Tag Archives: Career Boot Camp

It’s The Final Countdown: Introducing Week 3’s Career Coaches

We’re into the final week, the home stretch. But there are still five top coaches waiting for you in Week 3.

personal-trainer final countdown

We’ve sprinted, sweated, shouted and stretched our way through two weeks of Career Boot Camp. Our limbs may be aching, our cheeks might be red, but it’s all been worth it, as we start to see the career plans of 17,000+ procurement professionals taking shape.

The Procurious community has trained hard so far, but now is not the time to get complacent. To reap the benefits from Boot Camp it’s important to commit to all fifteen days in order to emerge with a fully toned skill set.

Ready for the Final Push

Let’s make the final push a big one and end Career Boot Camp on the highest high.

Coming up in Week 3 are podcasts from Procurious’ General Manager, the CEO of London’s leading women’s health club, and the founder of a first of its kind, online assessment tool which identifies organisational Game Changers.

These coaches will be addressing the importance of achieving a work/life balance, why you should be sharpening up your social media profile and how to be a game-changer.

DAY 11 – Monday 3rd October

nathan-ott‘Change the Game: Make a Disproportionate Difference’ – Nathan Ott, Co-creator of the Game Changer Index for Identifying High Potential Employees

Preferred Post-Work-Out Snack: Rare steak

It’s crucial for organisations to focus on the impact and contribution that their individual employees make. Nathan Ott asserts that every team member should aspire to being a game-changer in their own right and why it’s wrong to focus entirely on the spotlight-stealers.

As CEO and Co-Founder of the Game Changer Index and director at eg.1, Nathan works across all practice areas balancing his time between the needs of clients, the development of the team, and the growth and direction of eg.1.

In his podcast, Nathan will explain how to capitalise on your individual strengths, and, as a leader, how to value the unique potential of every individual.

DAY 12 – Tuesday 4th October

chris-sawchuk‘How to be the Most Valuable Player: Build Your Personal Scorecard’ – Chris Sawchuk, Principal & Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader, The Hackett Group

Favourite Team Sport: Dodge-ball

Earning “most valuable player” status at your organisation takes time, diligence and focus. Chris Sawchuk shares the playbook in Day 12’s podcast with some top tips on building your personal scorecard.

Chris has nearly 20 years’ supply management experience, working directly with Fortune 500 and mid-sized firms around the globe. He has even been recognised by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine as one of its “Pros to Know.”

Learn, from Chris, what it takes to become a trusted advisor, execute with agility, and make an invaluable contribution to your business. Chris also addresses the importance of maintaining a happy workforce in order to increase the levels of productivity.

DAY 13 – Wednesday 5th October

kate-percival‘Fit for Business, Fit for Life: Regain Your Work/Life Balance’ – Kate Percival, CEO, Grace Belgravia – London’s leading Women’s Health and Wellness Entrepeneur

Proudest Career Coach Moment: Motivating hundreds of procurement pros to work-out together and re-shape their future career plans.

With the new demands facing procurement professionals who are now on the go 24/7, how can you create the right work/life balance for yourself? Kate Percival has been CEO of Grace, London’s leading health, well-being and lifestyle club for women, since 2012.

She completed her masters thesis on the convergence of medicine and the global spa industry, which provided the basis of her business plan. Grace is a space that is a sanctuary for women, supporting them in health and well-being as well as in mind and soul.

Kate will offer her guidance on how to stay focused and energised to trigger greater success in the workplace.

DAY 14 – Thursday 6th October

carin-warner‘Brand You: Perfect Your Elevator Pitch’ – Carin Warner, Founder, Warner Communications – Strategist for 30 under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars

Post Workout Cool-Down Routine: Stretch it out. Have a hot stone massage followed by an ice bath. Enjoy a green smoothie.

What’s your personal brand, and do you really need one to advance in procurement?

Carin Warner believes the answer is a resounding yes! Carin’s podcast draws on her 20 + years of experience working with blue-chip clients on brand positioning and national recognition.

Today, she concentrates her expertise on brand image development, corporate communications, crisis communications and leading Warner Communications forward with a passion for creativity and desire for excellence.

On Day 14 of Career Boot Camp, Carin will delve into why procurement and supply chain professionals need to take control of their own personal branding to set themselves up for long-term success.

She’ll teach you to share what you know, share what you’ve learned and inform your peers and supervisors about all of the innovative things that you’re doing.

DAY 15 – Friday 7th October

lisa-maloneGet involved. Get ahead. Social media as Your Career Secret Weapon’ – Lisa Malone, GM Europe, Procurious – The World’s First Online Procurement Network

Advice for the final week of Career Boot Camp: This is the final hurdle so we need to see one last push to the end!

If you’re rolling out the same, old excuse that you’re “simply too busy” to fully capitalise on social media, Lisa Malone’s podcast is the one for you!

Lisa will convince you that just 15, well-spent minutes a day on social media is all you need to advance your career.

Having spent eight years working with professional services businesses to develop and lead communications strategy, refresh brand image and lead teams, Lisa knows a thing or two about branding.

She is a convert to the power of social media having spent the last two years as Procurious’ General Manager. She now works with commercial leaders to leverage this trend to amplify and affect change.

Lisa will explain the importance of building your personal brand, getting connected, key social media skills you should have mastered and how to implement a daily habit.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Teamwork is Procurement Dreamwork

Divide the task and multiply the success – why teamwork is just as critical for procurement success as individual brilliance.

teamwork

Sue Steele, Senior Vice President Global Supply Management for Jacobs, asserts the value of collaboration and teamwork for procurement success.

Sue also reveals what skills she looks for when hiring at Jacobs, discusses the critical importance of mentoring, and outlines the key skills procurement professionals need.

1. What were your first 3 jobs

  1. Student Activities Advisor at Auburn University
  2. Energy Conservation Consultant at Florida Power & Light (FPL)-Miami, Florida
  3. Power Services Representative-FPL, Miami, Florida

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I wish I’d known that teamwork and collaboration are just as important as individual performance.

3. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

  • Strategic Sourcing
  • Systems Savvy
  • Cost Leadership.

4. How valuable have mentors been in your career?

Mentors are absolutely critical for career success. Throughout my career I have benefited from mentoring by executives, career coaches and peer to peer mentors.

5. What does it take to work at Jacobs? What are you looking for when you hire talent?

Jacobs is a technology, engineering, and construction firm so skills in those fields are preferable. We also look for experience with our clients or competitors in the Engineering & Construction industry.

Leadership, teamwork, good communication skills and innovation are other qualities we rate most highly. 

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Winning Popularity Contests Doesn’t Make a Great Manager

A great manager isn’t out to win any popularity contests. They want to win your trust and respect – and this is how they do it.

stuart-brocklehurst great manager

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip satirising office life, has observed that people frequently tell him how their manager is exactly like the incompetent Pointy Haired Boss. But no one ever sees any similarity to themselves.

Good leadership is a hard, and rock-strewn, path to take. It’s clichéd to state that management is not a popularity contest. Yet too many are more concerned with being liked by their staff within the present moment. And by failing to take and keep to tough decisions, they fail to win the respect and trust of their teams over time.

What Makes A Great Manager?

A great manager inspires our support and commitment, while not backing away from hard choices and difficult conversations. They are fair and consistent so their staff know they will be treated equally. They recognise achievement and celebrate individual improvement.

A great leader cares about each individual’s personal development and invests in it. Financially, perhaps, but far more importantly, invests their time, knowing that the return in greater productivity, in the time handed back as team members increase their capability, is invaluable.

Teams will back a manager who listens to them. They don’t expect the answer to every suggestion or request to be ‘yes’, but they – we – need to know that we’ll be heard, and paid the respect of a clear explanation of whatever path is chosen.

Empowerment is not abdication. It’s not dumping your problems on someone else’s plate. Empowerment is structured delegation, being clear on what you expect, keeping close to progress and being available to support through the difficulties which are encountered in any worthwhile endeavour.

It’s Not About How Much You Know

To be the leader of a team does not require you to have greater knowledge or skills than the members of that team – were that the case, it would be a pretty severe limitation on promotion.

What CEO knows more about finance than their CFO, more about HR than the HR Director and more about procurement than the CPO? Leadership requires comfort that each member of your team may – will, if you’re lucky – be better at their job than you.

And your job is to help them to perform to their very best.

Leadership is about inspiration. A leader must have a clear vision of where they’re going, whether it’s a small team, a department or a whole company they need to take with them. They must believe that vision.

They must articulate it clearly in a manner which is authentic to them, whether that is quietly one by one or loudly from the conference stage.

Do this, and your team will believe and engage with your vision, as you embark on a common journey together.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Innovate & Create Your Way To A Better Procurement Future

Why should the ability to create novel solutions for issues be second nature to procurement teams in the coming years?

create

Donna Trowbridge is an accomplished Sourcing Manager with more than seventeen years of international experience. She has been the Group Head of Procurement at DBS bank for the past three years.

In our sixty-second-interview she explains why it is so important to approach problem solving with creativity, using the wealth of resources at our disposable within supply chains. Experimentation and adaptation are critical skills for the procurement industry.

Donna offers some great tips on recruiting, and draws on her experiences of living in Asia and working with millennials to offer some valuable insights.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

My first ever job during the school holidays was as a caller in a bingo hall. I used to call out numbers for the customers to mark off their cards.

My career after graduation started with Honda. I initially applied for a quality assurance roll on the manufacturing line at Honda. They decided I would be best suited to procurement. 

At first I was a little shocked I would be paid to shop just shows – how little I knew! looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

After 6 years in direct procurement at Honda, I wanted to explore more of the indirect procurement and so moved to a role at Barclays Bank in London as Head of Corporate Real Estate Procurement.

This was the start of a very long and fulfilling career in Financial Services Procurement, which has also facilitated me living in Singapore for the last 10 years.

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When we recruit, we are more often than not drawn to people who are very similar to ourselves. I struggled with this in the first few years of my career.

Now I realise that team diversity in skill and style is key to success, my aim in recruitment is to hire people that are better than me, and not be afraid of that.

3. How can CPOs attract and retain millennials?

A lot has been said I think a little unfairly about millennials: lazy, unable to focus, need instant gratification, to name a few. The “blame” if any of these things are true is with the manager of the millennial not the entire generation.

Millennials are attached to things they are passionate about. Interestingly for me on a recent recruitment drive, I found all of the Millennials interviewed had a genuine passion for social responsibility.

This one for procurement is easy. We all have CSR but with the help of our millennials we have taken it a step further and we help social enterprises who are customers of our bank in all of their negotiation needs. Millennials are providing their unique skills to help a social cause which provides a very important feel-good factor.

Retain is another matter. Employers should provide the tools and training millennials are accustomed to as a bare minimum. They also need to be constantly challenged and given opportunities to grow.

However, nowadays, a job or company for life doesn’t exist. If you can get 5 good years before they move on, then I think that’s ok. We just need to have a strong pipeline of talent to step up to roles as people leave.

4. Does the procurement talent gap exist? Or is it just as perception problem?

Its 100 per cent perception. Especially for me living in Asia, as the population of Asia is in the billions, and it’s normal for graduates to have masters degrees. How can we then say there is a talent gap?

The problem is in fact caused by CPOs who create the gap by being so specific about the experience they require. I recruit on skills not experience.

I work in a bank with one of the best teams I have ever managed. In my team I have a dentist, a soap opera star, a bank manager, and a person who used to buy chicken for subway. Diversity for me is definitely key.

5. What’s more important for your hires – attitude or aptitude?

100 per cent attitude. Everything else can be taught.  After all, we buy things, not build space rockets.

6. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

Business aptitude. We must talk to the business on their terms, not ours, and understand the problems they have, and help to solve them.

A mindset of innovation – always thinking how to create novel ways of solving problems by leveraging the huge resources we have in our supply chain. Not being afraid of failure, learning to experiment and change and adapt ideas, and an understanding of data are also important.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Don’t Just Have Great Ideas – Incubate Them to Succeed

Your career doesn’t hinge on just having big ideas. If you take a good idea and incubate it right, you could have the recipe for real success.

gabe-perez incubate

How can you incubate your big idea on the job? Forget about the size of the idea and focus on execution. An idea is nothing without execution. There are a lot of big ideas that sound great on paper but never go anywhere. And, a lot of “small” ideas, when executed successfully, can turn into something much bigger.

Before you incubate your idea, you need to figure out whether the factors for successful execution are in place.

And, you also need to figure out whether your idea is worth incubating in the first place. What kind of measurable value will your company realise if this idea is executed successfully?

For procurement specifically, that may mean taking a step back and making sure your idea aligns with the company’s strategic priorities. Is your company trying to cut costs? Are they looking for top line growth through mergers and acquisitions? Are they trying to innovate with suppliers?

Conceive, Incubate, Execute

The big idea in procurement right now is to elevate the organisation based on value delivered. That’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be the result of building a track record of executing initiatives that support the company’s larger goals.

That doesn’t necessarily mean bringing a big idea, or even a new idea. Frankly, it might be finally executing on ideas that we’ve been talking about in the profession for many years, in order to build the credibility needed to take new ideas forward.

To build credibility, I’m a big fan of testing ideas quickly on a smaller scale. A great way to incubate an idea is to find a department or stakeholder that could benefit from the value that your idea could deliver, and see if they’ll work with you on a trial.

If it works, now you have a proof point, someone willing to champion your idea, and you’ve learned more about what it will take to execute on a larger scale. Results and value delivered are the best way to overcome resistance when you are looking to execute a change to the status quo.

Sharing the Knowledge

I met a procurement professional whose idea was to help his company speed up the sales cycle, something that’s strategically important at most companies.

His insight was that since procurement is always involved in negotiations, his team could help the sales team understand the thinking of the procurement teams on the opposite side of the table in sales negotiations.

He brought that idea to sales leadership, and they agreed to a trial where his team worked with sales executives on strategy for a few deals. Sales saw immediate value in the form of less resistance and faster time to close.

They were able to build on that success to create a company wide initiative where procurement was assigned to sales people to help on strategic deals.

That’s a great example of incubating and executing a new idea. But there’s also value in revisiting old ideas that have never been executed properly.

Accountability on Value

For example, at Coupa, we started with the idea that customers should continually measure and quantify the results that technology has delivered to their organisation. We call this ‘Value as a Service’.

Too often, in enterprise software, business cases were created to fund the purchase of software, but then organisations and software vendors were never held accountable to delivering the promised results.

The cloud delivery model gave organisations and vendors shared visibility into results. However, the mind shift toward a culture of accountability around value hadn’t happened yet.

If we wanted to go after the big audacious idea that value from every implementation should be measured, it would have been a huge leap from where the market was at that time.

Instead, we started with a smaller aspect of value that we called Savings as a Service. We partnered with our customers to quantify the savings they achieved by deploying our service. By helping them define savings goals, and having quarterly business reviews for accountability, we were able to document over $8 billion in savings.

From there, we moved into our bigger vision of Value as a Service by expanding our measurements into other value metrics.

Focus on the Outcome, Find the Idea

The problem with chasing big ideas is that they’re often too big to execute. Maybe you lack the credibility to get the needed resources and buy in. Or it’s something that wasn’t on the radar, so it doesn’t have budget and you’d have to pull resources from somewhere else.

People also fear change and they fear failure. The bigger and more complex the idea, the more reluctant they are to jump on board.

But don’t let that stop you. Focus on the outcome you’re trying to achieve to figure out which ideas are worth incubating. Then, land and expand. Right-size your idea to something you can execute successfully. Deliver value on a small scale. Win over your champions.

Careers are made not by having big ideas, but by being able to identify and execute on good ideas, big and small.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Don’t Just Negotiate Your Salary, Negotiate Your Career

If you wait until salary discussions to negotiate, then you’re wasting your time. There’s more in your career you can negotiate well for.

negotiate-your-career

When I was consulting, two of my colleagues were staffed on a project that never really happened. Willhelm and Rob spent three weeks on a project in which the only work produced was a three slide project plan outlining the project approach, before they were stood down.

The client changed their plans and had no use for the team. Wilhelm and Rob were duly staffed on other projects and moved on.

At year end, as is the way with consulting firms, both were up for promotion. They both had to compile feedback from the projects they had been involved in during the year.

Meeting or Exceeding Expectations?

Both approached the manager of the M&A project and had broadly similar conversations, with one crucial difference. Rob called the manager and said “I was on that project that never really kicked off, in fact we only produced that one deck, so can we just agree that I met your expectations?” The manager agreed.

Wilhelm said “I was on that project that never really kicked off, but we did produce that one deck. So can we just agree that I greatly exceeded your expectations? I’m in a promotion year, so it’s a big deal for me”.

The manager agreed. It really made no difference to him (we worked in a different part of the firm), and Wilhelm secured his promotion.

Rob was appalled. How could Wilhelm have pulled such a dirty trick? They both did exactly the same thing and yet he made such a bold claim! Where was the justice? It took him months to shake it off, but when he did, a crucial realisation dawned on Rob; He had let himself down. Wilhelm wasn’t the bad guy; Rob had been naïve.

Through the Eyes of a Negotiator

When you see life through the eyes of a negotiator, you see opportunity where others see risk. Wilhelm recognised this. He guessed (correctly) that the manager wouldn’t care very much about the grade he gave for a consultant in a different business unit, on an inconsequential project that never really happened.

Wilhelm recognised that if the manager didn’t like “greatly exceeded”, he’d probably be ok with “exceeded” and or “met” expectations. He was candid about his reasons. Wilhelm saw a negotiation opportunity, where Rob only saw an admin call.

It’s a fine line between being assertive and being pushy, but sometimes it’s useful to go beyond our own comfort zones. Wilhelm, in addition to being a clever, hardworking and talented consultant, also knew that knowing when to push a little could be the difference between getting the promotion and not.

It was a useful life lesson for Rob, and one that has served him well since. Our careers are full of innocuous little negotiations like these. Getting the most we can from every one of them is key to being successful.

Don’t Just Negotiate for Salaries

Most of what is written about negotiation in our careers focuses on the biggest, most obvious negotiation – “Getting that pay rise”. But the focus of those articles is tactical advice for the negotiation.

It’s ok advice, but if the salary negotiation is the first and only time your boss has seen you try to negotiate assertively, then they may not be convinced that they need to take you seriously now you’ve put your “negotiating hat” on.

However, if you’ve strategically positioned yourself as an assertive, pragmatic, skilful negotiator, who knows how to use negotiation as a problem solving and influencing tool, they will come to that negotiation prepared to work with you.

Imagine you’re working at full capacity and your boss asks you to take on additional work. Refusing may be uncomfortable and counter-productive. You risk being seen as intransigent, lazy or fearful.

But simply saying “yes”, and figuring you’ll find some way to make it happen, poses risks the new project, your existing work and your reputation. Even worse, if you do flog yourself extra hard and managed to deliver everything, you could be seen as a “safe pair of hands”.

That level of output then sets the expectation they have of you. This then becomes the new normal for the year to come. Does that sound familiar? Does it seem unfair?

Setting Clear Expectations – On Both Sides

You could negotiate the terms of the new project. At the very least, this is your opportunity to set expectations regarding the impact of this extra work.

You can protect your time and capacity to do high quality work by making clear to your boss that if they want everything done they are going to have to find some extra resource to help you (not your evenings!).

Additionally you’re showing that you’re sufficiently in control of your workload to understand and have plans to mitigate for the impact of being given extra work. You’re still offering your boss a solution, and positioning it as a less risky one. Best of all, you’ve increased your perceived value.

You’re no longer the pushover who takes on everything and does an ok job most of the time, but sometimes drops the ball. Now you’re the pro-active manager of expectations, who is realistic about what they can achieve, and is comfortable with delegating work effectively and helps find solutions to problems.

Finally, when that salary negotiation comes around, your boss is comes to the table ready to make some concessions, because they are used to you being an assertive negotiator, not a pushover.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Fools Rush In – Take the Time To Be Cautious

Being cautious doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious. It’s not always a good idea to throw caution to the procurement wind.

be cautious

Miguel Caulliez, Chief Procurement Officer at Nokia, explains why it doesn’t always pay to make spur-of-the-moment, opportunistic decisions as far as your career is concerned. We should be cautious and take the time to assess what is right.

Miguel, who has worked for Nokia since 2010, values innovation and diversity in the talent he employs and lauds the benefits of having solid career mentors.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

  • Financial Analyst at Auchan
  • Category Manager at GE
  • E-Business Leader at GE

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I think it’s important to try to not be too opportunistic. Take the time to be cautious when choosing which industry you want to work in. Changing function is a challenge, but changing industry could be an even bigger, and unwelcome, challenge.

3. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

Procurement pros need to be curious and have a willingness to disrupt. They should also fully understand what innovation means and be able to work innovatively.

4. How valuable have mentors been in your career? 

Mentors have been essential throughout my career. I could not and would not have achieved what I have done without, particularly two of, my mentors.

5. What does it take to work at Nokia? What are you looking for when you hire talent?

 Opportunities are unlimited at Nokia, so I am always looking for talent who can find their own way and work independently.

I see it as my responsibility to give a framework to my teams, but I very much appreciate the diversity in opinions, backgrounds and methods.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

3 Career Questions to ask your boss . . . NOW!

Has your career lived up to your expectations? If not, It’s not too late to make a change. You just need to be asking the right questions.

jon-hansen questions

Last year Kelly Barner and I spoke at a public sector conference regarding the key findings from our book ‘Procurement At A Crossroads: Career-Impacting Insights Into A Rapidly Changing Industry‘.

In the two sessions we gave, we posed the following two questions to the audience.

With the first we asked, how many of you chose procurement as a profession?

For those of you who have been in the industry for some time, you will appreciate the thought process behind our query, as historically very few people actually chose purchasing as a career. Most sort of fell into the role.

Based on the response, it is clear that times have obviously changed. The majority of people raised their hands indicating that procurement was indeed, their profession of choice.

If You Could Turn Back Time?

We then asked the second question. Knowing what you know now, and if you could do it all over again, how many would still select procurement as a career?

In both sessions, regardless of age or length of time on the job, the response was the same. Approximately 50 per cent of those in the audience indicated that if they could go back in time, they would have made a different career choice.

The reasons they gave were varied, and are in and of themselves, worthy of a separate article. However, and corresponding with the focus of this post, there was a central or common theme. During the hiring process it appeared that very few asked their prospective bosses the right questions.

In short, they were more focused on being hired, without really understanding what the actual position entailed beyond a perfunctory role and responsibility job description. This I believe, is a common scenario that is played out across all professions in all industries.

Based on the above responses, it is imperative that job candidates ask the right questions.

So what are the right questions?

As a procurement professional, these are the three I would ask:

  1. What is your view of technology, especially in relation to its role in the procurement process?
  2. What is your approach or process for engaging key stakeholders, both within and external to the enterprise?
  3. What, if any, changes will we see in procurement in the next 2 to 5 years, from both an individual professional standpoint, as well as collectively?

By the way, it is never too late to ask the above questions, even if you are already nestled into a procurement career. The responses you receive could surprise you and, perhaps, give you a renewed enthusiasm for your chosen profession.

Now you may be asking yourself, why these three questions?

Because the answers you receive will reveal the true attitudes and values of your boss and the organisation as a whole.

The Technology Question

For example, take the technology question.

jon-hansen-1

If your prospective boss (and company) are heavily invested in making technology the primary focus of their efforts, then you will be in trouble.

While technology can obviously play an important role in automating the procurement process, thus freeing up valuable time for you to focus on more strategic endeavours within the enterprise, in and of itself, it will not get the job done.

As a supporting resource, technology requires people with an ability and desire to openly collaborate with key stakeholders which, not surprisingly, serves as a lead-in to the second question.

So if your prospective boss places a great deal of emphasis on technology as being critical to procurement’s success, that is a red flag. It means that you will likely find yourself relegated to a supporting role, as opposed to having a leading role, in the organisation’s procurement strategy.

Engaging Stakeholders

In terms of the remaining two questions, let’s start with the approach and process for engaging stakeholders.

For far too long our profession has operated in what I will call the zero sum game vacuum. Specifically, the belief that in order to win, someone else has to lose.

For example, during a lecture Kate Vitasek gave a couple of years ago, she talked about her time in purchasing with Microsoft. The co-author of ‘Getting To We’, who now champions the principles of being relational, recounted how she would be rewarded financially for driving down a supplier’s cost, even if doing so had negative consequences for said supplier.

IACCM’s CEO Tim Cummins also talked about how senior executive stakeholders at the negotiating table would routinely lie to one another about what they could do, by when they could do it, and for how much.

So when you sit across the table from your prospective boss, you need to determine if win-win is a vague sentiment without any real substance, or if they really understand the new dynamics associated with building relationships based on collaboration and transparency.

Change and the Future

Finally, let’s talk about question 3.

Asking your prospective boss to provide you with their take on how the industry and profession will change, may seem like a catch-all, pie in the sky question that is more likely to produce a perfunctory response, as opposed to eliciting meaningful insight.

However, if the answer you receive stands out from the same old generalisations one usually hears, you will know it. This is because it will reflect an attitude of new possibilities. An attitude no longer held captive to the traditional views of what our profession and industry is about.

In essence, this last question walks the talk of the first two. The answer you receive will legitimise the response for the first two questions. Because without change – or an understanding of what needs to change – improved stakeholder engagement and the proper assignment of technology is not possible.

Listen to Jon’s Career Boot Camp podcast here.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

The Top 5 Ways to Stand Out In Procurement

There are millions of procurement professionals in the world. So what skills are going to make you stand out from the crowd?

stand out

There are millions of procurement professionals around the world. And every single one is different.

Which is fortunate, given the range of activity which Procurement has to undertake, and the different characteristics which are necessary to succeed in those roles.

In amongst that diversity, there are a number of characteristics which the most successful can display. These characteristics are ones worth cultivating in our careers.

There is no particular order here. But our top five ways to stand out will always contribute to success, both when working in the organisation and when we’re seeking to develop our careers.

Communicate like a Professional

This is true in many parts of the business, but is absolutely critical for Procurement. We’re often trying to sell hard ideas, to get concepts across, to change opinion and views, and to do all of that we need to be excellent at communication. Not just Powerpoint, but using a wide range of media, types of communication, styles and messages.

We also need to be excellent at preparing and rehearsing our communications, getting them on point and noticeable, able to stand out above the in-company noise. To do this, we need to spend time practising and getting our messages right.

As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Be hard on yourself, and seek to improve. Being able to prove your understanding of the way Procurement needs to communicate and influence upwards with examples, will impress any recruiter.

Take the Wider View

Procurement can be accused of being one dimensional. We can get sucked into delivering price based targets, and loose sight of the bigger picture.

To operate effectively, we need to be excellent at maintaining a broader commercial perspective for the organisation, and making sure we’ve got both the short view and the long view in our sights.

The best in Procurement stand back and take in what the business really needs to achieve. They seek a balance between often conflicted requirements from different stakeholders. If we can maintain that overview, we will often deliver far more than if we get sucked into a one dimensional view.

Showing business aptitude and seeing procurement in terms of solving business problems, is an extremely valuable asset to any procurement function.

Bounce Like a Rubber Ball

Procurement can be tough. As the people on point for delivering value from the supply chain, we often can feel the weight of the business on our shoulders, while still trying to get through to a value improvement we can see but can’t quite reach.

To maintain a high degree of performance we need to have a high degree of resilience, to be able to bounce back and keep going. Holding onto our core beliefs, keeping going when it’s being sought and getting to the outcomes we want to achieve are great outcomes all by themselves.

There is no doubt that Procurement requires tenacity. Be able to prove your ability to stay the course for long term sustainable results rather than short term glory.

Network

The technical stuff is often less of an issue than the people stuff. This means that we need to network hard, identify the decision makers and opinion formers, and be aware of their issues and agendas.

Knowing who people are, what their concerns and needs are, and being able to reach out to them to both influence but also to offer support, is a massive help when trying to progress our own agendas.

It isn’t a one way street of course. These relationships are precious. We need to make sure we’re managing our relationship resources, just like we should be protecting our time. Show how you value your network and how this helps improve the positive effect of procurement.

And finally…

Know your Stuff

There’s nothing better than watching someone with a fantastic grasp of category and business issues making a case.

Having a broad grasp of what is happening in a market, how it relates to the business overall, looking at short and long term effects, providing imaginative solutions which test the range of what is possible, with stakeholders aligned or at least neutral, with a thought through plan of action. Those are the days when the future of Procurement looks brightest. The individuals delivering that insight will look like stars in the organisation.

Whilst you may not need to have deep category knowledge to get your dream job, having an understanding of procurement excellence and the challenges of buying in markets is key to bringing true expertise to the function and will be seen as an asset.

None of the above happens by default. It requires personal insight and understanding to make sure that skills and attributes develop in these areas. Spending time in each area is extremely worthwhile. Taking time out appraise ourselves in these areas, or get feedback from others, will give a big step up in how we’re viewed.

Good Luck!

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Is Generation X The Forgotten Generation?

Is Generation X the equivalent of the middle child? Is it the forgotten generation? Unsurprisingly there’s more to the generation than that.

generation x

“In general, middle children tend to possess the following characteristics: people-pleasers, somewhat rebellious, thrives on friendships, has large social circle, peacemaker.” (Parent Magazine)

Generation X includes adults in their mid thirties up through age 50. They – or I should say WE – are younger than baby boomers and older than Millennials. There you go! I’ve now summed up everything most people know about Generation X!

But there is so much more to our generation – especially when you look our potential for career development. Baby boomers are retiring and Millennials are just getting started, while Gen X is transitioning into the vast majority of leadership positions.

Even though Gen X’ers are an up and coming group, we don’t get much attention. We are the forgotten middle children in a crowded professional landscape. And yet, we are also the answer to many of the professional challenges being faced by our older and younger peers.

An Inter-Generational Bridge

A 2014 article from The Pew Research Center stated, “…in most of the ways we take stock of generations – racial and ethnic makeup; political, social and religious values; economic and educational circumstances; technology usage – Gen X’ers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”

If you look at most of the writing about the generations in the workplace today, commentary that isn’t about Boomers or Millennials, is about how they struggle to work together. Clearly a bridge is exactly what they need.

By combining the traits of people in Generation X with the characteristics of middle children, we are given a unique opportunity to help ourselves, our peers, and our companies by being independent peacemakers who are ready to blaze new trails and leverage the power of our networks to make change happen.

Dear Baby Boomers, Share your wisdom and we will make your legacy soar

While not all you baby boomers are on your way out, the vast majority of you have gone as far as you are going to go professionally. Making sure that your career experience is not lost to retirement requires it to be passed down to someone who can understand it.

You lament that you have little in common with Millennials, making it hard to connect and communicate with them. Gen X, on the other hand, shares quite a bit with the Boomers, and we are in line to fill your positions next.

By passing along your wealth of knowledge to Gen X, you ensure that your legacy lives on and that the organisation achieves a kind of continuity. This also takes advantage of a whole new range of opportunities, and helps translate the lessons of the past to the conditions of the future.

Dear Millennials, We can help you make your revolutionary ideas a reality

Despite the fact that we seem just slightly less old than everyone else you report up through, we aren’t as established as you might think. We have seen a lot of change come to the workplace – we’ve driven some of it.

We’re (almost) as tech savvy as you are, and we have a lot of experience with change management. We also know a thing or two about how to work the room, and have the connections that will help us sell your ideas in a way that respects their spirit while making them seem achievable.

By working together with Gen X, you can take some of those wild new ideas you’re so famous for and make them possible – without having to wait until you are in their thirties.

Take it from an X’er that was in her 20’s about 15 minutes ago – you are going to be 35 in a flash.

From One Gen X’er to Another

Baby Boomers and Millennials have an edge in that they are getting a lot more coverage than we are, but we must accept some level of responsibility for that as well. The advantage of being – well – ignored, is that we have lots of extra time to prepare ourselves for the professional roles still to come.

Get an MBA, earn a certification, take a class, build a diverse network of colleagues, and do it in a way that is uniquely ‘X’.

We want to be connected to our colleagues, which is made easier by the fact that (unlike the Millennials) a lot of us will pick a general area of professional focus and stick to it over the course of our career.

Many Gen X’ers have families, which means we have an incentive to commit to a company for a few years at a time – simultaneously increasing our impact at that organisation and boosting our earning potential.

On the other hand, we aren’t bound by geography, which might otherwise see us spending our precious networking time in Flinstone-esque ‘Lodge’ meetings with local procurement professionals.

We are fortunate to have at our disposal sites for virtual networking that allow us to form new relationships quickly and easily, not to mention all over the world. With this power, we can leverage ideas across industries and continents in a way that our predecessors could only dream of.

The biggest challenge for Generation X is defining our own identity. The best way to do that is by leaning on each other. Not to the exclusion of the other generations, but in a way that allows us to leverage and amplify the power of our own generation.

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.
It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!