gallup’s research has left it convinced that all good leaders share just five critical talents:

  1. They motivate every employee with a compelling mission and vision
  2. They are assertive, drive outcomes and persist in overcoming adversity and resistance
  3. They insist on clear accountability
  4. They enforce a culture of integrity and honesty and build relationships that create trust
  5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

In short they must be honest, empathetic and have a clear vision. Or in even shorter, they must not be a psychopath. 

The critical difference between a psychopath and the rest of us is their complete inability to feel empathy.  There care for nobody but themselves and are quite happy to use any means possible to remove anything which gets between them and their goal.  That goal is accumulating more power and money for themselves.

Power over People

As a general rule, a psychopath will be drawn to jobs which give them power over other people. Psychopaths believe they are superior to everybody and that the role of all other people is to deliver rewards to the psychopath.

Add this to their prodigious ability to charm interviewers, and their propensity to make up whatever achievements they need to get the job, and it’s easy to see how they may be fast-tracked. As a result, we can expect them to be towards the top of any corporate structure.

To the psychopath, the team that works for them need to be tightly controlled and completely compliant.  Psychopaths achieve that using classic manipulation tactics, singling out members for public punishment, rotating those with favoured status, implementing ever more detailed micromanagement and the ramping up of secrecy.  

The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil.  Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

Power of the People

Luckily the cure is easy.  Well, easy to say.  It’s honesty and transparency.  The best place to hide a murder is in a massacre and the best place to hide a lie is in a company full of liars. It is much harder for a psychopath to use deceit to their advantage if everybody else is honest. 

Companies that ban secret communication channels, reward honesty, punish dishonesty, encourage whistle-blowing and who have strong, honest and independent human resources divisions (and boards that listen to them) are much more likely to control psychopaths and massively limit the harm they can inflict.

This will not stop you employing psychopaths but it will ensure they are working for the greater good of your company rather than destroying its culture and its future.

Ignore Supply Chain Risks… At Your Own Peril!

Despite the general consensus that risk management is important, recent studies have found that many companies still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do…

By Wallenrock/ Shutterstock

“The Supply Chain stuff is tricky!” – Elon Musk at Code Conference in 2016.

When someone like Elon Musk says that something is tricky, it means something! The examples that Musk mentions in the video show that modern supply chains are becoming more global and more complex. This complexity also leaves organisations exposed to more risks because the current business environment is characterised by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity).

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit aside, other recent events, like growing tensions with China and Iran, are daily reminders that today’s global business ecosystems are precarious. And it’s not just the potential for international conflict and instability that is making business riskier. Many countries have also introduced new regulations on sustainability (modern slavery, conflict minerals), or diversity, which add new risk factors in terms of compliance.

Make Risk Management Part of DNA

Between business continuity aspects, legal or normative aspects, and protection against a public backlash whenever malpractice is discovered in an organisation’s supply chain, there are more than enough reasons to make risk-management part of a company’s DNA.

Despite the general consensus that risk management is important, recent studies have found that many companies still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Some of this work should include building better relationships with suppliers and colleagues. As I mentioned in a previous article, these relationships can play an important role in helping companies identify and mitigate certain types of risk — but not all. In addition to being on good terms with suppliers, companies will need to cover many other aspects to manage risk effectively and protect themselves.

These days, procurement organisations cannot afford to ignore leave risk management off their list of top priorities. There are many reasons for this. Here are three of the most important ones.

Reason #1: Risk is everywhere

I don’t want to sound alarmist, but we live in a troubled and complex world. There is no shortage of events that could jeopardise and/or disrupt a business, potentially impacting their profitability, business continuity, image, and reputation.

Protecting your business from these disruptions is challenging, because they can originate from so many different sources. Natural disasters, accidents, social events, changes in regulations, intellectual property infringement, quality issues, and attacks on cybersecurity are just a few examples.

“Governments are also taking action by engaging in an escalating global competition to maintain and improve national competitiveness in the 21st-century digital economy. […]. While such cross-border competition is by no means new, the geopolitical undertones in this battle for dominance raise the risk that the digital economy will continue to fragment, complicating global supply chains and the operations of international companies, and acting as a drag on economic growth.”

A.T. Kearney in Competing in an Age of Digital Disorder

Another key factor is that our world is changing faster than ever. Just look at the political, technological, and societal changes that have taken place in the past few years; many of them fuelled directly or indirectly by the impact of digitalisation.

As a consequence, the lifespan of companies is shrinking, year over year, as illustrated by the evolution of lifespan of companies in the S&P 500 index. All organisations are in danger, not just the large ones, and that includes your company and the companies you buy from.

Survival Through Prevention

Despite this reality, risk management has been a relatively passive domain for a long time, and it has frequently (and problematically) been equated with crisis/incident management. People were looking into risk management after an event had already happened; i.e., too late!

This was because the world of yesteryear was more stable and pretty predictable. In today’s world and in the future, the accelerating pace of change and the expanding globalisation of the economy mean that anticipation is crucial.

The risk management of today and tomorrow is about survival and making the right procurement decisions, which requires procurement to think about what “comes after” and how certain choices can make a company more or less safe in the long run. Prevention is better than cure!

“[An] enterprise is facing increasing danger that key sourcing decisions will prove uneconomic sooner, and with more damaging consequences than would normally have been anticipated by risk equations that presumed the older supply chain model. Starkly put, the odds of supply chain disruption are growing and will grow even greater in the future.”

CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly

Obviously, what represents a risk depends on many factors and varies from one company to another:

  • Companies in B2C may be more vulnerable to risk related to their image and their reputation. If something happens that jeopardizes either of these, their brand could suffer.
  • Companies or organizations from the public sector and/or selling to administrations may be more vulnerable to regulation changes.
  • Standards/regulations regarding fraud and ethics may also vary from one sector to another.

Reason #2: Black swans are not an excuse to ignore risks

“Everybody has plans until they get hit.” -Mike Tyson

Anything can happen, even a shootout at the Mexican border, as told by Musk in his interview. Such “black swans” exist, and planning for the seemingly impossible is another lesson learned from “Best in Class” organisations regarding risk management: being prepared for problems enables companies to react faster to unforeseen events. They become anti-fragile!

It’s true that, by definition, risks reflect potential future disruptions. The goal is to foresee them and define ways to reduce the probability that such events ever happen and/or to reduce their impact if they do happen. Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball for Procurement; no one knows for sure what the future holds.

The only solution is to imagine different scenarios for potential problems. These scenarios can either be based on experience (problems that already happened to other organisations) and based on brainstorming (a.k.a. risk identification).

This may sound like daunting work, but it’s worth it. Organisations that have invested time and energy into identifying risks, assessing them, and defining ways to mitigate them are better at managing incidents they did not anticipate.

Reason #3: Supply chain issues are costly

There is no universal “best practice” recipe per se; only best practices in a certain context. But, what is certain is that not taking care of risk can be costly.

A 2018 study by the Business Continuity Institute and Zurich Insurance Company examined the financial impact of supply chain disruptions. The findings revealed that not only disruptions have a cost when they occur, their effects can do lasting damage. It takes months to recover and, in many cases, there is no full recovery!

So, in the war against risk, being prepared, defining various scenarios and recovery plans/actions, having the right skills, and the proper technology makes an organisation more resilient and more agile when something unexpected happens because:

  • they can re-use a predefined recovery plan
  • they have the processes and governance in place to act and decide fast
  • the people in the organisation have risk management in their DNA

How Procurement Professionals Can Look Like Rockstars

Will procurement ever achieve ‘rockstar’ status within an organisation? It’s an idea that hasn’t gained much traction in the past. But help may be at hand from a new source.

Muhammad suryanto/ Shutterstock

Despite the profession’s best efforts, the terms ‘procurement’ and ‘rockstar’ are uneasy bedfellows in a sentence. When you picture a rockstar – Keith Richards, Dave Grohl, Joan Jett, Pete Townshend – they are a free spirit; perhaps anarchic, but certainly someone who lives life by their own rules. Does this sound like procurement to you? No, me neither.

Even now, after all the efforts to make procurement a strategic partner, moving from transactional purchasing to strategic buying or strategic sourcing, the image of procurement remains the same. A profession that’s very traditional, process driven, compliant (not that this is a bad thing) and just maybe a little … boring.

Although some progress has been made, rockstar status is still a ways away. While there are huge, global names that have come from the profession, the name recognition is still an issue. You know Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates and Tim Cook, but do you know who their CPOs are?

Have you heard of Bo Andersson, formerly GM’s ‘Mr Purchasing’? How about Jennifer Moceri, CPO of global drinks giant, Diageo? Without wider recognition of what these rockstars have achieved, very few people outside the profession will be able to understand much about what procurement can deliver.

Collective rather than Individual?

The profession has spent so long trying to create ‘rockstar’ CPOs and leaders with global profiles that it may have lost sight of the true aim – to elevate procurement as a whole. When it comes to being a ‘rockstar’, the one thing that nearly all the greats have in common is a group by their side or backing them up. And it’s in this power of the collective that procurement’s ultimate success may lie.

For the collective profession it’s about understanding what the business needs, aligning a procurement strategy with the overall business strategy, and then delivering on this. Procurement will be treated as a strategic partner when it has earned the organization’s trust as a value-adding operation.

It might be an unpopular move, but the first thing that’s going to be on the agenda is savings. The drive in procurement has been to promote an agenda that covers more than just savings – efficiency, compliance, risk management and supplier development are just a few.

However, without even realizing it, the majority of these elements underpin savings and cost reduction. The trick is to not get too focused on savings to the detriment of the wider strategic agenda. Supplier consolidation and centralized procurement are a couple of approaches which tick both the savings box and that of the wider strategic aim of adding value.

Procurement Solutions – Your Backing Vocals

Rather stretching the metaphor of the rockstar and the band, it’s important to understand the tools available to help create your own procurement version of the Traveling Wilburys. Rockstar status won’t happen in isolation and that’s where procurement solutions and procurement consulting can take to the stage.

The best procurement solutions can help turn your data into a major strength through the power of spend analytics. Software can help organizations understand who they are spending their money with, how much they are spending and, most importantly, if they are getting what they have paid for. It makes spend visible, facilitating a greater understanding of how cost optimization and spend management will work within the wider procurement strategy.

As with any band, it’s important to pick a software solution that acts in harmony with existing systems, processes and how it will work once it’s been implemented. Given that employees are the ones who will be using it on a day-to-day basis, it’s critical that the solution is user-friendly, and that employees are trained fully.

Even the great rock bands (Queen, Black Sabbath, the Beatles) sometimes need to bring in external experts to push them on to greater things. For procurement it’s no different and the choice may be to engage procurement consulting organizations to assist.

These consultants can assist with software choices, implementation and running. But Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) go one step further, offering contract monitoring, spend management and collective buying power through their membership network.

This can help drive savings targets, aid supplier consolidation and all the other positives that organizations want from their procurement teams. Put simply, they help transform procurement from an undiscovered and unappreciated talent to a global rockstar!

Visit UNA to learn more about the benefits of Group Purchasing Organizations.

Don’t Move! Improve: How the Property Market Should Inspire your Career Choices

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

When you’re considering your career choices, take inspiration from the property market. There are more similarities than you think.

As a nation we are pretty obsessed with house prices – what our property would fetch if we put it up for sale, what the neighbour’s/our boss’s/our ex’s home is worth, how much our ‘bricks and mortar’ has gone up/down in value. Even if we have no plans to sell up, “property porn” is highly addictive.

Well, you might not realise it, but the jobs market is very similar the housing market.

Who hasn’t got bored at work, and scrolled through job boards to see if there is a better paid role elsewhere? Who hasn’t looked at their pay and perks and wondered if they earn more or less than their colleagues and friends?

This is not the only similarity between the jobs and property markets.

Take supply and demand: When there is uncertainty, the supply of candidates drops. This is keeping “values” up with average pay up 3.9 per cent over the last year.

It’s a similar picture in the housing market. Fewer properties for sale is preventing a property price crash as there is less supply. So prices still managed a 0.9 per cent rise in the year to June (although in London they dipped 2.7 per cent).

Both are a Buyer’s Market

Just as homebuyers can negotiate hard – so can candidates. In 2018, employees who stuck with the same firm saw their average pay rise by just 0.6 per cent after inflation. Those changing employers saw their pay rise by seven times as much, up by 4.5 per cent.

However, this can be a risky strategy.

Yes, you tend to earn more by switching jobs but it’s not the only way to increase your earnings.

If you stay put and “improve” your job prospects, you won’t have all that uncertainty – not knowing if a new job is really for you, worrying that you won’t pass the probationary period and (even worse) waiting until your first day to discover that the job description could be something written by an estate agent (i.e. it bears very little resemblance to reality).

How to Improve Your Job

There has been a fivefold increase since 2013 in the number of homeowners choosing to improve rather than move. So, why not take a leaf out of their book and do the same with your career choices.

· Start with a Valuation

Just as with a house move, many of us wonder if we would be better off with a job move. But how do you know for sure? Well, check out salary benchmarking websites.

Check out Michael Page’s Salary Comparison tool, which compares pay for a number of procurement roles by sector to see if you are underpaid or not. Also check Glassdoor and scour a few job websites to check advertised salaries.

· The Best Improvements to Make

Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people who are one-step-up the career ladder to see what attributes they have that add to their value.

Just as bi-fold doors and open-plan living are desirable in the property market, there are some skills that really stand out among successful people (whether that it is soft-skills such as leadership or hard-skills like proficiency in the latest tech).

Check out job adverts too – are there any skills that seem to be in high demand, that you don’t have?

· Can you get away with a bit of DIY?

If your tech skills are lacking or you need a bit of CPD to bring you up-to-date with latest developments in your sector, online learning is an easy solution. You can learn in your own time, invest in the courses that work best for you and then have something to prove your worth to your employer.

When negotiating a pay rise, showing that you have invested your own time, money and effort in your own success – which could also help boost productivity – is a great bargaining chip.

· Or do you need Professional Help?

Sometimes a bit of DIY is not going to add value. In some cases it can even be a waste of time and money. So, this is where you may need to get professional help, perhaps studying a postgraduate or professional qualification with a recognised provider.

For this you are going to need finance. You can get postgraduate student loans (a bit like a home improvement loans, only for your career). These are similar to student finance for a first degree and you can borrow up to £10,906. Go here for more information.

Or you could simply ask your employer. Many professionals are reluctant to put in a training request (partly because they worry that they will appear as though they need training).

However, this is about career development – doing a better or bigger job – so sell the benefits. It is less of a big ask right now.

According to recruiters Robert Half the biggest talent management concern for senior executives is “employee retention and training” which will be a priority for 31 per cent over the next 12 months. Attracting talent comes in second at 29 per cent – showing that firms see greater benefit in up-skilling their staff than hiring new ones.

· Get Someone Else to Market You

Despite those online property platforms offering to sell your property for less, most homeowners still favour traditional high-street estate agents. Paying someone else to sell your property is not only easier, they are professionals so should (in theory) be able to get you a higher price.

Do the same for your career. If you can find someone else to champion your career, you might not have to ask for that promotion or pay rise – you could be identified as a “potential highflyer” and approached instead.

Seek out mentors, who can help guide your career but who also have currency within your organisation. Perhaps a manager in a different department or even the person who first hired you (and has an interest in you doing well).

Also, reach out via LinkedIn – post thought-provoking and intelligent ideas, link to senior professionals and build your brand through endorsements and connections.

· Get a New Valuation

Finally, prepare your career for the market – declutter your social media, spruce up your online presence and update your particulars (your CV). Now ask for a chat with your line manager (tell him or her what it is about) and go in with a clear asking price (use your research to determine your value). Then see what offers are made.

If your improvements do not yield results, it’s not the end for your career choices. At least you are ready to put yourself on the market!