Tag Archives: resilience

Defining Procurement 100%

Organic, original, challenging and aspirational – is this what procurement means to you?  Maybe it should.

In a recent conversation with a business partner where we discussed all-things procurement, a new notion came to mind. The more we talked about it, the more it resonated and the more tangible it became. The concept, as simple as it sounds, embodies a holistic vision of what procurement professionals must strive for.  We called it “Procurement 100%”.

“Procurement 100%”, is not the same as “100% procurement”.  It’s a concept that recognises everything an organisation does is not purely focused on procurement, but that procurement must operate at 100% to enable the organisation to achieve its goals. 

Procurement  is 100% Organic

Procurement 100% implies that procurement is alive and complex, and that significant effort is required to achieve it. All the moving pieces of an organisation will influence procurement and we must be forever diligent to maintain performance.

Procurement 100% is a moving target, is a relative concept that needs to be assessed and gauged within its ecosystem, as it is no stranger to everything else within a company. It is a set of goals that defines and redefines itself constantly as risks become real and resilience is challenged everyday.

Procurement 100% is both the exemplification of sustainability, and its susceptibility to external variables. 

Procurement is 100% Original

The most appealing thing about this concept is that the definition of Procurement 100% will be unique and different for every organisation.  Each company must think about what 100% means to the broader vision of the organisation and devise a path and a plan against it to achieve it. 

Only one rule applies. Procurement 100% is about achieving full operational transparency, enabling process compliance and capturing value at all times, no compromise. 

A procurement function that operates at 100% would be world class  – a function that balances process, people and technology in just the right way to enable the most ambitious goals of an organisation without wasting energy. It’s about making the right way to buy the easiest way of buying.

No procurement function is the same, or requires the same energy and resources to reach its full potential. Not every organisation will need the same set of tools, people and expertise in house in order to perform at a high level.

Procurement is 100% Challenging

Procurement 100% is an exclusive club, because it demands mastery of the competing forces of strategic vision and operational functionality. Many companies have great vision, but lack the on-the-ground resources to execute their plan. Others have strong apparatus, tools and operatives, but fail because there is no strategic direction. Everything gets tactical, too granular, and they are unable to change mindsets.

To me, the greatest ideas come from defining, embracing and deploying out-of-the-box approaches that make us a little nervous, where failing is done quickly and learnings are applied before the fear of losing again, anchors us more to our comfort zone where all is safe, where procurement is still tactical at best.

Procurement is 100% Aspirational

Procurement 100% gives everyone  a goal, a vision and mission to attain.  It speaks about something that must, and can be, measured. Anything under 100% means there’s work to do, everything at a 100% means it needs to be monitored.

I cannot define what Procurement 100% looks like for your organisation, but I can tell you that I don’t know a single entity who has Procurement 100%.   It’s not that they don’t strive for excellence and having a high performance procurement function.  Those who acknowledge the value of 100% Procurement are the same visionaries who keep raising the bar just before its reached.

What I can tell you is that in the holy trinity of procurement – people, process, and technology – each make up for exactly 33% of your winning formula. Achieving the right balance is the secret ingredient for you to figure out to unlock the full potential of your procurement function. 

Join us for the Global Big Ideas Summit next month to share what that 1% looks like for others.

How to Be Super Normal: 5 Must-Have Traits to Get Ahead in 2021

What does it take to be Super Normal? Here are the 5 must-have traits to get ahead in 2021 without driving yourself crazy.


There’s no turning back. There’s only the here and now. And whatever you call it – the new normal, now normal, the end of the world, or as we’re labeling it, the Super Normal – it no longer matters. What matters is how you adapt, move forward and make a difference.

There’s a lot of difference-making that still needs to happen. Procurement and supply chain must lead the way, just as we’ve done in the past. According to McKinsey, “in the five years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, total return to shareholders for companies with top-quartile procurement capabilities was 42% higher than for companies whose procurement operations were in the bottom quartile.”

That’s a significant impact. Clearly, we have what it takes to succeed. But this is not the same environment as the global financial crisis. The game has fundamentally changed and we need a new playbook to win, manage stress and get ahead.

The Super Normal: Start by Owning Your Vulnerability  

Resilience is core to the Super Normal. We’ve been talking about it since March, which begs a deep discussion: What actually makes us resilient?

It has nothing to do with our age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. Instead, according to a Harvard Business Review study, there are two driving factors. The first is exposure. The more exposed you are to the suffering or event, the higher your resilience levels are. As HBR puts it, “this strongly suggests that we discover our resilience only when we are forced to meet unavoidable suffering full in the face. It’s when we face that reality, and see ourselves and how we respond to it, that we find the basis for resilience.”

The second factor is the extent of the threat. The more tangible, the more resilient we become.

An HBR survey asked how many people had experienced workforce changes as a result of COVID-19. There were 11 possible changes to select, such as sheltering in place, layoffs and furloughs, and changing use of technology. Ninety-six percent of respondents globally said they’d experienced at least one issue. This is similar to our business study, which found that 97% of organisations experienced a supply chain disruption related to COVID-19.

This isn’t surprising – so why does it matter? Because as leaders, we need to own our vulnerabilities. Our Super Normal requires us to be open, transparent and direct. You can’t force a return to normal just to calm anxiety and stress. We have all suffered to some extent and glossing over the potential implications – whether it be layoffs, longer work hours, hard conversations with suppliers and customers, a demand for new skills, or changes at home – is counter-intuitive.

Instead, own the vulnerability, be clear about your team’s exposure and communicate what needs to change. When people understand what’s at stake, they are remarkably resilient.

The Super Normal Playbook: Heart, Brain and Vision

Resilience amidst chaos requires evolution. We need to change and adapt, even if we don’t know what the future holds. While there’s no easy button or universal blueprint, we’ve learned a lot in 2020 about how to be Super Normal.  

1.       Super Normal Professionals Think the Unthinkable

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that anything can happen. Pandemic, trade wars, recessions, natural disasters… the list goes on.

Being Super Normal requires us to come to terms with an inherent truth: Uncertainty is certain.

We need to engrain this mindset into our team, decisions and actions. Once we see that the big picture is cloudy and unpredictable, we can better prepare ourselves for success, and quickly overcome the shock factor when everything abruptly changes. Being ready for sudden change – and having a plan of action – puts you ahead of nearly everyone. 

2.       Super Normal Professional See Limitless Opportunity

Don’t let the state of our world get you down. Instead, get up, make a plan and get going. Be positive.

Changemakers see opportunity in crisis. They understand that the dynamics have completely changed, and there are limitless opportunities to improve your reputation, get noticed, move up and make an impact.

We know that procurement and supply chain operations are intrinsically linked to organisational survival and success. Whether you are at the beginning of your career or leading operations for a Fortune 100, there’s a greenfield opportunity in front of you. Thriving in the Super Normal requires you to see it and take advantage.

3.       Super Normal Professionals Invest in Themselves

Warren Buffet put it best. “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” 

This advice isn’t relatively new or unique, but it’s a game-changer for those that take advantage. What skills do you need to thrive in our Super Normal? What about the Next Normal? How will your day-to-day job change in the next 5 years?

Our recent survey found that the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments they are making in procurement are in data and analytics, talent development and technology.

Soft skills matter as well. According to LinkedIn, the top five most in-demand skills in 2020 are “creativity, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, and emotional intelligence—all skills that demonstrate how we work with others and bring new ideas to the table.” 

If your organisation isn’t providing the necessary training or experience you need, make the time to get it yourself. The pandemic has accelerated the global tech transformation and heightened the need for modern skills, expertise and experiences, like analytics, digitisation, emerging technology, emotional intelligence and leadership. Super Normal leaders see where the world is going and stay ahead of the transformation by investing in themselves and their teams. 

4.       Supper Normal Leaders See the Big Picture and Know How to Focus

Where is your organisation going and what does it need right now? Super Normal leaders are always in the know, and when they aren’t, they are confident and proactive enough to request an immediate alignment meeting with leadership.

We only have so much time and resources and need to spend them where it counts. Today, for most procurement and supply chain teams, that means cost savings, supply chain risk and business continuity. But your actual goals and priorities may be different and could change suddenly. Going above and beyond your day-to-day supply chain and procurement operations to stay fresh on the strategic priorities of your organisation is paramount to success. Similarly, bringing modern and fresh thinking to the table that breaks through traditional results and delivers compounding value on key projects, like cost containment and savings, will make C-suite stop and take notice. 

5.       Super Normal Leaders Have a Heart

They put people first – and recognise that success starts with teamwork and human connection. They recognise that vulnerability – financial, mental, physical and social – is very real, and that people need time, space and support during difficult times. They know that talent wins 100% of the time.

While putting people first may sound simple, that’s not always the case, especially amidst the chaotic nature of our world today. Super Normal leaders are intentional about it every single day, with their decisions, actions, engagements and relationships. People are core to what they do – and why they succeed. 

You Have What It Takes: Embrace the Super Normal 

Life is chaotic and stressful. And you have everything you need to be successful now and in the future. Everyone’s Super Normal will look a little different – but if we continue to learn from each other, share our successes and look ahead, we’ll all be more than alright.

And finally, wherever this Super Normal takes us, always remember to make time for yourself and your family. Find something you love and embrace it. We are all tired, stressed and anxious. Happiness helps solve all three. If you are looking for more inspiration, check out what your peers say it means to be Super Normal.

3 Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain Risk Management Strategy

We can’t just get our own house in order. We need to help our suppliers’ suppliers if we want a truly resilient supply chain. Procurious gets expert advice from riskmethods’ Bill DeMartino


How can companies of any size manage the huge number of risks in any supply chain?

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America at riskmethods, to find out about risk and the future of procurement.



Become resilient or lose credibility

The word of the moment is definitely resilience. But where do you start?

Bill says it’s a process. Not long ago, most organisations were hunting for better information to react faster as threats emerged.

“So this is what I would really categorise as being reactive,” Bill explains. “We want to get better at reacting to events (which is a fantastic place to start by the way) and what I would think of as the journey to resilience.”

The pandemic obviously changed many companies’ perceptions of their own resilience.

Yet he points to data that we’ve seen a 300% increase in disruptions of all kinds over the past three years.

“That means that for organisations who weren’t before acting the mandate is clear; this is the responsibility of supply chain leaders,” says Bill.

“If they are unable to deliver on this responsibility, they’re going to be losing credibility within the organisation.”

The good news is senior management is recognising the importance of proactive supply chain risk management, which will likely lead to more funding.

Treat suppliers better

So we’re all after resilience. But what does that actually look like?

It starts with a shift in the way companies treat and manage suppliers, Bill explains.

“I think we’re on the precipice of moving into what I would call the era of collaboration,” Bill says. 

“Traditionally, we’ve seen working with most of our suppliers in kind of a generic manner and we treat a few of them very specially. 

“But I think that collaboration needs to extend to a broader set of enterprises and so that continuum will continue to be a major transformation element.”

From reactive to transformative

Changing the way we see supplier relationships is a good step, but it’s only the start. 

Once an organisation can react quickly and be more resilient, it’s time to transform. That’s why the most mature and forward-looking organisations are overhauling their processes right now.

“Transformation is not just enough for me to figure out how to be reactive, but I really need to think more proactively on how I can change the elements and the way that I think about the category,” says Bill. 

These advanced organisations are asking how well they understand category risk exposure. And how they can incentivise people to act on the risks they uncover.  

“So it’s really more of a holistic approach to risk resilience,” says Bill.

Automation frees up resources

The other hot topic is automation. Bill says it’s incredible how much of our supply chain can be automated. 

“Supply chain folks are just automating everything that they can and it’s crazy,” says Bill.

“We’re trying to automate all the AP functions, we’re trying to automate all the contract functions, and now we’re actually moving up into the next level and trying to automate the analysis in the diagnosis of the data and the information and insights in those systems.”

“[W]ith this automation we’re able to free up the scarce resources and get our folks to focus on some of the proactive resilience and collaboration efforts they really need for the organisation to thrive,” says Bill.

Risk management in today’s environment

What does great risk management look like today? 

Bill narrows it down to three priorities:

1) Change jobs descriptions and incentives. You need to think about culture change. 

2) Put in place technology that can standardise processes, then measure them.

3) Manage your people well. Ensure that staff are actually following those processes in the way you expect.

“That’s the shift in the maturation that we’re seeing from our customers.  Before, they would just get the information.  Now they are working out how to best utilise that information and become proactive in their risk approach,” says Bill.

Minimise risk, no matter company size

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I work for an SME. How does that work for a smaller company like mine?”

And it’s true. You may not have the resources or capability at the moment with everything going on, says Bill.

“A lot of smaller organisations are so busy just keeping the business going, no one is taking the time to take a look back and actually think about what it’s going to be in three to five years out,” says Bill.

“They’re  just worrying about survival today.” 

Even if your organisation is small, you’ll likely notice a rising interest in risk management – whether it’s from your customers and executive team. 

“Customers are asking them, potentially assessing them and looking to measure them in terms of their risk preparedness so that’s definitely helping [put risk management on the agenda],” Bill says.

“We are also starting to see a really strong sense of awakening from [senior leaders] and with the idea of a supply network.

“[They’re] thinking it’s not just enough for me to take care of my house, but I need my suppliers to also do the same for theirs.”

What can you do?

So whether risk management is at the top of your agenda already, or it’s just starting to gain importance, Bill suggests three key areas to get your house in order.

1) Using technology to manage risk: “There is an enormous amount of information that’s out there and the largest challenge that organisations have is how to filter through that information and uncover specific and relevant insights.” 

2) Make risk information visible: Can people in your organisation easily find information about risk? 

“We’ve seen a lot of folks who create risk scorecards or risk audits, and that information gets locked away somewhere,” says Bill. 

Instead, he suggests putting that information on your employees’ phones and laptops so they can easily access it when they’re talking to suppliers.

3) Integrate: The final step is to embed all of that risk information and data into other company systems.

As a supply chain professional, Bill says you should ask, “How can I integrate the technology and make it something that really impacts the way that we work?”

Going forward

Now that risk management is firmly on the agenda, you can use it to get ahead in your career. 

Bill predicts the most valuable procurement professionals in the future will be able to manage risk in two ways.

The first is artificial intelligence. Companies will need people who can use AI to spot patterns in suppliers to predict future events. 

“For example, if a supplier shutters a plant and fires the CFO, I could predict a bankruptcy is coming and reorganise my supplier geography to avoid disruption,” says Bill. 

“We can utilise artificial intelligence techniques to start doing pattern recognition and help folks better predict – never with 100% accuracy – but better predict what may be coming down the pipe for them.”

The second is to make suggestions on the best way to react if a threat actually comes to fruition. 

“There’s a number of different approaches that we’ve seen utilised to respond to an event, so we can bring all that information together and present to the individual in a way that allows them to very quickly assess their options, make decisions, and run.”

Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America for riskmethods, can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

How can you limit supply chain disruption and proactively plan for market shifts? Check out this IBM report to find out.

The Truth? Technology Might Make Your Supply Chain More Resilient

Technology will only make a difference in supply chain management if it’s tailored directly to your company’s needs.


Let’s get this straight: technology can’t fix everything. There’s no magic wand to solve every supply chain problem. 

But technology can make your processes better. That means more time, money, efficiency, happy customers, and happy bosses.

And who doesn’t want that?

I’ve seen companies of all sizes improve their process flow with technology and make huge savings.

But that only happens when two conditions are met:

1) They choose the right technology. What does “right” mean? It depends on a host of factors, but in essence it’s solving a need or filling a major gap. Understand the business need first, then find the tech that fits – not the other way around.

2) The system is used the right way. That means getting full use out of it without exceeding the intended purpose. You get the maximum benefit without depleting other resources. 

Don’t get wet

Consider this analogy: you need to go from one side of town to the other in the middle of a storm without getting wet. You know a motorcycle and a car can both get you there in time, but only the car would get you there dry. 

This is what selecting the right technology is about. To borrow another vehicle metaphor, don’t use a Ferrari when a Ford will do. An all-singing, all-dancing system might look flashy, but it might be way too much for what your company actually needs.

Procurement and Supply Chain work the same way; getting to the other side of town means nothing more than sustainable profitability, competitive edge and market share. And the storm? Well, that’s just risk mitigation in the business world.

Getting the job done

Here’s a look at how real companies are using the right tech to save money and be more resilient.

Automate processes 

From Purchase Order to Processing payments, streamlining a workflow within the supply chain allows for people to focus on decision making while facilitating resolution, eliminating paperwork, accelerating compliance, and managing exceptions.

Look no further than a global distributor of chemicals who recently chose a full guided-buying suite. They took away the manual labour by processing POs automatically. The result?  Increased supplier payment compliance, reduced tail spend, and more resources for tactical and strategic decision making.

Accelerate communication

The right technology enables and accelerates communication. Your ability to react effectively to market conditions relies heavily on promptness and clarity. Technology can link your business operations to your supply base so you never miss a beat.

Improve visibility

Suppliers need to know where things are at any given point. And equally, you need to know what is going on with your supplies, assessing all potential risks. That way, you can mitigate disruption in real-time.  

Take a US leader in food distribution for example. We recently led them through a full spend analytics effort to identify cost savings opportunities. The result? They saved USD $10M in one year.

Interpret and analyse data 

Data analytics is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s a core necessity. Even something as simple as spend analytics is a powerful tool that can inform strategic decisions at the top level.

Break down silos and bridge functions

From Procurement to Accounts Payable to Operations, technology can provide a collaborative platform that everyone can access and understand. Everyone has access to the full information across the board, taking what they need and staying aligned.  

That level of visibility across different functions can showcase how valuable you are to the company. Like a global leader of consumer products who recently leveraged a mix of eSourcing technology and advisory services. 

They were able to demonstrate savings on a multitude of sourcing and category events while tying them to the financial goals of the organisation, effectively impacting the EBITDA and Cash metrics.  

What CEO wouldn’t love to hear that?

Decrease redundancy, increase efficiency

Technology provides a platform for businesses to digest more, process more and err less. This alone saves significant resources, making the organisation and its suppliers more productive.

Enable compliance

Within the supply chain commitments, adequate performance and managed expectations are as critical as regulatory compliance. Technology can provide a platform for managing relationships, honouring commitments, and upholding agreements. All of that leads to better relationships.

Just look at a global pharmaceutical leader who implemented a supplier management module across the board. As a result, it can now classify its entire supply chain based on critical risk metrics. 

That means the global operations are adequately diversified and critical suppliers are handling processes and data with the highest security compliance, privacy, and environmental sensitivity.

The smooth road to resilience

All of the companies I mentioned had different priorities. That’s why you need to choose technology that meets your specific needs.

And as you can tell, there are infinite combinations of tools and applications that can be used to “get to the other side of town”. But the idea is to get to the other side not just in one piece, but also in sturdier conditions. It’s about learning in the way, enduring and increasing resilience.

The key to come up with a combination that balances needs with budgets and aligns with your strategic vision, starts with defining what success looks like for your supply chain and those entities who manage it. 

Modular, cloud based, and service driven technologies provide the needed flexibility toward the easiest and most yielding path to success.

Backstabbing Co-Workers: How To Handle The Two-Faced Foe

Are you walking around with knives in your back? This is how to handle office backstabbing…


Backstabbing in the Office

Most of the time we are walking around with a knife in our backs, and we don’t even know it. Bleeding and hemorrhaging with no way of knowing how to fix it.

See Mary from accounting over there? She told the VP of the department she sees you taking 2-hour lunches on a consistent basis.

And Jack from IT. He told your colleagues what “interesting” google searches you’ve made lately. And Susan from Marketing, she made up a complete lie about your conversation last week and now your boss is calling you into his office.

Think it doesn’t happen to you or your company? Think again. You just may not have heard about it yet.

Depending on how strong your network is, how much others trust you, and for a multitude of other reasons you may not find out for months how badly you’ve been attacked. And that’s only the beginning.

The First Time

I think I was in literal shock. An Executive Director had told my boss a bold-faced lied. He said I wasn’t willing to work with him and I that had demanded it was to be done my way. I had been back-stabbed.

Now, I may be a bull in a China shop in my early years, but I’m not stupid. Nor am I a jerk. And he had painted me out to be both.

So when my boss told me about the feedback I was stunned. How could he have made something up, literally out of thin air? And why would he do that? I was never a fan of soap operas, but suddenly my work-life had turned into one. But I wasn’t going down without a fight.

I literally never spoke with anyone again over the phone for the next year. Everything was voicemail or email. I kept track of everything.

The Repeat Backstabber

This time, I had been bleeding for longer than I could have ever known. But at least my boss knew me well enough to come to my aid.

A coworker had taken parts of our conversations, twisted them and told one of my bosses. Just to try and gain an edge for his personal promotion.

I never knew. He was doing it to try to get ahead in the company, but unfortunately, it didn’t work.

So when he contacted me on LinkedIn a few months later, l confronted him. He never apologized, and I haven’t heard from him since.

I also found out a year later his previous business partners were hunting him down due to the ‘savings numbers’ he had made up. They were being taken from their budgets. Budgets that they didn’t have to give in the first place.

He was a snake in the bush. And we all had suffered the consequences of working with him. But from that point on I had learned my lesson. Always watch out for those who feel slighted in their current position, want to move up or just have questionable motives for talking with you. They have the most to gain.

Countless Other Backstabbing Incidents

If you’ve read some other blogs, you know this hasn’t been the first I’ve experienced with backstabbing coworkers. I’ve had other women’s efforts stop me from getting a job.

These are only the times I actually know about. I’m sure I’m still walking around with a few knives in my back. Some I’m sure I will never be aware of, but that’s okay.

The fact remains, people really are willing to go above and beyond to get ahead. Especially if it’s at someone else’ cost.

How do we handle the two-faced foe?

1.  Maintain integrity. Never return the favor, as it will only make you look bad.

2. Politely confront the situation. I firmly believe people do this and continue to get away with it because most are too scared to confront them.

3. Maintain your distance. Knowing is half the battle, so keep 99% of coworkers at arm’s length.

4. Always be alert/aware. It’s always the quiet ones who end up doing the most damage.

5. Create and maintain a strong business network. The more eyes and ears you have, the better chances you’ll hear things sooner rather than later.

6. Never underestimate others. People will surprise you every day with what they are capable of.

7. Don’t let it get you down. Karma always has a way of finding those who provoked it in the first place.

This article was originally published on Ms. Category Management on July 3rd, 2019 and is republished here with permission.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

How To Lead Through Difficult Times

How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?  


This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. 

So how do you make sure you’re the former? 

One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks. 

Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:

What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style? 

Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays? 

Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact. 

Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are: 

‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’

Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead: 

‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’ 

‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’ 

Discover what this is for Amber in the podcast.

How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?

Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today. 

From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style: 

‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’ 

Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style: 

‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’ 

‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’  

Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says. 

Find out what that reason is in the podcast.

Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position? 

Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader? 

Absolutely, Amber says. 

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority: 

‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’ 

‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’ 

Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains: 

‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’ 

‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’ 

Also in the podcast: 

  • What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times 
  • The pink recession 

And much more. 

Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

How To Persevere When You Want To Give Up

When things get too hard, do you ever want to give up? Here’s how to persevere when you get that uneasy feeling


This year more than ever before, we’ve heard the word ‘new normal.’ We know that life may not go back – soon or ever – to what it was before. But how do we adapt to that? And when things get tough again, which invariably they will, how do we persevere through the challenges and come out on top? 

One incredible person who certainly knows a thing or two about how to adapt and persevere is Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist, ability advocate, and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive. Through her work as a psychologist and her own incredible life experience, Nicky deeply understands what it means to adapt and persevere, and her advice is an inspiration to us all. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in our incredible 15 minute podcast with Nicky: 

What does adaptation and perseverance really mean? 

Nicky is not simply a scholar who understands a concept – adaptation and perseverance have been her personal life mantra since she was born. Nicky was born without arms and also with shortened legs. Nicky’s parents, who had no idea that she had a disability until she was born, were totally unprepared for it. But instead of focusing on what Nicky couldn’t do, her parents decided to focus on what she could do. Growing up, Nicky firmly remembers her parent’s attitude towards everything: 

‘From the beginning, my parents decided to focus on my strengths. Instead of thinking “oh, can Nicky do that?” they instead said “How can Nicky do that?”’ 

Given her disability, things that came easily to others were not always easy for Nicky. She didn’t focus on that. Instead, she quickly learnt to be flexible in how she approached challenging situations, and adopted a problem-solving mindset. Everything she did, she approached with curiosity and decided that adversity could be to her advantage. 

Adaptation and perseverance, Nicky, represents exactly this. Having the mindset and flexibility to navigate difficult situations, and persevering through them, even under challenging circumstances. 

How do we overcome a lack of self-belief when we need to persevere? 

At times, all of us struggle with our own self-belief, and it can get in the way of us persevering through challenging situations. We have to turn that self-belief on, says Nicky, and simultaneously turn off the voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do it. And she has an intriguing recommendation for how we do so: 

‘To overcome the idea you might have in your head that “I’m not good enough,” you need to recognise that your brain has its own hard drive, and it has the tendency to store things that are quite critical.’ 

Nicky gives a good example of this – something that we can all relate to: 

‘Say you did a workshop and you asked for feedback, and nine out of ten people said they loved the workshop. But one person said they didn’t learn anything.’

‘The hard drive of your brain would be more likely to store the feedback of that one person, and you might dwell on that.’ 

In order to overcome that hard-wired negative feedback, Nicky recommends you focus on one thing and one thing alone. Discover what that is in the podcast

How do we get better at adaptation and perseverance? 

For Nicky, one of her favorite quotes that is now more meaningful than ever, is from Viktor Frankl, author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.” After his time in Auschwitz, he wrote: 

‘When we’re no longer able to change our situation, that is when we are challenged to change ourselves.’ 

What this means is that in many situations, we may not have control of much, but what we do have control of is how we perceive those situations, and how we change our behaviour accordingly. This might sound easy, says Nicky, but behavioural change is hard. It takes more than simply reading an article entitled ‘10 steps to stop procrastinating’ or ‘5 steps to a more positive mindset,’ for example. 

If we want to make sustainable changes in our behaviour, Nicky says, we should ask ourselves these four important questions: 

  1. What is the behaviour I want to change? 
  2. When do I need to change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. Why do I want to change this behaviour?

Nicky emphasizes that we need to be clear about our answers to these questions, though, one question is far more critical than the others for a very important reason. Find out what it is and why in the podcast.

How do we pick ourselves up again when we’re down? 

A big part of perseverance is picking ourselves up when we’re feeling down. Usually, when we’re down people tell us to focus on the good things in our lives. More importantly, Nicky actually believes that we need to be a little more accepting of the vast spectrum of our emotions: 

‘In order to persevere, we actually need to accept that the entire range of emotions, from joy to sadness, are part of life. We don’t need to feel happy all the time.’ 

‘When we try to avoid difficult feelings, that can do more harm than good. Right now, we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster. We need to allow ourselves to feel.’ 

In order to smooth the rollercoaster though, Nicky recommends we do a few important things. Discover what they are in the podcast.

Nicky Abdinor’s podcast on adaptation and perseverance is part of our IBM Sterling Supply Chain Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

A Rare Opportunity To Reset And Accelerate

Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance?


Many of us are in a post-covid state of mind, I most certainly am. But will you and your organisations come out of this stronger, weaker or just different? Of course, the crisis is still very much real, affecting many people and businesses with long-lasting effects.  Perhaps there are slight signs of a slow down in certain parts of the world but who really knows how things will fare without a vaccine. Either way, we have to overcome this and look towards the new normal, which I believe can be a better one.

The pandemic is surely one of the greatest affecting the world and for many it has or will be a pivotal turning point. On the personal side, it may bring focus back to the things that really matter, be it family and friends or health and lifestyle. Or, it may send you down a new path. On the business side, it may question the raison d’être and bring focus to finding the right balance between society, the environment and the economy. From certain perspectives, the pandemic presents businesses a rare opportunity to accelerate on digital transformation initiatives that have been dragging over the last few years. Not for the sake of digital transformation but rather to rapidly ensure more resiliency and hone in on or further develop competitive advantages.

Who better to bring balance, build resilience and solidify competitive advantages than Procurement and Supply Chain.

Balancing the Imbalanced

Until recently it would have been fair to say that most businesses operated in an imbalanced manner with regard to society, the environment and the economy. With the main focus being on economic development, too often at the cost of society and the environment. Of course, there have been big strides made in recent years to balance this out but the big question is – What Happens Next?

This is a pivotal point. Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance? I do hope it’s the latter and guess what, I believe Procurement is a key player in this. How you spend can transform your business and beyond. Where a business directs its spend can make the difference between an unsustainable imbalance and a sustainable balance to develop society, the environment and the economy equally. I strongly believe (and hope) we’ll see more and more organizations taking a stronger stance on this issue. Be it stronger support or stricter policies around supplier management for sustainability and diversity or more efforts to improve the communities involved in and around a business. Overall, Procurement organisations can influence entire ecosystems of suppliers to develop with this balance in mind.

Building Resilience

Resiliency has always been an important business strength but naturally during times of crises, there is more focus on this. For Procurement and Supply Chain leaders, while this is very likely not a foreign concept, it is likely that they have not had the opportunity to fully execute on a strategy to be more resilient to external events. This is the opportunity to show real business value. Now is the time to show the business how Procurement can add value around supplier risk management, new sources of supply, changes to contractual arrangements and much more.

Building resiliency begins with suppliers but must involve collaboration with the business. How much information do you have on your suppliers? How well connected are you to your suppliers? Are you monitoring risk across your suppliers? Do you have a mechanism to communicate and collaborate with suppliers in times of crisis? Do you have a clear view of supplier hierarchy to understand parent / child relationships? Do you know who your suppliers subcontract to? The list of questions that need answering is long. Needless to say that Procurement must accelerate on its plans to digitally connect to its suppliers to get better information, better assessment of risk (and performance) and overall infuse the multitude of Procurement and Supply Chain processes with better supplier information to improve decisions.

Solidify A Competitive Advantage

Lastly, the opportunity to establish or further develop a competitive advantage is too great to ignore. Some may ask, how can Procurement help here? We have seen first hand from our customers that Procurement does, in fact, have a lot to contribute in developing a competitive advantage. There isn’t an easy answer, however, as it really depends on the business and industry. We have a leading telecom customer where procurement was instrumental in generating significant revenue. Another where Procurement impacted the financial performance of the company by launching more new products, faster and more profitably.

Procurement is a gateway to probably the most significant source of innovation that any company has, its suppliers. By harnessing this rich resource companies can build great competitive advantages but they also need the people, processes and technology to take full advantage.

Technologies such as strategic sourcing, procure-to-pay or full source-to-pay that are instrumental in managing spend must empower versus limit. Often however, software solutions are designed in a way that forces organizations to compromise due to the limitations and restrictions presented. For those organizations that are ready to develop a competitive advantage (and many won’t be, as they still need to attain a level of maturity), technology must empower the skills and ideas that people have to be implemented and executed. Technology must empower creativity, this is how a competitive advantage is both born and executed.

How To Discover And Utilise Our Strengths To Boost Performance

Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.


Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same? 

As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French. 

I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance: 

What are our strengths and why do they matter? 

Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain. 

People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing. 

Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.

How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success? 

Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that. 

In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable. 

Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time? 
  2. What was the best day of the last week and why? 
  3. When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did? 

Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths. 

Yet in a professional setting, discovering your strengths is just one part of the puzzle. If you’re working in a team setting, you also need to do one other critical thing. Listen to the podcast to discover what that is.

How do you help others identify their strengths? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs. 

But how do you help others realise their strengths? 

One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at. 

An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’

Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.

Also in the podcast:

  • I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it 
  • I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses. 

And much more. 

I look forward to you joining us in my podcast

Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

This One Trait Will Be The Key To Your Success In 2020

What trait will be the key to your success in 2020? We believe it will be resilience, and here’s why… 


Right now, no person in the entire world would call 2020 ‘easy.’ Whether we’ve been challenged personally or professionally, this year has been like no other. Which is why this one particular trait is more important than ever, and it is… 

Resilience.  

In recent years, resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword within management circles. But what really is resilience and why do we need it? 

Resilience, and more specifically, how to obtain it and use it to your advantage, has been the focus of my work for the last decade, and has inspired my now internationally-acclaimed book, Rise Warrior Rise. Through authoring my book, as well as working with numerous different organisations to help them transform their leadership capabilities through my Excelerate program, I’ve discovered what we can all do to build resilience and use it to accelerate our own personal and professional performance. 

Doing so was the topic of my discussion with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll learn in our podcast: 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is often said to be the ability to recover from adversity, and cope with change and uncertainty. But does being ‘resilient’ then mean that you won’t experience emotions in times of stress? 

Definitely not. 

From my research, I’ve discovered that being resilient doesn’t mean that you won’t experience life’s ups and down, in fact, it is only natural to experience these. Instead, resilience is the ability to still experience this depth and variation of emotion, but while doing so, be able to keep in touch with your best self. 

In my experience, resilience is far more than what people typically describe it as. In fact, I believe resilience has another aspect to it entirely. 

Discover what that is in the podcast

Why is resilience so important for professional and personal wellbeing? And what are the benefits of being resilient? 

Resilience has become a buzzword for a reason – we all know it’s important. But why? 

Professionally and personally, this year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though not every year will be as difficult as this one, we’ll always experience some challenges. This is exactly the reason why resilience is important – because we’ll always need it. 

While researching for my book and throughout my career in general, I’ve come across a lot of people who may not be as resilient as they could be, and that has resulted in some concerning behaviours. For example, if something bad happens to someone who isn’t resilient, typically they get stressed, and then withdraw. From there, they occupy their mind with negative self-chatter, and then they can end up feeling anxious, depressed or worse. 

But in good news, with resilience, the reaction can be the complete opposite. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, those who are resilient typically tell themselves that the situation is temporary. And instead of getting stressed, their emotional and physical wellbeing stays intact, and they don’t lose touch with their vision for a great life.

The benefits of being resilient extend way beyond how you react when things get tough, though. From my experience, those who are resilient are more likely to lead abundant and opulent professional lives, and also are more likely to have success with their family and personal pursuits. In summary, resilient people are more likely to lead a full and rich life, without regret. 

Think this sounds wonderful? It is, and there’s one more critical reason why. Learn what that is in the podcast.

How can we become more resilient? 

It’s clear that being resilient pays off, both personally and professionally. How do we get better at it, though? 

To help, I’ve created a 13-step framework for people to increase their level of resilience. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be good at every step. Excelling at just a few steps is all you need in order to make a substantial difference. 

I won’t detail the 13 step framework here, but there is more information in the podcast if you’re interested. One important point, though, is that you do need to develop practices to keep you strong. An area that I recommend everyone works on is that of negative self-chatter. 

We all experience negative self-chatter at some point, and this is because the mind can be fickle and it often focuses on the negative. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone has said something awful, and it’s completely ruined your day, despite many other positive things happening? 

This is common, and we all need to do what we can to develop our own mechanisms to address it. For me personally, I’ve developed a unique routine to keep the negativity at bay. My routine includes getting up early in the morning, and doing some exercise (this might be yoga, walking or some weights). After I’ve done this, I then do exercises to regulate my breath. Even if I can’t regulate my mind, I try to regulate my breath. Finding something to focus on, for example my breath, enables me to enter a calm state. Then, I share positive words. I find that wholly rejuvenating. 

This type of self-care is critical for all of us, as it replenishes our ‘fourth being.’ More on that in the podcast – listen to it here

Remember, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you can build, and benefit from, resilience. I look forward to exploring the topic with you in more detail.

Roh Singh’s podcast on resilience is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.