2020 needs a reboot! Read on for tips on how to reframe the year from hell into a strategy to launch your career into success in 2021.
2020 – the one we all want to forget. It’s the year where we want to phone the universe’s IT department and ask if they can please push restart and download the new update, cos this ain’t working.
It’s a year of meme gold and one for the history books.
It’s been a year of heart warming collective connections and soul crushing defeats on a personal and global scale.
The highs were hard fought and the lows had you banning sweat pants on a weekend as they were reclassified as office wear.
The end of the year is fast approaching
Typically at this time of year we begin to reflect on the year we’ve had, what went well and not so well. Plans start to form for the year ahead. What’s different about this year is that everyone is looking forward to seeing the back of it, like 2020 was some awkward uninvited guest.
Well this guest doesn’t have a curfew, it won’t just leave because we want it to. There seems to be a collective wish that if we just push through, when we wake up on the morning of the 1st of January 2021 everything will be different somehow.
2020 is not dirt on your shoulder
You can’t just brush it off.
If we see 2020 as some embarrassing ex that we want to forget about, then we risk falling again. Because the truth is that this new place we find ourselves in is here to stay and by that I don’t mean the cliche of “this is the new normal”, but living with relative unpredictably and having things we took for granted (like being able to travel) still being out of our reach.
2020 offers us a chance for growth. When people say “can we get rid of 2020 already! Am I right?” I actually struggle to join in with the 2020 beat up. It had definite lows, but 2020 offered a chance to work differently, innovate products and undertake self reflection and learn new resilience skills. There was no rhythm, predictive analysis or scenario planning that could prepare anyone for this.
I noticed the people pushing through where the ones that were asking “what can I learn?” and “what is this bringing forward?”. As a team we found ourselves discussing how we can work with more heart and how can we stay connected.
Resilience used to be about dealing with change. Traditional courses had an underlying agenda that if you prepared enough then you could handle anything, well how do you prepare for an international pandemic? Resilience is now about vulnerability. Vulnerability is the only thing we have left when everything else goes out the window. It doesn’t mean you become weaker by opening yourself up to be picked apart (a fear response) but rather it’s the fuel for innovation.
A rebel mindset is important, one where we throw out the rules we’ve built for ourselves because heck – COVID has thrown our sense of security out the window so why stick to office platitudes and tired ways of doing things?
Try these tips to take the best lessons from your 2020 into the future:
Try something new and see how it goes. If an inner critic raises it’s head, banish it
Explain what motivates and drives you, shift your perspective from focusing on the details and the what and began to ask why and how
Don’t be afraid to pick a passion project and call it that, share it widely and recruit people to your cause
Open up to your colleagues about your struggles or blockages in your work and you’ll be surprised how many can relate
Stop thinking about all the things you can’t control or the things you can’t do and start thinking: if there are no rules and the shackles are off, what can you challenge, change or make?
2021 is going to be much like 2020 but hopefully we’re all a little bit more prepared. Rather than leaving 2020 in the dust, what can you thank it for?
Worried that your job may be on the chopping block? How to play offense & save your job!
“The best defense is a good offense.” No doubt you’ve heard this phrase. It’s been attributed to many different leaders, Michael Jordan, Knute Rockne, George Washington. But it’s an adage that’s just as old as war. This idea is also shared in business. Get out ahead of the problems. Anticipate. This is a great idea, especially if it’s starting to look like you might get fired or laid off.
First off, I think it’s fair to share that employers don’t always do an excellent job of firing people; they wait too long, do a really bad job at documenting reasons that would lead to firing people, look at emotional rather than rational reasons for letting someone go. HR is usually the fall guy – giving the manager an excuse for doing something they’ve likely wanted to do. Supervisory or management training doesn’t always include how to make good hiring decisions or how to provide constructive feedback in a way that encourages a good employee to improve or help them make a graceful exit if the position isn’t a good match for the employee’s skills.
Yet, even knowing all of that, it doesn’t make it any better to feel like your job is on the line. Even if you really don’t like your job.
What choice have I got?
Most people I’ve talked to about this had a bit of a fatalistic attitude about it – much of the advice was preparing for what’s next: get your things together, fix up your resume and start looking for another opportunity. And honestly, take it at face value: this may be the chance you didn’t realize you were waiting for!
Which, let’s be honest, this may be what your organization is hoping you’ll do (if they are planning to fire you). Firing someone is hard. It’s uncomfortable. People are upset. Most leaders don’t like doing it and will do almost anything to avoid it. It’s not much different if you are going to be laid off.
But what if your job isn’t that far gone yet? Let’s talk about things you can do NOW to protect your job. Go on the offense so you aren’t looking for that “hail Mary pass” in the final seconds of the game. For those not familiar with American football, this is a long-shot pass, with very little chance of success. But it doesn’t stop teams from trying it, or fans from rooting for it.
First, let’s review my last post on how to make yourself indispensable. Do something better than others in your organization: be reliable, share information, be curious about your role and your organization. By making yourself indispensable, it will be harder for them to find a reason to either fire you or lay you off.
Share your successes
Keep track of your successes. Share your successes with your manager. Don’t assume they already know. Learn how to tell your story, and tell it often. Help your supervisor be able to tell your story to those higher up. Your success stories will confirm to others that you belong with this organization.
Explore all avenues
Maybe you are seeing the signs of a layoff. The economy, especially in America, is in a recession and lots of people are losing their jobs. If your job is at risk due to a layoff, you can still use being indispensable and successful to help you keep your job. But if it’s bigger, maybe your entire department is about to go! What else is available in your organization? Talk to your boss about opportunities to use your skills in a different area of the organization. Most skills have a level of transferability and if you are at a large organization, there may be a chance to try out something new. The healthcare organization I work at offered staff the opportunity to reskill into an area of direct patient care. Think about what else you can do.
Losing your job sucks. And I’ve been there – fired, laid off and on both sides of the coin! But the work you do now can help you keep your job, assuming that’s the end goal. Or, the work you do now, can help prepare you for that next, awesome opportunity. Good luck!
After 2020, it’s back to the drawing board as far as career advice goes! Our expert sources reveal their top career tips moving forward.
As procurement evolves as a profession, so too does the career advice associated with it. Most years, we learn a thing or two more that we’ll need to implement. This year though? Not so much. 2020 has been the year that career advice has not just evolved, but changed entirely. It has been the year where we have redefined what ‘success’ might look like, grown an appreciation for the small things, and valued the people around us even more. It has been the year where we’ve challenged assumptions about not only how we work, but also where we work and why we do what we do.
So what, exactly, has 2020 taught us about our careers? Given the now monumental importance of the supply chain and procurement profession, many experts have weighed on what the very best career advice of 2020 has been. Here’s a round up of the five most important things we’ve learnt this year:
1. We don’t need to be ashamed of being laid off
It’s one of most people’s greatest fears for good reason: no one wants to get laid off. Being laid off (especially in this economic environment) can feel overwhelming, frightening and humiliating. But what is perhaps even worse is contemplating how to explain being laid off to future employers. Won’t they think that it was a problem with you?
No they most certainly won’t, says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source Recruitment. Even before the millions of redundancies that happened this year, it was always best practice to be honest with a future employer about why you left your last role.
And especially this year, Imelda says, the stigma around being laid off has all but been put to bed. Being honest about what has happened helps protect your personal brand:
“If you’re honest, it shows you have integrity. If you’re not, it casts doubt over your whole personal brand. It takes an entire career to build a positive personal brand, but only a few minutes to destroy one.”
2.Looking after your people is integral to your success
In the past, many have thought of a career as an individual pursuit. In fact, in days gone by, an autocratic management style and having sharp elbows were considered a requisite to success.
But not anymore.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that if our team doesn’t succeed, neither will we. Being a gracious and empathetic person (and leader and team player) has never been more important. In fact, if you want to succeed, this is the exact advice that Ian Holcroft, Director at Murphy, gives all aspiring CPOs:
“No matter the technological advancements we have now and into the future, people will still be at the centre of everything we do. In strange and challenging times, it’s even more important to look after your people – understand what drives them, what challenges they have outside work and the status of their mental health.” `
Usually, a combination of training, experience and a great mentor can help us develop these leadership skills. But a curveball that 2020 has thrown us is that these aren’t the only ways to develop leadership skills. In fact, a crisis can be fundamental in helping us to develop the ability to lead through uncertainty, which is an essential part of leading.
Mark Holyoake, founder of Holyoake Search, believes that 2020 has provided us all with a unique opportunity to lead, and this is something that companies look for when hiring senior procurement professionals:
“Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so leading in this way is a great skill to be nurturing now.”
4. Connect inside – and outside – of your industry
For as long as we’ve been offering career advice, we’ve said one thing to all procurement professionals: building your connections is key. In fact, building connections is the reason we created Procurious in the first place.
But this year has made the need to connect with others – both inside our team and industry, and outside of it – even more important. With the nature and complexity of some of the supply chain disruptions we’ve seen, connecting and collaborating with all manner of people is now not just a nice to have, but a need to have in order to problem solve and keep our organisations functioning.
Ian Holcroft, Director at Murphy, believes there’s been no better time to remember one particular old, yet critical adage:
“It isn’t about what you know, but rather who you know.”
In procurement, we like to think we’re excellent problem solvers. We’re also (usually) excellent risk managers, organisers, and creators of seamless processes.
But this year basically obliterated our assumptions about almost everything we do. It is no longer possible to use old solutions and to solve the new problems we’re experiencing.
They key to solving for this, says Mok O’Keefe, Chief Officer at The Innovation Beehive, is to be expansive in our thinking. He says:
“To be expansive in your thinking, you need to suspend your judgement and forget about assumptions. Say to yourself: how else could this work? Then, when ideas come to mind, ignore the voice that says ‘this is a crazy idea and it won’t work.’ Instead, ask yourself: ‘Under what circumstances could this be possible?’”
It’s fair to say we all need to be a bit more innovative with our careers this year. Mok’s got a great formula for this, which you can read here.
2020, the year careers as we know them changed forever
Like most things after 2020, our careers will never be the same. But could different mean better? Many experts think so. Let’s head into 2020 with a fresh set of advice, a renewed way of looking at things and even higher aspirations for ourselves and our profession.
Are you heeding good career advice to continue your upward trajectory, or worn-out myths that will grind your career to a halt? Here are the most common myths that may prove a hindrance.
When it comes to career advice, some of the most successful people say you can never get enough of it. But what about if the advice you’re given is not quite right? Or worse, what about if it actually sabotages your career? A lot has changed in the world of work, but sometimes the career advice of yesteryear just doesn’t change with the times. Here are the most common career success myths, and how they might actually be sabotaging your success:
Myth 1: Long hours is the only way to the top
We’ve all heard the old adage before: the quickest way to the top is to arrive before your boss, and leave after her. Employers want face time warriors, we’re told. The best employees are always working, always available, and always on.
So it’s fair to say that long hours will not lead you to the top, but it may lead you out the door.
Myth 2: Dress for success
The notion of ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ seems to have been passed down the generations, and still echoes around many offices today. But will this get you the promotion you’ve got your eye on?
Secondly, the very best workplaces know to value someone’s performance over superficial considerations such as how they dress or look. So as much as it’s important to make an effort, trying to be the best dressed in your office is simply not that important.
Myth 3: You should leave if you get a bad performance review
For anyone who has ever received a bad performance review (which at some point, is most of us!), it can be a soul-crushing and highly embarrassing feeling. So awful is it that most of us will believe that there’s no coming back, and that we should immediately update our resumes and start hitting the job market. But should we?
Companies are increasingly waking up to the fact that annual performance appraisals aren’t as effective as many originally thought they were. In fact, BBC Worklife goes as far as to say that they are pointless for most people. Increasingly, businesses are realising that they are not the be all and end all of performance, and looking at other factors instead.
That being said, a bad performance review can still hurt. But instead of rage quitting, try to focus on what you can do to improve. Steering yourself out of a bad situation can show your boss that you’re in possession of the most important quality any employee could have: resilience.
Myth 4: Your IQ is more important than your EQ
Are you one of those people who rolls their eyes at all of our peers because you know you’re just so much smarter than all of them? At school, it’s the most intelligent people who succeed, but in work, it can be a different matter entirely.
In the workplace, a high IQ can mean that you’ll succeed at certain jobs and be valued for your skills. But if your IQ Is high but your EQ is lacking, you’ll likely be sidelined to roles as an individual contributor, as leadership and management require a healthy dose of EQ.
Your EQ, far more than your IQ, will determine whether or not you’re promoted, and will help immensely throughout your career, assisting you to build relationships and influence others.
When it comes to career advice, not every piece of advice is created equal. Don’t let these career myths stand in the way of your success.
Are there any other career myths that you’ve felt have held you back? Let us know in the comments below.
COVID-19 has created a significant opportunity for generation next to lead, grow and advance. Here are five steps to break through.
Are you satisfied with your current position, or are you eager to break out and change the game?
Do same-old, status quo procurement and supply chain strategies work for you, or are you ready to rewrite the playbook for the modern era?
Procurement’s impressive performance during COVID-19, and the critical role the function plays in the ongoing recovery, has created significant opportunity for generation next.
Are you going to take advantage?
The doors are wide open. And the rewards are substantial. Think promotions, increased comp, resources, access to emerging tech, leadership opportunities, validation and trust from the c-suite, and much more.
But the doors won’t stay open forever. Now is the time to hustle and own your opportunity. If you’re not entirely sure where to begin, consider these five key steps to break through in today’s market.
1. Want more attention? Make your mark where it matters.
The fastest way to get noticed: push forward the strategic, board-level objectives of your organisation.
What tops your CEO’s agenda right now? If you don’t know, request an immediate alignment meeting with your CPO or team lead. Our research found that the c-suite’s top three focus areas today are mitigating supply chain risk, containing costs, and driving business continuity.
These three areas are your golden ticket. Get creative and be bold with your recommendations. Leadership is looking for fresh and modern ideas, not a repeat of yesterday’s strategy. Don’t hesitate to share, even if your recommendations represent a new approach for your team.
Start by thinking outside the box: Is there a use case for AI, blockchain or predictive analytics? What about partnering with a peer or competitor to solve the problem? If you can drive the results the company needs faster and more effectively than in the past, the recognition will follow.
2. Market your success like crazy.
It’s always a team game, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?
Keep track of your wins and benchmark performance over time to demonstrate improvement. And report with data, not anecdotes.
Be sure to communicate like an executive when sharing your success up the ladder. The TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) phenomenon is a very real trap. Lead with the headline, back it up with data and close with how you plan to take it up to another level.
Remember, you, and you alone, are responsible for your career growth.
3. Champion digitisation and emerging tech.
COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the enterprise digitisation journey and eliminated all the old excuses associated with delayed tech transformation projects.
Every executive is looking to increase resilience, productivity and performance. Digitisation and emerging tech – like AI and machine learning – delivers on all fronts. Those who proactively adapt and modernise are best positioned to lead today and in the future.
If your department is not equipped with the right technology, take a stand and champion the digitisation effort. Executives will take notice. Our research shows that 93% of organisations are investing to enable procurement’s success. There are three primary areas that companies are focusing on to propel procurement forward:
Data and analytics
Development of existing talent
Two of the three are directly tied to digital transformation. For many companies, September marks the start of the 2021 budgeting season. If you see an opportunity, the time to make a move is now. Make the business case abundantly clear by connecting your requests to what matters most for the organisation right now: cash, resiliency, and business continuity.
4. Learn, develop and then learn some more
Fifty-seven percent of organisations are investing in talent development to propel procurement forward, according to our survey research. That number needs to be higher… and you need to make sure you get your fair share of the investment.
Your job: Put forward your personal business case for investment. Identify the skills that you and your team need to survive and thrive tomorrow. And take ownership of your own development.
There are ample opportunities to improve and develop. Our recent survey uncovered five primary talent gaps facing the function today.
Mastering these five areas will push you forward in a big way. Breaking them down, there are three key themes. The first is analytics – leaders that can analyze data, uncover trends and use insights to make fast and informed decisions will remain in high-demand. This should be area number one for professional development and training. The second centers around tech digitisation and modernisation, which we touched on earlier. The last bucket represents the soft skills necessary to be a great leader – emotional intelligence, relationships, and human connection.
Be the leader you want to follow
As you grow, get promoted and gain more influence, prioritize being a great leader. Make it one of the most important things you do every day.
Your leadership approach can either crack the foundation of your team or launch everyone forward. In fact, Gallup says managers account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement.
But remember, future success requires practice today. According to research from HBR, there are six key areas every aspiring leader should practice right now:
Creating an exciting and challenging vision
Translating the vision into a clear strategy and roadmap
Team management: recruiting, developing and rewarding great people to execute on your strategy
Focusing on measurable results
Fostering an environment of team innovation and learning
Leading yourself — “know yourself, improve yourself, and manage the appropriate balance in your own life.”
If you wait to start practicing these skills until after you get the promotion, it may be too late. As HBR’s Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville write: “No matter where you are in your career, you can find opportunities to practice these six skills. You’ll have varying degrees of success, which is normal. But by reflecting on your successes and failures at every step, and getting feedback from colleagues and mentors, you’ll keep making positive adjustments and find more opportunities to learn.”
The Clock is Ticking: It’s your time to lead.
For current and aspiring procurement leaders, there’s never been a better opportunity. More than 60% of procurement professionals have seen executive trust increase in the past three months. Similarly, more procurement leaders report having a seat at the executive table today than they did in May.
You have everything we need to step up, lead and earn more recognition and trust. The doors are open: are you going to walk or run through?Interested in learning more about procurement leadership? Get more insights, advice and best practices from our latest report: Procurement’s Time to Lead.
First of all, take courage in the procurement profession’s future.
That’s the advice of Mark Holyoake, Managing Director of New York-based Holyoake Search.
“It’s never a nice feeling to have to worry about your job security, and my heart obviously goes out to those who have already been laid off, or furloughed, as a result of this pandemic,” Holyoake says.
“That all being said, my message for supply management professionals who are in the market for a new job right now is actually a positive one. Procurement hasn’t been nearly as badly hit as other areas within the business; and over the past few months, it’s actually taken on a more important role than ever at many companies.”
Holyoake says a shift in procurement strategy means companies will seek to reduce cost, increase working capital, better manage unpredictable supply & demand patterns, and protect against supplier risk.
“That is going to require them to hire new talent into the company,” Holyoake says. “While some are undoubtedly still under a hiring freeze, our observation is that the job market is starting to turn a corner and job confidence over the next twelve months is relatively high.”
So if you haven’t found the right role yet, or even if you’re happy in your job for now but you’re concerned about the future, there are new opportunities on the horizon.
Step 2. Beef up your online reputation
You can’t control if your CV or resume lands on top of the recruiting pile.
But you can stay top of mind with an active online presence – boosting your credibility.
Are you the kind of person that rarely engages with your online network? You’re missing out.
“Online presence is vital to get noticed in today’s digital world,” says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source – a boutique procurement recruitment firm in Melbourne.
So jump in and join the ranks of those who offer meaningful, regular contributions on social platforms. In return, you’ll build your network, keep up with industry developments, and you could even get headhunted.
Take LinkedIn for example.
“HR, hiring managers and recruiters are using LinkedIn to search for talent at all levels and have been for the past few years,” Walsh says.
That’s why Walsh suggests these steps:
Develop content and share it on LinkedIn to show you are a thought leader in your area. This will help you build a community, get noticed, and assist with building your personal brand.
Contribute to your network by liking, sharing and posting relevant content.
Be specific about the value you can bring to a role or organisation in your LinkedIn Profile.
Treat your LinkedIn like an online resume; include your responsibilities and achievements on each recent role on your LinkedIn profile.
And the best time to start is now, says recruiter Mark Holyoake.
“Just by being more active on LinkedIn, sharing relevant articles, and participating in discussions with others from the wider procurement community, candidates are raising their visibility among prospective employers and those who already work for them, long before they go to submit a resume,” Holyoake says. “This is the edge you will need to stand out among your competition.”
But LinkedIn is only one platform, of course. You should be active wherever your potential employers are, says Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at MRA Global Sourcing, a specialist procurement and logistics recruitment firm in Illinois, USA.
On top of that, Malik suggests starting a blog to demonstrate your area of expertise, or even finding relevant volunteering opportunities with non-profits or charities.
Likewise, you might consider taking leadership roles in professional associations, and seeking out speaking engagements. You never know where your next opportunity will come from.
Step 3. Acquire in-demand ‘hard’ skills
Impressing potential employers and recruiters online is only one part of the equation, of course. You also need the practical skills to land a new gig or get promoted.
What skills do employers want right now? Risk management, says Malik.
“We have observed a keen focus from procurement executives on risk, both in regards to response and mitigation.”
These skills include:
Supply Chain Mapping
Many companies were caught off-guard when China went into lockdown, Malik explains.
“Procurement groups that had previously invested in obtaining deeper transparency across their supply chain, down to lower-tier suppliers, were able to quickly adapt and identify which suppliers, commodities, and facilities were affected early into the outbreak,” Malik says.
“This skill is of critical importance, lest we encounter another unprecedented event in the future.”
During the pandemic, thousands of suppliers have claimed “force majeure” declarations as their businesses have grappled with crippling circumstances, says Malik.
“Being able to collaborate with legal teams to build in contractual protections to mitigate future risk, and understanding nuances between different governing laws across the globe is the desired skill set for procurement employers moving forward,” Malik explains.
Supplier Risk Technology Aptitude
“As Deloitte’s 2019 CPO Survey reveals, “most CPOs are often not satisfied with the results of their digital technologies, especially when managing supply chain risk and supplier relationships,’” says Malik.
“This gap has surely been amplified in 2020, and additional investment in supplier risk technology is a certainty since companies need to have their hands on the pulse of the risk factors for their key vendors, especially from a business continuity and financial solvency perspective. Professionals who familiarise themselves with this technology will separate themselves from the pack.”
4. Keep learning
Malik also advises procurement professionals to learn about rapidly changing technologies that affect the industry, like AI, Blockchain, and big data.
Tech know-how also includes communication tools that are firmly part of office life – Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc.
You likely won’t get any training on how to use these tools if you join a new company. You’ll be expected to know and use them, so now’s the time to practise.
Additionally, Malik says it’s wise to pursue industry certification and take the opportunity to continue your education.
“There are tonnes of free webinars to learn and hone skills, stay sharp, and develop new areas of expertise,” says Malik.
5. Sharpen your ‘soft’ skills
Right along those ‘hard’ skills, you should take the opportunity to work on your ‘soft’ skills, says recruiter Mark Holyoake.
“Of course, your ability to negotiate a killer contract should not be dismissed, but having the soft skills needed to gauge a situation and read behavioural clues to determine your course of action, as well as communicate your ideas and strategies, is arguably more vital to success in the modern procurement function,” Holyoake says.
Some soft skills that naturally fit procurement are:
Finally, take time to look after yourself, says Holyoake. And that’s doubly true in these strange times.
“Ensure you make time for your physical and mental health while you’re engaged in your job search,” Holyoake says.
“Don’t forget to give time to your relationships and the people who are supporting you like family and friends, too. It might sound counterproductive, but by taking some time for yourself, you’ll have more energy and focus.”
Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more.
Innovation is everyone’s business. Accelerate the potential of your career with these tips on building your creative potential
Innovation isn’t just about Disruption with a capital ‘D’. It’s not just about the next big product out of Silicon Valley. It is about making improvements to our business models, supply chains, ways of serving customers and manufacturing processes.
Not only that, but innovation is also a mode of thinking, a way of being, and a journey we can all go on in our day to day work and life to improve our career prospects, productivity and even our wellbeing.
In this article, I will share some of the practical steps you can take to accelerate the potential of innovative thinking to transform your career and enhance your effectiveness at work.
These tips don’t just apply when you’re working on an obviously innovative project, but to every challenge you face. Go forth and innovate!
Why innovate at all?
Innovation is about supporting growth and looking for new opportunities to meet the needs, desires and expectation of customers, employees or other stakeholders. Innovation enables people to harness their own and their teams’ creative potential to solve real-world problems. If harnessed correctly it can improve employee engagement, customer satisfaction and bottom line revenue.
Not in A Creative Job? You Need To Be An Innovator Too!
Creativity is not the end game. Creativity is an enabler to help you to overcome a challenge or meet a need from your end user. It is a tool to help you move forward when you might be stuck. Every role will face problems that need to be solved. Every job involves processes that can be improved. Every career requires innovation to progress.
How to Be More Innovative
Be expansive in your thinking
We all make assumptions about our world and the problems we encounter. These assumptions can help us make lightning quick decisions that enable us to take action.
However, when you are faced with a problem or challenge, there is always the potential to do things better. This is where Innovation comes in.
To be expansive in your thinking, you need to suspend your judgement and forget your assumptions.
Say to yourself: how else could this work?
Then, when ideas comes to mind, ignore the voice that says, ‘this is a crazy idea and it won’t work’. Instead, ask yourself “under what circumstances could this be possible?”.
Most importantly, just because it hasn’t worked first time, don’t dismiss the idea – think like a start-up, find the learning and improve your idea.
Don’t accept the status quo; be a restless provocateur. Be curious to understand how others try and solve problems similar to yours, both within your industry and outside it. Look for stimulus to hope you see your problem from a new angle. You might find the solution somewhere, but more often, you will find principles that you can build on to develop your own innovative ideas to solve your specific problems.
Have some structure
Innovation can get a bad rap because it can seem woolly. Google say, ‘Creativity Loves Constraint’ and they are one of the best examples of an innovative organisation in the world! So, ensure you create a process to follow, map your stakeholders, agree draft timescales and use a methodology such as Design Thinking to help guide you from first observation through to launch.
Build a rough and scrappy prototype and test it with your key stakeholders. Give them a sense of the experience or the product and actively get them to tell you everything that is wrong or doesn’t work. Often, new innovations fail because the pilot only tested if it the idea could be operationalised – not if there was a genuine need or desire from the end user.
Be A Risk Taker
In uncertain times we will encounter so many unknown unknowns – we cannot possibly plan for all the challenges we will face. We will all have to think differently and invent new solutions to problems we don’t yet know about. By Prototyping and Testing with your end user you can mitigate risk.
The Biggest Tip For Innovation
Have Ideas not Thoughts. So often when we are asking for blue sky ideas we end up with non-specific Thoughts. An Idea is succinct, actionable and can be understood quickly by someone who was not in the room when it was created. A Thought is an intention but there is no clear path to next steps. Keep asking yourself and others ‘what’s the idea? What would we actually do? What would our end user experience differently’?
Ask yourself ‘can someone take this idea and do something specific with it?’ if they can, then it’s a good idea that’s ready for testing. If they can’t, go back to it and build it some more.
This will ensure your innovative thinking delivers results, which will enable you to stand out from the crowd and enhance your career prospects.
Catch Mok talk all things innovation in our highly anticipated Career Bootcamp with IBM Sterling Supply Chain. Register here.
Have you been furloughed during the coronavirus crisis? Many people have. Here’s a searingly honest account of what it feels like.
Matt* was suddenly and unexpectedly furloughed from his job as a sourcing consulting director at one of the US’s most recognisable businesses. He has shared his story here on the condition of anonymity.
Life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs, hey? Just last weekend, I found a list of goals I’d made, sometime after the new year when the enthusiasm of resolutions had yet to wane. I’d included the good old standard goals, something like ‘get fitter,’ ‘scroll less!’ ‘don’t get hung up on things you can’t change!’ but there was also a solid few career ones in there. None of them, I might add, included being sent home from work, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no return date and no certainty there would even be a job to return to. But then again, was a pandemic really in anyone’s plan? I’ve since heard that some people believed it possible, but to be honest I never really gave the idea much thought.
I’m a sourcing consulting director by trade, and I love – or, I loved – everything about my job. Helping clients transition and transform their businesses was my bread and butter, and I enjoyed the variety and challenges it afforded me. On a daily basis, I’d be confronted with new and different projects; no two clients were the same. As a natural people-person, I found the client contact invigorating and the problem solving even more so. I was often jet-setting around the country and seeing different cities while living out of a suitcase and it suited me just fine. It enabled me to get properly embedded in my work and give it my all.
Around January, I remember seeing eerie photos of Wuhan and thinking how strange it looked and seemed. I think I saw a photo of a door welded shut on an apartment block and I reflected on how grateful I was for American freedoms, and how I never thought something even resembling a lockdown could ever happen here. Boy, was I wrong. Our doors might not be welded shut but we sure are trapped in another way.
Have you seen the movie the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? If you haven’t, it’s where four English children go through their wardrobe into a land completely unrecognisable to them, called Narnia. ‘Virus life,’ to me, felt like Narnia, but not in a good sense. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it felt like we were safely in the wardrobe one day and then a place we truly didn’t want to be the next.
From a work perspective, when the pandemic did hit hard, I was immediately concerned about the travel side of my job, but not my actual job, interestingly. But as a business, we were shocked at how quickly things exploded and started having an impact. Somehow, stil, I wasn’t worried. But then.
When they told me, I didn’t really react much. I was shocked, I think, maybe a little numb. I’ve always been a risk-averse person, always doing the right thing, always trying to get a stable job and succeed at it. So when I heard I was being furloughed, I kind of got this sense of, but I’ve always done the right thing? I certainly wished it wasn’t me. In a rational sense, I got it, of course I did. I understood the dynamics, I knew that things were unstable now and changing fast. But still.
Since being stood down from my role, time has taken on a strangely elastic sense. Sometimes days go fast, especially when I get really engaged in playing games with my family or staying up late watching a movie. I know some people’s children have driven them crazy, but I’ve honestly enjoyed my family dynamics and our closeness so much. But when I do find a minute to myself, I can’t say my mind is completely clear. My business has told me, ‘as far as they know’ that I’ll be back, but I can’t help but wonder. A few of my colleagues have been laid off and I now see the fear and dread in their eyes as they confront America’s most challenging job market. Sure, in procurement we’re weathering the storm well but nothing is for sure. I try not to think about being fired. Now I’m not ‘present’ at work, I do feel genuinely worried.
Being furloughed has been a great time for personal reflection. Fortunately, I was in a relatively secure financial position prior to this and so far, money hasn’t been a real issue – but I know for so many people, that simply isn’t true. I’ve also paused and reflected on what is an ‘essential versus a ‘non-essential’ business – something I’d never really thought about before. All things being equal, if I was ever offered a job again, I’d definitely preference an ‘essential’ business as having a stable job is critical to me. Despite my relative financial stability, I’ll also be more conservative with cash. You truly never know what is around the corner. That’s what this pandemic has taught me.
In life, I’ve always been used to knowing what’s coming next. It’s such a strange feeling to wake up and not have to plan anything past my morning coffee. But at the same time, it’s nice to take a breath. The future is unclear, but I feel, in procurement at least, that there’s hope.
Working can feel impossible when you have to collaborate with someone you don’t like. Here’s how to do it.
Michelle* had recently taken on the role of CPO at a large manufacturing organisation. It was a job she’d been planning, and pining for, for years, so she was heavily invested in making it a success. To do so, she’d carefully mapped her stakeholders, investing in understanding each of their unique needs and situations. But two months in, there was a problem. And the name of that problem was Mark. Unfortunately, Mark was also the CFO.
Michelle had done what she could to get Mark onside. And worse, she could see from his relationships with others in the business that Mark wasn’t particularly difficult – in fact, he seemed to be generally competent and well-liked. But she just didn’t like him, and he didn’t like her either.
As many of us in procurement would know, though, not getting along with the finance department can be particularly troublesome. And so it was with Michelle. Mark was going to be integral to her success – so what should she do?
If we’re all being honest, we’ve all come across a Mark – or a Michelle – in our working lives. Someone who, despite others not seeing it, just makes our blood boil with frustration and our mind explode with confusion. Someone we simply don’t like.
But nowadays, with procurement intimately connected to all corners of organisations and stakeholder management more important than ever, we can’t simply ignore the fact that we don’t like someone. We need to do something about it.
But what? Here’s how to navigate the frustrating waters of a colleague that has you hot under the collar:
Step 1: Accept and reflect
No matter how likeable or nice we think we are, we have to accept that it’s not possible to get along with everyone. The first step to improving relationships with someone you don’t like is simply this: accepting that not everyone will be your best friend (or even ally) and that it isn’t a personal reflection on you.
Beyond acceptance, another important first step is to reflect on the positive you can garner from the relationship, even if it is a difficult one. What can you learn? How can you grow? Difficult relationships are, usually, much rarer than positive ones, so if you flip your frustration on its head, you’re bound to learn something.
2. Understand their perspective
When you decide that someone frustrates you, you naturally recoil. Then, when you do need to deal with them, you discount and/or/get annoyed by everything they say and do. In other words, once trust and respect are gone, it’s difficult to get them back.
But in the situation where you have to work with someone you don’t like, it’s important to try and be the bigger person, no matter how challenging this might seem. Ask yourself: Why is this person acting in this particular way? What do they want/need differently from me? How might I be frustrating them? Reflecting on their motivations will help you appreciate their goals, behaviours and different points of view. In turn, this will help you have empathy for their situation.
3. Increase your self-awareness
The term ‘it takes two to tango’ is true of all relationships, and a large part of working with people you don’t like is to understand how you contribute to that relationship. Understanding your own personal style can be a big part of this.
In the example above, Michelle knew that she was a strong extrovert, and that she always preferred face to face meetings and lots of social time with her colleagues. She was also a little disorganised, and never understood why past colleagues got frustrated when she was late to meetings or moved them at the last minute. After all, she got the job done.
Mark, on the other hand, was a strong introvert and preferred the comfort of everything via email. He was precise, particular and enjoyed routines and certainty. He mistook Michelle’s carefree attitude for incompetence.
By increasing her awareness of her personal style, Michelle could learn a lot about why she might frustrate Mark – and vice versa. Understanding this is a critical part of repairing poor relationships.
4. Be collaborative – not competitive
The hierarchical nature of organisations can lead many of us to feel we need to compete with each other. Yet that attitude alone is responsible for many poor relationships. If you want to get along, it’s better to focus on collaborating.
It can take some courage to do this, but one way of encouraging better collaboration with someone you don’t like is to simply ask them how to do this, instead of constantly trying to find workarounds to make them happy. Asking something along the lines of ‘I don’t feel we’re working together in the best possible way – do you have any ideas on how to fix this?’ can go a long way in ensuring a better partnership.
If you don’t like someone, the last thing you’re going to want to do is flatter them, as it can seem ingenuine. But doing so in a more subtle way can help repair a relationship, especially if you essentially ‘shift the problem’ of the relationship over to them by simply asking for their help.
In Michelle’s situation, one way to repair her relationship with Mark might be to take him for a coffee and seek his expertise on how to best connect with people in the organisation and succeed. The question will have the effect of making Mark think that Michelle believes he is an organisational success story, and he might be more willing to open up. This will ‘humanise’ the relationship and help both Michelle and Mark feel more comfortable with each other.
Most importantly – start working on your frustrations early
For so many of us, our colleagues and stakeholders can make or break our experience at work. Inevitably though, we’ll come across people we don’t like.
When we do, it’s important to work on those relationships, often and early. There’s nothing worse than being frustrated on a daily basis, when we could have seen the incredible human our colleague was long ago.
What techniques do you use to better work with people you don’t like? Tell us in the comments below.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
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When we think of bad luck and its inverse, good luck, we often think about being in either the right or wrong place, at the right or wrong time. We think of it as something that just happens; an act of good or bad random chance.
You can, in fact, create your own good luck. And you can do so by employing 4 basic principles that will rapidly increase the amount of good fortune that comes your way.
Here’s what the 4 principles are and how you can employ them at work.
1. Maximise chance opportunities
The first principle that psychologists found increases your luck is to maximise your chance opportunities. It makes sense, of course – the more opportunities you expose yourself to, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
But maximising your chance opportunities isn’t just about exposing yourself to them. You also need to take advantage of them when they come your way.
A great way to do this is to be open to meeting new people and having new experiences, and then seeing the positive in everything. You simply never know what might lead to your next big break.
It’s easy to see how this principle applies at work. Is there a new project you could put your hand up for? Could you go to a not-strictly-necessary meeting and strike up a conversation with a leader you’ve never met?
The more open you are and the more chances you take, the more likely that one of these opportunities will come to fruition.
Opening yourself to more opportunities means you’ll invite both the good – and inevitably, the bad – in. In doing so, you’ll need to learn to listen to your intuition, to ensure you make better decisions about what’s right for you.
Think of your intuition as effectively a filtering system. With more opportunities, you need to take advantage of the best ones to increase your luck (success).
Intuition can be tricky to describe, but we’ve all felt it. Whether it’s a job we’ve gone for only to doubt whether we’ll like the manager, or a supplier we’re unsure of, we all sometimes feel things aren’t quite right. But we may not trust our judgement. From a luck perspective, we should.
A little over a decade ago, a book by a little-known author, Rhonda Byrne, went viral. That book was called The Secret and it promised that all readers needed to do was ‘invite’ good things to happen to them, and such things would come about.
The book was soon widely rubbished by sceptics. It became the subject of countless hilarious memes. But as it turns out there was an element of truth in Byrne’s observations.
Creating good luck in your career isn’t just a matter of inviting it. But research does show the lucky people do have a positive outlook, insomuch as they expect their future to be a success.
This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lucky people will persist when trying to achieve their goals (even if the chance of succeeding are slim). And they’ll positively interact with others on the journey, opening up ever more opportunities.
This is another example in which it’s easy to draw parallels to the workplace. If you’ve missed out on a promotion this time, keep your manager on side, stay positive and keep trying. This will exponentially increase your chances of success.
No one is going to want to promote you if you’re bitter and negative all the time, regardless of your performance or how hard you work.
4. Turn bad luck into good luck
Are you stewing on that time when a co-worker made you look bad or stole your idea? While it’s normal to do so, lucky people have special ways of dealing with the inevitable bad fortune we all experience.
Practising their techniques can help you literally turn bad luck into good luck.
Here’s what researchers found they do:
Lucky people often imagine how things could have been worse –this helps them see the positive in any situation.
Ultimately, lucky people believe it will all work out in the end. Sure, your co-worker might have stolen your idea, but you’ve got plenty more to offer, right?
Lucky people don’t dwell on bad things that have happened to them. This enables them to focus on their next big opportunity.
Lucky people take control of situations and take constructive steps to prevent bad situations from happening again. If your co-worker has made you look bad, let them know!
Go out and get that luck
French leader Napoleon Bonaparte said: ‘ability is of little account without opportunity’. And that has never been more true, especially when it comes to your career.
So go out there and make your own luck. And when you succeed, know this – your success is the result of your effort, not chance.
How have you made your own luck? Tell us in the comments below.