Tag Archives: leadership skills

Are Women Better Managers Than Men?

Latest research tells us that not only are women as good as men, most of the time they are better. So what’s holding companies back?

women
By Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

There are a lot fewer female managers than male managers. But you’d be wrong to assume that’s because women are not as good at leadership.  The latest research tells us that not only are woman as good as men, most of the time they are better.

According to the latest results from an annual survey conducted by international business advisory firm Grant Thornton, three quarters of businesses worldwide have at least one woman in senior management. 

Notwithstanding that, less than a quarter of senior roles in those businesses are held by women and most of those are at the lowest seniority level.  The glass ceiling for female managers still very much exists. 

While 2 in 5 low level managers are female, just 1 in 20 of S&P 500 CEOs are women.  One in five board members are women and just one in ten are among the top earners in the company.  This is despite women representing 45 per cent of all employees in those companies. 

Men vs. Women – Stereotypical Traits

A recent study in Spanish companies tried to get to the bottom of why by asking workers to evaluate the extent to which gender-stereotypical traits are important to become a successful manager.   Overall the study found what we might expect. 

The workers felt traits normally associated with males (using a standardised questionnaire) such as aggressiveness, superiority and calmness in the face of crisis were important in order to successfully manage.  The respondents also consistently rated males as being stronger in these areas. Unexpectedly, this association was stronger among female employees than males.

But when the Harvard Business Review recently analysed their comprehensive database of almost 9,000 annual management reviews they found that real-life female managers excelled on almost every trait associated with excellent corporate leadership.  

The data comes from 360 evaluations where participants peers, bosses and direct reports are asked to rate each leader’s overall effectiveness and how strong they are on 19 competencies that Harvard’s 40 years of research has shown are most important to leadership effectiveness. 

It showed that women outperformed men on 17 of the 19 traits.  These included traditionally female characteristics like building relationships, teamwork and motivating others but also those normally associated with male leaders, such as driving for results, speed, bold leadership and innovation. 

Females were particularly strong on Taking the Initiative, Practising Self-Development, Honesty and Resilience. Male leaders did better in only two categories, ‘Develops Strategic Perspective’ and ‘Technical or professional expertise’.

A Matter of Confidence?

Interestingly despite being more competent in almost every management facet than their male counterparts the women under 25 were significantly less confident about their abilities than the men.  And their confidence levels didn’t catch up to those of their male colleagues until they reached their 40s.

Other research has shown that women are less likely to apply for a job if they are no confident that they are qualified.  Men and women with the same qualifications may not come to the same conclusion about whether are qualified for a promotion simply due to differing self-assessments as to their abilities.

Added to that, women were much more likely to follow the written rules about necessary qualifications.  Men were likely to apply even though on paper they weren’t qualified. A woman would wait until she was.  The result was that men were frequently promoted more quickly than women even when had equivalent abilities.

The Best Women for the Job

The data tells us that on just about every meaningful criteria, women are likely to be better managers than men, so why are so few of them holding management positions? The Harvard team speculate that besides the tendency to underestimate their capabilities and cultural norms against female leaders -almost all human societies are patriarchal, meaning that men run the show – there’s likely to be a strong helping of conformity to the norm in hiring decisions. 

If 90 out of a hundred managers are male then promoting a women to their ranks is a risk for a hiring manager.   As they say in the computer industry, no-one ever got fired for buying IBM. Perhaps in this case it’s more like, nobody ever got fired for promoting a man.

Hiring decisions like that, could be costing your company money.  According to a large international survey which correlated the percentage female managers with profitability, those that had 30 per cent or more women in the C-suite were on average 15 per cent more profitable.

Hiring more female managers isn’t about being polite. The evidence is in. It’s about better profits and getting the best person for the job – even if she doesn’t think she is.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Leave The Stories To Marketing

Are we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories...

By Johanna Altmann/ Shutterstock

Once Upon a Time……And so the story goes….. There wouldn’t be too many of us who cannot remember even one story from our childhood. It might be something we liked to have read to us on repeat, no doubt driving our parents crazy with our enthusiasm for the same thing over and over. And as we develop our own experiences, we create our own stories to capture the big moments.

Who hasn’t been to a milestone birthday, wedding or other celebratory event where the speeches section of the evening engender dread that they will never finish? Or laughter and delight at the humour and good nature of reflection and personal insight?

On a professional level, we develop stories also. Our resume becomes the formal story of record of our work history, references the story of our previous performance. We share stories about an interview we had, a great outcome we achieved, as well as a failure for something that has not gone as intended.

Science of Stories

The science of story telling is something well out of my area of expertise. I know enough to be able to rather simply explain that there seems to be a consensus that as humans, we had storytelling in us from the get-go. Before we wrote, we spoke, and stories were the way that individuals and tribes shared achievements and tribulations, their history and their myths. 

Studying classics, I participated in more than a few heated debates on whether Homer really did author The Odyssey in the way we understand authoring today, or whether he simply documented stories told by others and deftly added his by-line to a transcript that has become a classic for many different reasons.

Organisations tell their own stories too. It is not just Hollywood that understands the commercial value and engagement of a superhero’s origin story (As big of a Marvel Universe fan that I am, I have to give it to DC for the Wonder Woman movie). How powerful is the origin story in helping us understand the culture, intent and values of an organisations?

In my time with Hewlett Packard, the story of Bill and Dave in the garage was told over and over, and with IBM, the legacy of the organisation in its role in advancing racial and gender diversity, as well as its integral role in the Apollo space mission were part of the stories that help employees understand the scale and capacity to achieve great things that the organisation is capable of.  

Organisations Telling Stories

In today’s digital world, it’s not only the mature organisations that understand the value of the story in creating and evolving their brand. Digital natives tell stories of their inspiration, entrepreneurs tell stories of the many failed attempts to become an overnight success, and if you spend any time on social media, you will have read, followed or liked personalities, products and groups for the stories they shared that would have resonated with you.

It’s actually the stories that form part of the personal or organisational brand; the idea for Facebook originating in a dorm room, Air BnB from a trip to San Francisco with no accommodation available and Space X as a lifelong ambition of a very, very young Elon Musk.

On a more practical level, organisations tell stories about their products, or their services. It might be the juxtaposition of the before versus the after scenario capturing us with the promise that we too will be able to replicate the same level of success if we buy or consume.

Or it may be the a carefully crafted script on how a product is made, the people who made it, and how it will make our lives so great we are likely to wonder how it was possible to live without it. Other times, it is much simpler.

Product placement on the screen allows us to create our own story; that we too can be like the people in the movie and share their success, superpower or characteristic that made them so memorable (I am not sure this aspiration should extend to villains however owning a car based on a great car chase may be fair game).

What Can Leaders Learn?

Savvy marketers are well aware of the impact of stories and how they can initiate dopamine and oxytocin and translate this to brand awareness, a purchase and more importantly, brand loyalty. It’s what makes consumers stick with you, even when confronted with products or services that don’t meet market expectations, and it’s also what drives profit and growth. The challenge and cost of keeping a customer is much less then the cost of attracting new ones.

So what can leaders learn from all of this? Aren’t we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories.

Attract the best talent

If it is a great strategy to attract new customers, why would it be any different for attraction of employees? In a market where employees have choice about how they work and who they work for, organisations looking to secure a reputation for employer-of-choice would do well to have their leaders understand that stories matter in attracting those who not only perform well, but also align with the values and mission of the organisation.

And as with customers, hiring the right people is only a very small part of the talent challenge. Retaining employees in environments that are challenging, constantly changing and demand more, can be a competitive advantage.

Connect and engage

When stories are shared, they can create connection and engagement. In fact, they can also create empathy. And in today’s digital environment, the constant change, always being on, and the reactiveness of many organisations means leaders need to be vigilant to signs of change fatigue and disengagement.

Storytelling can span reasons for an initiative, shared success, and even foster a learning environment from failures. They can help leaders and organisations re-write the narrative on culture, performance and why what is being done matters, helping harness purpose through inspiration and a focus on the outcome. Hopefully with some learning and laughter along the way.

The Leadership Styles That Work Best

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions.

By Flamingo Images/ Shutterstock

There is a lot of complicated management theory about management and leadership.  There are detailed guides to choosing the correct management style.  Should your leaders be Authoritative or Visionary or Transactional or a Pacesetter or a Servant or Democratic?  You could spend your life studying the mountains of research and still be none the wiser.  But the reality is likely to boil down to just one rule.

Don’t hire psychopathic leaders.

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions. A recent study has found that a staggering 82 per cent of hiring decisions concerning leadership roles select an inappropriate person. Companies are choosing the wrong person for the leadership role an alarming rate of only once in every five hires.

Leadership Talents = Engaged Employees

Gallup has spent two decades studying the performance of 27 million employees across hundreds of organisations. They have calculated that the innate leadership talents of managers account for 70 per cent of the variance in employee engagement from company to company. 

In an average company in 2018, around 50 per cent of the employees were disengaged and a further 13 percent were actively disengaged. An actively disengaged worker has a miserable work experience and would quit tomorrow if they had any other choice.

The research shows that employee engagement is strongly linked to customer ratings, profitability, productivity, staff turnover, safety incidents, staff theft, absenteeism and product quality. There is however an easy solution at hand. 

The research also shows that increasing the number of hires of talented leaders can significantly increase the engagement of employees.  If the percentage of actively disengaged employees can be reduced below 10 per cent, then earnings can be increased dramatically. 

Lowering Active Disengagement

In 2012 Gallup examined the performance of 49 publicly traded companies and compared their results with engagement results from their survey data.  They found that companies that did manage to lower active disengagement experienced on average 147 per cent higher earnings per share than companies with more typical levels of active disengagement.

Hiring more talented managers can therefore have a massive and direct impact on the bottom line and a significant array of critical business measures. Gallup’s research has left it convinced that all good leaders share just five critical talents:

  1. They motivate every employee with a compelling mission and vision
  2. They are assertive, drive outcomes and persist in overcoming adversity and resistance
  3. They insist on clear accountability
  4. They enforce a culture of integrity and honesty and build relationships that create trust
  5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

In short they must be honest, empathetic and have a clear vision. Or in even shorter, they must not be a psychopath. 

The critical difference between a psychopath and the rest of us is their complete inability to feel empathy.  There care for nobody but themselves and are quite happy to use any means possible to remove anything which gets between them and their goal.  That goal is accumulating more power and money for themselves.

Power over People

As a general rule, a psychopath will be drawn to jobs which give them power over other people. Psychopaths believe they are superior to everybody and that the role of all other people is to deliver rewards to the psychopath.

Add this to their prodigious ability to charm interviewers, and their propensity to make up whatever achievements they need to get the job, and it’s easy to see how they may be fast-tracked. As a result, we can expect them to be towards the top of any corporate structure.

To the psychopath, the team that works for them need to be tightly controlled and completely compliant.  Psychopaths achieve that using classic manipulation tactics, singling out members for public punishment, rotating those with favoured status, implementing ever more detailed micromanagement and the ramping up of secrecy.  

The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil.  Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

Power of the People

Luckily the cure is easy.  Well, easy to say.  It’s honesty and transparency.  The best place to hide a murder is in a massacre and the best place to hide a lie is in a company full of liars. It is much harder for a psychopath to use deceit to their advantage if everybody else is honest. 

Companies that ban secret communication channels, reward honesty, punish dishonesty, encourage whistle-blowing and who have strong, honest and independent human resources divisions (and boards that listen to them) are much more likely to control psychopaths and massively limit the harm they can inflict.

This will not stop you employing psychopaths but it will ensure they are working for the greater good of your company rather than destroying its culture and its future.

Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

By Andrew Angelov/ Shutterstock

Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Three Key Mindset Shifts To Lead In The Digital Age

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital age however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment.

By Brian Lasenby / Shutterstock

Digital, the awe and the promise, filling us with inspiration and fear at the same time. Initially, the digital discussion was all about technology. After all, technology is cool, and we all want the cool factor. It demonstrates that we are at the forefront, leading the way, innovating. All great things when organisations and individuals are in a highly competitive environment and looking for a point of differentiation.

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. RPA? A great place to start. Mobility? It’s all about anytime, anywhere. AI? Not quite sure what it means, but let’s go with it anyway.

As many organisations sought to implement technology and transform themselves, the promised utopia did not quite eventuate. Technology moves fast and the innovation of today is tomorrow’s nostalgia (Any 80’s movie featuring a brick cleverly masquerading as a mobile phone will make this point all too well for those of us who were there to remember it the first time). That’s because digital requires a reinvention in how an organisation operates from business models, to systems and processes, through to engaging with the market and customers. It turns out that without a mindset and cultural shift, the full benefits of the technology are never realised or sustained. And so, for leaders this poses an interesting question. What does leadership look like in this digital age?

There is a multitude of research, writing and discussions on leadership in general. It is no surprise therefore that the conversation around digital mindset is met with cynicism, or fatigue. Don’t throw out those books yet (unless you received a kindle for Christmas). The fundamentals of what we know to be great leadership endure; humility, curiosity, emotional intelligence among others are key call outs and are as relevant today as when they were first identified. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital landscape however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment. So where can you start to make a shift like this?

1. Experiment and embrace learning, not failure

Everybody knows about this one. In the strive to be innovative, there is a focus on experimentation. Experimentation is a call out for me because it brings together a number of attributes that differentiate digital leaders; challenging the status quo, creativity in seeing something the rest of us do not, courage to advocate for it, curiosity and determination to pursue it.

Interestingly enough, this also requires what might be considered a high tolerance for risk (which is why I mentioned courage). The default position for many leaders and organisations is to say “no” in a variety of ways.  I am not sure how many times I have heard “that’s not been done before”, “that won’t work here” or “we tried it and it didn’t work”. And there were times when I listened, and others when I thought there was something worth pursuing and did, demonstrating probably more hope and naivety , than courage.

The real issue of risk in experimentation arises because we need to be comfortable with  failure. Failure here is not an aspiration, it is simply highly likely when trying something new or doing something for the first time, even if it has worked somewhere else. Failure is problematic because it makes us susceptible to self-doubt, and the critique of others. Both are tough. And the idea that we celebrate failure in the digital world is a confusing and honestly, a little ridiculous to many. So, let’s be clear, that with experimentation, it’s the learning that needs to be celebrated, not the failure. Gary Pisano makes this point clearly in his book “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation”.  Try something new, take what worked, evolve it and get it right. Or work out whether it is even worth pursuing further, or call it quits and move on.

2. Understand skills, cultivate expertise

There is no shortage of dystopian views of the end of the human workforce as the result of automation and AI. If failure incites fear, there is no doubt that human redundancy as a result of technology amps up the anxiety level. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that workforce transitions due to automation will impact approximately 14 per cent of the world’s workforce, so the scale of the impact is significant. My first implementation of digital analytics was in 2011, long before we were even having the conversation so I have seen the potential and the limitations. Developing an executive dashboard of key business metrics including daily sales, was a great start to automating analytics and producing actionable insights. So much more would be possible today. I am optimistic about the future of humanity and the ability of the man + machine interchange.

There is no doubt that many tasks will be automated. Many routine ones in fact already have been. At the same time, demand for new skills is emerging. And these skills present an opportunity to generate value in ways that may not have been possible previously. Digital savvy leaders adopt a mindset that see this threat as an opportunity. They understand the impact for themselves, their teams and the organisation. Anticipating what is coming, they identify the skills and behaviours that are needed and develop them, positioning themselves at the forefront through different ways of learning. With so much being so new to so many, expertise and differentiation comes to those who are willing to learn, try, and apply. Equally important, they cultivate this mindset with their employees and enable them with the skills and attributes needed.

3. Operate within new models, divest old paradigms

Welcome to the new world of work. Expertise exists in unlikely places; traditional reporting structures don’t always work and teams operate with autonomy and accountability. It takes a distinct mindset shift to relinquish decision making and control. The more important the initiative, the greater the risk, the harder it becomes. Yet the digital world values and rewards expertise, speed and adaptability. That means setting the agenda and outcome, defining parameters and empowering the team with expertise to execute. It does not mean abdicating accountability for progress and delivery, nor does it mean micro-managing the team because things aren’t being done as you would do them.

For many leaders, the paradigm shift to new models of leadership is challenging. The results however are inspiring. When I was tasked with working on the National Emergency Warning Project with the amazing Joe Buffone who was leading the Government’s Emergency Services response, we both knew that we needed to assemble an A-team, give them guidance and clear direction, and then let them do their thing while we did ours. The result? A first-of-a-kind initiative, with media attention, up and running (and more importantly working) on time and within budget, which is practically unheard of in either public or private sector, was the result.

There is no doubt that the digital landscape presents challenges that many may find uncomfortable at best. Embracing new ways of thinking and applying mindset shifts is a tremendous opportunity for leaders to transform themselves, their teams and their organisations. Time to be inspired by the potential of what is possible.

The Making of a Supply Chain Leader

What are the key skills  supply chain professionals should be developing in an AI-enabled future?

Ekaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock

“I’m a great believer in great passion,” says Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain. And it’s just as well given that Ron is responsible for all strategy, execution, and transformation of IBM’s US$70Bn global end-to-end supply chain, delivering to clients across more than 170 countries.

“Always be as bold and as fast as you can,” he says. “I’ve never looked back in a transformation and thought ‘Darn it! I wish I had gone slower.’ There’s always room to be bolder and to go faster.”

On Day Two of Career Boot Camp, Ron speaks to us about the greatest challenges and complexities of his role, the importance of leadership, and the key skills that supply chain professionals should be developing in an AI-enabled future.

Building a cognitive supply chain

“We’re at a point when new technologies are truly enabling us to take advantage of all kinds of data and giving us actionable insights close to real time,” Ron says.

“In our case, it all started several years ago when we built our transparent supply chain across [all] processes and systems, which gave us an excellent platform to apply advanced analytics and manage our business by exceptions. We set a very clear goal to become the first cognitive supply chain. This is based on our strong belief that with machine and human interaction we can truly augment supply chain professionals’ daily decision-making,” he says.

Ron points to several emerging technologies that provide incredible opportunity – AI (Watson, in IBM’s case), machine learning, blockchain, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, and 3D printing.

“Humans and machines always get a better answer than machine alone or human alone. With that principal we’re training Watson with our best supply chain experts [and] letting it observe our decision-making in digital resolution rooms,” Ron says. “Watson is learning in real time with us so it can help us to identify risks, predict issues and, as a trusted advisor, suggest our best course of action. How were similar problems tackled in the past? What are the risks or alternatives? Who should be involved or advise us on what actions we should be taking to manage the situation better and faster?”

“As we map the future of our supply chain it is crystal clear that we are getting the most value of our capabilities as we start to stack technologies together,” he says.

The challenge that’s keeping supply chain leaders up at night

“I have the pleasure of leading one of the most talented supply chain teams in the world,” Ron says. “I really love the adrenaline and all the variables that you need to be able to optimise it and the challenge of ensuring the right balance between demand and supply while [delivering] the highest quality and [focusing] on managing revenue cost.

“We are sensing and responding fast in the most intelligent way to any changes in the supply and demand equation, whether it be the introduction of new products, reacting to a natural disaster, geopolitical issues or supplier constraints,” he says.

But Ron also acknowledges that the tech industry is changing by the minute.

“[T]he challenge that keeps me up at night is are we transforming, are we moving fast enough and, more importantly, are we giving our team the tools they need to be successful?” he asks. “At the end of the day [are we building] an organisational culture that’s primed to leverage new technologies, unleash innovation, and challenge the status quo? Do we truly have the skills for the future?”

The making of a supply chain leader

 Ron always sees the need for strong leaders. “Some of the fundamentals [of leadership] don’t change; passion, perseverance, global and holistic thinking, collaboration and the value of diversity, [and] building a culture of feedback and continuous improvement,” he says.

Ron believes all these factors, indicative of a high-performance culture, will become even more critical in an AI-enabled future.

“We need leaders that take risks and drive a clear vision around digital supply chain and the need to be innovators; leaders that value experimentation over perfection [and] are willing to try new things and correct fast as needed,” he says.

Ron believes that leaders need a deep understanding of technology and where the trends are heading.“Disruptions are coming and they will hit us faster than ever so the ability to react becomes essential,” he says.

Ron advises aspiring supply chain professionals to take a step back and ensure that they are holistic, global, and horizontal thinkers. He encourages them to embrace new ways of working and collaborating with one another in order to become agile thinkers.

“In this new world the basics of supply chain are still critical so you can optimise a supply chain holistically from an end-to-end perspective. But you also need to be technically savvy,” he says. “The machine-human interaction will continue to increase and all these technologies will continue to become even more critical in supply chain.”

Data scientists will also be highly valuable, Ron says, as the ability to gather insights and ask the right questions will become critical for supply chain professionals.

Ron Castro is speaking on Day Two of Career Boot Camp 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to listen to his podcast now.

The CPO’s Guide To Persuasion

What’s the number one skill required by the CPO of the future? According to award-winning Australian CPO Kevin McCafferty, you won’t get far without mastering the art of persuasion.

Broadspectrum Executive General Manager and 2017 Asia-Pacific CPO of the Year Kevin McCafferty will deliver a keynote session at the upcoming GovProcure2017 conference, running from 5th-7th December in Sydney, Australia. Procurious caught up with Kevin to ask him about top skills required by the CPO of the future. 

Kevin, you’ll be talking about procurement in 2018 and beyond at GovProcure2017. How can CPOs equip themselves to meet the coming challenges?  

“In my opinion, the number one skill for the CPO of the future is what I’d call the ‘art of persuasion’. Procurement is a profession that a lot of organisations see as a tactical solution to some of the issues that they have. Most organisations spend about 50 per cent of their revenue on 3rd-party suppliers and service providers. If your business spends that much money externally, they need to become more strategic in doing so – and that’s where the need for persuasion arises.”

Which parts of the business generally require the most persuasion from CPOs?

“A CPO’s job is firstly to persuade the organisation when to be strategic in the way they spend it, and secondly, to invest in the profession so they get the best value-for-money outcomes every time they spend money. It doesn’t matter whether they’re buying pens and pencils, or if there’s a $10 million project your organisation wants to invest in; there’s an art involved in being able to persuade your board, your executive team, and your chief executive that investing in procurement to get those outcomes is absolutely critical to the profession.”

In your view, how important is networking for procurement professionals?

“The power of your network is absolutely critical to your career. In this profession, being able to talk to your peers and understand what’s happening in their organisations will help you work through your own strategies and goals.”

Kevin McCafferty will deliver the opening keynote at GovProcure2017 in Sydney on 5th December, where he’ll focus on:

  • an overview of procurement trends for 2018 and beyond
  • the age of commercialisation and digitisation, and how it’s impacting the profession, and
  • common challenges facing procurement and how to tackle the solutions.

Click here to learn more and download an event brochure.

Procurement Rising Stars: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Karen Morley realised very early on in her career that her workplace experience would be somewhat different from her male counterparts. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge she offers three key pieces of advice to procurement rising stars. 

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Quite early in my career, it became clear that my overarching purpose was to help leaders realise their full potential (although I may not have articulated it quite as clearly as this at the time!). I have a huge and on-going curiosity about people and their motivations. I became a psychologist to explore that further, and my studies and professional identification fed my purpose.

Levelling The Playing Field

As a young woman starting out my professional life, and with an ambition to succeed and achieve well, I was a keen observer of who in my organisation was given the best opportunities and who was promoted, and it didn’t take long for me to conclude that there wasn’t a level playing field for equally talented men and women. This was a big surprise to me and it was disappointing to know that equality efforts still had a long way to go.

And so my purpose has developed over time to include my passion for ensuring women are provided equal opportunity to grow and succeed, and for working with organisations to promote strategies that increase gender balance, and diversity and inclusion in general. To any procurement rising stars,  I offer three key pieces of advice:

  1. Rising Stars: What got you here won’t get you there

This phrase, which comes from Marshall Goldsmith, is a very powerful one. Continuing to do more of what you’re good at is seductive, but limiting, at least if you want to keep rising. And not all organisations are good at making this clear to their newer leaders.

While we know that new roles and increased seniority require new skills and perspectives, I also speak with the leaders I coach about what they need to give up. You need to give up a lot of what you have been recognised for and been good at, once you’re managing a team.

  1. Create strong foundations that will serve your entire career

Notwithstanding that you need take on and give up certain skills and perspectives as your career grows, there are a couple of related foundation skills for leaders that help regardless of the size and shape of your job. I think these are some of the toughest things to manage, but worth it in terms of the payback:

  • Manage your attention – disciplined attention is the currency of leadership. To be successful you need to pay attention to the things that matter most, and sustain your attention on those things in the midst of many distractions.

At increasingly senior levels this intensifies and focusing strategically and productively becomes ever more challenging. How to zone out the minutiae of everyday demands and keep attention on the big picture? You’ve got to be a bit ruthless with your attention and give up any need you might have to be all things to all people, or to be the one who has the right answers. Instead, prioritise what matters most and excel at it.

  • Manage your perspective – being able to manage your attention helps you to manage your perspective taking. And managing your perspective taking helps with important things like enabling others to do their work, and managing complexity.

The only effective way of dealing with complexity is being able to take different perspectives. Instead of managing for certainty, we need to lead for possibility. That can be challenging, and anxiety-provoking, in organisations where the drive is towards certainty. Seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from us, irritate us, or who stretch us beyond our comfort zones, can unlock enormous creativity and power. What questions do/would they ask? Build them into your repertoire to develop greater flexibility in your thinking.

  1. Know your story, and tell it well

How do you want the world to know you, and to understand the leader you are becoming? Spending time crafting your storylines is of critical importance firstly in gaining your own clarity: what’s your leadership purpose, your values and motivations to lead? How readily and clearly can you articulate these?

When you’re growing and developing, your stories may become a little confused, and some of them are changing. You may need to discard some, and find new ones. Working out how to articulate them clearly can help you gain clarity on what they are. Win:win!

I find that women in particular may be reluctant to tell their stories; I often hear ‘I don’t think I have anything interesting to say’. But everyone does. And a story should only take 60 to 90 seconds to tell.

No-one else will be clear about what you stand for if you’re not. Your stories serve to prime you for success. As you tell your stories people come to better connect with you, understand the authentic you, and appreciate your intentions. Help them to see you as the leader you want to be known as.

My Top Tips On Reducing Gender Disparity 

To be successful in shifting the representation of women in senior roles and start to nurture those rising stars, it’s important to nail these four things:,

  • Sincerely champion the value of women in senior leadership, and publicly commit to change; Giam Swiegers, Global CEO of Aurecon, is a wonderful example of this
  • Develop an inclusive culture and supporting practices, including promoting inclusion as an organisational ideal, promoting inclusive practices such as flexible working for everyone, and changing hiring and promotional practices to make them merit-based
  • Collect the right data, make it transparent and hold managers to account; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and Lara Poloni, CEO AECOM A&NZ are outstanding examples of organisations that transparently reviewed pay data, found gender-based differences, and adjusted the salaries of affected women
  • As a leader, recognise the impact and pervasiveness of unconscious bias, seek to understand it, and improve decision making practices to reduce its impact

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.

Indirect Procurement: Leading By Taking Responsibiity

Authentic leadership is especially important in indirect procurement. Pauline King discusses why taking responsibility is a key aspect of this.

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I was recently at a lunch with a former member of our indirect transformation program. I wanted her view was on how we achieved so much and so quickly. Her answer surprised me.

She made no mention of classic procurement methods; it was all about authentic leadership. Indirect procurement, with its high change impact, power struggles and need for excellent business partnering, is especially in need of this kind of leadership.

But what does this mean in the day to day? Thinking back over authentic and inauthentic bosses and my own mistakes in aiming to be an authentic leader, one theme is about taking responsibility. Here are three examples from my past experiences that demonstrate this.

  1. Be confident to make tough decisions 

I’ll never forget the first leadership team meeting with the best boss I ever had.

Bruce told us that each of us should be doing our own job and not the job of our direct reports. This was a powerful message for me because I realised that I had been covering and doing damage control for one of my team leads, Dirk.

Dirk had many talents, but he was not comfortable challenging the business. In indirect procurement, this is fatal.

It was September and we were setting up for the following year’s project pipeline and savings commitments. The numbers were not on track.

We were reviewing his numbers when I realised he hadn’t completed the final, and crucial, step of getting the senior business managers’ sign-off.  With a sinking feeling, I saw I would have to step in and ‘do his job for him’.  It was time for a hard decision.

In this case, it was especially difficult because I had worked closely with Dirk and appreciated his knowledge and skills in many ways.

But, he deserved to hear it straight that he hadn’t stepped up despite many feedback sessions. I didn’t see him being able to develop this particular skill. We instead focused on his considerable strengths and worked successfully to find him a new role. He went on to have great impact.

  1. Manage Relationships Effectively 

During a particularly difficult phase of a worldwide P2P rollout, my responsibility was to lead the global indirect implementation. This was in coordination with my teammates, the regional heads.

One of the most complex regions was in Europe with its many countries and languages. There were endless calls between global and region Europe to hammer out the operational details. One particular teammate, John, the head of Europe seemed to be putting roadblocks in place that didn’t make sense.

I made an error in blaming John and, worse still, being vocal about it. I didn’t take the time to understand his reality on the ground.

Luckily for me, our boss was very blunt and told me:

  • Work with your colleague to fix the disagreement
  • Never complain in public about a team member

I apologised to John and spent time with him discussing how we both thought we could bridge our differences.

Ultimately, he became one of my closest colleagues and together we led the rollout in Europe to success.

  1. Train your team to be independent 

The best way to coach people to take responsibility is by giving them the space to act alone.

I was once working on a series of difficult projects, one of which was reducing travel cost by implementing high-end video conferencing. In order for it to be impactful, a fast worldwide rollout was needed.

Serge was the procurement lead and had never done such a project before.  He had, however, developed a great relationship with his business client. I was convinced, with some support, that he could do the job.

One of the first tasks was in finding a clear way to measure the savings and bring that to the P&L. Together with the travel manager, we did some brainstorming on how to get the data and make the case, reviewed what external case studies we could use from providers and what the storyline could be for senior management. Serge went away with the task to put together a first draft with his colleague.

What he came back with was terrible: no clear story line and fuzzy numbers.

We did another brainstorming session and gathered some more data. At the end of this round, I thought Serge had enough to bring everything together. But, once again, he again came back with meandering slides and no clear way to measure the savings.

I knew he could do better.  I looked him in the eye and told him he had what he needed to pull the deck together and that I was convinced he could do it. And sent him away.

Several days later, Serge came back with the frame that we then polished and successfully got approved. With this success behind him, he stepped up and drove the project through, not only deepening his relationship with his business client, but also increasing his visibility in the company.

Believing and then saying, ‘I have full confidence’ to an employee is a powerful message.

Want to catch up on all of yesterday’s Big Ideas Summit activity? Join the group here

Making the Final Ascent from CPO to CEO

Taking the final step from CPO to CEO appears to elude many procurement leaders. So, why does Procurement so often lose out to Finance?

At the eWorld procurement conference last month Tania Seary interviewed me about leadership as part of Procurious’ Career Boot Camp series. After we finished she said, “there’s one question we ran out of time for: why do so few CPOs become CEOs?”

This set me thinking on my flight home. There are well known examples of the supply chain providing the key to the executive washroom. Tim Cook at Apple, and Sam Walsh at Rio Tinto are just two of the more well-known.

Famously, though, the best trodden route to the top is via the Finance function. 52 per cent of FTSE100 CEOs and 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have a financial background. So why do the accountants win out?

Show Me the Money!

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where the boss informs his staff: “you know we said ‘people are our most valuable asset? Turns out we were wrong. Money is our most valuable asset.”

dilbert-assets
Courtesy of Scott Adams (dilbert.com)

Given the paucity of HR directors making it to the hot seat, it seems boards tend to agree. CPOs should score well here: at the core of the role, after all, is to maximise the effectiveness of the company’s expenditure.

“Much travell’d in the realms of Gold”

Peter Smith’s eWorld workshop inspired me to quote Shelley, so it may be time to turn to Keats.

The other great advantage possessed by Finance Directors is that they see the entirety of the organisation: from wide expanses to western islands, no corner is hidden from their view nor beyond their reach.

This is critical. The board relies on the FD as one of the few people, other than the CEO, who has a grasp on how the totality of the business fits together. Not only does she or he have knowledge of what’s going on in each part, but they also appreciate the interlinkages between them.

How do CPOs fare against this measure? Well, if we’re frank, variably. In some organisations, CPOs see the complete cost base and fully understand how the company’s capital is deployed – and why.

In others, they may only influence part of applicable spend – KPMG’s survey suggested the average is around 60 per cent. Without that comprehensive view, the nominations committee may not consider a candidate ready to take overall leadership.

I suspect this is the most critical factor holding CPOs back. Ascending to greater height affords – but may also in the corporate world, require – a broader view.

Then like stout Cortez, with eagle eyes, may the CPO take that final step to become a CEO, and survey the scene, silent, on a peak in Darien.

To hear more from Stuart, catch up with his Career Boot Camp podcast here. You can also read more from Stuart on the impact of maverick purchasing on procurement, and download the latest Applegate whitepaper on the subject.