As a consultant, I get to observe procurement and supply chain professionals in almost every situation. It is always rewarding to see bright stars move through their organizations to the C-Suite. On the other hand, it is tragic to see bright stars burn out and get stuck on their career path. You may wonder, what’s the difference between success and failure in people with similar ambitions and skill sets?
In my career, I had several strong, ethical mentors who disciplined me in critical soft skills that make the difference between success and failure. Technology changes, digital disruption, social media and email are all changing the way we do business, but successful businesses have the best people who communicate and collaborate effectively.
Here are a few soft skills that can take you far:
- Business etiquette is one of the essential skills that shows that you are thoughtful, polite, professional, engaged and and respectful person. How you treat people says a lot about you. Do you take the time to send a thank you note? If you’re visiting suppliers or meeting new business partners take the time to write a note. You will create a great impression of you and your company.
- Always learn names and learn them quickly. This immediately shows interest and respect in the new people you meet. There are a lot of techniques for learning names and they will help you gain this skill
- Don’t make value judgments on people’s importance in the workplace. People deserve respect and others in your firm will be observing your behavior and will ultimately judge you. It is critical that you build strong relationships and self assess how you might be viewed.
- Be careful about your personal life. What you put on social media and what you share can come back to reflect on you in the future when being considered for promotion or elimination.
- Communication is a core skill. It’s sometimes not what you say, but how you say it that counts! Always return phone calls and emails promptly. You should make it a practice to promptly return all calls within 24 hours. Personalize your voicemail greeting so the caller doesn’t just get a cold system generic voice with a number.
- When writing emails, be sure they are professional and courteous with a bit of humanity so they are not seen as cold and manipulative. Make sure that the communication you send is grammatically correct with no spelling errors. Judith Kallos has an excellent resource on her business communication website.
- Just because you have a mobile phone number doesn’t mean you should text without asking permission. Even with permission, be respectful of the time of day you’re texting.
- There are few things that irk me more than someone arriving late to meetings or scheduling a meeting with no agenda, resulting in unprepared attendees and wasting time. Always be prepared, have an agenda and have a professional presence.
- Create the right image with your work space. Keep the space professional and neat with appropriate personal touches. Those who see the space consider it a reflection of you. Always respect the space of others. Even in casual business cultures, it is very important to dress for success. You may stand out, but in an impressive way.
Every procurement and supply chain professional with a desire to advance and make a great impression should take inventory of these skills. These skills are common sense, but at times we all need to review the skills, make adjustments and control the way we are perceived.
The things your mother taught you can serve you well.
photo: Olu Eletu