Tag Archives: leadership

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.

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.

3 Ways To Win The Internet (You Don’t Have To Be Justin Bieber…)

The social media world is a scary place and unfortunately it’s scaring away the professionals and organisations who need it the most. How do you embrace today’s internet culture and use it to your advantage? 

The Procurious London CPO Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined YouTube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for YouTube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs.

A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms, connecting with huge audiences across the globe and finding fame.

Perhaps the most successful YouTuber in this space was Justin Bieber, who’s YouTube performances were discovered  by chance by record label manager, Scooter Braun.

Others, to this day, rack up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in, or had the chance to be!

Take 7-year-old Ryan as an example of this in action. His YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview” where he (you guessed it!) reviews the latest and greatest in children’s toys has seen him become one of the richest YouTubers ever and a multimillionaire.

Or there’s Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, and composer…

Youtube ultimately offers us the opportunity to be heard, and some people have seized the opportunity with both hands.

Building trust on the internet

Elizabeth Linder is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust.

Clearly  “The People” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out.

The problem is that so many of the worlds experts; that is the professionals, the politicians, the press, have really struggled to figure out exactly where they fit in. And that’s why so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust.

All too often, as Elizabeth points out, we focus on the sinister corners of the internet, only promoting the negative effects social media is having on our society.

When governments, the press and businesses perpetuate this idea they fail to acknowledge the value and importance that online conversations can bring, and the huge impact they can have.

The public’s use of social media is way more sophisticated than what we see in most professional bodies and businesses across the globe.

That means, as professionals, we’re on the back foot.

And it’s time to change!

At last month’s Procurious roundtable, sponsored by Basware, Elizabeth Linder provided three key pieces of advice to procurement pros who want to start, and win, conversations online.

1. Go at your own pace

Leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture.

You don’t.

Elizabeth stressed that it’s crucial to take things at your own pace as long as you let people into your thought processes.

A politician in the throws of a disaster situation can’t be expected to have all the answers or all the solutions. But what they can do is keep the public posted on the events as they unfold, maintain a constant dialogue and reassure people that they are doing everything they can.

As a business leader, it’s ok to communicate that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!

You don’t have to speed up because the internet is speedy. It’s just a different kind of dialogue.

When United Airlines hit the headlines for forcibly dragging a passenger off one of their planes, it took them so long to figure out their communications strategy, that they made things a whole lot worse.

They didn’t need a strategy.

They just needed to say something!

2. Believe in the power of primary

We need to believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do.

Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication.

If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say. And that’s because you don’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!

The opportunity to speak directly to your audience is an amazing opportunity for leaders and professionals but it’s taken, particularly western, leaders a long time to grab this space and run with it. Perhaps this is because it demands a greater bravery and vulnerability compared with hiding behind a newspaper column or official statements from your organisation. But the pay off is worth it.

The 2011 London riots  were a big wake up moment for the London Police force, who had to figure out how to communicate directly, and effectively with the general public.

And in the UK county of Staffordshire, the police have invested in real authenticity and conversation on social media, building a strong community relationship.

3. Embrace the hacker culture

Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key.

EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making.

Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter, and create as they go.

In the early days of Facebook your profile photo was meant to be one photo of yourself.  The idea was that you uploaded it and you kept it.

But Facebook engineers watched a trend emerging of members rapidly changing their profile picture; every time they went to a party, every time they went on holiday. They realised that users wanted to ability to share their photo albums on Facebook and so built in the functionality to do that. Simply by following the patterns of behaviour.

travel business is struggling with this right now – they used to be able to invite critics to review a hotel/ stay somewhere and write up a review – now all it takes is one guest to write a terrible review about crappy plumbing and it can go around the world- feeling of being out of control is prevalent in leadership circles.

Top tips for getting started online

  • Involve people, whether it’s colleagues, clients, customers or the wider community  in the early building stages of your online presence.  What do they want to hear from you? What’s useful and what’s not?
  • Keep a consistency and truthful tone to anything you post online. Post things that represent you or you organisation because it’s so much better to be yourself rather than a contrived version of yourself. If you’re not funny don’t try to be. If you’re earnest be earnest!
  • Don’t let your voice become part of the PR machinery. The UK lost count of the number of times they heard  Theresa May’s Brexit was going to be Strong and Stable – it was a meaningless consultant’s phrase.
  • Be honest! If you don’t know, say you don’t know! It’s much easier to do this online than it is live on TV.

Pick the right people to communicate with your audience. Your business might have a clear hierarchy but it’s important to consider who should be the spokesperson vs who will be the best spokesperson. The Estonian parliament Facebook page asked their maintenance man to run the page, and he’s become a local celebrity, and great PR for the government.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

Procurious are hosting CPO roundtables on 30th May, 19th September and 14th November. If you’re a CPO and would like to attend one of our roundtables in person please contact Olga Luscombe via [email protected] to request an invitation.

Can You Make Decisions Under Fire?

Are you struggling to lead or motivate your team through difficult times and under extreme pressure? We’ve got some top advice from someone who knows a thing or two about making decisions in extreme conditions…

Register now  as a digital delegate for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago!

“There are only two types of leadership.” begins Andy Stumpf “good (effective) and bad (ineffective).”

In today’s world, senior managers often struggle to effectively  respond and adapt to change. But the world is full of change and it’s crucial that our procurement leaders are flexible enoughto respond to the unexpected, to “read the tea leaves and meet the challenges of the real world.”

Andy  began his U.S. military career at the age of 17, transitioning from the position of an enlisted soldier, to an officer, and then,  in 2002,  he joined the most elite counter terrorism unit in the military; SEAL Team Six.

The unit, which is tasked with conducting the nation’s most critical missions, has become the inspiration for a number of Hollywood movies and books.

If you ever needed a man who knows how to plan for and adapt to change, Andy Stumpf is your guy! He’s strategised and executed hundreds of combat operations throughout the world in support of the Global War on Terror.

At Procurious’ Chicago Big Ideas Summit, Andy will draw on his wealth of leadership experience to talk about the intersections between business and combat, decision-making and empowering procurement teams.

Building the greatest leaders

“Business and combat are defined by their similarities, not differences and the theories of successful military leadership and successful business leadership are identical” Andy believes. It’s possible to apply the same principles and philosophy to your procurement teams because it’s really only the arena that differs.

“60 per cent of the time, organisations want me to talk about leadership. In fact, the definition is always the same. What can change is the way in which you approach leadership.”

So, how do the military build strong and competent leaders?

“Leadership is about empowering your people. From day one in the military we are taught, and it is enforced, that in the absence of leadership you must stand up and take control.

“Instead of creating individuals that think reactively in nature, we instead create individuals that think proactively.  You don’t have to be in a leadership position now to think two or three steps ahead.  In doing so, when a decision presents itself you’ll already have an answer for it.”

Does Andy believe these skills can be taught or are natural leaders exactly that?

“neither successful teams or leaders occur by accident, these are skills that must be learned, practiced, and refined. Navy SEALs are successful because of how we select, train, and lead our teams.

“Nothing in that process happens accidentally, everything is calculated. We demand leadership and accountability from each individual starting from the first day of training. We prioritise the individuals to our left and right, and the goal of our team over personal success. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to what is often found in society, and requires a structured approach and prioritisation from leaders to be successful.”

And Andy has some strong words of advice for any over-confident leaders out there. “The 1st leadership principle within the SEAL Team is ego; if you have a massive ego you’re more concerned that your ideas and strategy is being used as opposed to striving for success of the team. You can’t meet the challenges of the real world this way!”

Plan, plan and plan some more!

“We plan for everthing in the navy. We often say that if you want to shut down the military, you simply need to shut down powerpoint!

“Every stage of a plan gets one slide and there might be between five and seven slides on the ‘what-ifs’, the contingencies. Where will we land this helicopter? Where is the nearest location for medical treatment and what alternate options do we have?” When, as Andy points out, precisely 0 per cent of planning goes as expected, contingencies are everything!

“You make primary, secondary and tertiary plans because you don’t want to have make snap decisions in a crisis. You need to be able to fall back on stable procedures”

And of course, it can’t hurt that contingency planning makes you look like something of a genius! “It’s really hard to make difficult decisions in a crisis because you’re in a time compressed environment and you may have people’s lives depending on you.  We plan for 24 -72 hours and there are 5 phases per plan. Each phase has 5-7 ‘what if‘ contingency plans because, at the end of the day, you don’t want to make decisions in a crisis, you want to be able to draw on a branch diagram.

“It’s the contingency planning especially in the SEAL teams that makes the difference between success and failure in moments of crisis.”

What can our procurement teams learn from this? Spend a lot more time planning, for starters! But Andy also reinforces the value in having baseline standards to fall back upon. “Businesses should always fall back on standard procedures so people can come together, with a clear knowledge of the protocol. This is especially crucial when you’re working under restrictive time constraints.”

Andy’s final words of advice? “Don’t get attached to your plan -get attached to success!”

Want to hear more from Andy Stumpf or submit your questions for him? On 28th September, Procurious is bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action and LIVE video from our speakers and attendees. 

Don’t Argue With Footballer Daisy Pearce

The “Don’t Argue” is a classic move in the often-brutal game of Australian Rules Football. While we wouldn’t recommend shoving your colleagues in the office, there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from the world of elite sport.   

It’s always interesting interviewing sportspeople for a business-related publication. Before the interview, I usually have my doubts that I’ll be able to find something in their story that is relevant to the audience I’m writing for. Five minutes in, however, I’ve filled pages of notes about the many insights professionals can glean from elite performers.

This was the case with Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and captain of the Melbourne Team. In the space of 30 minutes, she provided links between her on-field performance and business agility, advice on how women can thrive in a male-dominated profession, and finished up with some leadership-related gems.

Daisy and the “Don’t Argue”

The theme of this year’s 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum (taking place on 17–18 May in Sydney) is “Pivot”. Why Pivot? Because in an era where flexibility and agility are seen as essential leadership attributes, the profession’s top practitioners must be able to pivot at a moment’s notice to gain commercial advantage from disruptive forces, including new technology. In essence, this means having the ability to rapidly and intelligently adjust short-term strategies to ensure you can achieve your organisation’s long-term objectives.

When I mentioned this term to Daisy, she immediately drew a comparison with the “Don’t Argue” move in football. “When you’ve got the ball and someone comes to tackle you, a “Don’t Argue” is when you send them off – push them away – and keep moving. Basically, you give them a shove with your arm, quickly change direction, and keep going.”

For non-Australian readers (and non-footy fans), here’s an explanatory video from the AFL:

So, what are the parallels between a “don’t argue” and a business attempting to PIVOT?

  • Your short-term strategy may change but the overall goal remains the same: although Pearce may suddenly need to run in a different direction to her original course, she’s still focused on the goal posts at the end of the field.
  • It happens fast, it’s immediate, and it’s often instinctive: CPOs often don’t have much time to plan and react to a disruptive force (an enormous footballer bearing down on you at high speed makes a great analogy). Decisions have to be made fast.
  • There’s no time to argue: Depending on the nature of the disruptive force, you won’t have time to initiate a long, internal debate about what to do. Instead, a fast decision could enable your company to mitigate the damage of a disruptive force, or even profit by it.

Thriving in a male-dominated profession

While the AFL (men’s football) has been around since the 1850s, women’s football in Australia has only officially existed since 2013.

“When I was 14, the rules were that I had to stop playing football with the boys in my hometown”, said Pearce. “I didn’t know back then that there was going to be a Women’s League, and thought my football career had finished. I turned to volleyball instead, before being drafted in the AFLW in 2013.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had to overcome many barriers to become a footballer. Then main barrier, I’d say, would be that I simply didn’t consider football to be a career choice. The real barriers existed for talented women who wanted to play professionally before 2013.”

Pearce has more than one string to her bow – she’s entered the world of football commentary (also dominated by men), started a career on the speaker circuit, and has also worked as a professional midwife. “The opposite is true for midwifery”, she says. “There may be young men considering a career as a midwife, but are daunted by the female domination of the profession. My advice is to go for it – if you’re passionate about something, and it’s what you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you.”  

Leadership on the field:

As captain of the Melbourne AFLW team, Pearce has plenty of leadership insights to share:

“My main piece of advice for leaders is to first, have a really good understanding of yourself and about how your behaviours impact others. Secondly, make an effort to understand the people on your team. Appreciate that everyone has different strengths, and will respond to different things.

“Invest in your relationships with team members and build rapport. In the long-term, it will help enormously when you need to have tough conversations. You can be both supportive and tough at the same time – people need to know you’re coming from a place of care rather than disinterest.”

Daisy Pearce will wrap up day two at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Photo:  Getty Images

Best Of The Blog – 5 Point Checklist For A Rockstar Procurement Boss

Is your CPO a real procurement rockstar and do they keep you up to date with all the goss’?  Tania Seary offers a five-point checklist for vetting your prospective boss. 

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article by Tania Seary who explains why organisations must be very cautious when considering whether to rehire employees.

I’ve been told that in this day and age employees often choose bosses, not companies, when choosing their next job.  I thought I would share five things I think you should look for when selecting your next procurement boss.

Ask yourself, are they a CPO who:

  1. Kicks you out of the office. 

As helpful as water cooler chit chat and Google can be for finding answers to your questions, there is nothing more valuable than getting out of the office and meeting with your customers and suppliers.  Your internal customers will be impressed that you have made the effort to come and visit them and understand how they use the product or service you are buying for them.  Similarly, actually visiting a suppliers’ office or plant will help you understand a lot more about that category you buy and identify new ways to add value.

2. Fills you in on the goss’

While it’s not appropriate for your boss to share all the intricacies of what’s happening within the upper echelons of your business.  It’s important that you know enough corporate gossip so that you can expertly manoeuvre yourself and your projects through the minefield of personalities and relationships that make up your business.  Stakeholder engagement is one of the most important skills required to be a successful procurement professional, so understanding “the lay of the land” is critical to your success.

3. Helps you keep score

Whoever you are in an organisation, you need to demonstrate the value you are delivering.  In procurement, this often means savings, but it should mean so much more than that.  Your boss should work with you to explain how your role links to the delivery of the overall business strategy and how all the different dimensions of your role deliver value – efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer service and other non-cost related value drivers are all important conversations to your CEO.

4. Has a game plan

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 coming year.  The best CPOs I know are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop.  They send their people out to be trained up in the skills they need and to build peer networks that will develop their 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, because they know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged… and retained.

5. Is a bit of a procurement rock star

If your CPO is well known and has a strong peer network, this provides you with a type of insurance policy that they know what they’re talking about and will hopefully be a great teacher.  However, you need to be careful that they’re not so committed to building their own profile out on the speaking circuit that they’re not providing enough support to their team.  A healthy balance between managing their internal and external relationships should provide you with a leader that connects you and your organisation with the outside contacts it needs to “stay in the loop”, while keeping everyone on track within your organisation.

How you are going to assess your potential new boss against this checklist when you are outside the organisation? This is where your network becomes invaluable.  You will know someone who knows someone (use LinkedIn or Procurious to see the connections) who has worked for your target boss.  Contact them, have a chat, see how the CPO measures up.  The most telling sign of success is how the CPO’s employees have been promoted both within and outside the organisation…

Good luck!

The Art of Self-Mastery In Indirect Procurement

Self-mastery is a critical skill in indirect procurement but you might have to endure a few steep learning curves before you nail it.

Join The Big Ideas Summit 2017 group to access all of last week’s discussions and exclusive video content.

Indirect procurement is a function with high requirements for stakeholder management.  Cultivating excellent stakeholder management skills means developing self-mastery – a key part of authentic leadership.

In the workplace, ‘Just being yourself’ doesn’t  mean  letting it all hang out, unfiltered. It requires a self-mastery founded in self-awareness. It means building on this to calibrate ones own reaction to and interaction with colleagues. I’ve had experiences from good and bad bosses along the way and I’ve made mistakes that have helped me learn to be a more authentic leader.

The blind spot of conviction

Early on in my career I was lucky to be part of a small, young team developing the, then new, idea of strategic sourcing in indirect procurement for a large bank.

We had an innovative boss, Harry, who inspired us with his passion for the new concept. And, with just 10 of us, and a supportive CPO, we were starting to make a big impact.

However, there was a new CFO who  didn’t understand what we were doing. He simply didn’t care about the hundreds of millions of savings the team was generating.  As you can probably guess, this was before the banking crisis!

Harry had a choice to make. He could have decided to keep a low profile and deliver value in other ways. After all, there were plenty of projects to work on that didn’t require massive change management and senior sponsorship.

Instead, he made an ultimatum to the new CFO, so convinced that he was right and that his arguments would be compelling.

It didn’t turn out the way he had planned. The team closed and disbanded one month later. Unfortunately, Harry’s lack of self-awareness made him naively unaware of the politics of the business and the consequences he might face.

Leading a team through change

The procurement management team I was working on at a large Swiss company was about to go through a major transition with the retirement of our charismatic CPO. He  had many great qualities but led by command and control.

His manager, Peter, knew we needed to evolve to be capable of running the business independently. The stakes were high for him due to a high level of outsourcing in direct procurement and high savings commitments in indirect procurement.

The first shake-up was a reduction of the team. Peter joined the meeting with the new smaller group. I didn’t know him well, and was nervous about what his expectations were.

He told us that we had to be ready to lead procurement differently as our new boss was not a procurement person. He admitted that our new team wasn’t yet ready for the challenges ahead but that we would be supported to grow and develop.

Over the next year, Peter joined our meetings regularly to give us input and encouragement. He didn’t discuss the pressure for us to become an independent team. He backed up the risks we were taking with new high change projects. He also gave his personal support with one to one time.

Much later, I asked him about that time and how much pressure there had really been. He told me he hadn’t been sure the team would make it and that the pressure from the CEO had been intense.

His self-mastery at that moment allowed us to have space to grow and successfully step up to the plate.

Not filtering and scaring my team

It was the end of summer and we were in the second year of our indirect transformation. The team had delivered the first year, but our credibility was far from cemented.

One of my team leads, Mary, revealed that her team’s numbers were not sure for the year. Worse still, we had recently submitted an updated forecast to senior management.

Mary and I reviewed her project details. She couldn’t answer all of the questions to the level I needed in order to be able to revise the numbers.

I was surprised at this; she was highly capable, but she hadn’t yet fully learned how to measure savings in financial terms or to appreciate the importance of forecast accuracy.

We were under a lot of pressure and I panicked.  Having scrutinised the details with Mary I understood the situation,  but the cost was high and I was unsuccessful in shielding my stress from the team.

Fortunately Mary followed up with me. She explained what the effect of my unfiltered actions had on her and the team. She felt undermined and made to feel foolish in front of her team and her team members themselves were frightened.

I had failed my team by allowing high pressure from upwards to go unfiltered downwards.

After apologising to Mary, we talked frankly about what had happened. She got more insight into what she needed to do and I agreed to never behave in that way again.

It was a deep learning experience in the importance of maintaining self-mastery, especially in high-stress moments.

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

You Appointed WHO As The New CPO?

Increasingly, companies are appointing CPOs from outside of the supply management profession. What does this tell us about C-level expectations of procurement, and why are supply management professionals missing out?

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Years of hard work and a brilliant career in supply management has brought you to within a hair’s breadth of fulfilling your dream – to become the Chief Procurement Officer of your company. Starting at the most junior level, you’ve worked your way up the ladder to your present position as second-in-charge of the procurement function. Your boss announced his retirement last week, and you’re quietly confident your turn has come – after all, there’s absolutely nothing about the organisation’s supply chain that you don’t know.

You step into the meeting room where the out-going CPO and two other executives are seated around a table. Disconcertingly, they stop talking when you walk in and look at you guiltily. Getting straight to the point, they tell you they’re excited to announce the new Chief Procurement Officer is … Jennifer from Marketing.

Is Procurement Being Usurped?

Has this happened in your organisation? There’s every chance that when it comes time to choose a new CPO, the C-Suite will appoint someone from a non-supply background. This means that a colleague of yours in a completely different department may one day swoop in to steal the job that you’ve been working towards for years.

While CEO-level expectations of the CPO continue to blur and broaden, the skill-set required to meet those expectations can now potentially be found in any department. The fact that supply managers are still reporting difficulty in educating their businesses on the value procurement can bring to an organisation doesn’t help the situation. If a CEO (wrongly) believes that a supply manager has spent his or her career focused solely on cost, then they are likely to look elsewhere for candidates for the top job.

Deb Stanton, Executive Director of Research and Benchmarking organisation CAPS Research and former Global CPO of MasterCard, has observed the trend of CPO appointments from outside of the profession. CEOs are no longer as interested in appointing CPOs who possess the traditional skill set that is earnt over years working in supply chain. A savvy marketing professional, or a cost-conscious operations manager who understands how supply management works, makes a very attractive candidate for CPO.

So, what does this mean?

  1. CEOs are looking for a different set of skills for the next CPO

The CPO of the future may have little idea how a tender is run, but they must:

  • Be business-savvy and understand the organisation as a whole
  • Know how procurement works from a customer’s perspective
  • Be completely aligned to overall business strategy (not just the supply management strategy)
  • Have a strong knowledge of the business’ finance function
  • Be focused on the core customer and external audiences
  • Embrace changing technology and external disruptive forces
  • Be an influencer and relationship management expert.

Deb referred to CAPS Research’s “Futures Study 2020”, which projects the skills required to manage a procurement function into the future.

  1. The CPO doesn’t necessarily need supply management expertise

The complex and varied skill-set picked up through a career in supply management may no longer be enough to satisfy the requirements for the job of CPO. CEOs may even regard procurement’s traditional audience of stakeholders, end-users and suppliers to be too focused.

That being said, technical procurement skills do matter, and are still vital for any procurement team’s success. In the example above, the disappointed candidate who missed out on the top job can still play a vital role in educating and supporting the outsider CPO with their supply management knowledge.

What’s the solution? If you believe the CPO role rightfully belongs to you, rather than someone from a completely different department, then make sure you broaden (rather than narrow) your focus as you move upwards in your organisation. This means familiarising yourself on a macro level with the whole business, bringing the core customer into every decision you make, and being known as an influencer who can clearly articulate the value you, and your function, brings to the business.

As Deb pointed out today, procurement professionals are in a unique position to overlook an entire business. They’ve got every chance of seeing where the opportunities are so let’s use it an not lose it!

Stand By Your Women (…in Procurement)

You might not have to look far to find women who inspire, support and influence you throughout your procurement career.

vasara/Shutterstock.com

Procurious recently launched Bravo, a new group seeking to address gender disparity in the workplace, and celebrate and empower women working within procurement.

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be interviewing a number of high profile procurement leaders and seeking their advice on how we can help other women to get ahead in their procurement careers.

Kelly Sissons is a category lead for connected home and accessories wearables consumer products.

In this interview Kelly discusses the issues that affect her as a woman in procurement, explains why procurement is the perfect career for her and lists a whole host of inspirational women!

What has been your most rewarding experience and greatest accomplishment to date?

I worked as the procurement category lead to support the launch of Telstra Smart Home, a new consumer technology offering that is revolutionising the homes of Australians. This was both a rewarding and great accomplishment. I was involved in developing the procurement strategy, conducting RFIs to source new suppliers, products and services and establishing contractual and commercial arrangements. It was really exciting to see the impact of my work when the category launched in market.

It’s also extremely rewarding to achieve  positive business outcomes when working through complex negotiations. This includes conducting dispute resolution activities to improve relationships amongst stakeholders

What issues currently affect you as a woman in procurement?

Procurement is doing well to address the barriers woman face in the workplace such as sexism and discrimination. In saying that, I believe that there needs to be further initiatives to increase the number of women in middle and senior management positions. Organisations and procurement must ensure that they adopt and embrace flexible working cultures to allow women with family and caring responsibilities to choose to remain at work.

Another issue I have noticed, which is a reflection of society as a whole, is that when working with stakeholders (men and women) from other departments or organisations there are still gender biases to overcome.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

Sheryl Sandberg is a great influential world leader who placed a focus on some important issues that women face in the workplace. Her book Lean In helped me to understand that self-doubt is a common fear women face and one that I need to contest. I’ve learnt to have confidence in my abilities and to put my hand up for opportunities.

Recently I worked with a great leader, Deanna Lomas, who challenged me to dream big and to consider opportunities beyond what I know. She taught me the importance of establishing a personal brand and taking charge of your career.

My mother inspires me to be strong and empathetic and my friends help me to be brave, to laugh and to stay focused.

Aside from these women, I regularly encounter incredible women that inspire me in many different ways.

Why is procurement the perfect career for you? 

Procurement is a profession that offers a lot of variety. I am continuously being challenged and always learning, which I love.

I have enjoyed countless opportunities including working with world leading organisations and with people at all levels across the business, gaining exposure to new technologies and working on a diverse range of projects.

Early in my career I have accountability, the ability to influence business decisions and am making recognisable impacts.

In procurement I am able to work on initiatives that address human rights issues that I am passionate about. This includes increasing the use of indigenous companies in corporate procurement and ensuring that corporations are only engaging with suppliers that follow ethical practices in their supply chains.

If you could offer your younger self two pieces of advice, what would they be? 

  • Surround yourself with the right people

Always surround yourself with people that enrich your life, inspire you to be a better person, challenge you, empower you to grow and who will help you find success. When considering whether or not to take a job, ensure that your manager and the team culture embody these characteristics. When a job no longer provides these things, consider moving onto something new. Seek out mentors and a support network of people that want to unlock your potential and to help you find your success. Once you find these people ensure that you put in the effort to sustain relationships.

  • Seek out challenging opportunities wherever possible and don’t be afraid of failing

Never let yourself become too comfortable and always seek opportunities to challenge yourself. Stepping outside of you comfort zone means you’re entering a new learning opportunity and will experience growth. Don’t say no to opportunities or hold back because you’re scared to fail. Accept that failure is a part of life. If you plan and put in your best effort regardless of the outcome you will feel better for trying.

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement. Join the conversation here.

Grab A Cheeky Donut! 5 Procurement Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. January has come and gone and you’ve realised that, despite the best of intentions, you’re not actually going to deliver on your personal New Year’s resolutions.

Rather than despairing about all those unrealistic “get fit” goals, how about refocusing your energies on some professional resolutions that will truly benefit your procurement career? The beauty of these targets is that they can actually be met, and won’t be broken in a cheeky late-night fridge raid.

The year has barely begun but we’ve already heard some profound advice from procurement leaders around the world, but here’s the skinny – the real McCoy – the five goals you REALLY need to focus on to reach the top.

So, grab a donut (breaking a healthy-eating resolution while doing so), adjust your focus and rebuild your resolutions to become a world-beater in 2017.

  1. Get tech-savvy

Late last year, I predicted that IT procurement professionals will become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers).

So, if you want to stay in the race, you’ll need to get tech-savvy very quickly. This means making the time to upskill yourself so you will have the confidence to make decisions such as:

Decision Skill-set
Whether to store your company’s precious customer data in the cloud or in data centers. Learn about big data analytics and understand the benefits of the cloud versus data centers.
How to protect your company’s IP and customers’ privacy from hackers. Keep up-to-date with the rapidly changing (and fascinating) world of cyber-security.
How to comply with privacy legislation. Build a relationship with your organisation’s lawyers to learn about data protection laws.
Which technology vendors you should (or shouldn’t) tie your company’s future to. Familiarise yourself with the technology landscape and the big players.

2. Become a Play Maker

Last year on Procurious we talked a lot about procurement’s game changers.

When visualising what type of procurement professional you want to be, you could do worse than become what The GC Index calls “The Play Maker”. It reads a little like a horoscope, but to quote – “Perfectly placed right in the intersection of all GC Index’s four profiles, this individual is interested in people and relationships. They’re best equipped to take on the all-important task of stakeholder engagement, but also managing upwards (C-level) and outwards (supply markets). Play Makers at their best will lead through building productive relationships and helping others to do the same”.

To me, the Play Maker sounds like the perfect procurement professional. A relationship expert who is equally at ease managing the C-suite and suppliers will go a long way very fast.

BME’s landmark Procurement 4.0 study also highlighted how procurement will need to network both vertically and horizontally, inside and outside the organization, to thrive in Industry 4.0.

  1. Put on a show

CPOs today are paid to drive global change and (in case you didn’t know), storytelling lies at the heart of every successful change programme.

I recommend that CPOs and other change-drivers adopt the “the Disney formula”, which involves a core idea (the story) being cleverly communicated through a number of different channels. This technique can be easily adapted into a formula that’s relevant for procurement pros: “the book, the movie, the merchandise, the ride – and the tweet”!

If you can’t see how Disney’s storytelling formula could be adapted to your change-management programme, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Save yourself some time and energy by finding your own inspirational company who demonstrate best-practice, steal their formula, and get to work!

  1. Network your face off

The “n-word” makes most people cringe and break into a cold sweat – but overcoming your fears and mastering the art of networking is well-worth the effort.

Inspired by Kathryn Minshew’s piece for the Harvard Business Blog titled “Network Your Face Off”, Kate Lee of Fronetics wrote a clever blog article for Procurious where she gave seven reasons why you should focus on developing your network in 2017.

Here are the facts – professionals with larger networks earn larger salaries, they’re offered more professional opportunities, they stay in their jobs longer, they are more “in the know”, and (last but not least), they’re happier!

  1. Cyber-study

If one of your resolutions is to build a habit of continuous learning, you’ll need to throw out your old perceptions of professional development and adapt to the brave new (online) world. You can now access the latest thinking and procurement insights on your laptop, smartphone or other device, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This means there is absolutely no excuse for you not to be plugging those career competency gaps!

Procurious’ learning section is organised into bite-sized microlearning videos ranging from 2–12 minutes, giving you the ability to learn from the best in the business in the time it takes to fetch a coffee.

Never forget that simply asking questions is often the best way to get the answers you need. With 19,000 members (and counting) on Procurious, the possibilities to engage in insightful and relevant discussions are limitless.

Finished your cheeky donut? While you’re picking at the crumbs, let’s make a commitment – to our professional selves, to our procurement teams and to our companies – to supercharge our procurement efforts this year with relevant and achievable career goals. Here’s to an exciting and transformative 2017 for everyone!