Category Archives: Life & Style

Conference Season Is Upon Us!

Turn on the auto-reply, pack your suitcase and strap yourselves in – it’s #procurement conference season.

Why are so many great conferences packed into the same few weeks of the year? Yes, the weather is usually reliable, but having successive (or even overlapping) conferences forces procurement pros to pick and choose carefully. And your conference budget isn’t the only issue here – simply finding the time to step out of the office for more than one multi-day event (plus travel) can be very challenging.

Let’s have a look at some of the big events in your region.

EUROPE

SAP Ariba Live

Amsterdam, 23-25 April

SAP Ariba’s biggest event in Europe will be packed with interactive presentations and workshops, and offers the chance to meet some of the real thought-leaders and technical wizards from SAP Ariba itself (not just salespeople!). The agenda reflects SAP Ariba’s ongoing theme for the year, Procure with Purpose.

Procurious will be there! Don’t miss the Diversity and Leadership panel session featuring Procurious Founder Tania Seary talking about how procurement professionals can leverage our uniquely human qualities in the world of Industry 4.0, and the critical importance of supplier diversity for the future of procurement.

Related articles on #ProcurewithPurpose:

How Your Network Can Turbocharge Procurement – SAP Ariba President Barry Padgett

Exploding the 4 Social Enterprise Myths

Supplier Diversity? I Don’t Have Time For That!

… and be sure to sign up for our upcoming #ProcurewithPurpose webinar on Modern Slavery.

 

Procurious Big Ideas Summit

London, 26 April

You didn’t think we would forget to mention our very own flagship event? The Big Ideas Summit is an innovative, digitally led event with a small audience of 50 or so procurement influencers in the room, and hundreds of Digital Delegates interacting online. So, while you might not get a chance to attend in person, be sure to click the link above and register as a Digital Delegate to receive a treasure-trove of content and videos from the Summit.

Speakers include legendary IBM CPO Bob Murphy, ISM CEO Tom Derry, risk-taking and decision-making expert Caspar Berry, futurist and business-builder Sophie Hackford, futurist and urbanist Greg Lindsay, security expert Justin Crump and a whole host of procurement gurus from some of the biggest brands in the profession.

Related articles on #BigIdeas2018:

How to Prepare For Post-Brexit Procurement In The Dark

Why Diligence Is Due

6 Critical Skills You Need If You Want To Succeed In A Digital World

IBM CPO: You’re Finished If You Think You’ve Finished!

How to Turn Your Procurement Team into a Cracking Intelligence-Gathering Organisation

4 Ways to Engineer Serendipity in Your Workplace

Don’t forget to register! https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-digital-delegates

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

The 11th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum

Melbourne, 1-2 May

The Faculty CPO Forum attracts the top CPOs from all across the region, but funnily enough, this event isn’t all that focused on procurement. Instead, the agenda is packed with big-picture thinking, with futurists, experts on disruption, sports stars, diplomacy and trade experts, and others all contributing to a thought-leadership extravaganza that has delighted delegates for over 10 years now. Includes the announcement of the 2018 Asia-Pacific CPO of the Year.

Procurious will be there! Be sure to keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag #CPOForum18 for blog articles and a running update from the 2-day event.

Related articles on #CPOForum18:

4 Things Supply Managers Need To Know About China’s Belt And Road

Leadership Under Fire

4 Things CFOs Really Want From Procurement

 

USA

ISM2018

Nashville, 6-9 May

If you haven’t been to ISM’s massive annual conference before, we can’t stress enough how BIG this event is. With an action-packed agenda featuring no less than 100 educational sessions to choose from, it’s vital that attendees arrive in Nashville with a plan.

Don’t miss out on seeing Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington on stage, along with two giants of the U.S. Intelligence Community, General Keith Alexander and John Brennan. Keynotes aside, ISM2018 offers fascinating Signature Sessions, Learning Tracks, an Emerging Professionals Experience (featuring the inspirational 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars), and more.

Articles related to #ISM2018:

Navigating the World’s Largest Procurement Conference

30 Under 30 Stars Prove This Enduring Stigma Is Disappearing From the Profession

 

Other major events on the procurement conference calendar:

ProcureCon Indirect

Copenhagen, 16-18 April

REV2018 Jaggaer Conference

Las Vegas, 24-26 April

Featuring a keynote from Stephen J. Dubner, award-winner co-author of Freakonomics.

 Coupa Inspire

San Francisco, 6-9 May

Interestingly, Coupa Inspire is going head-to-head with ISM2018 this year with their event being held on 6-9 May in San Francisco. It’s another big one, with 100+ sessions and 8 keynotes including the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Ivalua Now

New York, 17-18 May

Know of any other major conferences (in April or May) that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments! You might also want to check out Spend Matters’ conference recommendations.

3 Ways To Win The Internet (You Don’t Have To Be Justin Bieber…)

The social media world is a scary place and unfortunately it’s scaring away the professionals and organisations who need it the most. How do you embrace today’s internet culture and use it to your advantage? 

The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined YouTube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for YouTube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs.

A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms, connecting with huge audiences across the globe and finding fame.

Perhaps the most successful YouTuber in this space was Justin Bieber, who’s YouTube performances were discovered  by chance by record label manager, Scooter Braun.

Others, to this day, rack up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in, or had the chance to be!

Take 7-year-old Ryan as an example of this in action. His YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview” where he (you guessed it!) reviews the latest and greatest in children’s toys has seen him become one of the richest YouTubers ever and a multimillionaire.

Or there’s Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, and composer…

Youtube ultimately offers us the opportunity to be heard, and some people have seized the opportunity with both hands.

Building trust on the internet

Elizabeth Linder is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust.

Clearly  “The People” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out.

The problem is that so many of the worlds experts; that is the professionals, the politicians, the press, have really struggled to figure out exactly where they fit in. And that’s why so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust.

All too often, as Elizabeth points out, we focus on the sinister corners of the internet, only promoting the negative effects social media is having on our society.

When governments, the press and businesses perpetuate this idea they fail to acknowledge the value and importance that online conversations can bring, and the huge impact they can have.

The public’s use of social media is way more sophisticated than what we see in most professional bodies and businesses across the globe.

That means, as professionals, we’re on the back foot.

And it’s time to change!

At last month’s Procurious roundtable, sponsored by Basware, Elizabeth Linder provided three key pieces of advice to procurement pros who want to start, and win, conversations online.

1. Go at your own pace

Leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture.

You don’t.

Elizabeth stressed that it’s crucial to take things at your own pace as long as you let people into your thought processes.

A politician in the throws of a disaster situation can’t be expected to have all the answers or all the solutions. But what they can do is keep the public posted on the events as they unfold, maintain a constant dialogue and reassure people that they are doing everything they can.

As a business leader, it’s ok to communicate that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!

You don’t have to speed up because the internet is speedy. It’s just a different kind of dialogue.

When United Airlines hit the headlines for forcibly dragging a passenger off one of their planes, it took them so long to figure out their communications strategy, that they made things a whole lot worse.

They didn’t need a strategy.

They just needed to say something!

2. Believe in the power of primary

We need to believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do.

Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication.

If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say. And that’s because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!

The opportunity to speak directly to your audience is an amazing opportunity for leaders and professionals but it’s taken, particularly western, leaders a long time to grab this space and run with it. Perhaps this is because it demands a greater bravery and vulnerability compared with hiding behind a newspaper column or official statements from your organisation. But the pay off is worth it.

The 2011 London riots  were a big wake up moment for the London Police force, who had to figure out how to communicate directly, and effectively with the general public.

And in the UK county of Staffordshire, the police have invested in real authenticity and conversation on social media, building a strong community relationship.

3. Embrace the hacker culture

Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key.

EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making.

Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter, and create as they go.

In the early days of Facebook your profile photo was meant to be one photo of yourself.  The idea was that you uploaded it and you kept it.

But Facebook engineers watched a trend emerging of members rapidly changing their profile picture; every time they went to a party, every time they went on holiday. They realised that users wanted to ability to share their photo albums on Facebook and so built in the functionality to do that. Simply by following the patterns of behaviour.

travel business is struggling with this right now – they used to be able to invite critics to review a hotel/ stay somewhere and write up a review – now all it takes is one guest to write a terrible review about crappy plumbing and it can go around the world- feeling of being out of control is prevalent in leadership circles.

Top tips for getting started online

  • Involve people, whether it’s colleagues, clients, customers or the wider community  in the early building stages of your online presence.  What do they want to hear from you? What’s useful and what’s not?
  • Keep a consistency and truthful tone to anything you post online. Post things that represent you or you organisation because it’s so much better to be yourself rather than a contrived version of yourself. If you’re not funny don’t try to be. If you’re earnest be earnest!
  • Don’t let your voice become part of the PR machinery. The UK lost count of the number of times they heard  Theresa May’s Brexit was going to be Strong and Stable – it was a meaningless consultant’s phrase.
  • Be honest! If you don’t know, say you don’t know! It’s much easier to do this online than it is live on TV.

Pick the right people to communicate with your audience. Your business might have a clear hierarchy but it’s important to consider who should be the spokesperson vs who will be the best spokesperson. The Estonian parliament Facebook page asked their maintenance man to run the page, and he’s become a local celebrity, and great PR for the government.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.

4 Reasons You Should Never Date a Procurement Professional

She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s cute – but she works in procurement?! No, thanks! Here’s why you should never, EVER, go out with a procurement pro.

ZoneCreative/Shutterstock.com

“Psst – hey. Hey, bro. I heard you’ve got a thing for Jenny on the third floor?”

“Yeah, man – we’re going out to dinner tonight. First date!”

“Dude. Listen to me carefully. Don’t do it. Find an excuse to cancel and forget the whole idea.”

“WTF? Why?”

“She works … in procurement.”

“Huh?”

“Let me explain…”

  1. She’ll be tight with money

“How about we order a bottle of champagne, Jenny?”

“Hmm … how about we don’t.”

Procurement professionals are annoyingly cost conscious. It’s in their DNA. At the first suggestion of “splashing out” with an expensive purchase, Jenny is seeing red flags and starts asking questions. What’s the short-versus-long-term value proposition of that bottle of champagne? Are there some alternative beverages that would lead to a cost saving? What would be the risks and benefits if we ordered the cheapest bottle of plonk instead? How could we better spend this money on something that would really add value for me (i.e. dessert).

  1. She’ll win every argument

“So … what have you got planned after the meal?”

“Well, Jenny – I thought we’d catch a movie.”

“Hmmm … I thought we might go to the ballet instead.”

“The ballet? No way!”

[Two minutes later …]

“OK, it looks like we’re going to the ballet.”

Here’s the thing about procurement professionals. They actually enjoy an argument. They thrive on negotiation. It’s part of their job, which means that they have the advantage of hundreds of hours of practice. While Jenny’s negotiating at the dinner table, she’s watching you carefully for dozens of nearly imperceptible signs – raised eyebrows, flared nostrils – and rapidly adjusting her strategy as she goes. She quickly destroys every counter-argument you raise, recognises when your defences crumble, goes in for the kill – and you’re off to the ballet.

  1. She’ll hold you to your word

“Here we are at the ballet, Jenny. I’m so … excited … to be here.”

“Me, too!”

“But – oh, damn, I just realised I’ve got to be somewhere else right now.”

“What?”

“Sorry – I’ve got to run.”

“Listen, buddy. We had a verbal contract.”

Procurement and supply management experts know their way around a contract. They also have a laser-vision focus on ensuring every benefit listed in the contract is realised. Jenny knows that after the contract is agreed upon, she’ll need to launch her contract management plan – with check-ins, milestones, risk flags, and the whole works – to ensure she gets every bit of value that was laid out in the contract.

On a related note, Jenny’s also a stickler for regulatory compliance. Thinking of jaywalking instead of using the pedestrian crossing to get to the theatre? Jenny won’t be impressed.

  1. She’ll constantly expect new experiences

[Later…]

“Tonight was fun, Jenny! Would you like to go out again next week?”

“Sure! What have you got planned?”

“Well … I thought we’d just have dinner in a restaurant then catch another show or something.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“That sounds like exactly the same date. Can’t you think of something different?”

Procurement professionals are tasked with driving innovation in the supply base. This means that even when her suppliers are delivering in-full and on-time, Jenny is constantly pressuring them to come up with new ideas that will change the game. That’s why a repeat of the first date just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need to think up some innovative dating experiences. Visit a food truck festival? Go mini-golfing? Try your hand at geocaching? Just remember that no matter how much fun each experience is, Jenny will always expect a new idea for the following date.

Have you ever dated a procurement professional? Or are you (God forbid) married to one? Leave your comments below!

Welcome to the Most Miserable Day of the Year

Feeling down? You’re not alone! Today is Blue Monday, a date widely claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.

Andrey Kozachenko/Shutterstock.com

The concept of the most miserable day of the year was first publicised back in 2005, dreamt up by a public relations agency on behalf of holiday company Sky Travel.

Put simply, the “equation” used to calculate when Blue Monday falls is nonsensical pseudoscience (i.e. absolute baloney), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. 

W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year’s resolutions, M= motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.

In other words, the horrible weather (in the northern hemisphere), the realisation that you’ve overspent in December and that your salary isn’t going to cover it, and failing your new year’s resolutions outweighs your flagging motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action to start the year with a bang.

 

Two factors missing from the equation

  1. Keeping up with the online Joneses!

For those of us who spend a lot of time on social media, there’s another theory emerging about why this time of the year can be so painful: social media envy. How many posts have you seen on LinkedIn along the lines of… “I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT 2018! I’ve already secured 15 new clients, I’ve met my future spouse, and I’m running a half-marathon every morning before a super-healthy breakfast! Go ME!”

If you’re exposed to enough of this, it really can make you feel inadequate. “Why aren’t I feeling this motivated?” “Why do I just want to crawl back into bed?” “Where’s MY future spouse?”

  1. Are people really brimming with joy about being back at their desk?

Yes, there is a chance that some of your co-workers are genuinely chuffed to be back at the grindstone, and best of luck to them. But for the rest of us, the end of long, pleasant holiday is really no reason to celebrate. It’s hard to get back into the swing of things and regain your work-week mojo – and until then, it’s easy to fall into a bit of a slump. After all, have you ever seen your kids’ reaction when a “back to school” ad comes on the telly?

Take heart, though, from the likelihood that many of your (apparently) highly-motivated, back-to-work-loving colleagues on social media are in fact putting on a front. Whether it’s for the benefit of their bosses, their co-workers or their clients, the super-positive post may not reflect the mood of the person glumly typing it out.

So – wishing you a miserable Blue Monday. Try not to eat too much chocolate.


In Procurement and Supply Chain News This Week:

Fiat Chrysler Reshoring Production

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is investing $1 billion to move production of Ram Heavy Duty pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan.
  • The move will lower the automaker’s exposure to potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Approximately 2500 jobs will be moved to the company’s factory in Warren, Michigan.

Read more: http://fortune.com/2018/01/12/fiat-chrysler-michigan-mexico-nafta/

 Iranian and Chinese Tankers Collide

  • Thirty-two sailors are presumed dead after Iranian tanker “Sanchi” collided with Chinese freighter “CF Crystal” 257 km off the coast of Shanghai. The casualties are from the Iranian vessel, while the 21-member crew of CF Crystal have all been reported safe.
  • The Sanchi was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of ultra-light oil, bound for South Korea. After listing for nearly a week, a large explosion sank the vessel on Sunday.
  • The cause of the collision is unknown. Thirteen ships were employed in the rescue effort, which has been hampered by poor weather.

Read more: http://time.com/5102663/iranian-tanker-collision/

 Maccas Is Finally Ditching Foam Cups

  • McDonald’s has announced a plan to use recycled and certified sources for its fibre-based packaging by 2020, while foam packaging will be eliminated by the end of 2018.
  • Polystyrene drink containers are known to be eco-unfriendly and very difficult to recycle. The restaurant chain eliminated polystyrene packaging for hamburgers nearly 27 years ago.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/13/mcdonalds-will-get-rid-foam-packaging-2019-7226373/

How The Robots (Nearly) Stole Christmas

“Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot … until one day The Boss met a clever robot.” Continuing the tradition of a festive poem in the run-up to Christmas, check out this modern retelling of The Grinch from Procurious’ Content Director, Hugo Britt. 

Every Who down in Whoville liked working, a lot…
until one day The Boss met a clever robot.
It was sleek and terrific, with shining chrome knees,
and could do the work of fifteen FTEs.

The Boss called upon her executive team
and said with a grin that was grinchy and mean
“We’ll buy ten of these robots – that’s one hundred and fifty
Whos off the payroll – won’t that be thrifty?”

The head of HR gave a horrified gasp
“But the timing!” he said. “It’s a bit much to ask
your Whos to take a redundancy now!
It’s Christmas next week and there’ll be a huge row!”

The Boss’s brow wrinkled; her face set in a leer,
“Alright” said she, “Here’s another idea …
We’ll bring in the bots – my decision is set,
but we won’t dump the Whos for a little while yet.
They can work side-by-side for two weeks or more,
and come New Years Day, they’re right out the door.”

The very next day when the Whos came to work
They marched through the door and then stopped with a jerk
For sitting there, gleaming, daunting and massive
At the end of ten desks was a robot, impassive.

And then when the Whos all cried out “What’s the deal?”
They were shocked when the robots replied with this spiel:
“We’re your new metal workmates – we’re starting today!
We’re cognitive, clever, and can dance the ballet.
We’ll work round the clock and charge not a cent …
The ROI on us is 10,000 per cent!”

The Whos stomped as one to the Head of HR.
Seen dimly through the haze of his half-smoked cigar.
“What’s with the robots? ‘Workmates’ indeed –
You’re going to replace us! They work twice our speed!”

The head of HR, while stroking his beard
assured them it wasn’t so bad as they feared.
“They’re just here to assist. Fear not for your jobs.
Robots are the future! Stop being such snobs!
You’re quite safe (for now) so help them onboard
and we’ll have another discussion … moving forward.”

* * * * * * *

Two weeks passed quite quickly; the new year dawned bright
the Boss checked her calendar and smiled in delight.
“Today I’ll cut costs in a manner abundant –
I’ll tell one hundred and fifty Whos they’re redundant.”

She leapt to the lift and pressed second floor –
preparing to show all non-robots the door.
But when she arrived she received a surprise
At the hustle and bustle before her two eyes.

The head of the Whos leapt straight to his feet
and said “Thanks for the robots! They’re totally neat!
We worried that they would steal all our careers
but now it turns out these were unfounded fears.”

“We no longer need to do tactical chores –
mind-numbing spreadsheets and other such bores –
These robots are handling all of those tasks …
Now we have time to be strategic at last!”

The Head of HR stepped forward, then. “It’s true!
The robots are great, but your humans are too.
They’re thinking new thoughts; they’re stepping outside
the box we created with the tactical side.”

“Innovation is up! Relationships too!
Soft skills are unlocking new value for you.
These Whos are terrific – we never foresaw
that with time on their hands they can do so much more.”

The Boss raised her voice to address the whole throng
and shouted aloud “It turns out I was wrong!
I’d thought that these bots would make you inessential;
instead they’ve unlocked your hidden potential.”

“So just let me wish you a most festive season,
secure in your jobs, and having new reason
to be joyful about this happy yuletide:
humans and robots, at work side-by-side.”

Christmas Supply Chains and Fist Fights in the Toy Aisles

Do you remember the Tickle-Me-Elmo War of 1996? What about the Cabbage Patch Kid Riots of 1983? No amount of long-term forecasting can prepare manufacturers and retailers for the moment a product becomes the “must-have” toy of the season.

Robert Waller, a clerk at a Canadian Wal-Mart, told a harrowing tale about toy-mania in an interview with People after the Christmas rush of 1996. He was unpacking the latest shipment of Tickle Me Elmo (a vibrating, giggling plush toy based on a character from Sesame Street), when he became uncomfortably aware of a crowd of about 300 people watching him carefully. He opened a box, pulled out an Elmo – and the crowd stampeded.

““I was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans,” Waller told People. “I remember being kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious.” Waller also suffered a pulled hamstring, injuries to his back, jaw and knee, a broken rib and concussion.

Tyco, the toy company behind the craze, saw its sales surge to an astonishing $350 million that year as every one of the million Elmo toys was snapped up.  Meanwhile, scalpers were buying the US$29.99 toy by the dozen and asking up to $10,000 on eBay by the end of the year.

The “hot-toy” phenomenon tends to happen  every year, with fist-fights breaking out in toy aisles over prizes such as Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Teletubbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Elsa from Frozen (who had been stripped from shelves by November of 2014) and – most recently – Hatchimals. Retailers respond by refusing to accept pre-orders and limiting purchases to one per customer.

Avoiding a Christmas disaster

Unless you’re a parent who missed out on getting the must-have toy of the season, none of the examples above are really “disasters” for the manufacturers and retailers involved. If a toy sells out in November, there’s certainly a missed opportunity if you are unable to get another shipment onto shelves before Christmas, but it’s still a success story.

The real disasters, these days, are taking place in online ordering and fulfilment. Customers are extremely unforgiving when it comes to a Christmas order not being delivered, as was demonstrated when Toys “R” Us first tried to take advantage of the online shopping craze in 1999. The company promised customers that any orders made on or before December 10 would arrive by Christmas, but as an unexpected number of orders rolled in, warehouses managers realised it would be impossible to keep this promise. Toys “R” Us sent an email to customers two days before Christmas, which led to the media making the toy retailer the focus for stories about shipping delays and tarnishing the brand for years. After this disaster, Toys “R” Us (which recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S.) handed over its logistics management to Amazon.

A similar story played out in Australia in 2015 where some customers who pre-ordered their Christmas hams online with Australia’s two largest supermarkets were told at the last minute their orders were not going to be fulfilled. While a missed delivery at any other time in the year may be forgiven, emotive customer backlash at Christmas time is particularly fierce.

In other news this week:

J. Shipman Gold Medal – ISM Calls For Nominations (U.S.)

  • The J. Shipman Gold Medal Award recognises leaders in the profession who have worked diligently to promote the advancement of procurement and supply management. Now in its 87th year, the award is the highest honour conferred by ISM.
  • Nominees are considered role models, mentors and community leaders who have helped others excel in their careers. They have had innovative ideas, and their persistent efforts have helped improve the profession.
  • View a list of previous J. Shipman Gold Medal Award winners here.

Download a nomination form . Nominations must be submitted by February 1st 2018.

Meet the James Bond of Procurement

Looking for some holiday reading? We review Christopher Hepworth’s “The Last Oracle”, a fast-paced thriller starring Sam Jardine, the world’s greatest negotiator – and a procurement professional!

As a series of bizarre climate-related events occur across our planet, it seems the world is edging towards a catastrophic tipping point.

Rex Daingerfield is the owner of a giant fracking company that seeks to exploit a rich seam of gas in the environmentally sensitive Greenland ice shelf. But Daingerfield has a nemesis – his daughter. Born to an Egyptian mother, she is inducted as the Oracle of the Temple of Sekhmet. Her role is to protect the earth from the likes of her father.

The Oracle recruits the world’s greatest negotiator, Sam Jardine, to convince her father to change his destructive business model. But a secret society of the rich and powerful stands to profit from the chaos that has gripped the world. Led by an errant priest from the Temple of Sekhmet, they will do anything to stop Jardine.

As the planet edges closer to disaster, Jardine is confronted by politicians, lobbyists, vested interests – even his own radicalised half-brother – all of whom stand to gain from the mayhem about to be unleashed.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Here’s what we enjoyed about this book.

A procurement hero

Sam Jardine is a procurement professional who is sent all over the world on special projects when his incredible powers of negotiation are required.

He is described in some of the advertising around The Last Oracle as “the new James Bond”. There are certainly some similarities – he keeps his cool in the novel’s many action scenes, he loves fast (solar-powered) cars, and he wins the heart of at least two female characters. But in many ways, his character has more depth than Bond. Jardine isn’t always sure of himself, and one of the strongest themes running through the book is his internal conflict between loyalty (and fear of) his oil-industry employer, his own conscience and his knowledge of impending climate catastrophe. He’s also very fallible – he makes mistakes, he gets severely injured on more than one occasion, and he doesn’t always “get the girl” despite his good looks and charm.

Jardine is also described as the world’s greatest negotiator – and this holds true, with arguably the best scenes in the novel being negotiations. Jardine leverages his cultural intelligence when negotiating with an African tribal chief, thinks fast to save his job in an interview with his furious CEO, negotiates for his life before a vengeful Egyptian goddess, locks horns with Washington lobbyists and politicians, and even extracts a multi-million dollar family secret from a drunken uncle in an English pub for the price of two pints of ale and a packet of crisps. The back-and-forth dialogue in these scenes is spot-on, and Jardine frequently wins the day by taking a risk that his opponents (and the reader) doesn’t expect.

The characters

Although there are some characters in the novel who have more scope for development, such as the ruthless fracking tycoon Rex Daingerfield, the bullish oilman Chuck Crawford, and even some radicalised Islamic terrorists, there are a handful of characters that are gratifyingly complex. We’ve already mentioned the hero Jardine’s internal struggles. Daingerfield’s mysterious daughter, Sienna, is one of three strong, intelligent female characters that Jardine interacts with, and faces a schizophrenic struggle between her identity as a holy oracle of an ancient Egyptian goddess, her filial duty to her father, and her mission to prevent an environmental holocaust. This conflict eventually lands her in psychiatric care. The theme of mental health is also present in Jardine’s younger brother Jack, whose internal demons and severe lack of judgement makes him an easy recruit for the aforementioned terrorists. 

The author is a CPO!

To let you in on a secret, “Christopher Hepworth” is actually a pseudonym. The author is head of procurement in their country for one of the world’s leading insurers, and therefore knows a thing or two about negotiation.

The world needs more procurement heroes, including fictional ones, to help raise the profile of the profession. Five stars!

The Last Oracle is the third Sam Jardine Thriller from author Christopher Hepworth. Read more reviews and purchase your copy on Amazon.

Micro-inequities Add Up

How often do you a halt a conversation, mid-flow to check your phone or reply to a text message? Ever thought about how actions like this impact the people around you? Tom Verghese explains micro-inequities. 

Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

Let me ask you this question, how many of you have experienced one or more of the following scenarios:

  • You’re talking to someone and they’re looking at their watch while you’re sharing some information
  • You’re talking to someone and they’re texting on their phone
  • You’re talking to someone, the phone rings, they turn around and they have a long conversation with the other person on the phone while you’re just standing there?
  • How many of you have experienced being excluded from small talk?
  • How about someone passing you in the corridor of the office without speaking or saying “Hello” to you?
  • Have you ever had the experience of someone taking credit for your work?
  • How about someone constantly mispronouncing your name and not making any effort to get it right?
  • Or someone calling you a nickname without your permission?

All these are examples of what is known as micro-inequities. Micro-inequities is a term defined by Mary Rowe in the 1970s. They are defined as those subtle and disrespectful behaviours that exclude others. Sometimes they’re very difficult to recognise for both the person doing it and for the person receiving it. When you commit a micro-inequity you may only do one at a time and it may not have a big impact, but it is easy to imagine how over a period of time these individual behaviours can add up and have a significant impact. It’s like a drop of rain – if a drop of water hits you it probably won’t make a difference, but if drops of water hit you constantly it is certainly going to get you wet!

How do you become more aware of the impact of your behaviour?

The key issue here is how can each of us be more consciously aware about our behaviour and its impact on others? One way to address this question is to understand the idea of micro-affirmations. Micro-Affirmations are the opposite of micro-inequities and again are often the small and subtle behaviours that demonstrate inclusion.

One example of a micro-affirmation behaviour is inclusive verbal skills. When you’re leading a group discussion, make sure that you are involving everyone. Encourage contributions from everyone in the group, especially those who are quiet. There will always extroverts and introverts; extroverts are those who always have ideas to contribute to the meetings, and it’s easy if you are not being conscious to actually exclude the introverts. You may need to specifically ask the introverts for their ideas and input.

A second example is using non-verbal skills such as eye contact, smiling and nodding of the head. Acknowledge people when they speak up and say something, or make a contribution to the team. These micro-affirmations will lead to a greater sense of inclusion for all.

In today’s world of social media, it’s really tempting when you’re talking to someone to answer your phone or send a text. I’m not saying that you can’t ever do that, but I would challenge you to try to be conscious of what you are doing and its impact on others. It is not difficult to ask for permission to put a conversation on hold while you answer a phone call. Alternatively, have the phone on silent mode and focus and be present in that conversation.

Sprinting Outside Your Comfort Zone

When ultra-athlete, World Vision Ambassador and Melbourne Big Ideas Summit speaker Samantha Gash ran 3253 kilometres across India in scorching heat and punishing humidity, she discovered that even best-laid plans will always go awry. But, as she tells Procurious, any challenge can be overcome by adapting your plan, recalibrating and moving forward.    Hear Samantha Gash LIVE at the Melbourne Big Ideas Summit on Monday 30th October. Click here to learn more.

Who could be a better pick to talk about endurance than an ultra-marathon runner? As a former lawyer turned athlete, Samantha Gash has experienced challenges that require an enormous amount of persistence both within a corporate environment and on the running trail. She has seen first-hand how projects and big ideas will fail without the right mindset strategies, and the extraordinary achievements we’re capable of when we step outside of our comfort zone and tap into our hidden reserves of persistence.

As a World Vision Ambassador, Samantha Gash ran 3253 kilometres in 76 days across India, raising over $150,000 to fund education programs and creating a global digital campaign around the barriers to quality education for children across India. Her other achievements include a 1968km expedition run along South Africa’s Freedom Trail and four 250km desert ultramarathons as part of the Racing The Planet – Four Deserts Grand Slam.

It’s an impressive list, and reading it on paper doesn’t do justice to the heat, flies, exhaustion, injuries and sheer discomfort Samantha must have experienced on these ultramarathons. As she will tell the audience at the Melbourne Big Ideas Summit on October 30th, things never go to plan – but that’s okay, particularly if you have the right mindset to adapt and push onwards.

Adaptability

“You need to be incredibly prepared in the lead-up to a challenge, but upon execution you also need to be highly adaptable,” says Samantha. “Both components are important, because it’s likely that you’ll need to completely change what you thought you needed to do once things really kick off.”

Samantha isn’t exaggerating when she says that in India, not one day went to plan. “From weeks two to four, I was physically and mentally shaken by the fact that I had to walk for considerable periods at a time. I was experiencing body shutdown, brought on by the stress of running across India in 44 degrees and over 90% humidity, combined with trying to keep up with a demanding content schedule to meet stakeholder obligations when it would be optimal for my performance if I could rest”.

For two of the eleven weeks in India, Samantha says she was pretty much crawling. “My stomach blew up, I was getting injuries, and I wasn’t giving myself the recovery I needed. My body wouldn’t let me move beyond a power walk and short running sections. Eventually, I realised that I had to roll with it, and accepted that this was the reality for that part of the challenge. And that’s when my body started to heal itself. Seventy-seven days later, my body was injury free and powerfully running up the mountains in the east of India”.

Samantha says that when you’re doing projects of this scale, you’ll inevitably go through a breakdown period before you get to the adaption phase. “You have to be calm and kind to your body – it’s essential to get through this anxiety-ridden period.”

Relentless forward motion

The language Samantha uses – adaptability, stakeholders, execution – comes across as highly professional and wouldn’t be out of place in a corporate environment, reflecting her background as a lawyer. But there’s one over-used business catchphrase – “moving forward” – that takes on a different meaning when used by an endurance athlete.

“’Relentless forward motion’ is the idea that it doesn’t always matter how fast you’re moving; so long as you’re moving forward, you’re always moving towards your goal. It’s important to think about the strategic parts of the project when you’ll need to devote 100% of your focus and greater energy. When the odds are stacked against me in endurance racing, I rely on the strategies I have prepared that allow me to move forward.

“In a long term endurance event, whether physical or mental, people inevitably burn out and choose to opt out of the challenge. However, if you can’t mindfully push past the challenges, it’s irrelevant how fast you went.”

Strategic vulnerability

Samantha recommends that leaders should put on their “armour of toughness” at challenging times to make sure a project continues to move forward. This is particularly important at the start of a project, but down the track it’s often a good idea to show some vulnerability.

“Effective leaders know that it’s important to be able to show vulnerability, and also to accept vulnerability in others, in order to reach your goal,” says Samantha. “Sometimes the strongest leaders are the ones who can show their team a degree of vulnerability. Reversing the roles of leader and follower enables the team to step up and support you, because you won’t get the best out of your team members if you always show strong solid leadership and direct workflow.”

Samantha Gash is part of an incredible line up of inspirational, international speakers appearing LIVE at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit Melbourne on Monday 30th October. Time is running out – reserve your seat today!

Annual Leave: Make Sure You Seize The Days!

It’s the same story around the globe. Paid annual leave is yours for the taking but you never quite get round to using it…We need to shake up our priorities!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Years ago, there were days that all blurred into one. I’d finish the week with little recollection of conversations had, what I’d achieved, or what job seekers I’d placed in amazing roles.

I loved my job. I loved it so much that I worked round the clock. You see, recruitment, like any sales role, is fast-paced and competitive. And the fear of losing a job to a competitor drove me to stay connected, 24/7. It also took priority ahead of personal relationships, which reflecting back, was a big mistake and huge learning curve.

Before I founded Agency Iceberg, I took two weeks off. I had resigned to launch my own business because I felt the recruitment industry needed a voice that would stand up for others, promote positive opportunities for women to address the gender gap, help parents find flexible roles and challenge the idea that recruitment was a ‘boys club’ or that talent agents will cut corners in any shape or form to make money.

Finding time to re-wire

It was also during this time I started doing things a little differently. I bought my first dog, Marlowe. I reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with from putting work first. I caught up with industry mentors to seek advice about launching my own business. And, after spending a few days recovering, I eventually started to feel my brain rewire itself and began ‘hearing’ conversations again!

Also, without being KPI driven, I didn’t need to check my phone as often. I wasn’t worried about missing out on client or talents’ urgent needs. My needs were put first. I started feeling calmer. I could concentrate for longer periods of time and recall conversations a week later. When my girlfriends and I caught up, I could relax and spend more time learning about their lives, rather than worrying when to get back to my desk and be reactive to other people’s needs.

After a few weeks of weeks rest and catching up with industry peers for advice and encouragement I felt that I was ready to focus on myself, my body (and lack of exercise and poor nutrition that needed to be seriously addressed) and my new professional goal: to start my own business.

If perspective was a performance enhancing drug, I’d be the first in line to sell it

In a 2010 survey of 1,700 global professional services workers, it was found that, “on average, workers report spending slightly more than half (51 per cent ) of their work day receiving and managing information, rather than actually using information to do their jobs”.

Furthermore, and perhaps more worryingly, “an average of half (51 per cent) of all those surveyed in each country say that if the amount of information they receive continues to increase, they will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ at which they will be unable to handle any more”.

At what point do we learn to stop?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t. In 2014, 11 per cent of Australians took no annual leave in 2014. Workplace perception around taking leave, leaving work on time, and what it means as a ‘productive worker’ weighs heavily on many workers, including those who come to Agency Iceberg offices feeling exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

In my own experience, I didn’t take annual leave because I felt guilty about it in the past. And when I did take leave, it wasn’t uncommon for employers to call me with urgent requests, so often I felt anxious, even when away from the office.

In Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Earned Leave?, the US Travel Association reviewed the factors contributing to Americans not taking paid leave. While a number of factors contribute to the findings, it suggests perhaps senior management plays a role in perpetuating myths that holidays are a ‘once a year’ goal.

“There is a striking disconnect between the importance that workers place on taking PTO [paid time off], and the ease with which they feel that they can take it. The central challenge is closing this gap”, the report said.

“Far too many employers do not encourage taking PTO (in policy and/or communications), and senior business leaders send mixed signals about the importance and benefit of taking PTO. Only 32 per cent of workers say that their employer encourages taking PTO; 33 per cent of senior business leaders either say nothing (19 per cent) or only discuss the merits of taking PTO once a year (14 per cent).”

Given that Australia has the third highest amount of average annual leave, behind countries such as the UK and Sweden, we aren’t lacking for options.

So why aren’t we taking leave more regularly, instead of when we’re nearly out of juice?

Well, as the Overwhelmed America report indicates, perhaps it is less about official policy, and more about how whether employees worry they’ll be ill perceived if they take regular breaks; the workload to manage while away; and that the business might actually fall over if they do hit pause.

The report writes, “the top barriers to taking PTO are a ‘mountain of work’ (40 per cent  difficult to take PTO), nobody else can do the work (35 per cent ), cannot afford it (33 per cent), and taking time gets harder to do the higher up you go (33 per cent) … Senior business leaders think taking time off is harder the higher up you go (56 per cent to 28 per cent for employees), that nobody else can do the work (54 to 31 per cent), and that they would come back to a mountain of work (54 to 37 per cent).”

Someone else CAN do the work

The idea that ‘no one else can do the work’ is a theme that I have felt very deeply in the past. There were years when I felt if I missed a day of work, there wasn’t anyone else in the business who could do the deal. It’s only looking back now, I realise how devoid of reality that really was. My colleagues were so darned good at their jobs, what I was actually worried about was missing out on a deal myself.

If you’re a top performer, the business will certainly miss you. But, as I’ve learned for myself, if you have failed to create a workflow that others can pick up in the occasion you get hit by a bus, or, your employer is not committed to resourcing regular leave, maybe there’s something in our  work DNA we need to seriously rethink.

There’s a lot to be said for the impact to productivity and motivation when employers build in reflection and decompression time. In addition to cognitive benefits, regular breaks promote decreased stress levels, higher productivity levels, intensified concentration levels, ability to regulate emotions and deal with stress at work, and the ability to delegate more effectively.

Prioritise rest and rejuvenation

Experience has told me, as countless books and studies do, the more regularly we prioritise rest and rejuvenation, the most effective and impactful we will be at work, as well as happier, and we can actually enjoy each other’s company every day.

Since my career break, I’ve made a commitment to not only lead by example by taking quarterly breaks, but to actively encourage my team to make plans every three months to get out of the office. I often sit down with my team during our weekly WIPs and openly discuss travel plans for the year to let them know that it’s okay to plan your personal life and enjoy it! You don’t need to tip-toe around the office and quietly plan your annual leave.

There are 365 days in the year, 249 workdays, and 20 annual leave days up for grabs in Australia. How are you going to spend yours?

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here

Anna O’Dea is a recruitment expert, LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 and Founder and Director of Agency Iceberg. This article was originally published on Smart Company.