Tag Archives: The Faculty

How To Train Your Brain To Cope With Covid Strain

As we emerge from lockdown and leave the safety of social isolation, we will need to drain what’s left of our almost empty resilience reserves to return to – or look for – work. Feeling anxious? Well, you are not alone … but the good news is that resilience is a learnable skill and boosting it could help you cope with the current crisis in confidence caused by the coronavirus.


If your resilience reserves are running low, you are not alone.

Mental health issues were already at epidemic levels before the coronavirus pandemic – and Covid-19 has only made them worse.

So, if you are worried about losing your job (or no longer have one), are feeling isolated and unsupported or are fearful about your health or that of a loved one, you will inevitably be feeling stressed – in the UK alone, half the population say their anxiety levels are “high”. 

In the USA, 33 million Americans have already lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and although 8 in 10 are hopeful they will be re-hired, the coronavirus crisis has left 9 in 10 stressing about finances.

While in Australia, 1 in 4 say they are overwhelmed by loneliness when working from home, -with half of those economically impacted due to reduced hours or loss of job and stressed about job security.

So, this is a global problem – and one that affects professionals across all sectors. Those working in procurement and supply, which have seen dramatic shifts in supply chains as well as working practices, are not immune and are understandably feeling the strain.

Accept that this is the ‘new normal’

Right now, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. So, it’s important to be kind to yourself and understand that the coronavirus crisis will inevitably take its toll on your mental wellbeing.

This is not a sign of weakness. It’s biology. In response to high levels of stress and anxiety, cortisol and adrenalin will pump through your body and your brain will start to function differently.

Blood flow will be directed to your flight or fight system priming you to run way from danger and, as a result, you will become more reactive and emotional and make decisions that are less rational and logical. No wonder we are all feeling unsettled.

Awareness of your mental state is key

So, the first step is to understand that there are physical – as well as psychological affects – of the coronavirus crisis.

To really understand how this is impacting you, use the heart rate monitor on your fitness tracker (if you use one) to see when your pulse spikes. Is it just before those chaotic conference calls where everyone is clamoring to be heard? Or does it spike when you wake up, check your emails and realize that you face yet another day of uncertainty?

According to Track Record, which uses Olympic training techniques to teach execs about stress, the key is to look at your heart rate variability not just the heart rate itself.

A sleep tracker is another useful tool. Poor sleep is a key indicator of high levels of stress and also shows that your body and mind is not getting a chance to recover from the pressures of the day. Recovery is key to boosting resilience but it is hard to find time to “get away” from the Covid crisis particularly as news of the latest infection rates and deaths is streaming 24/7.

Accept that your mental resilience important

At the same time track your mental state – many of us are hooked on fitness right now logging our times on the running machine etc. So just add this to the list. Note your feelings and what triggers you to feel stressed and anxious.

This will help you to monitor how your resilience is fluctuating. As with any exercise program (mental or physical) it is important to know where you are starting from so that you can track your progress as you build your mental toughness.

That’s why The Road to Resilience: Mental Toughness leadership series for The Faculty Management Consultants starts with self-awareness, to measure your MTQ (using a mental toughness questionnaire).

The Faculty (which works with Australia’s leading procurement teams and – like many of us – has adapted to the “new normal” by running everything online), now has a special focus on emotional resilience, in addition to technical skills, because it’s so important as we navigate this period of uncertainty.

So why does it matter? Well, being aware of where you sit on the resilience scale enables you to not only improve your score, it enables you to be more emotionally intelligent.

“You can become more aware of how tough or sensitive you need to be in any given situation – when to flex the toughness muscle, or give it a rest,” says Sally Lansbury, memberships director at The Faculty. “Remember, there are circumstances where having mental sensitivity is required… particularly right now.”

In addition to being self-aware and adapting your mental toughness to different situations, it is important to be risk-aware – something that the intrepid explorer Charlie Walker talked about in Procurious’s recent Virtual Future Leaders Roundtable in the UK.

Called “Rapid, Risk Aware and Resilient”, Charlie talked to procurement professionals about training to have fast reactions and training to deal with moments of risk. And while procurement professionals are not facing the challenge of a 43,000 mile bicycle ride across 60 countries (just one of Charlie’s many feats of endurance) they can train to boost their 3Rs, including resilience.

…and that you don’t have to struggle

We all know that some people are more resilient than others. However, what you might not realize is that you can change where you stand on the mental toughness scales – that’s because resilience is a plastic personality trait which means it can be developed.

So, in addition to being aware of how mentally tough you are – and how tough or sensitive you need to be at any given time – you should also understand that mental resilience can be learned and that now is the ideal time to start boosting your MT score.

The first step is to understand what it really is:

Mental Toughness describes the quality which determines, in large part, how we respond to stress, pressure and challenge … irrespective of the prevailing circumstances. – Dr Peter Clough.

Much of what we do is habit and that includes our response to stress and pressure. In the definition of MT “how we respond” are the three key words.

As part of your awareness exercise – which will help you to identify when you feel less resilient and when your stress levels spike – also take a note of how you respond to change and challenge.

Do you feel hopeless? Or overwhelmed? Perhaps you are angry or anxious?

Once you are more aware of your default setting in terms of “how you respond”, then you can start to change these automatic behaviours to the ones you want to adopt.

Changing any behaviour pattern takes time, but right now you can start with the first step: awareness.

This year’s Career Bootcamp is designed to ‘Power Your Mind’ and set you up with the skills to innovate, play to your strengths, and be more resilient. Register for your digital ticket here.

5 Reasons Business Partnering is Procurement’s Secret Weapon

Unlocking the benefits of business partnering won’t happen overnight, but if you can get it right, partnering can supercharge relationships between procurement, your stakeholders – and your suppliers.

“For me, business partnering is about building trust,” says Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. “It’s also a marker of the maturity of your procurement function.”

Bird is speaking at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in Melbourne, where he is facilitating a panel of procurement leaders from some of the region’s biggest organisations. They’re talking about how procurement can reap the benefits of business partnering, and the challenges therein. The panel raises five key reasons that business partnering is an incredibly effective way to uncover a new level of value in your organisation.

1. Business partnering is a sign of procurement maturity

We often discuss where organisations sit on the procurement maturity curve. Markers include how the function is organised (decentralised, centralised or centre-led), a focus beyond cost, and the existence of programs such as supplier relationship management (SRM) and the deployment of advanced tech including AI and cognitive procurement.

Business partnering is another such marker. Its existence suggests that the procurement team has moved beyond the traditional stakeholder engagement model to extract further value from customer relationships. Panelist Zelda Pretorius-Kovacs, Head of Category Management at Woolworths Ltd, says that business partnering is an essential part of moving from cost reduction to value creation. “It’s a way of securing the future of procurement in your organisation”, she says. “We looked at our relationships with fresh eyes. Anybody can map internal stakeholder relationships, but we wanted to take a new approach to how we partnered with the business.” Pretorius-Kovacs comments that while her wider organisation was focusing on winning the trust of external customers (shoppers), the procurement team mirrored this journey with a parallel focus on winning the trust of internal customers.

2. Business partnering builds relationships

Andre Harvey, General Manager of Procurement and Supply at Stanwell, says that the way you approach internal customers in your organisation is crucial. “We walk in with curiosity”, he says. “We look for problems that stakeholders have that we can help solve. Fundamentally, procurement has to be like water – it has to find the cracks; find the crevices, and fill them.” This means that when Harvey built up his procurement team, he’s sought to hire a group of problem-solvers and entrepreneurs that will embrace this challenge.

Pretorius-Kovacs adds that an unexpected benefit of business partnering was that the procurement team broke down its own internal silos and began working together more effectively. The team undertook the Game Changer Index to discover their unique attributes before being partnered with the right people to get the best outcomes. Her team has also improved engagement with partners by shifting the conversation to business targets, rather than procurement targets.

3. Business partnering builds trust

Stephen Jhangiani, Senior VP and Head of Supplier Relationship Management at Singapore’s DBS Bank, comments that procurement has worked hard to get internal business partners to work with them and trust procurement. “We’ve focused on being accountable back to the business”, he said. Similarly, Pretorius-Kovacs notes that business partnering is not only an opportunity to develop trust, it’s a chance to mend some bridges along the way.

4. Business partnering enables procurement to connect the dots

Through business partnering, procurement is granted access to a new level of information and visibility of the issues facing their internal customers, which often reveals ways that we can help. Pretorius-Kovacs notes that partnering is an ideal way to build a bridge between the procurement function, the business and its suppliers. “It’s a way to connect all the dots and bring innovation to our organisation in a way that other departments simply cannot.”

5. Internal business partnering will help you rethink your supplier partnerships

“If you can’t have a conversation with internal business customers, without the skepticism, how on earth are you going to have a conversation with the external market?” asks Bird. Getting your internal relationships into the best-possible shape is an important step to take before undertaking effective external supplier engagement. McSweeney notes that open and transparent conversations with customers and suppliers are key. “We want to know where we rank with them, why they’re interested in working with us – we need that level of transparency and candour.”

Delegates at the CPO Forum were polled on the concerns that their organisations had about external business partnering, with the following results.

Interested in learning more about how your organisation can unlock the benefits of business partnering? Contact The Faculty Managing Director Keith Bird via [email protected] to discuss our tailored workshops and training solutions.  

Paydirt! Resources Sector Supply Chain GM Wins Prestigious Award

Hot off the press: the Asia-Pacific region’s 2018 CPO of the Year and Future Leader in Procurement (FLiP) of the Year have been announced at The Faculty’s Gala Dinner.

Dramatically shifting the impact of procurement in a truly international role, MMG General Manager of Supply Chain Ron Brown has been recognised for delivering major procurement and supply chain transformation, driving value creation across the organisation and consistently delivering tens of millions in savings per annum over the past four years.

Brown’s achievements were celebrated at last night’s CPO Forum Gala awards, hosted by leading procurement advisors The Faculty.

International role

Global resources company MMG Limited operates and develops copper, zinc and other base metals projects across Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Laos and Peru. As such, Brown and his centre-led procurement team have become adept at not only working across time-zones but also in negotiating the significant language and cultural differences in the four regions. Brown himself has a full travel schedule, as he regularly visits sites across four continents in person.

Shifting the focus

Brown’s commercial leadership has led the organisation to recognise that simply focusing on cost-down does not work. Instead, Brown has shifted the focus to:

  • Improving the skill-sets on contract management, creating commercial value over the life of the contracts and putting in place systems to ensure opportunities are not left on the table.
  • A greater emphasis on supplier relationships, including better engagement, more regular communication around performance to enable greater value creation.

Greg Travers, Executive General Manager Business Support, comments that Business Unit stakeholders within MMG have recognised the value that Brown and his team are delivering. “They have worked hard on improving relationships and have turned the perception of procurement around favourably. Ron and his team are getting out of the office to see the business, and spending more time on site.”

Influence beyond procurement

Travers also comments that Brown is a well-rounded, commercially focussed executive who contributes more broadly across the organisation, and has presence at all levels including the executive team and the Board. “Ron is one of the General Managers the Executive Group regularly nominates to attend group meetings and get involved in projects from the very start. He is energetic and is ideal for contributing to broader organisational projects and for change and efficiency reviews.”

Significant wins

Key achievements that contributed to Brown’s nomination for the CPO of the Year award include the delivery of a major procurement project to support the construction of the recently completed Dugald River Mine site in Queensland (Australia). Brown and his team embedded the contract management approach to build savings, sourced long-lead items and engaged local suppliers in a logistically challenging, complex industrial environment. Brown and his team contributed to the delivery of the project significantly under budget and ahead of schedule. They also achieved multi-million-dollar savings through an electricity contract revision for Las Bambas (Peru), and enhanced global sourcing primarily through China, resulting in significant savings across a wide range of supplier inputs.

Brown and his team have also re-engineered and simplified procurement policy, process and reporting frameworks at MMG, creating a high-level dashboard to drive visibility. Site inventory has been improved through more efficient contract management, buying at better prices and strengthening supplier relationships.

People Leadership

“Ron has significantly lifted capability across his team, hired and developed the right people in procurement and supply,” says Travers. “He mobilises his team and creates career pathways for them.” Brown has also actively promoted gender diversity across his team.

But the CPO of the Year wasn’t the only award presented at the #CPOForum18 Gala Dinner. One of procurement’s rising stars, Maryam Rahimi of Sydney Trains, was also celebrated with the presentation of the Future Leader of the Year (FLiP) Award.

Len Blackmore, Maryam Rahimi and Tania Seary

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty, says “The CPO of the Year and Future Leader of the Year Awards not only recognise the significant achievements of these talented professionals, but they serve as an important source of inspiration for other aspiring leaders in the profession. Both Ron Brown and Maryam Rahimi are known both for delivering excellent value to their organisations, but also for their dedication to mentoring, coaching and inspiring others.”

Public Sector Procurement Star Wins Future Leadership Award

It’s a big week for Sydney Trains’ Maryam Rahimi. Not only is the Australian public sector procurement professional stepping up to a new role where she’ll be leading a team of 27 people, Rahimi was also awarded the prestigious Future Leader in Procurement (FLiP) of the Year Award for 2018 at last night’s gala event in Melbourne.

Originally from Iran with an engineering and manufacturing background, Rahimi immigrated to Australia in 2010 where she entered the rail sector, first with Downer Rail and then with Sydney Trains. This week, Rahimi is moving from her role as Acting Senior Business Category Manager to Manager, Plant Hire. This leadership position with responsibilities and a team across both Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink has greatly expanded responsibilities from her previous role – and she’s 100% up for the challenge.

Len Blackmore, Deputy Executive Director of Procurement for Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink, says that Rahimi’s personal story is as impressive as her professional achievements. “Maryam is balancing the demands of a busy career whilst raising her young family, and was the sole income earner upon her arrival in Australia. She is a highly capable professional with enormous resilience.”

“Resilience” is a term that comes up frequently when discussing Rahimi with Blackmore, who says one of the key markers of resilience is that fact that she proactively champions change in the organisation. “Maryam has been enthusiastically involved in the complete revamp of our Source to Contract process”, he says. “This has been on top of her day-to-day role, where she’s also embraced the procurement improvement program we’re currently running.”

But it’s in stakeholder engagement where Rahimi has her most impressive wins. Upon settling in at Sydney Trains, she quickly identified an issue where stakeholders were not highly engaged with procurement. Through outstanding business partnering with a focus on the customer, Rahimi lifted stakeholder engagement and improved the perception of procurement through the establishment of trust, credibility, early engagement and taking the time to understand customers’ needs.

Rahimi’s commercial leadership was another key factor in her being nominated for the Award. Along with strong negotiating skills, she has a strategic focus, thinks holistically over the total life of the contract, and involves the end user in designing solutions to get results. Rahimi reportedly has a great touch in leading people and is known for her focus on working collaboratively and fostering a positive culture. She has lifted the capability of her direct reports through mentoring, coaching and inspiring others.    

“I’m absolutely delighted about her winning the award because Maryam has worked extremely hard to get where she is”, says Blackmore. “It gives someone who is a high performer with high potential the due recognition that will benefit her career.”


About The CPO of the Year Award

The CPO of the Year Award is a flagship initiative of The Faculty, created in 2012 to recognise and celebrate the achievements of procurement professionals across Asia Pacific.

For the past 6 years the Award has celebrated someone who has been assessed as an outstanding leader, a prominent contributor to their business and the broader profession, leading delivery of high ROI, and exceeding performance expectations. The Award is a measure of executive presence, commercial insight, people leadership abilities, innovation, professional advocacy, technical ability and integrity.

About The Future Leader in Procurement (FLiP) Award

The Future Leader in Procurement (FLiP) Award recognises an outstanding commercially focused member of the next generation of procurement professionals who is making a demonstrable difference to business results, across different industry sectors, budgets, team size and experience. The FLiP Award will be presented to a multi-talented professional who has demonstrated leadership capabilities and is an influencer and trailblazer in their organisation. The Award is a measure of leadership potential and presence, commercial insight, stakeholder engagement, innovation, professional advocacy, technical ability and integrity.

The 2018 Judging Panel was comprised of Michael Andrew, Chair of the Board of Taxation and former Global CEO of KPMG, Helen Sawczak, National CEO of the Australia China Business Council, and Andrew Porter, CFO of Australian Foundation Investment Company and President of the Group of 100. The meeting was chaired by Tony Megally, General Manager, The Source.

The CPO of the Year and Future Leader of the Year awards were sponsored by Coupa Software.

About The Faculty

The Faculty is recognised as one of Asia-Pacific’s leading procurement advisors. The team works with organisations to transform and elevate the role of procurement, build high performance commercial teams and facilitate professional knowledge networks.

Fight Or Flight? How To React To Change

Curl up in a ball, or seize the moment – what’s the best way to move forward in a period of uncertainty and change?

Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock.com

One thing we know, given the past 18 months, is that dramatic political change leads to economic uncertainty. With protectionist sentiment rising, trade remaining stagnant, the US economy led by a skittish and unpredictable President, a host of unknowns around the Brexit fallout, European elections, abandoned trade deals and other shocks, it’s hard to know how to plan ahead.

Elevated uncertainty can lead organisations to perform the enterprise-level equivalent of curling up into a ball. Projects and investment plans are deferred, fewer workers are hired, risk-aversion goes through the roof, short-termism triumphs over long-term growth and earnings take a hit as consumers decrease their spending.

Three high-profile panellists debated this issue at PIVOT: The 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, offering delegates some very different answers to the question of how to react to change. A consensus was reached, however, around one point – the importance of agility.

Giles Breault, Founder of The Beyond Group, shared this gem: “If you believe that necessity is the mother of invention, I’d say uncertainty is the mother of agility.”

A willingness to adapt and adjust

Agility must be encouraged not only at the process level, but at the senior and strategic level too. This means having the ability, and willingness, to change plans at a moment’s notice. Breault told the audience: “When you’re living in an uncertain environment, you need to constantly plan, revisit and do course corrections. Similarly, you need to demand of your suppliers that they’re doing the same thing.”

Does this mean long-term business plans are now unrealistic? It depends entirely on your approach. Companies that “set and forget” three, five, or even ten-year plans, and then stick doggedly to the path, will quickly discover just how rapidly those plans become obsolete.

Increasingly, best-in-class executives are those that possess a degree of flexibility in how their mind works, have a degree of empathy with their people and the market, and can remain confident in the face of ambiguity.

KPMG Australia Chairman Peter Nash said that “there are still many CEOs today who revert to rigid process and a doctrine of control in reaction to issues faced by the business. They draw the decision-making up to themselves and push down their commands. I expect in the future we’ll see a more agile form of CEO emerging.”

Breault also comments on this outdated method of reacting to change, and ties it to redundant leadership skill-sets. “Many executives are finding themselves in an uncomfortable position as they realise that the skills which landed them in their roles aren’t the skills that will keep them there. The very things they congratulated themselves on achieving won’t keep them employed.

“For example, of the fifteen major corporations we’ve talked to, a total of zero had a specific program for digitalisation. These organisations have no plan how to move ahead, which is absolutely stunning.”

Take responsibility for staying informed

Peter Nash told panel facilitator Keith Bird (MD, The Faculty) that CPOs need to take responsibility for informing themselves about changes on the horizon. “Read about the issue, talk to people in your network and find out how it will impact your business by discovering how it’s impacting other businesses. It’s important to have a high degree of personal responsibility when it comes to keeping yourself informed.”

Embrace change

Nash says organisations should make time to examine how they get things done. “Are they tied to rigid processes or to certain types of thinking, or have they moulded their organisation into something more fluid? Do they test new ideas, adapt to disruption and engage with the community? Organisations that are more adaptive will be far more successful than others.”

Looming disruption or inevitable change doesn’t have to be scary. George Boubouras, Managing Director and CIO of Contango Asset Management, had this positive message to share with Forum delegates facing change: “Challenge yourself and prepare for the exciting time ahead! Embrace the disruption with enthusiasm and look at how you can contribute to it.”