Category Archives: Career Management

No Seat at the Table? Time to Build Your Own Chair

The solution is simple, surely. If procurement can’t get a seat at the table, it’s time to build our own chair.

build a chair

How many times have you heard your peers or even yourself say the inevitable term, “seat at the table”? I am not sure where this proverbial leadership table came from, but we are constantly trying to get a chair. It’s time to build our own chairs and bring them to the table.

Time to Whittle Some Wood

So, how do we build our own chair? It needs to start with education. You can help. Earlier this year I was at a Supply Chain career fair, recruiting some talent, and had a chance to speak to several students about the lack of educational offerings for our profession. It was remarkable how many of them had a strong interest in procurement.

This University happens to be a leader in Supply Chain education, and one of their courses has a procurement focus.

The interest is there, but outside of this University, dedicated procurement courses are as hard to find as one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, or a Snorlax on Pokemon GO. (See what I did there? I’m trying to bridge the generational gap – you either don’t know who Gene Wilder is, or you never downloaded Pokemon GO and have no clue what a Snorlax is! Anyway, focus.)

I don’t believe that every college and university is going to begin adding procurement programs, because honestly I am not sure if just adding the courses would solve the problem.

I am still not convinced you can “teach” procurement, which is another can of worms I am not ready to crack open. However, I do think there is value in introducing procurement to students; educating them, exposing them to the industry and sharing what we do.

I have been speaking to students and sharing my procurement experience since very early in my career. With only a year of experience up my sleeve, I was speaking at my alma mater. I continue to speak to students of all ages, and am often invited to undergraduate and graduate classes to speak.

I’ve even spoken about procurement at an elementary school! At the time I was working for a large beverage and snack company, so I think they only wanted some potato chips and soda without their parents knowing. But regardless, I was there.

Get Up and Get Out There

Stop complaining that you have to always justify your value. You alone are not going to solve the big issues at your company. You can create some great traction and maybe even get that seat at the leadership table, but keep in mind that it only takes one re-structuring to lose that seat once more. The solution? Get out there and educate.

Share. Be vocal. Don’t just attend procurement events – go to other industry events and get the word out on what we do. Attending procurement events is great, but often we are telling each other the same thing we already know.

How about you go to a CIO, CMO, or CFO conference and share how much value you are adding to your organisation? The movement needs to come from all ends!

The CPO is Not Dead

There was an article written earlier this year with the provocative headline, “The CPO is dead.” I really valued it and don’t entirely disagree with its suggestion of a shift from Chief procurement Officer to Chief Value Officer. The role of procurement has transformed – it’s not just tactical, it’s strategic; not just focused on cost saving, but adding value. I encourage you to read it.

I do, however,  disagree with the concept that the CPO is dead, because I think the CPO is just growing up. There is so much more work to do to get this industry further exposed, so that there is no second-thought for a company to focus on procurement top-down.

Pull Up a Chair – Let’s Eat!

So, what are you going do? Read this – great! Share this – great! If you’re reading this and want to make a difference, please connect with me here on Procurious, and let’s figure out how to get more schools involved and how you can drive this movement locally or even nationally.

Utilise your company, and your position, to be an external voice for the profession.

Nicholas Ammaturo is the President and Chair of ISM 7 Counties and a former winner of ISM and ThomasNet’s 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award. Nicholas is Managing Director of Cormac Advisory Services, a retail and wholesale consulting service.

Women and Indirect Procurement – A Perfect Fit!

Indirect procurement is a perfect fit for women. And women in indirect procurement are a perfect fit for a company.

women indirect procurement

At a recent fantastic CIPS CH event on ‘Women in Procurement’, it got me thinking about why indirect procurement is a great function for women.

My path to leadership in procurement happened by accident. In the late 90s, when indirect procurement was emerging as a strategic sourcing function, I joined the corporate sourcing team at a large Swiss bank.

The team had been formed specifically to implement ‘strategic sourcing’. I got my first taste of the three things that make women in indirect procurement such a great combination.

  1. Indirect procurement is results oriented

One of the realities of being a businesswoman is that the range of acceptable behaviour can be pretty narrow. Being clear about your opinion in a meeting easily becomes being ‘too direct’.

But the great equaliser is delivering financial results. Everyone wants to hear more, especially senior executives.

But not just any numbers will do…

  • Clear financials – Focus on savings that bring the cost base down and have P&L impact via a tight link to the budget process (see my previous article on this topic).
  • Long-term savings commitment – The first time we committed as a team, I was nervous presenting it to the executive committee. But after we delivered the first year, my nervousness was gone.

Women who advance into leadership roles in corporations are all results oriented and tend to be super exact because the winnowing out process is earlier and harsher.

Mary, the leader of the US professional services category was exactly this kind of woman, delivering business innovation and significant numbers every year.

As part of our strategy for breaking through on more difficult categories, she led a new approach by working across regions. I also gave her a leadership challenge to think bigger on the numbers. She did. And the team delivered some great innovation to the business and tripled the savings delivery.

  1. Indirect procurement is flexible

One of the greatest aspects of being measured on results is that it makes space for flexibility between work and home time.

After some years in consulting, I was back in industry with a full-time role, and two small children, leading a big team for the first time. There were several other women with children in the team trying to manage work and home time. We needed to do something.

There were two things going for us.

  • A results oriented CPO even though he was an old style German man!
  • Procurement is in the ‘client’ role so sales people try to match your schedule.

This combination equals control of your agenda and gave us a chance to organise time differently.

  • No meetings after 5pm, but with the expectation of being online post bedtime.
  • Working fewer hours than the men just by being more focused. There’s nothing like needing to be home to get focus.

There’s no pretending that this was easy to do. But in addition to being able to balance work and home time, there were two side affects of this way of organising things.

  • The leadership team was young. And the men also started to organise themselves this way after they had children.
  • Talent retention and growth of women rising on the organisation.

Isabelle, a young woman in my former team recently had her second child and had the chance to take over a regional head role. We met for coffee and discussed her fear of taking the role with young children.

She made a clear plan on how she would manage her work and home time, including how many late evening conference calls she was willing to make, and went for it.

Great for her and great for keeping and developing talent in the company.

  1. Indirect procurement has P&L impact

Women continue to be underrepresented in senior management, and the ones there, are often in non-powerful functions like HR.

One of the key ticks in the box for advancing is P&L responsibility. Indirect procurement can have high impact on the P&L and therefore crucial ‘visibility’ to senior management. Keep in mind:

  • Senior management cares about the P&L. You need to not only deliver the numbers, but make sure you are up there presenting to them. And it’s a chance to show you can handle the pressure of executive level presentations and questions sessions.
  • Know your numbers inside and out. This means being aware of the status of all material projects driving delivery on a monthly basis.
  • Can you measure and track it – proof! Have a clear report that is linked to the budget cycle

The more visibility women have, the better their chances to advance. This naturally adds to the pipeline of women for a company – the lack of which is the eternal topic in every article about why there aren’t more women in senior positions.

The bottom line is empowered women deliver.

Pauline King is the CEO of Heykins GmbH, Rapid Results Procurement, focused on working with clients’ existing teams to deliver tangible financial results.

She is a recognised expert in indirect procurement with deep operational experience in procurement transformation. Pauline also works closely with The Beyond Group AG where she heads up the Indirect Procurement Practice.

My 5 Killer Job Interview Questions

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

killer questions

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

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

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

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

1. The “Tipping Point” Question

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

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

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

2. The “Leader of the Pack” Question

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

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

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

3. The “Mentor Me” Question

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

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

4. The “Question” Question

“Do you have any more questions?”

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

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

5. The “One Word” Question

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

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

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

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

Reflect on Your Questions

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

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

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

To do this, I often ask myself:

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

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

Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Organisation

But what your organisation can do for you. And these tips should point you in the direction of a great employer.

jfk organisation

For a decade or more, the economy has very much been a hiring manager’s market. A number of economic events culminating in the GFC made it increasingly difficult for even the most qualified candidates to find a position. But not anymore.

Thanks to a host of economic upturns, more and more jobs are appearing. Finally applicants can ask: “What can an organisation do for me?”

These days, it is important for employers to consider how they can work to better their workforce. Career management is no longer the sole responsibility of the worker; companies must consider how to lend their employees support.

As a job candidate, you should look for organisations that are eager to learn your goals and aspirations, and provide backing and encouragement to help you achieve them. More specifically, you should search for an employer willing to do the following for the sake of your career:

Understand Your Intended Path

As a human being, you have personal and professional goals. Often, those goals include a specific career path culminating in a prestigious job title with important responsibilities and generous benefits.

From the very beginning of your employment, your employer should be eager to learn your goals and pave the way for you to achieve them.

As you endure the job-hunting process, you should explain your personal and professional plan to every prospective employer. The most promising employers will respond with information on career paths through their organisations, available career-boosting tools or programs, and (most importantly) a commitment of support for your goals.

Those who seem uninterested in your goals will not do anything to help you achieve them.

Adapt Roles and Responsibilities

Though you might not expect an entry-level position to be handcrafted to match your abilities and interests, as you head into your mid-career, your employer should begin adapting your role and responsibilities to suit your preferences and skills.

In fact, ideal organisations will be able to assess your strengths and weaknesses and provide opportunities for you to develop those abilities you will need to enhance your career and achieve your professional goals.

During the interview process, you might ask about the possibility of you gaining a hand in the development of your work responsibilities as you gain experience within the organisation.

Offer Necessary Resources

Regardless of your career goals, your organisation can dramatically improve your chances of success by connecting you with valuable resources.

Perhaps most importantly, your employer should have a programme to support the continued education of its staff. This can be through workplace seminars or tuition reimbursement.

Flex time will help you pursue advanced education, like a master’s of organisational leadership degree, that could qualify you for top positions at your organisation while also improving your skill set for the company.

Additionally, you might look for an employer that boasts a mentorship programme. This way, you can build relationships with important figures at your company and gain career-boosting opportunities.

Be Respectful and Compassionate

It is entirely likely that your goals will change during your career. It’s imperative that you find an employer who won’t disrespect your choice, or react extremely and destroy your opportunities for success.

Employers should recognise the value of investing in employees, who will undoubtedly become valuable assets or allies in their future positions – regardless of whether those positions are inside or outside the organisation.

It isn’t difficult to identify companies who lack compassion for their workers. You can often find evidence of poor treatment on ratings websites like Glassdoor.

Most organisations think first of the profit margins, second of the customers, and third of their employees. In years past, companies had little reason to worry about workers leaving for better jobs, because the potential for finding alternative reliable employment was low.

However, if we expect the current trend of job growth to continue – which it should, given the strength of the economy and imminent retirement of baby boomers – employers must begin to consider the health and happiness of individual employees.

Being kind and supportive, having tools for personal and professional improvement, and remaining flexible in roles and rules are the hallmarks of organisations that treat their workers well. You should keep an eye out for job opportunities with companies like these.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.

How Executives Can Avoid a Social Media Headache

Navigating the increasingly complex world of social media is the norm for executives. Here’s what you need to know.

executives headache

Social media can be a hugely important tool for executives in this day and age. When used appropriately, it can help you land your next job, help you communicate what you’re working on in your role, and help keep you on top of industry news and trends.

But setting up and occasionally maintaining your LinkedIn profile is just the tip of the social media iceberg these days.

According to a study conducted by Forbes and reported on SocialTimes, CEO engagement on social media will double by 2017.

Brands are doing this for good reason, with 82 per cent of people more likely to trust a company with CEOs on social media, according to the study.

You could get a tap on the shoulder by your HR leader any day, too. Companies often look across their organisation when considering a social media strategy for executives, with subject matter experts in different areas of the business (such as procurement) often having great insights to share.

Blurring Personal & Professional Boundaries

Of course, it takes extra time to be active in the social media. In fact, it’s blurred the lines between people’s personal and professional time and space. Used unwisely, a person’s social media presence can have repercussions in both their personal and professional lives.

This not only includes LinkedIn and Twitter, but also blogging, Instagram and Pinterest.

And at times, a lot that can go wrong. For example, the media stories of a Scottish executive who lost his $US2 million-a-year position as CEO last year when he decided to talk to his daughter during a ‘boring’ board meeting.

The executive told his daughter how he hated board meetings and that he was tired of the session that morning. He used Snapchat to share photos of the board meeting, along with tagged messages to his daughter, saying he was bored.

His daughter using a screen grabbing app to save the photos and posted them on her Instagram page, prompting a backlash that cost him his job.

This is just one of the many headlines about social media misuse that have caused headaches for successful corporate executives. There have also been plenty of accusations, misinterpretations and media headlines due to social media use.

Use Social Media as Tool for Good

However, don’t let this deter you from using social media, with executives able to use social media to their advantage rather than using it to ruin their career.

On the other hand, when used responsibly, social media has helped politicians win elections, startups take their new brand to the world and executives land new positions.

Posting blogs on LinkedIn or your company blog can also be a great way to bolster your corporate profile and help position you as an industry expert.

Outsourcing this process to a freelance journalist or copywriter can be a great way to ensure you meet your blogging goals.

Start by familiarising yourself with your company’s social media policy, which should outline their expectations. Raise any clarifications with your HR or communications department.

Avoiding the Executive Headache

When it comes to security, you can never be too careful. Here are a few ways to ensure you aren’t giving away too much information online.

Avoid checking-in: Don’t check in on Facebook at airports, on trips away for work or in specific locations during your time off. You never know who is watching for this information to be made public.

Set status updates to private: If you’re going to post business photos of delicious meals at a restaurant or tell people where you are on social media, make sure that your status settings are private, so that only your connections can view this.

Manually approve online tags: There’s an option on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to approve photos and status updates you’ve been tagged in, which could reduce the chance of attackers actively monitoring your movements.

Key Social Media Platforms

And just in case you weren’t sure where to start, here is a brief run-down of the key platforms for you.

  • Facebook

The largest social network on the web both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. It’s a great medium for businesses to connect with customers.

  • Twitter

Share 140 or fewer character text updates to your followers, along with videos, images, links and polls. Twitter enables you to interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts.

  • LinkedIn

Nowadays, if you’re a professional not on LinkedIn, you’re in a small minority. Allows you to create a professional profile and connect with people around the world, from peers, to colleagues, to competitors, to potential business partners.

  • Procurious

The world’s first online business network for procurement and supply chain professionals. With over 18,000 members, there’s a wealth of knowledge and potential collaboration with fellow global professionals.

  • Instagram

This visual social media platform is based entirely on photo and video posts, with many users posting about food, art, travel, fashion, architecture, hobbies and similar subjects. Growing numbers of retailers have had strong sales growth on the back of utilising this platform to display their collections.

  • Tumblr

This is one of the most difficult social media platforms to use as a business, but it’s also one of the most interesting. Users can post text, chat posts, quotes, audio, photo and video, while reposting other users’ content is quick and easy.

  • YouTube

This video platform allows businesses to show their products in action. It’s particularly useful for companies that mostly sell over the internet.

  • Blogs

Posting interesting articles either on your own personal blog, the company blog or post articles to LinkedIn can be a great way to bolster your corporate profile.

Getting the Smartest Guys in the Room

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

albert-einstein smartest people in room

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

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

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

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

And that was my A-ha! moment.

Quality Rises to the Top

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

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

1. Set Daring Talent KPIs

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

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

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

2. Find a Millennial Mentor

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

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

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

3. Incubate Intrapreneurs

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

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

Some questions worth asking yourself:

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

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

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I’ll Begin…

Treat your next interview like you’re telling a story. Make it engaging. Make it clear. But most of all, make it memorable.

tell a career story

Once upon a time in an office block not too far away, our hero/heroine walked into the most exciting and biggest interview of their career…

For me, a successful interview is like reading an enjoyable story. Stories “create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others”(1).

I consistently advise people that I have represented to have their own story and message when attending an interview. An engaging and memorable story resonates with the reader; it holds our attention, keeps the pages turning and becomes memorable in the mind of the reader.

Here are a few points to think about.

The beginning of the story…AKA first impressions.

A great story has a strong start. So if you get an opening question like, “So, tell me about yourself?” or, “So, why are you interested in this role/company”, then start well. Through your opening 2-5 minutes, generate interest and attention in the mind of your ‘reader’.

Use language that feels right for your career story. I think it never hurts to describe things simply but effectively. Try to use words that add zest to your experience and motivations. Just try not to over complicate the ‘plot’.

Don’t lose your reader, keep those pages turning.

What is your message in your story?

Understand what the challenges of the role are, and what are the current and future demands on the organisation. Your recruiter and your own research will help you understand this.

Settle on your ultimate message, then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it at interview. Use your career story to invoke a clear connection between what value and experience you bring and how you can harness that experience for your new prospective Employer. Make the Interviewer want to know the story behind your career. Characterise yourself positively.

Be true to your IQ and that of your audience.

It would be foolish to underestimate your audience. Your interviewer is looking to hear information on your career experience that resonates with them.

They will want to understand you as a character and what you offer and stand for, so never dumb down your message or yourself. Make your story relevant and credible.

Maintain pace, select an appropriate momentum

I’ve heard on too many occasions from hiring managers that an Interviewee started amazingly well, then petered out after 20 minutes. 10 times out of 10, the hiring manager is terribly disappointed – ”Gee, they started so well, we thought we had found our perfect candidate!”.

Like any strong story, start well, maintain the plot, maintain clarity and consistency through each chapter (or job).

Don’t lose the reader, keep those pages turning.

To do this, you must be well prepared. You must have planned your storyline, organised and detailed all sub-plots, and all the characters in your career history. It has to remain relevant to your ultimate message.

A strong ending

Many an interview can lose its way with a fluffy and overly elaborate ending. Be concise and finish strongly. Be positive, perhaps even bold. Don’t fade out with a whimper.

Ask yourself, how many times have you commented on poor or lacklustre ending to a book that you have read. I bet you can remember how that ending made your feel years after reading it. I’ll even bet you never read, or recommended, that story to anyone again!

  1. Extract from the Harvard Business Review – ‘How To Tell A Great Story‘.

The Source is a specialist Procurement mid to senior and executive recruitment and search firm with national reach. We provide tailored contract and permanent recruitment solutions to leading organisations in the Australian market.

Making the Final Ascent from CPO to CEO

Taking the final step from CPO to CEO appears to elude many procurement leaders. So, why does Procurement so often lose out to Finance?

ceo to cpo

At the eWorld procurement conference last month Tania Seary interviewed me about leadership as part of Procurious’ Career Boot Camp series. After we finished she said, “there’s one question we ran out of time for: why do so few CPOs become CEOs?”

This set me thinking on my flight home. There are well known examples of the supply chain providing the key to the executive washroom. Tim Cook at Apple, and Sam Walsh at Rio Tinto are just two of the more well-known.

Famously, though, the best trodden route to the top is via the Finance function. 52 per cent of FTSE100 CEOs and 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have a financial background. So why do the accountants win out?

Show Me the Money!

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where the boss informs his staff: “you know we said ‘people are our most valuable asset? Turns out we were wrong. Money is our most valuable asset.”

dilbert-assets
Courtesy of Scott Adams (dilbert.com)

Given the paucity of HR directors making it to the hot seat, it seems boards tend to agree. CPOs should score well here: at the core of the role, after all, is to maximise the effectiveness of the company’s expenditure.

“Much travell’d in the realms of Gold”

Peter Smith’s eWorld workshop inspired me to quote Shelley, so it may be time to turn to Keats.

The other great advantage possessed by Finance Directors is that they see the entirety of the organisation: from wide expanses to western islands, no corner is hidden from their view nor beyond their reach.

This is critical. The board relies on the FD as one of the few people, other than the CEO, who has a grasp on how the totality of the business fits together. Not only does she or he have knowledge of what’s going on in each part, but they also appreciate the interlinkages between them.

How do CPOs fare against this measure? Well, if we’re frank, variably. In some organisations, CPOs see the complete cost base and fully understand how the company’s capital is deployed – and why.

In others, they may only influence part of applicable spend – KPMG’s survey suggested the average is around 60 per cent. Without that comprehensive view, the nominations committee may not consider a candidate ready to take overall leadership.

I suspect this is the most critical factor holding CPOs back. Ascending to greater height affords – but may also in the corporate world, require – a broader view.

Then like stout Cortez, with eagle eyes, may the CPO take that final step to become a CEO, and survey the scene, silent, on a peak in Darien.

To hear more from Stuart, catch up with his Career Boot Camp podcast here. You can also read more from Stuart on the impact of maverick purchasing on procurement, and download the latest Applegate whitepaper on the subject.

How to Strike Gold When Seeking a Mentor

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

Mentor

This article first appeared in Women’s Agenda.

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

Mentoring, it never sleeps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Be brave and find an “unreasonable friend”

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

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

4. Relax and let the relationship unfold

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

5. You don’t need just one mentor

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

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

What to do When You Feel Like Quitting

Feel like quitting? It’s important to ask yourself some key questions before you hand in your letter of resignation. 

download-e1476106098769

Moving jobs is consistently rated by psychologists as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life (more stressful, for example, than the birth of a child or planning your wedding). So it’s vital for your own well-being that you manage the whole situation very carefully.

Before you even begin to start the process of hunting for a new job, you need to ask yourself the key question – what’s my motivation?

Why Do People Start Looking Elsewhere?

People look for new jobs for a whole host of reasons, but they generally fall into one of the following groups:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the work they’re doing
  2. Dissatisfaction with their remuneration
  3. Dissatisfaction with their working environment
  4. Dissatisfaction with their manager(s)

It’s interesting to note that people are often only motivated into actively looking for a new job when they are unhappy with more than one of these aspects. If you currently find yourself in this position, here’s my advice.

What to Do When You Feel Like Quitting

Before you storm into your boss’s office with your letter of resignation, you should think carefully about whether your dissatisfactions can be resolved in your current situation. Let’s look at these one by one.

1) Feeling Unsatisfied?

If you are finding your current work is unsatisfying, first check if there are other, more interesting projects coming up for which you could volunteer. Or, if you are finding that your expertise is causing you to become “pigeon-holed” into one area, look into whether there are internal opportunities to cross-train into different and more exciting areas, and gain new skill-sets.

2) Struggling on Your Salary?

If you’re unhappy with your salary, you need to check whether you are being fairly remunerated for the work that you do. This information may not be easily obtained within your company because of individual confidentiality, but job-boards contain a lot of data, and sites like Glassdoor will give you a rough idea of whether you are being paid what your skills and experience are worth.

If you have been with the same company for a long time you may find that your pay has only increased by small increments each year, and your own boss may be unaware that your salary is unfair in relation to the market as a whole. Before you hand in your notice, you should at least talk to your manager, armed with the relevant information, to give them a chance to improve matters for you.

But be warned, you may have already hit the salary threshold for your skill-set, in which case you should think about learning new skills, developing niche expertise or taking on more responsibilities.

3) Unhappy with the Working Environment?

Your working environment covers everything from the company culture (which you probably can’t change) to the working hours and your work-life balance.

People’s needs change throughout their careers: if your domestic situation changes because of childcare needs or caring for a relative, talk to your HR department or manager about adjusting your working hours.

Increasingly, companies understand the cost to them of losing experienced staff (and having to find and train replacements) so they are much more willing to be flexible in accommodating the needs of their teams.

4) Bad Manager?

Perhaps the hardest problem to resolve is a bad manager. Micro-manager, absent manager, unappreciative manager, bully…it’s an old truism that “people leave managers, not jobs”.

If you’re feeling unappreciated you may need to run an internal PR campaign and make sure that your boss has realised all of the things that you’ve achieved for the company.

If the person you report to is irrepressibly miserable, or a shameless bully, you may have the capability to neutralise or ignore their toxic behaviour. However, it may be too emotionally-exhausting and this will be all the worse if the company’s senior management don’t seem to care.

Focus On Being Happy

So, if your managers are steering your company onto the rocks, while paying you a pittance for working every hour under the sun…it’s maybe time to go.

At least you have investigated whether the situation can be saved, and by looking at your motivations you will know which aspects are most important for you.

This will save you many hours of pain and stress in the job-hunting process because right from the start you will know what your “red-lines” are.

  • If you absolutely need a certain level of income to support your family then you can rule out everything below that;
  • If you absolutely need to be able to drop your child at school in the morning then you can focus your attention on those employers who support flexible working hours;
  • If you’re committed to learning new skills then you need to find a company who will truly support your drive for self-improvement.

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve with your job-move then you will be focusing on the things that are important to you, the things that are most likely to make you happier and less stressed. This is really important not just for your own well-being but also because there is a huge body of evidence that proves that happy people work more effectively, and so you are creating a virtuous circle for your next job.

And now it’s time to think about the next key step – your CV!

Richard Harris is Managing Director at Mohawk Consulting. Mohawk Consulting is a specialist recruitment company, working within the professional services market, particularly at the level of experienced hire/manager/director.