10 Critical Skills Your Procurement Team Needs Right Now

And how to get them in less than ½ an hour, with a $0 training budget

As procurement leaders or influencers, we all know that upskilling is critical to our success and that of our team. And with the skills required to succeed in procurement rapidly shifting from a technical focus to more soft skills, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s required and how to achieve it. Common concerns we all experience are: 

Where do I even start with training? 

Who will pay for it? 

Can I (or my team) afford the time away from our day jobs right now – or ever? 

One of the world’s most celebrated thought leaders on human performance, Sir Clive Woodward, believes he has the answer to all of these questions – and it isn’t as complex as it seems. Sir Clive, who shot to fame after coaching England’s rugby team to their infamous victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, believes that when it comes to training, we get it all wrong. Instead of focusing on a few areas intensely, he says, and diverting all of our resources to them, we should instead focus on doing many things, 1% better. For example, instead of putting your team through a technical training course that might take months to complete, you could focus on a number of short, soft-skill focused sessions that will lift your team’s capability in a number of areas in a short amount of time. 

But what might this look like? We surveyed a number of influential procurement leaders and managers, and gave them an interesting challenge: How would you upskill your team in half an hour or less, with a $0 training budget? 

Here’s the skills they told us were most critical – and more importantly, how they’d rise to Sir Clive’s challenge and do multiple things that 1% better. 

1. Customer focus skills

The problem

In days gone by, procurement was seen as an internally-focused, cost-saving function only. Not only were customers not our focus, but in many ways, we sometimes felt we worked against them; with the finance team putting relentless pressure on us to slash costs, regardless of the impact on our end customer. Now? This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Yet still, given that the focus on cost and risk is ever-prevalent, it can still be hard to step outside of our own perspective and put ourselves in others’ shoes, says Keith Bird, former CPO and General Manager – Commercial of Queensland Rail and Managing Director of The Faculty, a procurement management consultancy. 

‘A customer focus is critical,’ says Keith, ‘Because in procurement, a customer focus equates to increased value delivered.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

But how do you get your team to see that? One great way is to do an empathy mapping exercise, where you map your customer’s experience with your service, and try to understand their pain points (and what you can do about them). 

There’s tonnes of empathy mapping exercises available on the internet that can be completed within half an hour or less. Here’s one from Atlassian you can try right away.

2. Category management skills 

The problem 

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty and lifelong procurement specialist, acknowledges that category management remains a critical skill within the procurement profession. And, according to Keith, it certainly is one that requires honing: 

‘We all know there’s a lot of work that goes into managing any given category. From industry reviews to spend analysis, it can be a time-consuming – yet critical – exercise.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

Yet when it comes to upskilling, says Keith, the secret may not be what you think. Instead of focusing on developing the skill of category management itself, some quick wins can be gained from how category management is discussed with anyone outside of the procurement team: 

‘Many procurement professionals that I’ve seen feel the need to extensively detail their category management activities to their stakeholders. This is not only not necessary, but stakeholders find it confusing – it isn’t what they want.’ 

According to Keith, one of the best skills that can be gained from a category management perspective is how it’s presented to stakeholders: 

‘When you’re speaking with stakeholders, you need to talk their language, which, usually, is in commercial outcomes. How is your category management going to deliver them the outcomes they need?’ 

‘Discussing your activities, or rather, not discussing your activities and talking in outcomes can be a monumental win from a category management perspective.’ 

3. Problem solving skills 

The problem 

Problem solving skills are an attribute often left off job descriptions, but with procurement only increasing in complexity, they shouldn’t be. In fact, so critical are problem solving skills, that the World Economic Forum rates them as the number one skill we all need to thrive in 2020 and beyond. 

Acquiring them doesn’t have to be difficult, says Euan Granger, Senior Strategic Buyer at Soil Machine Dynamics and key contributor to Procurious, the world’s largest procurement professional network. In fact, sometimes it’s simply better to take a break from the professional nature of our workplaces, and step outside our comfort zones with a fun activity. 

The quick upskill solution 

One that Euan has used many times and recommends is the simple ‘marshmallow and spaghetti’ challenge. For this exercise, you’ll need to purchase 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, a roll of tape, a ball of string and a marshmallow. Then, set your team a challenge: Build a free-standing tower using the materials provided! 

Whenever Euan has used this activity for his team, he always recommends that they go away and think about how they can use the skills they’ve learnt in their job. 

‘It’s not so much about who does it or doesn’t do it, but more about working together to solve a problem, and thinking about things in a different way. We always need that approach when solving new problems.’ 

4. Negotiation skills

The problem 

As procurement professionals, we all know that negotiation is both an art and a science. In any given negotiation, we’re always delicately balancing the needs of our organisation, risks, costs, sustainability and the expectations of the supplier. It certainly isn’t easy – and it certainly requires great focus and dedication to execute. 

The quick upskill solution 

Even if you’re already a skilled negotiator, there’s always more you can learn, says Ron Brown,’ former General Manager at MMG Mining and lead consultant at The Faculty. One great way to upskill your team on this is to do the ‘Price of $1’ exercise, a simple exercise that shows how important preparation, communication and a solid command of facts is in a negotiation.  

Here’s how to run the exercise: 

  1. Have two people/players sit back to back, but far enough apart that they can’t hear each other
  2. Select a third person as a ‘go between.’ This person goes to the other two players and asks for their bid (the problem being neither player knows what they’re bidding for). 
  3. Bidding starts. Bidding can start at as little as 1 cent. Each player has three bids in each round if they want, and they can decide not to bid higher than the other player. 
  4. At the end of three bids, one player is awarded the round. Complete three rounds. At the end of three rounds, explain to players that they were bidding for $1.

‘The results of this exercise are always pretty interesting,’ Says Ron. ‘In that often, people end up bidding far more than $1, for that $1. The actual winner is the one that has spent less over the three rounds.’

‘What it teaches you, really, is that a desire to win can drive us, and how crucial information can be to overcome this.’ 

5. Commercial acumen 

The problem 

Commercial skills, or more accurately, commercial acumen, is one of the most essential attributes for any procurement professional or leader, says Keith. There’s a few reasons for this, he believes: 

‘Over the years, we’ve had a lot of shrinkage in companies, meaning that pretty much every procurement team is now expected to do more with less.’ 

‘This means that there’s an increasing pressure on every single person, from those at the top to new graduates, to show they’re adding commercial value in everything they do.’ 

But what does ‘commercial value’ mean? Keith says that it’s far more than just simply an ability to understand financial basics: 

‘Commercial value is way beyond simply profit and loss. It’s an ability to understand the whole value chain more broadly, for example, it’s not simply the “cost of acquisition” from a procurement perspective, but the value of that acquisition or product to the whole business.’ 

The quick upskill solution

Given the broad and complex nature of commercial acumen, Keith believes this can be a hard area to train. A great place to start, though, is to align your job, and more broadly, the strategic priorities and activities of your function, to those of the organisation’s C-suite. ‘If what you are doing wouldn’t matter to the CEO,’ Says Keith. ‘Why are you doing it?’ 

One great way to put this into action is what Google calls ‘OKRs’ (Objectives and Key Results). When creating OKRs, you create a set of audacious, measurable goals that put your stakeholders/customers first, and align those with your organisation’s priorities. You then follow up your OKRs regularly; checking in monthly to see how you’re going. 

There’s lots of templates and tools on the internet that can help you set up OKRs. Atlassian have developed some great downloadables on this, or you can try these ones from Rework.

6. Supplier relationships

The problem

With supply chains becoming more and more complex, relationships are now not just important, but critical, in everything we do in procurement. Yet managing them has never been more challenging – we’ve got to coordinate tens, if not hundreds of moving parts that may include multiple vertical and horizontal dependencies; all poised to break at any minute if we don’t get things right. 

The quick upskill solution

Given the complex and often personal interdependencies between supplier relationships, often learning from others with experience is the only upskilling solution, says Keith Bird, Managing Director of the Faculty. To do so, joining an industry networking program can provide unparalleled benefits. 

One such program is The Faculty’s own Roundtable program, which connects and facilitates collaboration between the top CPOs across Australia. 

‘Using our program,’ Says Keith. ‘I’ve seen some of our partners begin, and also navigate exceedingly complex supplier relationships that wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.’ 

The Faculty’s roundtables are free for member organisations. 

7. Stakeholder management

The problem

Every single person in procurement has come across issues with stakeholder management at one stage. While it’s easy to blame individuals, though, often issues arise from a lack of information – and ultimately, it’s easy for a stakeholder to get frustrated and hard for them to see the value procurement add when they simply don’t know what’s happening. 

The quick upskill solution

The issue with stakeholder management, says Ron Brown, lead consultant at The Faculty, is that often, it’s just impossible to know who knows what. ‘So you’ll often find that there are people hiding in plain sight that are clueless and getting frustrated, yet you assume they know everything. Or worse, you assume they don’t need to know.’ 

One way to overcome this is to build out what’s called a RACI board (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). To do this, you’ll need to: 

  1. Select one of the big categories for your procurement team
  2. Write a list of stakeholders on post-its. Remember to include everyone who will be involved in the category from beginning to end, no matter how tenuous the link. 
  3. Then map out the board, moving everyone around to create a map of whose involved, who knows what, and critically, who needs information and might not be getting it. 

‘Keeping stakeholders appropriately consulted and informed is a great first step in stakeholder management,’ says Ron. 

8. Digital skills 

The problem

In 2020 and beyond, there’s simply no hiding from digital. In our personal lives, we’re using it every day, and more and more, we’re doing so in our work lives as well. Increasingly, all large organisations are undergoing massive digital transformations, if they haven’t already, and procurement will need to play a big part in these, from a supplier to an implementation perspective. In short: if you haven’t got digital skills, you need to get them, pronto. 

The quick upskill solution

But what is ‘digital’? Where do you ever start?!? While the prospect sounds daunting, it needn’t be, says Euan, Procurious contributor. There’s literally millions of free resources online, and a great place to start is with a brand that’s synonymous with the internet itself: Google. 

Google’s Digital Garage provides a plethora of free, expert-level training on digital, on a range of topics that include everything from the digital business security to the basics of coding. You can check out their entire offering here.

Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, also believes that seeking out a digital mentor can be a great way to upskill: 

‘Admittedly, digital isn’t my forte, so I’ve expressly sought out a digital native in our business who can teach me. A mentoring relationship can really be between anyone; it doesn’t have to be an older person mentoring a younger person’ 

‘It’s more about a person with expertise mentoring someone who doesn’t yet have that knowledge.’ 

9. Technology 

The problem 

We’ve been hearing the same message for some years now: technology is fast replacing jobs! Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming! But those that usher these warnings are in fact a bit behind: there’s already a significant amount of AI in most systems we use, so the challenge now is to learn how to work with it. 

There’s no doubt that technology is evolving – and fast. We all need to keep up to date with the latest, but what’s the latest? And how do we keep up with it?

The quick upskill solution 

For all the latest in technology, says Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, you can’t go past industry podcasts. 

Keith recommends joining Procurious to keep up with the latest, or alternatively, listening to The Art of Procurement podcast.

10. Finance

The problem

Many outside of procurement might say that procurement and finance work in tandem – but from inside procurement teams, things often look quite different. In fact, when we’re trying to focus on strategic value, our relationship with finance can look a little strained, especially if the value we’re adding can’t immediately be quantified on the bottom line. 

The quick upskill solution 

For some skills, Euan Granger, Procurious contributor, says, ‘there’s no substitute for some good, old-fashioned peer-to-peer learning. And when you’re trying to learn about finance, there’s no better place to go than, well, finance.’ 

If you haven’t facilitated such a session before, Euan recommends, then try the following: 

  1. Get finance and procurement in the same room – this is key. 
  2. Get finance to do a toolbox talk on the key terms and metrics that matter to them – and how procurement can impact these. 
  3. Ask any questions and air any concerns – build the relationship and agree on ways of working moving forward. 

‘You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved in one simple meeting,’ Says Euan. Often being in the same room talking about what matters to each other is all that it takes for walls to come down and bridges to be built.’ 

 More skills, more solutions 

With procurement increasing in complexity, we all need to focus on rapid upskilling to continue to add value and stay relevant. To hear from the greatest minds in our industry, plus hear more of Sir Clive Woodward’s game-changing performance suggestions, join us at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit 2020 on March 11 in London. 

Can’t make it? We’re currently offering digital delegate passes for free. Grab yours here now.

Contributors

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. Connect with Keith on Linkedin here.

Ron Brown, Principal Advisor at The Faculty. Connect with Ron Brown here.

Euan Granger, Procurious Contributor. Connect with Euan here.

Want more? 

Want to learn more about in-demand skills in procurement, and all the other exciting developments and big issues our industry is facing this year? Join us to hear from Sir Clive Woodward and a stellar lineup of other speakers and industry leaders at our Big Ideas Summit. Digital Delegate tickets are currently available at no cost (for a limited time). 

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining The Faculty’s Roundtable Program here. 

Will They Still Want You, When You’re 64?

How can you make sure you’re not overlooked for jobs and other opportunities if you want to keep working in your 60s and 70s?


When Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a teenager, he probably thought he would be retired in his mid-to-late 60s.

Instead he has continued to work well into his 70s and will be 78 when he takes to the stage at Glastonbury 2020.

McCartney is not alone: things have changed since 1967 when the Beatles released the hit on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band.

Today more than 1 in 10 of those aged 65 is still working and the number is set to soar.

The scrapping of the default retirement age (which makes it harder to put us out to pasture) and an increase in the state pension age (which is set to rise to 67, and then 68), means growing numbers will be working until they are nearly 70.

There is only one problem: who will employ us?

Employment drops off from the age of 50, making the lyric ‘Will you still need me?’ take on a whole new meaning.

We all need to mind the age gap

While a lucky few might have quit the ‘rat race’ because they can afford to retire comfortably, many of the 3 in 10 in the 50-64 age group who are not in employment are not out of work through choice – the majority might not be able to work due to ill health, disability or caring commitments while others may struggle to find work because of their age.

Even among those still in employment, many are working part-time or in jobs that do not reflect their expertise and experience.

So how can you remain relevant in a world of work that still does not always value the wisdom of age?

De-age – from an early age

Age discrimination is illegal. But it happens – even if it is not deliberate but a case of unconscious bias.

So it is important to appear younger than you are if you do not want to be written off.

As it is easy to search for information about you online (yes – nearly every employer now checks out candidates before inviting them for interview), start thinking about what information is being posted about you or that you are posting yourself well before you hit 50.

  • Never, ever put your age or date of birth on any job applications, CVs or social media profiles. Employers cannot ask your age, so don’t let them find out.
  • Get rid of anything on your CV and online professional profiles that screams ‘ancient’. Change your qualifications from O Levels to GCSEs. Change your polytechnic to its new university name. Delete jobs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Clean up your social media profile and change your settings to private. A series of postings of you at your 55th or 60th birthday might inadvertently lead to a recruiter thinking you are ‘past it’.
  • Also change your mindset. If you ‘think’ you are no longer able to go for that new job or that promotion, other people will think the same, too. One in 4 professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things according to research from Think Forward Consulting – they are wrong. You just need to overcome the fear of rejection that often comes with age.

Get your words right

Job adverts often specify that candidates need to be ‘hungry’, ‘ambitious’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’, ‘innovative’, ‘dynamic’ or other words automatically associated with youth. Include a few of these in your job applications and your personal statement to reflect the fact that you still have the passion to succeed.

At the same time avoid descriptions that sound ‘ageing’. Stating that you have ‘decades’ of experience is unnecessary. It is far better to detail what you have achieved not how long it took you!

Emphasise your adaptability

In a world of constant change, adaptability is a key skill yet one that is not always associated with more mature members of the workforce.

So, make a point of highlighting ways in which you have adapted to – or perhaps anticipated – change. Managing a transformation project, changing career path to reflect a change in the market or demonstrating how you have been innovative, will all prove to potential employers that you can ‘move with the times’ and remain relevant.

Show you can learn new skills

Forget the saying that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and prove that you can learn new skills. Make a habit of doing courses in the latest technology, remain inquisitive about new developments in your sector and demonstrate that you have a curiosity about the future – it will show the enthusiasm that employers are looking for (and associate with younger members of staff).

Have a Plan B (for business) . . .

One of the most popular ways to remain in employment later in your career is to employ yourself.

In fact, the number of self-employed people aged 65 years and older more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.

You can start with a sideline (provided it does not conflict with your day job), grow your venture and then do it full-time if it’s a success – or enjoy it as a part-time role if you plan to flexi-retire.

. . . Or be a master of your own destiny

While employers are often reluctant to hire more mature staff as full-time permanent employees, the same does not apply to consultants, contractors, freelance project managers, interim managers and non-executive directors: they are hired for their expertise, so the longer they have been being doing the job the better. In fact, 2 in 3 interims are aged 50–70+.

While you will have to give up the day job to start in one of these roles, the pay can often more than compensate for the lack of job security. Interims, for example, earn £500 to £1,500 a day. See the Institute of Interim Managers for more information: https://www.iim.org.uk/knowledge/.

So if you’re planning to carry on working well past when you’re 64 and into your 70s, like Paul, follow these tips to get your plans in order and make your profile attractive.

‘Often The Right Way Isn’t The Easy Way,’ – Sustainable Sourcing From A World Leader

Whether or not your business is prioritising sustainability right now, there’s no doubt that it will be the focus for many of us in 2020 and beyond.


As we all well know, executing on sustainability can be challenging. Is it even possible to have full supply chain transparency? How do we manage the requirement to be sustainable against risk and cost savings? Almost all sustainability initiatives, while well-intentioned, can be fraught with complexity. 

While this may be the case for many of us, one person who believes that sustainability isn’t as complex as it seems is Chris Fielden, Group Supply Chain Director for Innocent Drinks. Innocent Drinks is a revolutionary health drinks company that gives an incredible 10% of their profits to charity. Beyond this, Innocent focuses on sustainability throughout every part of their supply chain, from creating a plastic bottle that’s made from 100% renewable material to developing a carbon neutral factory. 

Prior to his keynote at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit, we sat down with Chris to see how he helps drive such incredible sustainability achievements at Innocent: 

Live your values – and incorporate them into your business model

Have you ever looked at a corporate values chart and thought to yourself, ‘those don’t really seem to matter here?’ Many of us feel the tension between aspirational values and lived values, but one of the reasons Chris thinks that Innocent is so successful in sustainability is because they don’t do this. 

Chris believes that sustainability can’t simply be a ‘tick box’ but it needs to be front and centre of a business’s genuine value set if they want to achieve it. On this, Chris says:   

‘Innocent drinks is a values-led business, absolutely. We believe in [and live by] sustainable capitalism. We hire people against those values.’ 

‘Often the right way [to do things] might not be the easy way, but we do things the right way anyway because we truly live our values.’ 

Even beyond this, Chris says that sustainability needs to be incorporated throughout an organisation’s entire business model: 

‘Here at Innocent, we’ve incorporated sustainability into our entire business model through becoming a B-Corp.’  

Give your people freedom 

Sustainability is often about pushing boundaries and doing things that haven’t been done before. So, in order to achieve that, Chris thinks you need to give your people creative freedom – and this is exactly what’s happened at Innocent. 

‘[The carbon-neutral factory idea] came about primarily because we told our people not to accept no. We told them “don’t accept it when someone says it can’t be done.” In all aspects, we try not to constrain our people.’ 

Not limiting people also applies to the suppliers you work with, says Chris. In fact, when you don’t give suppliers limitations, you can sometimes achieve things you never would have imagined. When planning Innocent’s carbon-neutral factory, Chris gave his suppliers an unusual challenge – which yielded an unusual (yet highly beneficial) result: 

‘With the carbon-neutral factory, we said to the contractors we employed – just geek out and tell us what you would do if you had unlimited funds and no restrictions.’ 

‘Doing so meant that it actually turned out cheaper than we budgeted and the solution is ever better!’ 

Giving their people and suppliers freedom has meant that Innocent’s new carbon-neutral factory,  to open in Rotterdam in 2021, is truly one of a kind. Costing over $250 million, it will incorporate initiatives such renewable energy, sustainable water use, and resource-based waste management. Its Rotterdam location will also mean considerable C02 is saved, as the drinks are produced close to where ingredients arrive, saving trucks over 13,000 trips a year. 

Not being afraid to fail 

Despite Innocent Drinks being a relatively large company (it recently surpassed £10 million in donations alone), everyone works hard to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit, says Chris. And a big part of this is not being afraid to fail. 

‘Failure is a big part of what we do. We only have to be 70% sure of what we’re doing. And failure has led us to where we are – we’ve doubled in size because we’re not afraid to fail.’ 

This can sometimes be hard to stomach as a procurement professional, Chris thinks, as we’re trained to mitigate risks. But Chris insists that Innocent still do this: 

‘We do have risk registers so it’s not as if we’re being cavalier!’ 

Where to from here? 

With Innocent being at the forefront of all things sustainability, it’s hard to imagine what Chris might still want to achieve. But there’s always more, says Chris, and ultimately, he’d like to see more businesses taking an active role in helping the environment: 

‘I would love to see more businesses doing more – but we can’t wait for politicians to mandate this. The impetus needs to come from us.’ 

Ultimately, Chris has an important message for all procurement professionals out there: 

‘If you put sustainability at the heart of your agenda, then know this: you can make a difference very quickly.’ 

What are you doing to drive the sustainability agenda at your business? Let us know below. 

Want to learn more about exactly how Chris is driving the sustainability agenda at Innocent, and how you can do the same? Chris is speaking at the 2020 Procurious Big Ideas Summit on March 11, and you can hear all of his insights through becoming a Digital Delegate. Grab your free pass here.

The One Where Friends Taught Procurement How To Negotiate

The six main characters in Friends may have given us a lot of laughs over the years, but they can also teach procurement professionals a few things about the fine art of negotiation. 


In this article, we look back on seven episodes in which Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica showed procurement what to do and (more often than not) what not to do when negotiating with suppliers. 

1. Having a back-up plan (or two)

In The One With The Proposal, Phoebe reveals to Rachel that she has a pact with Joey to get married if they’re both still single at 40. When Rachel tries to secure Ross as her back-up, he reveals that he is also committed to Phoebe, who rightly points out ‘it’s good sense to back up your back-up!’

A single-source supply situation is a dangerous place for procurement professionals to find themselves. Firstly, it doesn’t account for any risk factors such as trade tariffs, political and economic instability or natural disasters that could gravely impact the efficiency of your supply chain. Secondly, no matter what your benchmarking data tells you about costing, having one supplier puts procurement in a vulnerable negotiating position, particularly when the time comes for contract renewals.

2. The importance of being realistic

In The One After Vegas, Rachel and Ross accidentally get married following a particularly big night out in Sin City. And Ross, desperate to avoid his third divorce in two years, embarks on a ludicrous campaign to convince Rachel to stay married to him. During their negotiation, he first points out the proximity of the ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’ checkboxes on forms, (‘How is this going to affect you? … It’s right next to it!’) and then proceeds to offer her all the gifts from the wedding registry.

Before entering into negotiations, procurement professionals must clearly define their strategy, be realistic about their expectations and treat their suppliers fairly. Pushing your suppliers too hard can be counterproductive and destroy the potential value to be gained in long-term strategic relationships.

3. Being flexible

In The One With Ross’s Denial, Monica and Chandler attempt to negotiate what to do with their spare bedroom. Monica dreams of a beautiful guest room whilst Chandler wants to create an old-school arcade. The discussion ultimately reveals Monica’s unwillingness to compromise on anything related to the apartment’s interior. 

Rigid supplier onboarding can be time-consuming and costly, particularly for SMEs. Similarly, inflexible payment terms might eliminate certain suppliers who depend on fast payments. For procurement to successfully engage with a diverse supplier base and drive innovation through their suppliers, processes need to be adaptable and accommodating.

4. Controlling your temper

In The One With Ross’s Wedding, Ross and Emily’s parents squabble over wedding costs, a conversation that eventually descends into a sparring match (‘I could kill you with my thumb’). Ross is forced to intervene and mediate the discussions, threatening both couples with ‘no grandchildren!’ if they cannot reach an understanding.

Focusing solely on costs during a negotiation is a recipe for conflict. In today’s world, procurement depends on long-lasting and meaningful relationships with suppliers to drive creativity, sustainability and efficiency. When tensions are running particularly high, it might be worth bringing in a mediator or involving senior leadership, but this is not a decision to be taken lightly by procurement – the basis of your supplier relationship will determine its future dynamic.

5. Doing your homework

In The One With The Embryos, Chandler and Joey agree to get rid of their pet chick and duck if they win the lightning round of Ross’s quiz. Rachel and Monica end up losing the game (and their apartment) simply because they don’t know Chandler’s job title (‘he’s a transponster!’)

It might be tempting to save yourself preparation time and come to a supplier meeting unprepared with the intention to ‘wing it’. But be warned, it will come back to bite you when you’re unable to answer key questions, stalling for time, and don’t have your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) prepared. 

To guarantee the best outcome, it’s important to do your homework and understand the supplier’s aspirations, weaknesses and objectives. Negotiation expert Erich Rifenburgh recommends that your preparation time should be at least three times longer than the time spent in the negotiation itself. 

6. Being efficient

In The One With The Jellyfish, Ross reveals he never finished reading a letter from Rachel that outlined her reconciliation terms. ‘I was tired, and you had rambled on for eighteen pages . . . front and back!’ The letter’s complexity and ambiguity results in the couple breaking up (yet again). 

If you’ve reached the end of a negotiation and the terms are unclear, or some of the participants are dissatisfied, something’s gone wrong.

Ideally, both parties will walk away with complete clarity on the agreement in terms of costings, deliverables and timelines, which should all be reconfirmed at the end of a negotiation. Procurement professionals must also question whether the final agreement has longevity and be certain that no value has been left on the table.

7. Knowing your limits

 In The One With The Ring, Chandler identifies the perfect engagement ring for Monica and is determined to secure it at all costs. When another shopper snaps the ring up first, Chandler and Phoebe go to huge lengths to negotiate its return, unwilling to compromise on an unsuitable alternative. 

Being flexible doesn’t mean being a pushover, and it certainly doesn’t mean giving in to pressure or abandoning your company’s values or protocols for the sake of a quick negotiation win. To deliver top-quality products and services, procurement professionals must know their limits and stick by them, without compromising on maintaining supplier relationships. It’s a fine line to walk, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll earn respect from your suppliers, maintain integrity and keep your internal stakeholders happy.

Get in touch with UNA to discuss how a Group Purchasing Organisation can leverage the power of bulk purchasing to negotiate on your behalf. 

What Do Women – And Men – Really Think Of Valentine’s Day?

We offer a woman’s and a man’s-eye view of the Feast of Saint Valentine …

You want how much for those flowers?! Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day has become part of the global calendar and good luck ignoring it. 

Shopfronts are dining out on the day, while emails advertising spray tans with headlines like ‘Fake it for Valentine’s Day’ are sliding into your inbox. 

But we want to pop a different spin on it. A woman’s perspective on the day up against a man’s perspective. And while Emily and Dave don’t speak for everyone, you may see yourself in some of their thoughts.

Woman’s-eye view: A day of celebration and (very) high hopes

I secretly love this day and if I ever pretend I don’t or that I’m ignoring it, it’s only out of self-preservation. 

You see, unlike Dave below, I am not married. I am single. Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder that you’re not with anyone and the only flowers you’re buying are ones ‘to you from you’.

I am a die-hard romantic. The Notebook to me is still the best movie of all time (forget the fact she cheats on her fiancé). And Titanic will never sink in my heart.

So it only follows that I have high hopes for this one day of the year.

Last year I was given the loveliest bunch of flowers by a guy I was seeing with a note in French (yes, he was French). I doubt that will be bettered this year.

But I live in perpetual – unrealistic! – hope that the guy I went on a few dates with recently . . . whom I’m not overly into . . . will suddenly have a moment and think, yes I want to spend $90 on roses for Emily and get in touch with her colleagues (whom he does not know at all) to find out where she works and at what desk. So the flowers can be delivered to her right there.  

Okay, in reality the chances of that are slim.

So I thought why not take matters into my own hands and be the ‘giver’. I mean, who said that was just a man’s job?

Women as the givers

I got ahead of myself recently and went out with a guy a couple of times, decided we were certainly going to end up together and proceeded to order his Valentine’s Day gift from Amazon a whopping four weeks ago. 

Yes, I did that. 

He was a doctor working with heart surgeons. So I found a lunch bag with ‘Live organ for transplant’ on it. The idea was to have it delivered to him with a six-pack of beers in it with ice on top. 

I would have him come to reception at his work to collect it and when he opens it and sees ice on top (like a real organ would have) he would freak out . . . and then suddenly find the beers and think it was literally the best (and most memorable) Valentine’s Day gift ever.

But after date four recently I decided it wasn’t meant to be – and now my colleagues have to open the work fridge to see a ‘Live organ for transplant’ lunch in there every day.

As I said, I’m a die-hard romantic. Here’s hoping for the flowers and even if that doesn’t come about I still have my ‘live organ lunch bag’.

Love, Emily x

The man’s-eye view: The day of the year on which more people break up than any other 

I don’t wish to throw a wet blanket on what has become a global celebration of love and romance, but Valentine’s Day – otherwise known as the Feast of Saint Valentine – does nothing to whet my appetite, or make my heart flutter.

My friend Kev has a restaurant in New York, and he maintains that Valentine’s is every restauranteur’s nightmare. A sea of two-top tables waiting for couples who barely speak to each other at the best of times but feel obliged to have that special night out together. 

Kev says that the sight of couples holding hands across the table and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes is as rare as hen’s teeth in his gaff. Comparatively very little food or booze is ordered and invariably one person is left to pick up the bill or storm out without paying.

Apparently, more people split up on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year.

The best thing about Valentine’s Day for me was the birth of my youngest daughter, Saskia. I love her to bits. 

The downside of her joining us on 14 February is that she insists on being taken out for dinner on that night. 

I have tried to persuade her to have two birthdays (a bit like the Queen) just to avoid the misery meal. Not a chance.

Romantic meals – no thanks

So we’ll be in TGI Fridays (certainly not my choice) in Guildford, Surrey, UK – witnessing young people with soon to be arthritic thumbs communicating with friends who are not in the room rather than enjoying the company of the person they are about to split up with. What fun!

I do enter into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, however, and remember to buy a card and some flowers for my wife – who has a heart of stone and always forgets. 

No, please, I am not craving sympathy. The end of 14 February for me will be spent in the company of talkSPORT Radio and a bottle of 12-year-old Macallan!

So, in the words of the song from The King and I, ‘good luck young lovers wherever you are’ – or something like that!

Love, Dave x  

So where do you fit in? Do you agree with Emily or Dave? And what are your plans?

Whatever you do today, enjoy it. And remember that love in any form is something to be celebrated.

How The Coronavirus Will Impact Your Supply Chain And What To Do About It

What key steps can you take limit the potential effects of the coronavirus on your organisation?


In China on 9 February the world received news it didn’t want to hear.

The number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus has now overtaken that of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), with more than 1000 casualties. 

In addition to that, the virus is spreading at an alarming rate. There are now more than 40,000 confirmed cases. And this number is increasing as much as 20% every day.

While the virus is terrifying from a public health perspective, it’s also alarming in terms of your supply chain. Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus and now a city in total lockdown and complete disarray, is one of the world’s largest industrial hubs. 

Here’s how the coronavirus is affecting global supply chains – and what you can do about it. 

Production delays and factory closures

If you’re currently manufacturing anything in China, especially in the Wuhan area, you can expect significant production delays.

Fashion fit innovation company Alvanon, who manufacture dress forms in China, has issued a statement saying: 

‘We expect at least a four-week delay on physical goods that have already been paid for. Our factory is currently closed, and while we are doing all we can to minimize delays, we currently do not know when it will reopen.’ 

Currently, all public gatherings in Wuhan are forbidden. All factories and public places are closed. The flow of goods in and out of the area has come to a halt. 

Reduction in freighting capacity 

The coronavirus is now confirmed in more than 23 countries. And the world’s airlines are responding by cancelling flights to and from China. 

Airlines all over the world have ceased some or all of their China freight routes. 

Sea freighting is also likely to be affected. If you have goods in transport from China, there may be significant delays in them leaving major ports. And when they do leave, there’s a risk that crew will become ill on the journey. 

People movement

Freight is not the only thing that needs to come and go out of China. People also do, for business or leisure. 

The restrictions on flights will start to impact business agendas.

Many international companies are shutting down their offices in China and restricting all travel. 

Commodities market and the broader economy

From a supply chain perspective, what’s most concerning about the effect of the coronavirus is the already devastating impact it is having on the commodities market and the broader economy. 

As one of the world’s largest consumers of commodities, decreased demand in the Chinese market has now caused many commodity prices to slump. Copper has fallen 12% and crude oil 10%. The Bloomberg Commodity Index has taken a 6% hit. Analysts expect these decreases to continue.

Economists warn that the impact on the economy more broadly could also be dire. They believe that the fallout from the virus will be significantly worse than the SARS epidemic. 

The Chinese economy is much larger than it was then. But it’s also weaker, due to the continued US trade wars. 

China’s GDP growth is on track to slow (at least) in the first quarter, and analysts aren’t sure it will recover. This will, in turn, affect exchange rates and emerging markets. 

Developed economies are also expected to suffer. The downturn in Chinese tourism is expected to impact Australia’s economy to the tune of $1 billion.

What should you do? 

How can you manage the risk coronavirus represents for your organisation? 

Justin Crump, Procurious consultant CEO of Sibylline, a world-renowned risk management consultancy, recommends that procurement takes the following actions immediately.  

1. Understand cascading supply chain consequences

‘You need to understand more than just your suppliers,’ says Justin, ‘as it will be second-order problems that bite when you think you’re okay.’ 

To do this, Justin recommends you dig further to understand supplier dependencies.

A great way to do so might be to survey your suppliers. Test their exposure to the virus, and then try and mitigate any issues early. 

2. Stockpile if you can 

It might be too late for some, but Justin recommends that everyone who is able ‘tries to stockpile while you still can’. 

This is difficult for those practising just-in-time manufacturing.

But Justin thinks that if you can still action this advice you’ll benefit – as oil prices are substantially lower due to a steep fall in demand. 

3. Invest in resilience

Procurement should never be reactionary when it comes to risks, Justin reminds us. ‘But now, more than ever, you need to invest in resilience.’ 

Justin believes this ‘resilience’ needs to come in multiple forms.

For example:
• look into alternate suppliers – and move now to get ahead of your competitors
• consider impacts on staff, families and customer relationships 
• think long-term about how travel and freighting might be affected

4. Consider the bigger economic picture 

It’s tempting to focus on the now, Justin says. But it’s important to consider the bigger economic picture and how you might need to mitigate that risk (if that will even be possible). 

5. Appraise the effect on international relations

All large businesses depend on international relations to a degree Justin says, ‘so the effect on international relations shouldn’t be underestimated’. 

Justin thinks it’s important that we don’t rest on our laurels and just assume business will continue as usual.

‘What I see happening is that China is quietly blaming the US in some circles for the outbreak, calling it a deliberate attack,’ he says. ‘Likewise, the US is using this to encourage businesses to pull out of China. 

‘China blaming the US feels like more of an insurance policy to deflect criticism from the regime, but still . . . it’s a reminder that the global network is under threat.’ 

So bear in mind Justin’s analysis and consider taking these 5 steps to limit potential supply-chain difficulties resulting from the coronavirus. 

What effects are you seeing on your supply chain from the coronavirus? How are you managing risk? Tell us in the comments below. 

Interested in more hot tips on how to improve your supply chain approach and get more productive? Join the Procurious community of 37,000 members where you’ll find daily inspiration.

Who Has Influence And How Do You Get More Of It?

Influence comes in all forms and from a variety of different sources. But, in the digital age, is the nature of influence changing? And how might it change further over the next few years?


What does influence look like in your life? Who are the main influencers? Depending on a great number of factors, including your values, norms, gender, race and age (amongst many others), the people who have influenced your life to this point represent a very diverse cross-section of society. And it’s likely that these influencers will change over the course of your lifetime.

How people find and consume information has changed drastically in the past decade. The relentless growth of social media and digital channels for data, news and opinion has provided new sources for people to use. This has, in turn, led to the growth of digital and social media ‘influencers’, all of whom offer something slightly different and command a different audience.

In this series of articles, I’ll look at what influence is and who the influencers are in the digital age and why this might seem paradoxical. I’ll cover the notion that the power of influencers may be on the wane, before concluding by looking at the divergence of this versus procurement influencers, and how procurement can leverage this thinking to grow influence in the right places.

The Context

There has been plenty written about influence in the past (including articles here on Procurious), including looking at how individuals can measure and increase their own. To provide a bit of context for the whole series, first we need to provide some definitions on our key terms.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines ‘influence’ as, “the power to have an effect on people or things, or a person or thing that is able to do this”. When we consider influence in our lives, what does this look like? It could be things we read, see and engage with on a day-to-day basis, or something that resonates with us.

Influences are usually delivered or underpinned by an ‘influencer’ – “someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave”. In our lives, this could be anyone from parents, family and friends, to colleagues, peers, celebrities and/or global figures.

It could be argued that this definition is more traditional, yet not necessarily outdated. In the digital age, the term might be better defined as, “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media”. We might not all be consuming a product, but the influence is there nonetheless.

What does this mean for individual people and how they are influenced? Is it changing the nature of influence? This is still up for debate.

The Changing Influence Environment

Consider the public’s consumption of information 50 years ago. This is long before the advent of the Internet and 24/7 connectivity and long before social media was even first considered. There was the print media and the original three channels on the TV. What seemed like a broad spectrum at the time now looks very narrow.

Influencers at this time would probably have been local or national, rather than international. The range would have been limited to those people who were well-known, who appeared on TV or radio frequently and were considered as experts in their fields. We’re talking here about politicians, celebrities, businesspeople or personalities.

In 2020, we have a world of information at our fingertips all hours of the day and night. We can connect with individuals in all walks of life, discussing and sharing about more topics than we could think of. These new influencers are freely accessed on social media and can create a large-scale, global audience fairly easily (comparatively to 50 years ago anyway).

News, Media & Video

The changing nature of how we consume media and content has enabled more individuals to gain traction in the social media environment. YouTube is a massively popular platform for the new generation of influencers. Ad sales alone in 2019 generated $4.7 billion (£3.62 billion) for parent company Alphabet.

It’s easy to see why when research shows that two-thirds of Millennials prefer YouTube to traditional television, and that there are over 1 billion hours of online content viewed daily. For an individual to get started, all they need is a computer, a social media account, a camera and/or microphone, some basic editing skills and a ‘hook’.

It better be a good ‘hook’ though – 20 per cent of social media users admit that they will stop watching a video if it hasn’t hooked them in the first 10 seconds.

For influencers this means that they need to know how to attract and retain their audience, but also produce quality content. For some, it will be enough to share their knowledge. Others will only gain a small audience, or a larger audience over a longer period. But a minority will gain thousands of followers quickly, and become recognisable ‘influencers’.

Social Media – Gen Z’s World?

Which brings us to our individuals and influencers-to-be. On social media, they are categorised in three groups:

  1. Micro influencers – offer authority on a specific and narrow niche, generally with smaller audiences (10,000 people or less). They can be a useful group for marketers as they are more affordable and have higher levels of engagement.
  2. Power middle influencers – have audiences ranging for 10,000-250,000 people and likely already have experience working with brands.
  3. Macro influencers – these are the digital celebrities on social media, with an audience of over 250,000 people. Their potential reach is huge, but they are more costly for marketers and have a lower engagement rate.

If celebrities make up a large percentage of the ‘macro’ influencers, then we can consider the ‘power middle’ as the new generation of influencers. And this new generation is largely made up of younger Millennials or Gen Z (those born since 1997). In 2018, the top 10 highest earners on YouTube were all, apart from 2, under 30.

The highest earner was Ryan Kaji, who stars in the ‘Ryan’s World’ channel, with earnings of $22 million. He’s 8 years old. It’s no wonder that children and teenagers galore think that being an influencer is a career route they want to take.

Does this then give credence to the idea that the world of social media and digital influence belongs to Gen Z? It’s an interesting question that provides us with an interesting paradox.

A Matter of Gravitas? Or Consumption?

If influence in the past has been related to experience, knowledge, gravitas and global renown (not necessarily traits only found in older people), then how is there more prominence for younger influencers despite having (theoretically) less to offer?

Consider this list of the “must know” influencers in 2019. You could argue that older generations are being squeezed out of influencer circles in the digital world. This could easily be linked to how younger generations consume their media and content. You could also argue that, in the digital world, there is room for all to exist. An older generation of influencers could attract an older generation of followers, assuming these followers consume their content digitally.

However, this generation may already have missed the boat as social media influence shifts again. As the digital world continues to evolve, so does the nature of influence and its perception. So, is this generation too late? Or could they stand to benefit just as much as the game changes again? We’ll cover this and more in the next article in this series.

To hear from top procurement influencers, be sure to join up and be part of the Procurious network. With 37,000 members, this is the place to gain knowledge and insights into the latest procurement and supply chain matters.

How Did We Go? Procurement’s Performance During An Unprecedented Crisis

The bushfire crisis has devastated Australia. But how has it affected our jobs and our organisations? We spoke to members of The Faculty’s Roundtable program to see what the impact had been and how they’d managed.


Whenever the need arises, procurement steps up. And during the recent unprecedented Australian bushfires, the situation was no different: procurement professionals from across the country, in roles from analyst to CPO, took the crisis under their wing and worked hard to manage huge and urgent projects, doing everything from sourcing safety masks to visiting impacted sites and absorbing, first-hand, the horror of the situation. 

The fact that the bushfire crisis is a procurement-related issue is of little doubt, so much so that it’s made international headlines. In a case that is yet unresolved, Australian charity The Red Cross has been criticised for not distributing funds quickly enough to those in need. Yet The Red Cross has fiercely defended their work, saying, in a statement we can all relate to: ‘We must manage the money so we aren’t scammed…we need to protect funds.’  In times of crisis, supplier vetting and proper process is just as, if not more important, according to The Red Cross and other charities, especially given the public pressure to ‘spend with them,’ an initiative that encourages all Australian people and companies to spend as much as possible with bushfire-affected communities.

The Red Cross might have made the headlines, but how are we, as procurement professionals for some of the world’s leading companies, doing behind the scenes? We surveyed procurement leaders from members of The Faculty’s Roundtable Program to see what impact they’d made, how they coped and what they were proud of in this time of crisis. Here’s what they told us. 

The impact of the bushfires 

There’s no doubt that the bushfires have had an impact on procurement, and this impact has been felt most for our members in the insurance, banking and service/utilities industry. 

For one member in insurance, the procurement team has been pivotal in increasing resourcing to areas that are making claims. Yet with this, they’ve treaded carefully with suppliers: 

‘[In times of crisis, like these, my team have ensured] suppliers in fire regions are being treated sensitively.’ 

For another member in utilities, the crisis has forced them to consider a few of their policies and plans: 

‘The bushfires have really made us stress test our Disaster Recovery plan and rethink our emergency sourcing process.’ 

‘They have highlighted the critical importance of having a solid, reliable and trusted supplier partner to meet all of our urgent demands.’ 

Supplier selection 

On the issue of suppliers, many procurement teams have had to adjust their approach. One, in the services industry, has made a concerted effort to follow the ‘spend with them’ mantra: 

‘[For this crisis in particular], there is a strong imperative to use local suppliers and providers, including trades, cleaners etc. This is to ensure that any investment in rebuilding these communities comes from the communities themselves.’ 

For others, like this member in the banking industry, it’s been more about alignment, agility and innovation: 

‘Right now, we’re focusing on who can mobilise fast and solve issues.’ 

‘In a crisis, it’s not so much about being perfect as it is about getting in and trying something to see if it will work. Organisations that can provide solutions by quickly connecting people and resources are more valuable than providers who take time to line everything up and have the ideal outcome in a bureaucratic fashion.’ 

For other members, it was simply an issue of availability. Two members, both in the utilities industry, simply said that ‘resource availability’ was their focus when selecting suppliers. 

Positive impact 

While the bushfire crisis – and, indeed, any crisis – is a busy time for procurement, a number of our members have achieved great things. For a member in the services industry, they were able to make a substantial frontline impact: 

‘[Our team has helped] deliver a number of significant outcomes, including bussing people from fire-hit areas to evacuation centres and providing them with catering and other services when they arrived.’ 

Another member, from the insurance industry, has gone the extra mile to look after their suppliers: 

‘We reduced supplier payment terms to those located in fire regions from 30 days to immediate.’ 

Each member has contributed, but a member from the banking industry has gone above and beyond, ensuring that they assist from a charity and staff perspective: 

‘We are currently working with WorkVentures, a social enterprise that refurbishes laptops. We’ve funded them to refurbish 5,000 laptops to provide to the Salvation Army, who will distribute them in affected areas. This has such far-reaching implications; it will help environmentally, as well as with community disaster relief and disability employment.’ 

‘In addition to this, we’ve established a $1.5 million funding packing, which includes customer/employee grants, recovery support, relief packages and unlimited paid leave for volunteers.’ 

A strategy focus? 

Given the increasing expectation on procurement to be a strategic business partner within organisations, many procurement teams took the crisis as an opportunity to use their strategic prowess. 

Yet some didn’t consider strategy at this particular time. A member in the services industry told us: 

‘At this point, the operational requirements far outweigh the strategic requirements.’ 

Other members disagreed though, with many making strategic contributions. One member in the insurance industry has used the crisis to start focusing on a long term-issue: 

‘We’re now strategically elevating climate elements within our procurement operating model.’ 

Another member, in the transport industry, is using the crisis to make critical future preparations: 

‘After this crisis, we’re now in the planning phase for emergency preparedness and response. We are reviewing our supply market, preparing for activity.’ 

Do you relate? How has your procurement team been affected by the Australian bushfire crisis, or other crises you’ve experienced? Tell us in the comments below. 

The Faculty’s Roundtable Program gives leading procurement professionals at member organisations the opportunity to learn, connect and access industry-leading research, networks and knowledge. Collaborative in spirit, the recent bushfire crisis was yet another example of where our Roundtable community was able to band together to support each other, share best practice, and drive positive outcomes for their organisations and our profession. 

Not a member? Join us. Enquire here.

How To Take Back Control At Work – And Learn To Say ‘No’

We can teach ourselves how to politely decline that unwanted extra work and save our energy for when it’s needed.

Do you find yourself taking on more and more work? Are you one of those people who gets dragged into every project? The one others always ask for help?

If you have people-pleasing tendencies or find it hard to say ‘no’, then read on.

Often people-pleasing comes from a well-meaning desire to help and be useful. Psychologists would say that it has its roots in an individual’s requirement for external validation and a need to be liked.

I’m a recovering people-pleaser myself. And I know the difficulties in saying ‘no’ at the office are not limited to those who have a deep psychological need to be validated.

I have seen it pop its head out to say ‘hello’ in many different work situations.

At work, fear of saying ‘no’ can be driven by a desire simply to keep your job. Or to be well placed for promotion. But accepting every little task can soon lead to feeling overwhelmed – and to burnout. 

Claw yourself out of the hole

Healthy self-awareness will help create strong boundaries to ensure that you are in the driving seat in your career. And that as far as possible you control how you are treated at work. 

If you understand your values and your career drivers you can use these as a compass to navigate what you will and won’t get involved in.

Check yo’ self

  1. Know yourself and values – take the free assessment to see what your values are at VIA Institute on Character or try Clifton Strengths Finder. 
  2. Recognise your communication style and preferences.
  3. Be aware of your triggers and needs.

Check your job – what do you get paid to do?

  1. What is your core role and its required tasks? Boil it down to the three most important core components of your role.
  2. What extra stuff that is not in your job description do you do anyway? Assess that list. Does any of it come from perfectionism? Being a people-pleaser? Not wanting to say no or renegotiate?
  3. Once your job is boiled down to its core components, write it on a post-it note. If you can’t fit it into three bullet points on a post-it note then keep refining until it does.

Your post-it note is what powers you, it sticks in your pocket all day. 

Tell someone

Communicate with your manager about what you’ve learned. I have done this many times in my career and in the past with this exercise I have:

  • Received a promotion
  • Demonstrated the need for new staff (three additional staff hired)
  • Gained a new job title
  • Been offered an out-of-cycle pay rise.

I’m not guaranteeing these outcomes for everyone but they’re more likely if you can explain what you’ve learned.  

Power yourself up

Think of it like armour. 

If you need help learning to say ‘no’, you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t actually have to utter that terrifying word.

Make sure you understand what your core focus is. Then anything that doesn’t align begins to stick out like a sore thumb. 

INCOMING! Here comes Shirley trying to get you to do her work again.

What does your post-it note say? If it’s not your core role, then move on to another victim, Shirley. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I’m focusing on my priority areas at the moment, working towards multiple deadlines.’

INCOMING! A shiny new opportunity has revealed itself, but your time would be stretched if you take this on as well as everything else.

Ask to be on the steering committee, which is only a 1-hour commitment once a month. ‘That sounds fantastic, I would love to be involved. I’m at full capacity at the moment. Is there a way I can be involved that wouldn’t be so time-intensive?’

INCOMING! Your boss asks you to do 50 things by the end of the day.

Take out your list of core tasks and ask what they would like you to stop doing in order to accommodate the new tasks. 

In review

  1. Understand yourself.
  2. Spring-clean your job.
  3. Get clear on what it is that you do and boil it down to 3 bullet points.
  4. Wear these like a badge and assess anything incoming against this.
  5. Hold your boundaries firm and reject anything that’s not in alignment.

Use these tips to clarify what inspires you and the core functions of your role. This empowers you to say ‘no’ and make the most of your time.

Hack Your Meetings And Get Your Life Back

Say goodbye to meetings that quickly run off track and have no actionable outcomes with these fresh approaches

We have all been stuck in meetings that either don’t need to happen in the first place or drag on and lose any ounce of effectiveness. These can be tough to sit through, especially if you’ve got better places to be!

Read on for some tips on how to create more effective meetings and alternatives to meetings.

Update how you approach running meetings

Gaining effectiveness can be as simple as making some tweaks to the traditional format. These five actions below are designs to see you ditch the outdated format of sitting around the table listening to the biggest extroverts in the room.

  1. Rotate the chair so that different people get to bring their own style.
  2. Set a simple agenda where the headings are always the same so that people can prepare in advance. For example, the most pressing issues today or this week, what is working well and what needs to change.
  3. Keep the meeting to its scheduled timeframe and don’t be afraid to use your phone to time it.
  4. Stand rather than sit to encourage short conversations that get to the point.
  5. Create a voting system or a phrase to quickly identify when everyone is on the same page (and therefore can move on) or identify areas that may need to be shifted offline. Try the five fingers voting system.

However, if it’s not a recurring meeting with a group of familiar faces or if it’s a 1:1 style with a customer or senior person then create a basic structure. Here’s mine:

  1. Confirm the point of the meeting
  2. Offer a brief overview of the issue at hand
  3. Explain your desired outcome and why
  4. Explain how you know you’ll have sorted the issues at hand
  5. Confirm follow up action points and set realistic timeframes
  6. Follow up with an email

These types of meetings can be nailed in 15 minutes if you control the flow of conversation and stick to the agreed topic at the outset of the meeting.

Ideas on switching up traditional meeting formats

You’ll recognise yourself in most of these situations so here’s how to flip them.

Team management and the day-to-day

Traditional: Manager/s talking at staff

Flip: Bottom-up not top-down

Description: Team members take turns to lead. Everyone brings their top three work priorities and we sometimes add in something lighter like “success this week will be… making it through the finance meeting”

Team planning sessions or away days

Traditional: Managers plan the content. Staff sit around tables listening all day.

Flip: Unconference.

Description: Get the team to plan out the day and what would be meaningful to them. Run an unconference. The benefit is that the team is empowered by creating the topics themselves. This results in a higher chance of buy-in will lead to a higher chance that ideas are carried forward when back in the office.

Project collaboration

Traditional: Meetings, teleconferences and more meetings

Flip: online

Description: Where possible, move all conversations online. Working with a tool like Slack and trello can be a great way to collaborate with a team and is particularly handy for teams that work in different time zones or that are spread across different organisations. The meetings then become a check-in point rather than a critical requirement to keep the project moving. I have found this to be very successful and a way to ensure that additional work-related side hustles don’t creep into your main gig.

Don’t put the “ass” in assume

Take the time to assess the different personality types of your team and people you meet with regularly. It’s important that meeting structures and formats suit different personalities – even if it’s only on a rotational basis.

For example, being a fire type and an extrovert, I am prone to assuming that if anyone has something to say they will just say it. Not true. People often need a warning about the structure of the meeting and what it will be about. They need time to process and come back with ideas and it’s important to allow this to happen. Even if the feedback is via email after the meeting, give people alternatives to speaking up directly.

Don’t let meetings run your life. Change how you view meetings and claim your time back. Combined with some basic productivity hacks, you could completely change your approach to working and conquer that ever-growing to-do list!

Interested in more hot tips on how to hack your work and get more productive? Join the Procurious community of 37,000 members where you’ll find daily inspiration.

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