Tag Archives: career planning

Beware the Scary Old-World CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.

I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.

My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.

If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.

There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.

Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?

You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.

They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.

This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.

Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.

The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.

My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.

Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.

Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.

They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.

The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.

Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.

Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.

We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Debate Over Renewed Focus on Career Guidance

Inadequate career guidance and advice from schools is exacerbating the UK’s skills gap, says a report published in the last week.

A new report published at the end of last week by the Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee, has stated that the skills gap in the UK is being worsened by poor career guidance given to pupils by their schools.

It was argued that poor career guidance was stopping young people making informed career decisions, which in turn was harming the country’s economy.

The report, the first published by the Sub-Committee, also argued that there needed to be greater oversight over the wealth of organisations, service providers, and websites set up to offer careers advice.

The report concluded that schools needed to be held to greater account when it came to careers services, and that this should make up part of annual inspections.

“Big Stick” Approach Wrong

However, the report came in for criticism from head teachers’ leaders, who argued the “big stick” approach of downgrading schools for poor performance wouldn’t solve fundamental issues with the careers advice system.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that there were severe problems in the existing system that urgently needed fixed, while school budgets were frozen and under severe pressure.

It was argued by other leaders that the threat of downgrading and inspection was not an effective way of driving improvements in career guidance.

Effective Career Guidance

However, there was agreement that steps needed to be taken in order to better equip students and school leavers with the right advice for their careers.

As the business world continues to change and evolve, students need the best possible advice about experiences, qualifications, and training needed for chosen careers, or how to get involved with new and emerging industries.

And this is not necessarily about just encouraging school leavers to go on to higher education and university, a criticism which has been levelled at many schools, but also making them aware of apprenticeships and other work opportunities.

This could be done through giving pupils better access to employers while still in school, work experience opportunities, and career talks from former pupils and local business leaders.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills at the Institute of Directors, said: “The IoD welcomes the committee’s focus on careers guidance, which by all accounts remains an Achilles heel in the UK education system.

“Alarmingly, just 43 per cent of students currently receive any formal careers guidance before choosing their A-level subjects and yet the subjects they choose can severely restrict their employment options later in life.

“This is partly because only 83 per cent of secondary schools employ a qualified, full-time careers adviser, with many relying instead on other support staff to fill career guidance roles. The only way to solve this problem is to improve guidance, not punish schools for being poorly equipped.” 

The secret to long-term career planning

In this second part of a two-part article, Hamish Petrie – former VP of People and Communications for resources giant Alcoa – reveals the secrets behind nurturing a long-term career.

Hamish currently writes for the Business Times in Melbourne. Read more about his story here.

Time is a critical factor in any career planning process. Most futurists agree that a large proportion of jobs even ten years out have not been invented yet.

To try to conceive the sort of job that you might have in the latter half of a 30+ year career is impossible. Your personal situation and your career anchor will usually change often through your career. For example, major life changes can greatly alter your priorities. Some consultants recommend breaking your career into five year terms, however, my experience would suggest that this is too long.  Too many things can change your situation in even two years, so a three-year plan seems more appropriate in our rapidly changing world.

In making this sort of plan, most people identify that they want to do their boss’s job, as they know that they can do it better than the current boss. Whilst this may be true, it can be restrictive as people can lock onto this and lock off on other possibilities. This “lock on: lock off” thinking can prevent a person from thinking about lateral jobs that may ultimately prepare them for bigger future roles.

I always suggest that a medium term career plan should exclude their immediate boss’s role, as this stimulates broader thinking. Getting some breath of experience during the first half of your career is always wise and it doesn’t matter in the long term if a particular job is not your ideal one at the time, as long as you keep learning about yourself.

Companies and jobs are always evolving and changing so it is important to learn how to adapt to change and to help drive change in a positive direction for you and your company. There is an old adage that “ tomorrow’s power comes to those that solve today’s problems”. Demonstrating that you can creatively solve problems and stimulate others to help can be a great adjunct to your career.

The bottom line is that it is impossible to develop a realistic long-term career plan, but you can prepare yourself for possible future jobs. You can develop a short to medium plan and this can be very helpful as long as your include all of the opportunities for broadening your experience. When considering how to develop your career, it is much more important to focus on the company rather than the job. If you can join a company that is right for you, then they will help you grow, become active in a dialogue about your future and help you be happy, and rewarded in whatever job comes along.

Action Planning Questions: 

  1. Have you investigated your own career anchor or taken one of the self-assessment tests available on the Internet?
  2. Have you developed a three-year plan, excluding your current boss’s job?
  3. When considering candidates for a job, do you give try to identify their career anchors to determine the best long-term fit for your needs?
  4. When considering a job, do you focus much more on the company rather than the specific job?

Read part one: Hamish Petrie asks: ‘Can you plan your career?’

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