Tag Archives: leadership skills

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?

ceo to cpo

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.

In Search of Influence – The Traits of Influential People

With an understanding of what influence is, and how procurement can leverage it, we can now look at what the common traits of influential people are, and how to develop them.

Influential People

In my previous article, I reviewed some of the available literature on influence and influencing skills, in this article we look at what the key traits of influential people are, and how to best develop these skills ourselves.

These key traits and ways to develop have been identified following a range of discussions with a variety of procurement leaders.

1. Excellent Communication Skills

The most important trait to of influential people was the ability to communicate effectively. An example of effective communication was described as, “when they spoke to a room, it felt as though they were personally being addressed”.

This ability to communicate to many people, and make each person think that the message is for them, was identified as a key communication skill.

The research identified that there are different aspects of excellence in communication skills, which can be summarised as:

  • Develop and adapt communication plans based on the listener

When developing communication plans, it is imperative to consider how the person being communicated with likes to receive that communication. This then drives the method of communication – be it face to face or electronic, as well as the actual content. This adaptability of communication is again one of the key traits of influential people.

Goleman[i] suggested that effective planning specifically for the individual is a critical success factor for effective communication.

  • Make persuasive arguments

This links to making points in specific language that the listener understands. In other words, when making persuasive arguments, influential people spoke the language of the listener, rather than their own procurement language.

  • Listen to the responses and read the room

Listening and active listening is a key trait of an effective communicator. That it is more than what is being said that makes an effective listener.

2. Delivered results and built trust

The need to deliver on the promises that have been was seen as a ‘ticket to entry’ to a wider discussion. Therefore the ability to keep ones promises, i.e. contractual trust[ii], was identified as a non-negotiable to build trust both for the individual and the function.

The leaders influence increased within their businesses the more they delivered either on bottom line savings or on specific projects that they were asked to deliver.

3. Top influencers have empathy (and not sympathy)

Sympathetic listening is defined as how we care and show we care about the other person, and that we pay close attention and maybe share their feelings. Whereas when we listen empathetically, we go beyond sympathy and attempt to seek a fuller understanding of how others are feeling.

Empathetic listening means listening to the responses and asking more questions to understand the points made, which requires excellent questioning and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals.

4. The best influencers have great knowledge and great passion

Top influencers need to have credibility in order to be considered influential. When reviewing top influencers, all of those people had “been there, done that”, and were able to bring a huge amount of experience and credibility.

This referencing of credibility has an interesting link to the French and Raven work on expert power[iii].

Having passion in the field in which the influencers excel, be it procurement, or other topics, allows the influencer to demonstrate knowledge about their subject matter, which will increase the ability to deliver great outcomes.

5. Network and built great teams

The idea of networking with other senior leaders and influencers is an important leadership development tool. Harvard Business Review identified networking as operating at three levels, Operational, Personal and Strategic.

In order to be an effective influencer, the procurement professional needs to operate at all three levels.

How to Develop Influence

So if these are the key traits of influence, how do we go about developing these skills?

  • Observation is king

The number one thing that influential people do to develop their skills is the observation of others, especially those that they felt were influential.

This is then internalised by the individual to consider what it meant to them, and whether they felt it was something that they could do themselves, or something that they did not wish to do, or could not apply to their own style of influencing.

Top influencers have stated that they learnt as much from bad influencers as good ones, as this leads to things definitely not to do.

  • Training programs can add value…but need to be linked to on the job development

Attending a specific training program can provide lightbulb moments in terms of developing influencing skills. Many top influencers stated that this was unlikely to be a “learned skill” from a textbook, but more of an acquired skill through observation and mentoring.

This seems to add credence to the 70-20-10 learning methodology[iv], its application for active learning programs, and the use of formal mentoring or coaching activities.

  • Feedback loops from trusted and diverse sources

The requirement for an independent person to review performances and give detailed feedback on what was done well and not done well was considered to be a key ingredient to developing these skills.

The trusted sources could be a mentor, either formal or informal, potentially someone that the individual trusted or rated as a top influencer. Some have also mentioned that having a different diverse perspective in giving this feedback was a great way to develop skills, both in general and in relation to the topic of influencing.

  • Practice makes perfect

The need to practice the new skills when they had learned them links back to the earlier identified method of more on the job based training, or more planned activities following specific training programs. Top influencers have stated that the more they practiced and prepared the better they got.

Summary

  • There is a need to identify who you are trying to influence and decide on the best way to influence that individual.
  • This means that the practitioner needs to have multiple ways to influence rather than rely on the same approach for all.
  • If you want to develop your influencing skills then there is a key need to understand the way you process information and learn new skills.
  • Observational skills are paramount to increasing your influencing skills.

[i] Goleman D (1998) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ; Bloomsbury Publishing

[ii] Sako M; Does trust improve business performance? London School of economics 1997

[iii] French, J. R. P., Jr., & Raven, B. H. (1959); The bases of social power. In D.Cartwright (Ed.),Studies in Social Power (pp. 150–167). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research

[iv] Kajewski K, Madsen V, (2012), Demystfying 702010. Deakin Prime

ANZAC Soldiers in WWI – What Supply Chain Leaders Can Learn

How did John Monash, a Jewish son of German immigrants, become one of the greatest leaders of ANZAC forces during the First World War? And what’s its relevance to Supply Chain leaders?

Sir John Monash - Supply Chain Leaders

Recently I finished listening to Roland Perry’s audio book on ‘Monash: The outsider who won a war’, and found it a fascinating insight into early Australian military and social history.

And it got me thinking about what it was that meant that modern day universities, freeways, suburbs, scholarship funds and monuments were dedicated to and named for John Monash.

He became very famous, and if the King of England wanted to be his mate, then there must have been something special about this West Melbourne-born bloke!

You could say that Monash was pretty smart – a civil engineer, lawyer, business and artillery officer by training and profession. These skills saw him eventually become the Commander of the Australian Corps, which, at the time, was the largest individual corps on the Western Front.

Technologically Savvy

Like great supply chain leaders today, Monash was fascinated with technology, and what it could potentially do to meet his objectives. The Tank intrigued Monash and, along with the machine gun, he used it as a new and powerful offensive weapon.

Monash, like a smart manager today, encouraged his subordinates to come up with innovative ideas. One of them was a smoke canister that could be fired from artillery, providing screening for advancing troops.

He even used his legal training and knowledge of legal patents to help that soldier get that invention patented!

Health, Welfare, Blood and Guts!

Monash recorded in his diaries seeing and hearing the agonising cries and moans of injured soldiers left for dead after many of the battles at Gallipoli. It was this that led him to demand the urgent need for post combat repatriation and emergency medical treatment.

He also strongly advocated for more nursing services for recovering soldiers, which would have been a tough gig in those days.

Nothing demoralises an Army more than poor trauma health care, and Monash realised this. And any HR professional working in the supply chain knows that Health and Welfare programs work!

Leading his People

Monash’s leadership skills were second to none, especially when it came to his troops. He valued them. He wanted them alive.

He didn’t want to waste them as dispensable shock troops, as some suggest the British Commanders used ANZAC troops as, and like the movie Gallipoli portrayed them.

He went out of his way so that his troops would be given public recognition for their wins, sacrifices and heroic deeds, as censorship, particularly in newspapers, was suffocating at that time.

And what employee doesn’t crave a manger’s public recognition for a job well done? Monash understood implicitly the positive psychological effects of this.

Planning, Forecasting and Communicating

Monash as civil engineer understood the importance of intact supply chains and the logistics of moving people.

This expertise proved invaluable on the Western front. Time spent rebuilding destroyed road and rail networks, and town infrastructures, enabled the carrying of much needed supplies and reinforcements where and when he needed them.

Monash was a meticulous planner. He used all available topographical maps, often venturing into the field to survey objectives, so his soldiers could use existing terrain to their advantage and safety.

Planning skills and forecasting are nothing new to supply chain leaders, and it’s especially effective when you let your “troops” know what’s expected and up ahead.

People, Procurement and Negotiating

One of the most important tools in the arsenal for supply chain leaders, and what Monash was exceptional at, was the ability to negotiate, schmooze and defer when necessary to his superiors and reports. Or win them over with a confident well planned strategy.

Personal Fortitude, Self-development and “sucking that gut in”.

Monash, like any great leader, didn’t magically acquire “grit” or fortitude. He worked on himself both physically and mentally.

He read. He studied those around him. He picked himself up after failures and setbacks. And he was able to overcome racial slurs and innuendos, about his religious and cultural roots used by his opponents and detractors. At one stage even the Australian prime minister had it in for him!

When John Monash died in 1931 approximately 300,000 mourners turned out to pay their respects. Given the small size of Melbourne at that time, it showed how revered this great man was.

Monash - supply chain leaders
Australian Stamp Celebrating Sir John Monash

So whilst today’s supply chain leaders may not be involved in terrible international conflicts, some of the aptitudes and skills that a great Australia demonstrated over his lifetime, could be inspiring.

You can catch up with more leadership and life and style thinking at www.productiveminds.com.au.