Could A Selfie Save Your Sanity?

A greater understanding of what makes you tick could be the route to a more fulfilling career – and if you are stuck in a rut and can’t move roles, then forget EQ and IQ, learn to boost your PI (physical intelligence). The future is all about understanding and nurturing your self.

By AlessandroBiascioli/ Shutterstock

As a nation we have become paralysed by political uncertainty.

These turbulent times are leaving us trapped. While half of us say we would like to change careers, only one in six are brave enough to make the move, according to recruiters Michael Page.

So, don’t just sit there waiting for things to get better.

Now is the perfect time for a bit of self-reflection.

We spend so much of our lives at work, getting to and from work and then thinking about work, it is important that whatever you do works for your personality type.

Many of us crave jobs which are more fulfilling, more aligned to our values and ones that build or self-worth rather than knocking it.

But how do you really know what makes you tick, if you don’t take a good look at what motivates you?

The answer is a psychometric selfie.

Find out why you do what you do

Michael Page has partnered with FindMyWhy (findmywhy.com) to help you find out more about yourself.

Complete the online questionnaire (be prepared for around 30 minutes of self-reflection) and a tailored psychometric report will reveal some telling insights.  It is important to be honest. That way you will gain most from the advice.

The selfie does more than just match your skills set to new roles.

It highlights your weaknesses to – and this could really transform the way you see yourself.

The good the bad and the potentially ugly

Most of us know what we are good at, but these strengths can also work against us.

Take a team-player as an example.

If you are someone who likes working in collaboration with others, the mutual supported of colleagues and coordinating your efforts with others to get things done, you probably think you have the perfect personality to succeed in your career.

However, what happens when you are faced with conflict or colleagues who work against each other? How do you feel when others are highly critical of you or the team? And how do you feel when you are required to engage with less collegiate colleagues?

Finding yourself in the wrong working environment could leave you less motivated and disengaged.  In fact, your team-player skills set could work against you.

The Me at Work report is a great way to learn more about the potential pitfalls that could trip you up professionally and perhaps the most telling part of the report is the “So what might stop me” section. It is important to avoid self-sabotage.

Build resilience through physical intelligence

While the FindMyWhy may help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and the things to look for in a new role, you may still find that work can cause stress, drain energy and challenge your ability to remain positive (even if you love what you do).

That is why – in addition to being more self aware – you should look at how to be more physically intelligent. This is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstreams (through how we breathe, move, think and communicate) in order to reduce work stress, boost energy and kickstart positivity. 

A new wellbeing book by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton called Physical Intelligence available in ebook and paperback looks at the strategies we can all adopt to do this.

These are Dale and Peyton’s top 11 physical intelligence tricks to help you become happier at work.

Reduce Work Stress

  1. Ground Yourself:  Being grounded increases emotional/mental stability, confidence and inner strength. To ‘ground’ yourself, feel your feet on the ground/bottom in the chair and the weight of your body distributed through your skeleton down into the ground – rooted rather than ‘uptight.’
  2. Just Breathe:  Managing your breath pattern is THE key to stabilising the nervous system and managing our physical response to stress. Pace your breathing (e.g., 3 counts in, 5 counts out), with longer out breaths, expelling carbon dioxide that settles in our lungs and increases cortisol (stress hormone).
  3. Focus on Fitness:  Regular exercise is important, elevating our heart rate at least 3 times a day. Otherwise, the parasympathetic nervous system will be too sluggish for us to rebalance when we encounter stress, and if we encounter multiple stressors, we’ll likely feel overloaded.
  4. Talk It Out:  Stress builds through a lack of control, rumination and difficulty deciding on actions. Verbalising stressors removes their charge. Getting advice helps us process and learn from what is happening. Reaching out to a trusted network of supporters boosts oxytocin (belonging hormone), released through non-aggressive, honest, human contact.

Boost Energy

  1. Take a Cold Shower: Turning the water to cold for the last thirty seconds or splashing ice-cold water on our face enhances brain function, improving energy gain.
  2. REST:  To avoid burnout, balance pushing yourself hard with periods for rest and recovery.  Block time in your schedule each week for ‘REST’ (retreat, eat [healthy], sleep and treat) and guard those windows.
  3. Get Some Sleep: Sleep has a bigger impact on our mental, emotional and physical performance than any waking activity. When we sleep, we consolidate memories and experiences, detox the brain of waste products and regenerate brain cells. This makes a profound difference to our daily performance, enabling us to think clearly and deeply, focus well and handle multiple challenges with ease. Aim for that magic minimum of seven hours through naps, proxy sleeps and going to bed even a few minutes earlier each night.

Kickstart Positivity

  1. Smile:  Smiling at yourself in the mirror boosts serotonin (happiness).
  2. Jump:  Literally jump for joy – it promotes optimism.
  3. Bounce Positive:  Apply a learning mindset to setbacks/mistakes.  If you’re dwelling on something, talk to someone you trust about it, then commit to letting it go.
  4. Strengthen Interpersonal Relationships:  Balance your own agenda with those of others, communicate well and flex your behavioural style, creating the chemistry of trust – balancing oxytocin (social bonding/trust), dopamine (goal-orientation/seeking and gaining reward), and testosterone (independent competitive action), while managing cortisol (stress).

The more we use physical intelligence techniques, the better armed we will be to achieve business success. Why not give it a try?

Procurement Across Borders – Are You Aware Of Your Surroundings?

Are you aware of what is going on in a cross-cultural situation? How do you use that awareness to adapt and manage these situations effectively? 

By Nicoleta Ionescu/ Shutterstock

In this series of articles we have been discussing the importance of Cultural Intelligence when working across culture, distance and time. Using and developing CQ is a highly effective way to achieve better outcomes and smoother business interactions. We have already looked at two of the four components of CQ, which are CQ Drive and CQ Knowledge and defined some of the characteristics that influence these areas. We will now move on to the third component of CQ which is CQ Strategy.

CQ strategy or meta cognition refers to the extent to which you are aware of what is going on in a cross-cultural situation and your ability to use that awareness to adapt and manage the situation effectively. Employing CQ strategy, requires us to consider diverse encounters ahead of time, during the encounter and after they have occurred. CQ strategy is comprised of three elements, these are planning, awareness and checking.

Planning requires us to take into account the nine cultural dimensions we discussed in earlier  articles as well as any other factors. Some of those factors may include the organisational culture as well as economic, political, social and administrative aspects. By understanding some of the challenges you may face and strategizing actions and behaviours that are appropriate for dealing with the situations you will encounter, you are well placed to anticipate and mitigate tensions and misunderstandings. Some questions or prompts you may like to consider when planning include:

  • What are my goals?
  • What are my client’s/partner’s goals?
  • How will my client/partner’s cultural values and beliefs guide their communication, behaviours and decisions?
  • What do I already know about this person and cultural setting that could guide me?
  • What past experiences can I draw on to assist me?
  • What else do I need to know to achieve my goals?

Awareness relates to what you are doing during the interaction. It is about being present and mindful of what is occurring around you whilst engaging in a cross-cultural situation. This includes looking for expressions of interest and scrutinizing facial expressions and non- verbal communication as well as verbal communication. Are you understanding what is being said and being understood? Some questions to consider for yourself in relation to awareness in cross-cultural situations are:

  • Am I achieving the goals I need to?
  • What is confusing or unclear for me/my client/ partner?
  • What other questions are being raised?
  • What questions are not being raised?
  • What am I doing that is working/not working?
  • What could I be doing better?

Checking is the third aspect of CQ Strategy. We have mental models, where we make certain assumptions based on our previous experiences. We need to be alert to check that our assumptions are correct. This requires being cognizant and checking in on what is being communicated verbally and non-verbally.  Checking is a key part of evaluating the situation and judging how successful your cross-cultural interaction is. Some questions to consider in regard to checking are:

  • What helped or inhibited my performance?
  • What were my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Did I try anything new? Did it work?
  • What did I find easy?
  • What was most challenging?
  • What did I learn from the encounter?
  • How will I do things differently next time?

These three components of CQ Strategy- planning, awareness and checking provide a useful framework to analyse performance and progress when carrying out cross-cultural interactions. They also provide an opportunity to assess and improve our on our ability to utilise CQ strategy .  When entering new relationships, using these steps can be particularly helpful as a guide to navigating the situation and getting off to a good start that can lead to positive and mutually beneficial outcomes.

Procurement Can . . .

To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

A good procurement team can save your business money. This goes without saying. Savings are for procurement what risk mitigation is for legal, innovation is for R&D, and new business is for sales. They’re table stakes, just the very beginning of what a well-equipped and well-staffed function should offer the organisation. To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

While reducing costs remains the top priority for today’s procurement teams, it’s high time for the function to evolve its objectives and diversify its value proposition. With visibility across the global supply chain, procurement is perfectly equipped to address the monumental concerns that plague the business world. Labour violations, pollution, animal rights, and ethics – they’re all issues as relevant to procurement as cycle times and pricing.

Simply put, procurement is capable of more than saving money. It’s capable of saving lives and it might just help us save the planet.

Procurement Can . . . Save Lives

Stopping Forced Labor

It’s appalling that, in 2019, forced labor is still endemic across various global supply chains. What’s worse is that the United States imports more “at risk” products than any other country in the world. According to the Global Slavery Index, the U.S. brought in more than $144 billion of these products and commodities. They report that electronics, fish, cocoa, garments, and natural resources like gold and timber present an especially high risk.

On a more hopeful note, the nation’s score on the Government Response Index ranks behind just the Netherlands. Still, with as many as 400,000 modern slavery victims within its borders, it’s clear the United States must do more. The scope of the forced labor crisis is such that companies in nearly every industry are touched by it in some capacity. Due diligence has grown both increasingly imperative and increasingly challenging. Organizations like Rip Curl and Badger Sportswear present recent examples of what can happen when an American business fails to gain and sustain visibility across the globe.

Methods for assessing suppliers, monitoring their behavior, and addressing violations must all evolve. It’s more dangerous than ever to settle for a low price or select a provider based on an incomplete set of considerations.  Supplier capacity, for example, is a more nuanced issue than Procurement may have previously considered it. Under-resourced suppliers might partner with unscrupulous organizations if they’re faced with demand that outstrips expectations. The onus also falls on procurement to provide better, more accurate forecasts to avoid such a situation. Data won’t just provide the means to secure better pricing and anticipate consumer tastes, but to eliminate human rights violations.

Forced labor is a shared issue that requires a shared response. It’s up to organisations who purchase high-risk commodities or operate in high-risk regions to collaborate with their competitors. Joining groups like the garment industry’s Fair Labor Association or the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, they can elevate industry wide standards and recognize organizations for setting particularly excellent (or particularly poor) examples.

Supporting Disaster Relief

Few things keep supply chain managers up at night like the specter of extreme weather. As an increasingly volatile climate threatens shipping lanes, roads, and storage facilities, disaster preparedness has become a year-round concern – even for organizations that do not operate in “high risk” areas. In 2018, hurricanes alone caused more than $50 billion in damages throughout the Americas.

Crucially, it’s not just the business world that suffers when hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters strike. Damaged roads and lost power leave consumers without access to necessities like clean drinking water and medications. Sometimes they’re without these essentials for months at a time. Beyond repairing their own supply chains, well-prepared procurement teams can participate in a broader, more socially responsible form of disaster relief.

Accurate, proactive forecasting makes it possible for businesses to continue serving their communities even in the wake of natural disasters. In addition to avoiding disruptions of their own, they’ll ensure consumers experience minimal disruption. Remember, supply chain hiccups are often more deadly than natural disasters themselves. This was the case when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico back in 2017. Experts estimate the vast majority of deaths were caused by interruptions to the supply chain for health care and life-saving medicines. In a sense, disaster relief efforts failed because of “final mile” complications.

Evolving technologies will prove essential for extending these supply chains and mitigating the human cost of extreme weather. Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) promise to play an especially active role. While drone-based deliveries for food or Amazon packages tend to dominate the headlines, recent pilot tests suggests they may soon serve a higher purpose. In the aftermath of Maria, non-profit Direct Relief partnered with Merck, AT&T, and other providers to test the viability of medication delivery drones. The drones provide temperature-controlled storage for sensitive materials and come equipped with real-time monitoring to adjust their flight paths as necessary. With each party providing their own expertise and resources, the pilot tests provide a case study in socially responsible collaboration.

Procurement Can . . . Do More                                                                                                                            

In the past, organisations may have neglected to invest in sustainable and responsible initiatives. The fear of higher costs and harder work likely stayed their hands. Businesses need to stop asking whether or not they can afford to behave ethically. They should ask, instead, how much longer they can afford not to. More and more, consumers are growing tired of inaction. They’ve also grown increasingly wary of inauthenticity. Where simple greenwashing might have sufficed in the past, new generations of consumer are increasingly skeptical and unforgiving when it comes to corporate behavior. The most recent Deloitte Millennial survey found that a quarter of young consumers don’t consider business leaders trustworthy, less than half consider them ethical. They’re not the only ones. Across every generation, the desire for ethical, responsible business practices has evolved into a demand.

In my next blog, I’ll look at how procurement teams across the globe can (and already do) lead the way on sustainability. Eliminating plastic, identifying sustainable alternatives, and reducing emissions, the function is equipped to set and enforce a new environmental standard.

In the meantime, why not register as a Digital Delegate for this year’s Big Ideas Summit Chicago? You’ll enjoy the chance to sit in on thought leadership presentations from some of the Supply Chain’s most thoughtful, innovative, and successful professionals – all without leaving your desk. 

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 3: Community

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this third article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of community.

Who you surround yourself with on a day to day basis is an extremely important fundamental to achieving your goals and the successes you are aiming for.

To be successful, surrounding yourself with others who are striving for more is a very important rule to follow

If a person whose friends are rich and generally that person will also be rich. Find a person who is overweight and you will find on average that most of their friends are also overweight.

 Basically over time, you will become the average of most of your friends, whether they are successful, rich, dynamic, strong, or if they are failures, poor, lazy and weak. over time you will develop their same bad habits. This is why it is so important to seek friends that set good positive examples.

If all your friends are making $100,000 a month and you are only making $100,000 a year, you will be influenced to look for ways to increase your income that is closer to your friends. If your friends are only making $80,000 a year then you are far less motivated to seek out ways to push your income any higher.

The same goes if your friends are out of shape. If they eat junk food every day and do not exercise, then the chances are if you are always with them, then you will become out of shape, and you will probably find yourself eating more junk food and taking less exercise than you know is healthy.

If you pick the wrong sort of people to be in your community you will find they will slow you down and they will also try to talk you out of striving to achieve your dreams. This is not because they are being mean or spiteful. It’s because they don’t want you to get hurt. Because they are not doing anything with their lives, they don’t think you can either. They know if you attempt to achieve your dreams and goals, then that would mean that something in their life is changing, and most people are scared of change.

Immerse yourself in a community full of people who love change, people who strive to achieve goals and aren’t scared of trying. People who have the desire to thrive and not just live. These are the sort of people that will ensure you change and become the same with the same positive attitude.

This will then become your new “Normal”. You and your community will welcome people with goals and positive ideas, and you will find that watching people without any drive or goals will seem weird and out of the ordinary. You will soon be able to identify what people you should add to your community and what sort of people you need to steer well clear of.

So where do you begin with all this? Clarify to yourself the sort of positive thinking people you want to be in your community. Look for networking events and business conferences to go to. They will probably not be in your local neighbourhood but may be a distance from you. Make the effort and attend these sort of conferences. Even if there are admission fees, your goals with these sort of events are not just to sit and learn what is being taught, but to also make new friends and acquaintances that you can add to your personal community. These sort of people will have similar drive and goals as you do and they will greatly help you move towards achieving your goals because they are probably the same sort of goals that they too want to achieve. Over time these people will become close friends and possibly business partners that you can use to attain steps towards your final goals.

Apart from attending business conferences, you can find and make friends with new people online. Social media makes it easy to find people who are doing the same sort of thing as you. When meeting new people you may find that they are just as excited to meet you and have the same ideas that you can help them achieve greatness too. As you meet more and more people and build your community you will find you gain more skills and friendships and this will snowball into great things.

What Is The Cure To The Side Effects Of KPIs?

If there is one topic in business literature that has been covered exhaustively, it is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). But if you’re not careful, the indicators you set might inadvertently encourage behaviours that can be dramatically damaging…

By Josep Suria/Shutterstock

“In 19th-century India, the city of Delhi had a snake problem. A rather large population of cobras slithered the streets with impunity. The British government decided to get rid of the snakes through crowdsourcing. Officials offered a bounty for every dead snake that locals brought in.

But something unexpected happened.

Soon after the British started to pay for every dead cobra, they realized that local entrepreneurs had begun to breed snakes in order to get paid.

The government canceled the program. So, the cobra farmers released their worthless snakes into the streets.

It turned out the British didn’t want dead snakes; they wanted fewer live snakes. By incentivizing the wrong thing, they inadvertently doubled their problem.”

The Biggest Threat To A Growing Company’s Culture, By incentivizing the wrong thing, growing companies can create more problems than they solve.

If there is one topic in business literature that has been covered exhaustively, it is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In procurement it’s no different; just do a Google search on “Procurement KPIs.”

KPIs have become an integral part of business, but they should still be approached with caution. Because business is human by nature, there are many pitfalls to consider when defining KPIs. If you’re not careful, the indicators you set might inadvertently encourage behaviors that can be dramatically damaging, and lead to a very different outcome than the one you expected.

KPIs can have negative side effects

The story at the beginning of this post is the origin of the term “Cobra Effect” and illustrates the potentially negative impact that poorly designed KPIs and incentives can have.

In the world of Procurement, some KPIs may create similarly problematic situations. For example, the following two KPIs are used or mentioned quite often:

  • Number of suppliers per £/$/€ million third-party spend
  • Number of Procurement FTE per £/$/€ million third-party spend

First of all, both KPIs are useless without context and, what’s more, they can also foster dangerous behaviors and outcomes. For example, spend consolidation or supplier reduction programs are quite common in Procurement, and they can lead to over-dependencies by creating situations of quasi-monopoly. Therefore, such a leading indicator (supply base concentration serves an objective, it is a means, not an end) should be considered in a broader context and need to be counterbalanced with other corresponding leading indicators, such as, for example, the impact on savings and on risk exposure (dependence, single-sourcing, etc.).

Another classic example is related to payment terms. Whenever organisations try to improve their cash management/flow, they also question whether or not to extend payment terms with suppliers, even though it has been proven time and time again that the impact of extending payment terms is minimal. Despite bringing some short term benefits, choosing to extend payment terms could create long-term issues, as suppliers will not consider such procurement organisations as a “customer of choice.” In that specific scenario, it would be much more beneficial and valuable to improve Source -To-Pay processing times. This would improve the management of liabilities and cash by, for example, using supply-chain finance, which is a more effective way to improve cash management and, at the same time, relationships.

Purpose is the most effective way to influence behavior

The science of motivation is a complex topic and there are numerous studies in the field of behavioral economics that demonstrate how people are biased and often unconsciously make irrational decisions. Therefore, organisations must use caution when designing KPIs to avoid the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B.

Luckily, there is a well-known and proven safeguard against pitfalls like these: create a sense of purpose and give actions meaning.

Rather than just focusing on a target, this approach focuses on outcomes (‘why’), which will facilitate adoption and alignment across the organization. Then, people will be able to define the ‘how’, and engage in the appropriate activities (‘what’) based on the context they are in. This form of “commander’s intent” also gives collaborators and suppliers more autonomy (the topic of KPIs and  their impact also applies to contracts as a measure of the deliverable or outcome). They need this autonomy to adapt their actions in a dynamic and volatile environment.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” –Marilyn Strathern, British anthropologist

If Teams Become Self-directed, What’s Left For The Managers To Do?

How do you enable and oversee without having control and visibility? This is the challenge of leadership and focusing on adopting or refining these three key attributes will help get you on the right path…

By Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

We have all heard the words and most probably used them ourselves many times over; Empowered, autonomous, self directed. Thousands of articles, publications, books, podcasts and yes, even blogs have been written about the power of enabling this type of cultural environment. And to help us get there, we have a plethora of insights, tips, roadmaps and strategies to make sure we can navigate our path through this organisational utopia. It’s how we all want to work, and how we want our teams to operate.

Despite this consensus it remains a challenge for many organisations who are struggling to find the balance between the what of the work that needs to be done, and the how which determines the way in which it actually gets done. Why exactly is this the case? With all of the research backing it up, this should be a no-brainer to want to do, and with all of the practical guides available, it should be a matter of simply applying and executing to get it done. However, given the human element, it is never quite that easy or simple and that accounts for organisations and managers who have tried and not been successful, or have chosen to not try at all.

It could be argued that if we all want to work in that way, enabling others to do so is the not only logical but also effective. But words do mean different things to different people and sometimes depending on the context, the same words also mean different things to the same people. If we can have alternative facts, we can surely have alternative interpretation. A google search of the word empowerment returns over 293 million results. Self directed tops that with 438 million. I am pretty confident in my assumption that while results may be similar, they will not all be consistent. With that in mind, the challenge can start early, because what we need to understand is that while the intent is there, that in itself may not be enough. It needs to be the right intent and the right execution, to deliver the right outcome.

Irrespective of where you are within the organisational hierarchy there is always someone in a position to direct your focus, priorities and actions.  What tends to be different is the level of direction and who the messages are coming from. In typical, traditional structures, decision making and direction tends to be determined by functional role and reporting lines. In organisations that have transformed to respond to digital challenges, are working with Agile or for digital natives, that may be more a function of expertise and specific project engagement. Notwithstanding that, even CEOs have boards to answer to, and boards in turn have shareholders to answer to. While we have seen many recent examples around the world of interference, lack of probity, and good governance in organisations and government, oversight, direction, external perspective are important foundations for effective operation.  And that in itself can become a derailing factor for many. Because how do you enable and oversee without having control and visibility?

This is the challenge of leadership and focusing on adopting or refining three key attributes will help get you on the right path:

1. Understand and embrace risk

This is not about ignoring what is known to create a problem. Organisations need to be confident in their ability to get good outcomes in the right way without careening towards a disaster that could have easily been avoided or mitigated. The risk for many in stepping away from decision making and allowing individuals and teams to make their own decisions in relation to what is done, is problematic.  It can be seen as a leadership failure; that we somehow didn’t “own the problem”, or didn’t “step up to the plate”. Life, much less work situations are never really that simple. And enabling self directed teams is not an abdication of leadership responsibility. There are so many factors to consider including the information that was available at the time. It can also come down to a question of trust in that person as much as trust in our own judgement. It sometimes involves letting others find their own way, even if we know that it may not be the best way, or more pointedly, the way we would have done it. And equally important, it also comes down to assessing the consequence of things going awry and adding that to the factors determining whether the risk is acceptable in the context.

2. Understand capability

Applying equally to ourselves and our teams, the capability question is an important one. And a fundamental attribute of leading is assessing strengths as well as development needs in individuals and responding by making time and offering enablement to help those individuals build on their strengths and improve in areas that may need more attention. It takes time to actually spend time working on ourselves and helping others who are looking for development and improvement. In a choice between a meeting with an agenda focused on task allocation versus a meeting to develop and discuss development plans and progress, there is little question of which one would produce the more engaged employee. And with enthusiasm being contagious, it’s not a bad outcome for the rest of the team or client either.

3. Create a learning environment

Every organisation is in the process of either considering a transformation or has begun one. In the digital world, we have only started to explore the impact of the fourth industrial revolution and others are already speaking of the fifth (a great topic for another blog!) It is hard to keep up with all of the business-as-usual activities, much less everything else that is now an expectation; new projects, external research, feedback loops, workshops, to name just a few. Enabling teams and individuals with the opportunity to manage their own work and themselves to the extent that works for them and the organisation gives them a chance to learn through practical means, by hearing about the experiences of others, and in turn sharing their own stories. It fosters trust in the culture of the team and the organisation and a willingness to go beyond the simple instruction that they would have otherwise been given. Diversity. Creativity. Productivity. They can all thrive in this environment when leaders understand the opportunity of truly leading.

5 Days Without Technology

I spent five days disconnected from technology; this is how, and what I did instead…

By Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

Irrespective of what time of the day you are reading this blog, there is one certainty. You would have spent some time on line whether it was for business purposes or for personal engagement. If you are anything like me, you would have checked the weather before heading out on an early morning run. Not exactly sure why given we all know what Melbourne is like in winter. Cold! You might have gone with some social media scanning. Liked something on Instagram? So have 3.5 billion others. Checked your facebook? You’ve joined 1.5 billion users. Looking for professional connection or posts of interest amongst LinkedIn’s 575+ million users? Let’s not even get to all of the other platforms that have proliferated. After all, it’s not just the social, social media. Chances are you have also been on email, read the news on line, messaged or What’s App’d a connection, or possibly had a call via Zoom or Skype. Even likelier you have had to make your way somewhere and needed an Uber. Phew, busy morning, even busier day! But with so much to do, isn’t it lucky that it is all there on our smartphones or laptops, smart TV’s, or home assistants,  making our lives so much easier. Or is it?

Last year I had the opportunity to be in Asia for a trip that was intended to be a holiday. It seemed smart to tie in business meetings to make the most of the fact that I was in the region. I rescheduled work commitments, let colleagues know I was away and shared my itinerary with family and friends. There was no question of whether I would take my phone and my laptop with me. After all, that’s what the modern day break looks like and with the business tied in, it wasn’t even an option to think about leaving even my laptop behind.

Admittedly and somewhat proudly, I can admit that by the end of week one the laptop had not exactly been in overdrive. It languished after a couple of video calls and a handful of emails. The phone was a different proposition altogether. Rides to organise, destinations to get to, places to eat to check out, messages to family. A combination of business and leisure that made the time not just busy but always-on.

Fast forward another week and an opportune trip for work has unexpectedly taken me to Myanmar. The great thing about being digital that we all know, is that anywhere, anytime, can make all sorts of options possible. So when a friend suggested staying a little longer and exploring what is a fascinating country, I was in. Able to work from anywhere, subject to time zones and availability, makes so many things possible. Wi-fi and mobile data (which can be a financial minefield) make the possible, practical. 

Sounds like a great trip so far, but where is the disconnect you may be wondering? Well that’s got something to do with a trip to a place in Myingyan. You most likely have no idea where that is, and that’s ok, as neither did I. What I did know was that it was wonderful eco-lodge nestled in the heart of a village that offered a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local life. What I didn’t know until we got there? There was no wi-fi.  I had just arrived for a 4 night stay in a picturesque, but remote village, without a way to get on-line except for a very inconvenient overseas mobile data plan. So what I did I do? I messaged everyone to share the contact phone number and let them know I would be out of touch for the next few days. And then I put my phone and my laptop away.

When I got back to Melbourne a few weeks later and was telling friends about my experience, responses ranged from humour, to dismay, to fascination; How did I survive? How did I spend the time? And unexpectedly from others Would I do it again? Here are the three things I shared with everyone that have stayed with me even now

1. Nothing beats personal connection

It seems simple enough and we all know it to be true, but the flipside of technology means that we often choose to digitally engage with someone instead of actually talking to them. Staying in this wonderful place, talking to the people who lived and worked there, and wandering through the local village created an interpersonal connection that would not have otherwise been possible.  There was laughter, compassion and empathy as well as intellectual challenge and thought. It took me back to being in Greece during the GFC and talking to people about the impact on them. Understanding that a country is its people, and not always its government is something we forget.

2. Your perspective drives your context

For those who know that I have been known to buy a pair, or five, of designer shoes in my time, the idea of me spending time in a remote village with no wif-fi, dirt roads and mosquitos seems unfathomable. The bet may have been that I would have been in desperate need to get back to the city and return to something a little more ‘normal’. What in fact happened, was the opposite. I was humbled by the simplicity of those I met, their stories, and their community and it serves as a wonderful reminder to me even today, that we all define the context we operate in, and what we choose to call a challenge or opportunity.

3. Make time to think, plan, act

Free from reaching for my phone, checking emails, the weather (yes, I did attempt a run on those very treacherous roads), I was able to be completely present every day through every interaction. And it was a valuable way to create space in my mind for things I had been putting off, challenges I needed to work through in my head, even ideas I wanted to explore more but did not have time to think about. Going old school with pen and paper (although I did take photos of my notes) inspired me to refresh and get clarity on what I needed to do when I got back home. All the work was done and well thought through without the distraction of the competing priorities we often have to manage.

It was not a complete surprise to reach the end of the stay and realise it wasn’t enough time so the four nights actually became five. Who would have thought that would be the case on day one. And finally getting to the next destination? I’m pleased to say that it took another day for the technology to really come on again.

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 2: Communication

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful? In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

By Syda Productions/ Shutterstock

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this second article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of communication.

Read Part 1 on Clarity here.

Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. It is an extremely important skill that anybody who wants to thrive in the modern world must have and continually improve.

All the great leaders were also great communicators and it is a skill you can learn and develop. It is one of the greatest tools you can master. To be skilled in the art of good communication means you have the ability to get people to want to be on your side and help you. It also gives you the ability to get people to do what you want, which is why you must use this skill towards good only.

Communication is not just about talking. It is about speaking to others in ways that inspires them and makes them feel important in order to get them to want to be around you and work with you.

But how do you accomplish this? The answer is to communicate with positivity and enthusiasm.  Positivity and Enthusiasm are addictive and powerful energies. When people hear others communicating with enthusiasm, they too feel enthusiastic and are drawn to them.

Talking about things that inspire you will make you communicate with enthusiasm automatically. You will feel more positive about the things you are talking about and the people listening will also start to feel more positive.

We live in a world where negative communication is all around us on a daily basis. This can be used to your advantage as people would far prefer to listen to people taking in a positive way and when you communicate positive things, you will always have a greater audience than people who communicate negatively.

Your job is to change people from expecting negative things to positive things, to be positive and to think in positive ways. When they listen to you using positive words and phrases in your communication you will find more and more people wanting to listen to you and to work with you because they realise that there’s something about you that is different… in a good way!

Using positivity and enthusiasm in your communication will result in you being able to build positive relationships with people and to be very successful in business as well. Talking to others in ways that make them feel important will ensure they hang on to every word you say. They will feel good and they will be there to help you achieve your goals and objectives.

Making others feel good about what you say is easy once you have the necessary skills and experience. You will become a real driving force for them. Always look for the positive side in situations and only talk about positive things. There are positive things in everyone and in every circumstance and it is your job to find them and to talk about them. If you should find yourself beginning to talk about something negative, stop yourself and change your communication back to only positive things.

When talking, there are some important things to consider. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Keep it positive at all times and constantly try to “spark” up your conversation. Your posture and body language is also very important and are things that will influence listeners. They might not even know, but subconsciously we all can read body language and posture even if we don’t think about it and it affects the way we deliver a speech. No matter how positive your words may be, if you have poor body language or posture, people might not see your speech in quite the positive way you intended. They are all part of great communication and you must be careful to ensure all three are seen as positive.

During your conversations it is extremely important to listen. Ask people questions about themselves and let them talk. They will appreciate it. In this day and age, everyone is trying to talk and get their voice heard. People often talk over other people without listening, you will surely stand out by being the one who takes the time to listen.

Take time to listen and only talk positively and you will become a great communicator. You will gain many admirers, friends and business acquaintances that will help you achieve your aims and goals. “The one who masters communication has the power to lead the world any way that he wishes”

What To Do When Stakeholder Management Gets Tough

Everyone has encountered difficult customers or stakeholders when running a procurement exercise. It’s how we choose to deal with them that can define success or failure for our tenders.

By zoff / Shutterstock

Recently I’ve been running a recruitment process at work, using the oft-derided and disliked ‘competency-based’ questions as part of the interviews. One question in particular got me thinking about my own experiences in procurement. That of dealing with a difficult stakeholder or customer relationship.

We’ve all had them, even if they didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time. Whether it’s the end user who keeps changing their mind about what they want, or the stakeholder who believes their opinion is more important than everyone else’s. And then there’s the supplier who believes they know better than you, that your process is flawed or you’re asking the wrong questions, and that they have the key to fixing it.

These aren’t necessarily difficult or challenging relationships all the time. Good stakeholder management encourages input from all sides, but there are times that opinions are unhelpful, unwelcome or downright wrong. And when this is the case, but the stakeholder remains convinced that they are correct, the relationship can prove to be make or break for the success of the exercise.

Path of Least Resistance

This brings me back to the original question that got me thinking in the first place. The question continues by looking for more detail on how the relationship was dealt with and what the outcome was. The aim of the question is to dig a little deeper into the competency of ‘influence’ and establish how the candidate managed the situation to a successful conclusion.

But as anyone who has encountered this issue in the past knows, success isn’t always a guarantee (more on this shortly). A good outcome may not necessarily be a bell-ringing, trumpeter-blowing success for the tender. Sometimes the best outcome is no outcome at all, a compromise, or a solution that follows the path of least resistance in order to preserve a much-needed relationship for the future.

And that is the tale that I want to tell now. Instead of focusing on the theory, I wanted to share a story from my own procurement experience where hard lessons were learned and gaining the realisation that not all relationships are destined to be easy.

Introducing: The Engineer

DISCLAIMER: The people in this story ARE actually real and any resemblance to anyone you know is because you have probably met someone just like this! I have, however, changed names and kept details deliberately vague to protect identities.

Picture this. A young graduate procurement trainee, a bit green, a bit wet behind the ears. New job, new suit, new city. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s me! If you’re picturing something similar to a parent’s photo of their children on their first day of school, that’s probably what I looked like to tell the truth.

I hadn’t been in procurement very long at all, having fallen into the profession while looking for graduate roles around the UK. It was all a bit new to me, but I’d delivered a couple of projects and was getting the hang of what was required. I’d started to build up a good foundation of knowledge and some solid, supportive relationships across the business.

That was until I met The Engineer. The Engineer had a reputation that preceded him – hard to pin down, hard to please, just generally hard to work with.

Colleagues more experienced than I (this is where the warning signs should have come in that I was getting the dubious please of this particular contract!) told stories of a nice guy, but someone with very little time for procurement and procurement/tender activities. The department was a roadblock, the processes too cumbersome. He knew plenty of guys who could provide the goods quicker and cheaper. That was, after all, “what we’ve always done around here”.

A Challenging Time

My experience wasn’t any different to what I expected after these friendly warnings. Meetings came and meetings went and the only thing that changed was the date on the calendar. The Engineer was respectful and professional at all times in his demeanour towards me, but he seemed determined to shred the procurement process.

Specifications were blocked as too vague, or not meeting the needs of the department. There were complaints about opening this up to suppliers who had been used in the past as it was felt their products were inferior. In hindsight there are plenty things I could have done differently – brought in more senior team members (I didn’t want to compound my newness by seeming like I couldn’t handle this), or change tact to put it on him to drive it forward. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20:20.

Eventually we reached an unspoken agreement and understanding that gave us a resolution of sorts. We both realised that nothing was going to change, either in the product demands or the procurement process. The contract was eventually put in place with a good supplier and the goods were delivered in good time. It wasn’t the utopic procurement outcome I had envisioned, but it wasn’t too bad. And boy, did I learn a lot!

An Interview-Worthy Response?

No matter what you do or where you go, you’ll find relationships like this to deal with. It’s ultimately how you deal with them that you need to decide on. Each relationship will be different and your response to them will differ in line with this. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard the relationship, it still needs to be worked at, possibly even harder for the particularly challenging ones.

They may not provide you with a gold-plated, interview-worthy example, but these interactions can help you further down the line and it all helps with your personal development. Just remember, no matter how hard it is, don’t burn those bridges. They may be the ones you need to cross in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Human Rights Falter In Grey Areas Of Procurement Policy

Workers are often the victims when there are gaps in legal procurement and ethical procurement, but businesses nowadays have a lot to lose as the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined… 

Back in 2010, rotten Apple stories started flashing up on smartphones everywhere. Forget tales of environmental unsustainability, these concerned social injustice: poor pay, unhealthy conditions and worryingly low levels of worker welfare. Then came the shocking news of staff suicides.

Attention focused on a prime link in the Apple supply chain: a vast 1.4-square-mile megafactory complex owned and run by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese multinational contract-manufacturing company, specialising in electronics.

Dubbed ‘Foxconn City’, the mini metropolis housed almost half a million workers on a giant industrial park in Shenzhen, China.

Fast forward to 2019 and Apple is still sourcing from Foxconn, across various sites. The roll-call of Foxconn manufacturing, present and past, still reads like a who’s who of the tech world, and includes other monster brands such as Google, Huawei, Microsoft and Sony, to name but a few.

So, given that Apple was soon to become the first public company on the planet worth $1 trillion, how did it get embroiled in such a dubious ethical sourcing saga in the first place, plus seemingly fail to crisis-manage its public relations effectively when the story broke?

The simple, grim fact is that Apple and the tech community are by no means alone in this. The recent history of procurement by global consumer brands is littered with the reputational detritus of bad ethics and selective legality.

Fast fashion, in particular, has struggled to keep its name out of incriminating headlines, with ethical procurement issues ranging from ongoing stories around ‘dirty’ cotton, through ‘cry for help’ labels sewn into high street clothes, to the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where 1,134 lost their lives.

Sourcing scandals also continue to flood out of food and agriculture. Ethical issues served up for public consumption range from TV exposés of supermarket chicken suppliers tampering with ‘kill dates’, to the abuse of water rights by industrial-scale avocado farmers in Chile.

Across all sectors and societies, employment remains the most mapped, but least navigable, legal and ethical intersection.

Figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), released most recently in 2017, revealed that more than 40 million people worldwide were in modern slavery in 2016, including around 25 million in forced labour. Of those in forced labour, some 16 million were being exploited in the private sector. Furthermore, there were more than 152 million estimated victims of child labour, almost half of whom were aged between 5 and 11.

Ethical procurement is essentially a people business, affecting lives and livelihoods, for good or ill, says group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), Cath Hill.

“Applying rigorous ethical standards to your supply chain is not just about compliance or completing necessary paperwork, but implementing good governance and preventing exploitation of human beings across the globe for the sake of profit,” she says.

In international waters, though, standardisation is a slippery fish.

If not a definitive and demonstrable difference, often at least, there exists a commercial and cultural tension between the norms of legal and ethical procurement. Discrepancies abound in a grey area between the two disciplines and, if unchecked and unpoliced, carve out a policy gap where human rights fall down.

Legal standards can lag behind best practice, especially in relation to global companies with complex supply chains, explains Martin Buttle, strategic lead for general merchandise at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

“A company that meets local labour laws in one country could still breach international minimum standards. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make it clear that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights even in countries where national law is weak, or poorly enforced,” he says.

Based on ILO conventions, the internationally recognised ETI Base Code of labour standards has been designed to tackle exactly this kind of cross-border inconsistency and jumble of jurisdictions, representing a commitment to ensure all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, paid a living wage and enjoy conditions of safety, security and equity.

Stepping out of the moral maze for a moment, there are also many bottom-line business-case benefits to be gained by adopting such an ethical approach, suggests Mr Buttle: “It can maintain the supply of goods, increase productivity and quality, and enhance a company’s reputation with its customer base, which is increasingly expected by consumers.”

However, it is often the pressure of competitive marketplaces and overly aggressive procurement practices or pricing policies that result in damaging knock-on effects, he says.

“Brands should understand how their actions impact on their suppliers’ ability to uphold labour rights. For example, a company with poor purchasing practices, such as unrealistic deadlines or unit prices, can cause challenges for its suppliers, leading to increased risk of poor wages and excessive working hours. This is particularly the case if a supplier feels forced to accept orders below the cost of production to win contracts.”

All too often, there is little communication and accountability, says Alex Saric, smart procurement expert at Ivalua: “Cost is the only discussion point and data isn’t shared effectively, while risk and CSR assessments can be a ‘tick-box’ exercise, meaning transparency initiatives end up half-baked.”

Weaknesses notwithstanding, big brands can still set a positive agenda for supplier behaviour, beyond compliance. “If suppliers see that being responsible is more likely to win them a contract, ethical practices change from a minimum requirement to a valuable key differentiator. They must operate sustainably, or face losing out to more ethical competitors,” Mr Saric says.

While any ethical shift is relatively slow and undoubtedly late, legislative momentum is only pushing in one direction and businesses would do well to watch this space closely, suggests Lee Rubin, counsel and global sourcing expert at international law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

“When it comes to lawmaking, legal and ethical considerations are merging, typified by the Modern Slavery Act. While not all sections of the Act are directly applicable to business, the provision around ‘transparency in supply chains’ impacts the largest brands and companies.”

Serious money is also flowing more towards the good and the green, adds Mr Buttle: “Many investors understand that poor human rights practices in the supply chain can put their investment at risk. With a growing interest in social impact, we are starting to see the investment community influencing business decisions.”

All in all, this collective chorus calling for ethical procurement is simply becoming too important to ignore, says Ms Hill: “It is not only the right thing to do, but also the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined. News travels fast and bad news travels at lightning speed.”

The heat is most definitely on, says Shaun McCarthy, director at leaders in sustainable procurement Action Sustainability: “These days the court of public opinion is an unforgiving place and brands need to be aware they are playing with fire when it comes to ethical procurement.”

Ultimately, therefore, brands that muddy transparency, frustrate traceability and neglect communications get burned, concludes retail expert and consumer champion Martin Newman: “Consumers will shop with their feet and their mouse. If you pay this lip service or they think you’re being disingenuous, they will not only not buy now, they’ll never come back; and they’ll tell all their friends and family about it.”

This article, edited by Jim McClelland, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.