How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?
This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves.
So how do you make sure you’re the former?
One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks.
Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times.
Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:
What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style?
Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays?
Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact.
Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are:
‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’
Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead:
‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’
‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’
How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?
Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today.
From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style:
‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’
Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style:
‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’
‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’
Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says.
Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position?
Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader?
Absolutely, Amber says.
In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority:
‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’
‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’
Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains:
‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’
‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’
Also in the podcast:
What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times
The pink recession
And much more.
Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.
Reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things. Procurement and Supply Chain Influencer, Kelly Barner reveals what what they are and why it is important…
With world social media day only moments away, it’s time to reflect on how far the procurement profession has come in promoting itself to the broader business community and the world.
It was only six short years ago that we launched Procurious as the world’s first online network for procurement and supply chain….and since then we have seen a plethora of social media influencers emerge representing our profession.
But before any of us burst onto the scene, Kelly Barner was already here, promoting the work of our profession on Buyers Meeting Point, publishing books and writing original content to help upskill the profession while promoting key individuals, brands, publications and events within the industry.
Thinkers 360 and CPOStrategy Magazine recently recognised Kelly as the number one influencer on social media for procurement. So what has been her secret? How do you become the most influential person in a space where everyone is vying for attention? I reached out to Kelly to find out.
Kelly Barner: In my opinion, reaching influencer status on social media in any industry comes down to two things:
1. Consistently working at it day in and day out. I’ve been sharing and engaging on social media since 2010. In the early days, I didn’t have a following, but I stayed on course, actively promoting my own content and following others and commenting on their content. I use some platforms to help me automatically promote content periodically after the main promotional window is over, but I do 99% of my social media work the ‘old fashioned way’ – I do it myself, as me, every day. If your online brand is important to you, you can’t fake authenticity. Give it 5-10 minutes a day, every day. That is enough to make a noticeable difference.
2. Not generating a following for the sake of the following, but looking at it as a natural (and very valuable!!) byproduct of doing excellent work, writing excellent content, and building real connections with real people. If you are just focused on building up your numbers, you will end up with an audience built for the wrong reason, and those connections won’t help you achieve your primary mission.
Tania: When the field is open wide, it can often be tough to find the courage to “be the first” and get started. I know it found me a while to “find my voice” (and I still may be looking!), but it took a lot of courage to get started sharing my stories on social media.
Kelly: This is one of those cases where it helps not to have any idea what you are doing. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes along the way (and continue to make them to this day), especially since I don’t have any training in marketing, PR, or social media strategy. But it has helped to have good friends by my side along the way. The procurement community is made up of amazing, generous, inspiring people that never fail to inspire me with new ideas and approaches to tough problems.
Tania: But now the field isn’t wide open, we have a lot of influencers in our space, and in some ways, that could be more daunting – you could feel that you don’t have a unique story to tell, that it’s all been said..and maybe by people that you think are better than you.
Kelly: Everyone has a unique perspective to offer – that is the first, most important lesson I learned from Jon Hansen. He has been my mentor since day one, and early on I asked him why he was helping me. We both had blogs, and I wondered why he didn’t see me as a competitor. He pointed out (in his friendly, genuine way) that as long as we both write from our own point of view, there is no such thing as competition. No one can ever be you, and as a result, you will always have a unique offering to bring to the market. You can also beat people on time and quality. Work faster, and make sure your work is cleaner, that everyone else’s, and the readers will follow.
Tania: I’ve always encouraged our community that they have a lot of great stories to tell. We have such interesting careers, interfacing with so many interesting, unique issues every day.
Kelly: The secret to great writing and social media engagement is… READING! I know that isn’t the most popular activity these days because we are all so busy. But it is absolutely critical. Read content on procurement, supply chain, business, communication – absolutely everything you can get your hands on. I read several newspapers every day as well as blogs, and monthly/quarterly business journals. It is amazing how often inspiration and insight come from unexpected sources. And – back to the idea of having a unique point of view – since no one else will be reading the same mix of sources as you, no one can duplicate your perspective.
Tania: With due cause, COVID has been a hectic time in procurement and on the news scene. Our recent How Now report showed how well our profession handled the stress and actually have an increased interest and commitment to building a career in procurement and supply chain.
Kelly: I think procurement has done an outstanding job keeping the lights on in these unprecedented times. Who else knows how to get hard to find products and services? Who else can be creative about solving problems on the fly? Our companies have relied upon our agility and determination, but so have our families. I’m sure I am not the only procurement professional who applied her knowledge of supply chain management to keep the house stocked with food, medicine and – yes – even toilet paper. We’ve had some odd meals (turkey kielbasa, stewed tomatoes, and buttered toast, anyone?) but we always had something to eat – and I never missed a deadline at Buyers Meeting Point.
Given the additional information supply chains have received since the pandemic began, I think there is good reason to be hopeful that a flood of talented, hardworking professionals from other fields will join procurement and supply chain because of what they have read and seen during the shutdowns.
Tania: Speaking of increasing influence, Kelly, you have just made a big strategic decision to purchase MyPurchasingCenter from another female entrepreneur.
Kelly: MyPurchasingCenter was owned by MediaSolve Group, a B2B Marketing Company led by Michelle Palmer, and it was edited for a long time by another well-known figure in the procurement industry: former Purchasing Magazine Senior Editor Susan Avery. They were both determined that ownership of MyPurchasingCenter go to someone that wanted it for the right reasons; not to part it out or gut its assets, but who would show respect for its legacy as a standalone information resource.
I worked on this acquisition for A LONG TIME. I knew Buyers Meeting Point was uniquely positioned to show the respect that Michelle and Susan wanted to see (and rightly so!) and to create tangible value with the MyPurchasingCenter brand, content, and social media accounts.
Tania: Just like when you started Buyers Meeting Point, this acquisition is a big step, it must have taken courage. Were you nervous about the next step. Can you give any advice to people wanting to take that first entrepreneurial step?
Kelly: My short answer to that question would be, “Just GO!” With the exception of ensuring your personal finances are in a state to support the leap before making it, you can’t overthink the decision to step out on your own. If you do, logic will stack up against the decision to become an entrepreneur every time. Nothing in the world can prepare you for starting a business, but no professional experience offers more riches. The highs and lows, gains and pains are like nothing else. I highly recommend that anyone who gets the ‘itch’ seriously consider acting on it!
Tania: What do you think the profession will look like in five years? What will MPC/Buyers Meeting Point look like in five years?
Kelly: In five years, I think procurement will be a primarily data-driven profession. Technology will be able to handle a lot of the process work we do today, leaving us to analyze data and work at the highest levels of the enterprise to inform and contribute to the development of corporate strategy.
My plan for BMP and MPC is to continue supporting all of the information needs of procurement and supply chain professionals. Five years from now, I imagine the full MPC content archive will be back online and I will have had some other creative spark about how to perpetuate the brand on my own. I can’t wait to find out what I come up with!
Tania: There’s a few things I’ve always admired about Kelly (being a lovely person would be the first), but from a business perspective, that she’s achieved this number one status, that she’s managed to do this without having to leave her family and travel like a madwoman around the globe to build her network and that she’s a great collaborator.
We’ve talked about the achievement of her influence, but what about being able to build this global network without travelling. Kelly, what’s your secret? Do you think face to face is a myth? Has all our Zoom, Webex, etc during COVID proved your approach?
Kelly: This is absolutely a unique point about my experience. I was a consultant traveling almost 100% of the time when I had my daughter 12 years ago. Overnight, I went from jetsetting to full-time first time parent, and it was quite a shock. I joined Buyers Meeting Point in 2009, 4 months before my oldest son was born (referring back to my point about about not overthinking the leap to entrepreneurship – logic would have told me that was a TERRIBLE idea! Who starts a business with a newborn and a 20 month old?). My youngest son was born in 2012, so I have had babies and/or kids for every minute of my entrepreneurial journey. It is amazing what technology will allow you to achieve. I don’t even have a home office. Before COVID-19, I worked at the kitchen table, and after my family all came home to roost full time, I moved to the dining room because I didn’t want peanut butter and jelly splattered on my laptop.
I’m also lucky that I live about an hour from Boston, which brings a lot of people into my backyard. I make the most of those opportunities, and I have met many of my global colleagues – including you, Tania! – in person. There is something magical about sitting face to face across the table from someone you already have an online relationship with.
There is no question that being able to travel would have accelerated my career and influence, but not being able to travel wasn’t a deal breaker. Now that everyone else is in the same boat, I have an advantage because I’ve been working this way for over a decade.
Tania: And collaboration, you’ve always collaborated with others in the profession – Jon Hansen, Phil Ideson, and Stephanie Lapierre to name a few. I totally subscribe to this, we’re going to get a lot further promoting the profession if we all promote each other. What’s been your approach to collaboration? How do you choose who you want to collaborate with? Will you be collaborating more or less with others into the future?
Kelly: Deciding who to collaborate with has always been a gut decision for me. If I like you, there is almost nothing I won’t do for you. I received a ton of goodwill from people who were practically strangers when I was first on my own, and I have made a point of paying that generosity forward. This is another one of those areas where you can’t fake authenticity. If you really like someone, the collaboration comes naturally. If you don’t ‘click’ with someone, nothing can fix it. I’ve actually gotten stomach aches from dealing with certain people over the years, and I trust that 100%. After all, what is the good of taking on all of the risk of being out on your own if you can’t reap the benefits of being able to decide who you will work with and for?
I hope that leaves everyone inspired, with some great practical tips for increasing your own social media influence.
From my own perspective, building a really compelling profile on Procurious is a great way to start promoting yourselves to 40,000 other procurement and supply chain pros around the world…and also connecting with them to solve your daily challenges.
Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.
Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same?
As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French.
I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance:
What are our strengths and why do they matter?
Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain.
People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing.
Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.
How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success?
Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that.
In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable.
Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions:
When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time?
What was the best day of the last week and why?
When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did?
Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs.
But how do you help others realise their strengths?
One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at.
An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’
Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.
Also in the podcast:
I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it
I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses.
Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.
Think parenthood and COVID-19 have nothing in common? Think again. Read on for 5 lessons that parenting a toddler has taught me and how these apply to emergency procurement situations.
It is pretty difficult working from home with a toddler at any time, but even more so during a lockdown.
I fell into despair last week. The pressure was on. Two phones were ringing off the hook from an emergency situation, when my toddler ripped off their pants and became the entertaining backdrop for my video call.
COVID-19 lockdown is one of those moments that will be earmarked in my time capsule. It seemed to hit at once across all fronts. Work and home life were hurled into turmoil.
But rather than spiralling into a work/life balance death spiral, I called on some of the valuable lessons I have learnt as a parent. Rather than being a distraction, they have been my secret to success in managing myself and my team through a series of emergencies bought on my the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 has been impacting business both domestically and internationally for some months, requiring rapid action from commercial teams. My role is to provide support, to draft contracts, create requirements, obtain pricing and negotiate. It’s a team effort, but a mammoth amount of energy for each person involved.
Take on board these 5 simple lessons from my time dealing with emergency situations.
1. Set your pace and do so carefully
Just like parenthood, the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the adrenaline that comes with working on critical and time pressured projects makes you want to sprint. In fact you tell everyone you’re fine and can take on even more work! Foolish. This is a recipe for burnout and one I learned the hard way.
During a recent time pressured day, I drew on the parenting experience of trying to be an octopus. The dinner is about to boil over the kid comes running in with a live grasshopper and someone is knocking at the door.
I had 20 minutes to review 6 contracts and make a determination about next steps. The only thing you do in these situations is scan the most important details that you need to check and be a speedy risk mitigation machine! It pays to have your manager on stand-by to ratify your decisions.
2. It’s practical not technical
You can read all the parenting books you like, but it’s not until you have sole accountability for a human being that you really know what the job is all about!
In procurement, getting the call to undertake an emergency project can be quite unnerving. My first thoughts were to start questioning all my technical knowledge, but I needn’t have worried. Commercial acumen in practice can look like asking the obvious questions and checking the basics. It is surprising in the pace of the environment and the revolving door of personnel what is not pieced together. Back yourself to ask the tough and difficult questions no matter what your title or rank.
Questions that should be asked when delivering goods overseas at speed: what happens if the recipient country situation changes in transit? When should ownership and transfer of assets kick in? Check warranties, support and training. How useful is it if the helpdesk is in a different time zone?
3. Don’t forget the day job
Parenting is a 24/7/365 day job. It never ends. Managing a procurement team during an emergency situation is not much different. During the COVID-19 crisis, the biggest thing I’ve struggled with is providing quality leadership and management to my team. I hold myself to high standards. When I answer the call on a Sunday to work on the next emergency situation it is hard to find the time to run the day to day. Being honest with the team and sharing what I’m working on helps them to contextualise their work. Leaning on management and peers to share the management load relieves a lot of pressure for me. I had to know when to stick my hand up and utter those difficult words “I’m at capacity”.
4. Pants are optional
When emergency situations have arisen in the past, I tended to try to shoo away the other aspects of my life. This is pretty difficult to do with a toddler in my bubble in lockdown. Particularly when they have taken their discarded pants and walked into my zoom meeting with their pants on their head. This is a leveller.
It reminded me what is most important. When I started opening up about this and other life necessities like going for a walk or going to the supermarket I found a willing and supportive environment ready to cover me.
Negotiating with two suppliers for two separate but interrelated contracts with different time zones will not be done in an hour. Looming press conference announcements weigh heavily and it is easy for anxiety to set in about securing signatures quickly. I learned that my butt in the chair is not going to speed the process up any faster. I needed to go out for walks and prioritise what self-care I needed.
5. Protect your space
When you’re working from home the environments can bleed into one another. It is important to have a separate workspace that is away from other areas. For me it caused confusion about when I was working and when I was not, I defaulted to work mode and learned the hard way that I hadn’t switched off.
Working in a different space changed my habits and it caused me to make a mistake in my work. I didn’t pick up on something in a contract before it went for signing. I realised that it’s because I usually print a hard copy off first before signing.
I realised my “work self” identity needed to change during lockdown. I can’t hold myself to the same standards when the game has entirely changed – mistakes will happen when working at speed. It’s called being human.
I showed kindness to myself and it caused me to think more deeply about the others in my team. It’s taught me to be kinder and patient.
Play it forward
I’m determined to keep these lessons front of mind for the transition phase of returning to work. We’re all likely to be in limbo mode for a while and must be mindful of the ongoing impacts that the lockdown will have and how these can play out.
Kindness and compassion for yourself will invariably lead to more kindness and compassion for others. Put yourself first.
This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.
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There’s no doubt that stereotypes can be limiting. But there’s also a lot that all of us can do to help overcome them.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is all about celebrating women’s progress, and today, women in procurement have a lot to celebrate. A recent Oliver Wyman report found that 20 percent of the top 60 listed companies in the United States and Western Europe have female chief procurement officers (CPOs). In even better news, a lot have been promoted recently: in France alone, more than 30 women have been elevated to the top procurement role within the past 17 months, representing a 30 percent increase from four years ago. We may not be close to 50-50 just yet, but a stride this big in the right direction is certainly noteworthy.
But what’s holding us back?
While we know that it’s likely a myriad of factors, one thing’s for sure: as women, we definitely don’t need to blame ourselves. In fact, one of the most frustrating reasons that women have not yet reached equality in leadership in procurement (and most other professions) is that unhelpful gender stereotypes continue to persist in the workplace. These stereotypes mean that managers and colleagues often unconsciously make incorrect assumptions about a woman’s competence and commitment to her role, which in turn hurts her career.
Here are five of the most unhelpful stereotypes that linger in procurement offices worldwide … and what you can do to help overcome them.
Stereotype 1: Activities that involve caregiving are considered feminine
Ever gone into your office kitchen to see that the women are the ones packing the dishwasher? Or if there’s a birthday, is it a woman who is asked to find a card or a cake? While these activities might seem harmless, they only exacerbate unhelpful stereotypes that women are better ‘suited’ to caring activities and men need to get on with the more ‘important’ work.
Owing to lingering gender stereotypes, women often feel like they need to be the ones to do this type of organising and caring work. A recent study by Harvard Business Review found that women are, on average, 48 percent more likely to volunteer for these types of ‘non-promotable’ tasks, and equally likely to be asked to complete them.
So how do we overcome this unequal division of labour in the office? Simple: a roster system.
At the beginning of the year, create a list of what needs to be done, and then allocate it evenly among team members. This way, everyone understands that when there’s work to be done, everyone needs to share equally in doing it.
Stereotype 2: Risk-taking or decision making is considered a masculine strength
Procurement, as a profession, is about mitigating risk for the organisation. But in doing so, procurement professionals have to take a lot of risks. We’re constantly asking ourselves questions such as: Is this supplier really the one for us? How well do I really understand our supply chain? Can we afford to make this decision?
In doing so, we inherently need to take risks. So it follows that if we assume our female team members are less competent in doing so, we might subconsciously assign them tasks that are of lesser consequence. Doing so can hurt their career.
But this stereotype is something that women can help overcome on their own, thinks Sylvie Noël, Chief Procurement Officer at Covea Group. Sylvie believes that speaking up can be the first step to ensuring you’re not overlooked for riskier, higher-value tasks or assignments:
“[My advice to women is to] ask to be challenged in what you do and exchange ideas regularly with peers in other sectors. Make the decision to reinvent!”
Stereotype 3: Rationality is considered largely a masculine trait
According to social researcher Jenna Baddeley, the idea that men are more ‘rational’ and that women are more ‘emotional’ and hence ‘irrational’ is one of the most frustrating examples of modern sexism. Baddeley believes that this unhelpful stereotype is often used, albeit often unconsciously, to not involve women in important decision making, or to discount decisions they’ve made.
Behind the stereotype, though, is a false assumption, especially in today’s technology-driven world. The idea that emotions are ‘bad’ in decision making, and rationality is ‘good’ is simply not true. In fact, according to Baddeley:
‘Emotion in decision-making is essential. Positive emotions tell us what’s working well, whereas negative emotions show us what might be amiss.’
This is certainly true of decisions involving suppliers. As the success of our supplier relationships are often based on the relationships themselves, emotion can actually be an asset in helping to best mitigate risks and create positive outcomes.
Yet still, how do we overcome the stereotype?
Dr. Theresa Hudson, who studies men and women’s decision-making, says that we can all overcome the ‘rationality vs. emotional’ stereotype by simply using a more collaborative decision-making style, and having men and women equally ‘sign off’ on the most important decisions:
“Where ever possible, get everyone to agree on a decision,’ Says Hudson. ‘This applies for both men and women.”
Stereotype 4: Men are more successful at negotiating than women
So it follows that the stereotype that ‘men are more successful than negotiating then women’ can significantly hurt women’s procurement careers in more ways than one. And evidence shows that the assumption not only hurts us when negotiating with suppliers, but also on a broader level, in terms of how we negotiate for our careers. This is especially true when it comes to roles, promotions, and our salaries.
Although negotiating for ourselves can be terrifying, with this particular stereotype, the best way to overcome it is by simply doing it – and then practicing and practicing, until it becomes second nature. Prior to any negotiation, especially one that involves your career, ensure you follow these four steps to secure the best outcome.
Stereotype 5: Working longer hours is considered a masculine attribute, whereas flexibility is key for women
It’s a stereotype that has heralded from way back in the industrial era: the idea that hours equals productivity. Yet when women started flooding into offices in the 70s, 80s and beyond, they were forced to expect something different. How could they reconcile the never-ending working hours when they were also the primary carer of children and a household?
These unfortunate stereotypes paved the way for even more unhelpful stereotypes: the idea that women needed flexibility so they could also manage things at home (and were, as a result, mommy-tracked from a career perspective), whereas men could continue working unabated.
This IWD, I’m more motivated than ever to go beyond the hashtags and to start making meaningful change. Will you join me?
Many of us, including me, have spent recent weeks transfixed by what can only be described as horrifying news. A beautiful woman, Hannah Clarke, and her three young children, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey, were savagely murdered in Brisbane, Australia, by their estranged father, Rowan Baxter.
In 2020, after so much progress on women’s rights and equality – after #Metoo, #TimesUp and #WhyIStayed – the fact that an atrocity of this nature can happen in the first place is evidence that we haven’t come far enough. Not even close.
There’s no doubt that we need a complete overhaul of how we work to prevent domestic violence. But beyond that, for all of the progress we’ve made, women are still at a distinct disadvantage throughout their entire lives.
From the ongoing gender pay gap, to women’s decreased pension funds, to discrimination as we age, it seems to me that all of us – men and women – need to go beyond hashtags and endeavour to make meaningful change, as often as we can.
Many commentators have said that progress is slow because it requires gargantuan mindset and structural shifts. But I don’t agree.
This often means their achievements are less likely to be noticed, affecting their ability to get recognition. And, ultimately, a promotion.
But there’s a strikingly simple action you can take today to help women you know get the respect and recognition they deserve. Talk up their achievements for them!
Whether you do this in a meeting, via email or on LinkedIn, you could be the pivotal link that helps the women you know get the recognition they deserve.
So remember these 5 simple ways to show women respect this International Women’s Day – and do your bit towards boosting equality in your workplace.
To give more women respect and recognition this IWD, Procurious is asking you to tag your procurement and supply chain #HERo on LinkedIn – and tell us why she’s so great. Here’s our inspiring post on LinkedIn, to which you can add your nominations.
your heart is broken, how hard is it to turn up to work every day and perform?
so many of us have to do it every day. Our worlds may have fallen apart – the
loss of a loved one, a falling out with a friend or colleague, the loss of
money or an important opportunity – yet each day we drag ourselves to the front
door, put on a mask and carry on doing our jobs with a smiley face, but a
that’s kind of what I’ve been doing every day since my mother passed away eight
worry, I’m fine, and I’ll explain, but I’m just saying – I understand.
feel your pain.
When I found out the clock was ticking
For me, bad news often seems to arrive at the most inconvenient time for my professional life. We knew that Mum was gravely ill, but the final news that Mum only had months to live arrived at the start of a one-month business trip I had in the US last September.
had just arrived in San Francisco. The
news came in the middle of the night (the joy of timezones) and I just cried
one of my favourite speakers (and human beings on the planet), Nicky Abdinor
says, always be grateful. Even if you
have the worst day ever, you can go to bed and be grateful that the horrible
day is over. You can click ‘control,
alt, delete’ and re-boot for tomorrow.
had a lot of days like that during those four long weeks on the road in the US. When I got home, I was fortunately able to
spend two months by Mum’s side.
How much should we talk about our broken hearts?
are human, and that means we are emotional.
But our modern workplaces and our community expects (and rightly so)
that we will conduct ourselves with a certain level of decorum, and if we want
to keep our jobs and our places in the community we have to play by the rules.
I worry that companies almost expect us to behave like robots (as I have said
previously in my “Beat the Bots” speeches). They expect us to do things such as
re-enter the workforce after having a child or losing a loved one and act like
it never happened.
that’s not really what being a human is about.
only are we required by our companies to behave in a certain way, but we also
need to keep participating in work, as well as in life. This isn’t only because
we’ve got bills to pay and we need to eat; it’s more than that – participation
and doing ‘normal’ things are an important part of overcoming grief.
still, it’s hard. Sometimes, so very hard. But how do we get through these
times of grief and trauma without totally embarrassing ourselves, tainting our
hard-earned reputations and maybe even losing our jobs and family?
Juggling through work and life
As I’ve written
previously, we have to somehow find a way to keep all the juggling balls in the
air, with the balls being work, family, health etc. But the important thing to
know is that some balls are made of rubber, whereas others are glass. Work is a
rubber ball, so if you drop it, it will bounce back, but others, like your
health and family, are glass. If you drop them, they are difficult to recover.
raising my family and supporting my mother’s health, I have had to drop the
work ball many times – and believe me, it has always bounced back.
How to keep juggling after a glass ball drops to the floor
am so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of colleagues, many of whom
have been working with me throughout Mum’s illness. They are all superstars and many stepped in
to take accountability when I had to focus on family.
I’m so grateful I have my team, this experience has reinforced what I knew all
along: if we are going to be successful leaders, we need to be resilient and
work our way through grief and disruption. This is for ourselves personally but
also for our team – if my team is distressed because I’m distressed, then not
only does my personal life fall apart, but so does my professional life.
you find yourself in a distressing situation, my advice would be to share with
your team (but not too much). They need to understand what you’re going
through; they need to see that you’re human and vulnerable. Yet at the same
time, you’re probably best placed to save them the intimate details. At the end
of the day, it is your family and friends whom you need to lean on in personal
times of crisis.
tough situations, remember to take it one step at a time and draw energy and
support from those closest to you.
Understanding what is really happening under your peers’ mask
My mother had dementia, as I’m sure many of you
know. As such, there were lots of things she couldn’t remember, like most
people’s names, what year it was, and even how old she was.
surprisingly, she could still remember her feelings at different points in her
may not remember someone’s name, but she can definitively (and accurately)
describe the emotions she associates with that person.
situation with Mum reminds me of the age-old leadership lesson:
People may not remember what you
said, but they will also remember how you made them feel.
we are all wearing our masks, we need to make an effort to understand our
peers, bosses and direct reports, and whether or not they may have some trauma
going on in their lives. Behaviour we
observe that might seem unusual, a lack of performance or a change in attitude
may be related to some grief they are experiencing, not just a competency issue
and their ability to do the job.
these situations, we need to use our super human ability to empathise. I know every time I experience a painful
event, it has made me more and more understanding of what others may be
experiencing and challenged with.
Working through a broken heart
Mum was always a huge supporter of my
professional development. When I
travelled or had a critical meeting I was nervous about, she would always say
‘Remember, I’m on your shoulder.’ And for the last few weeks, that’s where I
feel she’s been – right with me, all the way.
having Mum may have broken my heart, but it hasn’t broken my spirit. Late last
year, we worked hard across the US to garner support for Procurious’ 2020
program, and this year, I’m excited to say that our efforts were rewarded –
we’re on track for one of the biggest and most exciting years yet. Stopping now
to reflect on that, I know Mum would have been immensely proud.
now certainly isn’t the time to stop in any way, shape or form. To prosper in
this next Industrial Revolution, we need to play to our human strengths:
collaboration, connection, innovation and influence.
need to embrace our human-ness, and we need to get connected – to our team, to
our stakeholders, to our suppliers and to our community. The robots may be
coming, but the thing we have that they don’t is connection. Speaking of, get
onto Procurious now, and start making the
connections you’ll need to make your 2020 as successful as we hope ours will
We’d love to hear your stories of
career resilience – please share in the comments below.
The business case for diversity is clear – diverse teams and leaders are more innovative, collaborative, successful and profitable. But when it comes to diversity in leadership, we’re not where we need to be. How do we get there?
Procurement as a profession has proven our ability to change, to adapt and to thrive. From order takers, to expediters, to deal and market makers, we have proven we know how to make the most of an opportunity to create value, and we’ve been able to do so in ways never done before.
Yet to realise the true potential of our profession, there’s one thing I know we need to achieve that we haven’t as yet, and that is: gender equality in leadership.
Across the board, procurement performs above average from a gender perspective. A recent survey from our recruitment partners, The Source, revealed that 38% of leaders and managers in procurement are female (compared to the 30% average across all professions). This is a great start, but we’re still losing too many women along the way – when you look at entry statistics, 48% of procurement graduates are female.
If we’re doing well, then, why do better? Better diversity can help us better manage complexity and enhance profitability, as I’ll explain below. And in good news, there are (at least) five things you can do right now to help your team get there.
Why is increased diversity particularly important for procurement?
As Deloitte pointed out in their 2019 Chief Procurement Officer report, CPOs (and increasingly, all of us in procurement) have to be “complexity masters” to excel at work. As we know all too well, complexity is now coming in all shapes and sizes, including trade wars, climate change and new regulations (external complexities), stakeholder alignment (internal complexity), people, organisational models and business plans (talent complexity) and finally, digital disruption. Managing one aspect of this is challenging enough; managing all can feel overwhelming.
But greater diversity can help us do it all. Firstly, with diversity comes multiple perspectives and enhanced innovation, which will help us identify multiple solutions to solve the complex problems we face.
Diversity also helps us with everything inside our own four walls. The more diverse we are, the more likely we’ll represent the interests of those we serve, including our organisation’s customers – who are ultimately our customers. And not only do we represent our customers and stakeholders, we also better represent our own staff when we’re diverse, as we’re better able to understand them and make decisions that enhance their wellbeing.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given the expectation of strategic business partnering from procurement, diverse teams have been shown to be up to 35% more profitable. With procurement functions now often required to do more with less, diversity can be a key driver in increasing our value-add and securing resources to innovate and grow.
How to increase diversity in leadership in procurement
The challenges faced in retaining women in leadership in procurement echo those of wider society: inequality with paternity leave, unconscious bias and a lack of flexibility. But there’s so much we can do to counteract these, even on an individual level, and you don’t need to wait for society or even your organisation to catch up. If you want to reap the benefits of greater diversity in your team, try the following:
1. Give (public) praise
In order to reach a position of influence, you have to be noticed. And unfortunately, sometimes being noticed can be as much about announcing what you’re done as it can be about the actual achievement in the first place.
This can be particularly problematic for women, whom research shows can be punished for advocating for themselves. To counteract this, try giving public praise to women you believe deserve to get noticed. Whether it be on Procurious, LinkedIn, in a meeting or in front of an influential executive, giving praise can help someone be recognised and hopefully promoted.
Although this is a stereotype, there’s never any harm doing what you can to prevent it. So if you know a talented female and there’s a role going, why not encourage her to have a go?
3. Mentor and sponsor
Whether or not you’ve got diversity as an official target or KPI in your team, as a leader, you’re no doubt responsible for performance. Knowing that, it’s important that you mentor and sponsor other more junior procurement professionals – especially females.
Your mentoring can be any arrangement that suits you and the mentoree – you may want to meet regularly but informally or alternatively, you might put a more formal development plan in place. If you choose to be a ‘sponsor,’ though, you should be more active – as a sponsor, your responsibility is to specifically advocate for the person you’re working with in the hope of securing them a promotion (like giving public praise, but with a very specific end goal in mind!).
If you want to increase your impact, you could even mentor someone outside of your organisation. Procurious and The Faculty run mentoring programs in both the UK and Australia, get in touch if you’re interested.
4. Role model flexibility – regardless of your situation
If you’ve ever been in any type of leadership role, you’ll know that you can influence your people as much (or more) with your actions than with your words. One of the most important ways to influence your people is to show you trust them through giving them flexibility.
But if you’re in a position of influence, you can change this. No matter what your situation – mother, father, or non-parent, if you lead by example by both working flexibly and allowing it, you’ll help remove the stigma and as a result, help create better diversity.
5. Campaign for equal rights and equal opportunities
Although unconscious bias is still an issue, one of the biggest reasons that there are less women in leadership roles in organisations is that they have career breaks that their male counterparts may not have, by way of maternity leave(s).
But if you’re in a position of influence, you can change this by giving fathers a much sought-after opportunity to be at home. Numerous big companies have all recently removed the terms ‘primary and secondary carer’ and instead offered equal leave to all new parents. Why not advocate for this at your organisation?
In our profession, a lot can change in a year. So why not make this year the year we all rally together and create a change we can be proud of? Our profession is complex, but helping more women into leadership doesn’t need to be. Diversity benefits us all, so let’s all do what we can to help propel more women into leadership.
Tania Seary is the founder of Procurious and a passionate advocate for gender equality. If you’re interested to learn more about how to help women in leadership, tune in to our podcast ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Your Path to the Top’ webinar on January 23rd, 2:30pm BST. Register for it here.
We have assembled a panel of experienced senior leaders from different industries and different parts of the world – Lara Naqushbandi (Google), Christina Morrow (Ricoh USA) and Imelda Walsh (The Source) – to offer career advice.
And they have plenty of great insights to share with you.
Plan to succeed
Top of their list of recommendations is to have a plan.
Some people like a fully worked-out, detailed action plan. Others prefer a few tasks on a to-do list.
Either way, you’ll benefit from having made a plan. It’s a good place to start to identify the things you need to do.
And – as Imelda points out – you’re much more likely to succeed when that plan is written down.
But once you’ve made the plan don’t feel tied to it. Don’t feel you always need to stick to the programme.
Because sometimes doing that can stop you considering potential new roles that could be a great fit for you.
Take Christina’s advice and ask yourself how you would define professional success. Use that as your guide to consider whether to stick to or deviate from your plan when a new opportunity arises.
Ask what’s important now
Although the financial side of work is an important consideration, the panel members stress the drawbacks of being blindsided by the money associated with a role.
‘Look at the whole package, not just the pay cheque,’ Lara advises.
In her experience getting the balance right between work and home life is something that everyone should consider before taking on a new role.
Having a passion for what you do is something all our panel members cited as important. Imelda reports that she’s been most successful when she has a role that focuses on her passion.
Christina has always taken time out regularly to reflect on what she enjoys doing so that she’s clear on what she might want from any prospective new position.
Be open to taking risks.
This may involve deviating from your plan or exploring options to try something new.
Lara is a great believer in having an openness to risk. Going off the beaten path can often bring great benefits when thinking about the next step in a career. That’s an approach that has definitely worked for her.
But taking a step up can present new challenges and in Christina’s experience, there is always something from a previous role that you can use to build on for the next.
So don’t stay too long in one job and get bored is her advice. Take a risk and try something out of your comfort zone.
The soft skills we use every day in procurement and supply chain – like leadership, negotiation and collaboration – are just what are needed for the challenges of a new role.
Hone your network
Having a network is a great resource you can use for securing a new role.
Imelda sees many candidates who have used a mentor to help them develop and grow, achieving great success.
And mentors can help you think about how to adjust to a culture and brief that a new job can bring.
Moving between different companies can mean adjusting to completely new working environments and procedures – and even sometimes changing continents.
Lara has found she’s had to adapt her style to accommodate each company’s culture and management style.
Why not listen in to our webinar to find out more from our panel about how you can create your path to the top by: Planning your route Asking what’s important Taking risks Making the most of your network.
Register for our upcoming (free) webinar here and start 2020 out with a bang!
Ethical AND financially viable? So why aren’t more organisations taking the measures to support working families?
For more great content like this, visit Bravo, a Procurious group dedicated to promoting women in procurement.
The poet Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better”. But despite everything we know about the tangible and intangible benefits of taking care of our working families, collectively, we American business leaders provide paid family leave to just 11 per cent of U.S. workers.
Up to 35 per cent of working women in the United States who give birth never return to their jobs. And those who do return to work after the birth of a child find an unsupportive environment lacking on-site child care, lactation programmes, and paid medical leave.
Given these realities, we don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder why there is an alarming lack of women in positions of leadership, boardrooms, and public office. Women will never be able to effectively “lean in” without the proper economic, social, and community support for the most critical work of all: raising the next generation.
Supporting Families Makes Financial Sense
And the good news for skeptical business leaders? Supporting our working families with onsite child-care isn’t just the ethical thing to do (which, frankly, should be all we need if we are to be responsible leaders), it will also balance out financially.
At Patagonia, we’ve operated an onsite child development center at our headquarters in Ventura, Calif., for 33 years. For our founders, it just seemed like the right thing to do back when the company was just starting out. And our employees, in turn, give more to the company because it acts as a partner in life, not an obstacle.
As Patagonia has grown significantly, especially in recent years, our on-site child care programme has continued to play a major role in driving our success. We enjoy the sound of kids playing around our campus, and math nets out, too – making my decision last year to expand on-site child care to our 400-employee distribution center in Reno, Nevada, a no brainer.
As Patagonia’s chief executive, here’s how I think about it:
Tax Benefits – Costs Recouped: 50 per cent
The federal government recognises the value of on-site child care to both working parents and the economy. It grants a qualified child care program a yearly tax credit of $150,000.
In addition, the government allows a company to deduct 35 per cent of its unrecovered costs from its corporate tax bite.
Employee Retention – Costs Recouped: 30 per cent
Turnover is expensive – including lost productivity while the position is vacant, plus recruitment, relocation, and training time. This can range from 35 per cent of annual salary for a non-managerial employee, to 125 per cent of salary for a manager. And to a couple of years’ pay for a director or vice president.
At Patagonia, for the past five years, we’ve seen 100 per cent of mums return to work after maternity leave. The availability of on-site child care remains important for allowing mothers to breast-feed infants on demand.
For the past five years, our turnover rate for parents who have children in the program has run 25 per cent less than for our general employee population.
Employee Engagement – Costs Recouped: 11 per cent
The term engagement describes how an employee feels about his or her job and employer. Higher engagement creates higher levels of customer satisfaction and business performance. Studies indicate that when parents have access to high-quality, on-site child care at work, they are more engaged – even more so than colleagues as a whole. This increased engagement means the company does better financially.
Bottom Line – Costs Recouped: 91 per cent
In sum, we estimate that we recover 91 per cent of our calculable costs annually. We’re not alone. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., has estimated returns of 115 per cent for its child-care programme.
And global business consultant KPMG found that its clients with onsite child-care earned a return on investment (ROI) of 125 per cent.
Of course, this quantifiable picture leaves out the obvious intangible benefits of providing on-site child care.
more women in management (at Patagonia, women make up 50 per cent of our workforce, including 50 per cent of upper management positions);
greater employee loyalty;
stronger workplace culture; and more.
If we could quantify these positive impacts, an overall ROI of 115-125 per cent on our own programme wouldn’t surprise me.
I’ve been fortunate to see these benefits firsthand, and I strongly believe the business community should feel confident in taking the leap and adopting onsite child-care and other policies that support working families. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because your business will find greater financial success too.
To help share our story, Patagonia has just published a new book, called “Family Business,” designed to help employers, child development practitioners and others take advantage of everything we’ve learned over 33 years.
I encourage you to check it out. Or follow up with a wide variety of additional resources available to understand the benefits of on-site child care.
Rose Marcario is the CEO of Patagonia. This article was orginally published on LinkedIn.
Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group.