Tag Archives: business skills

Are you sabotaging your procurement or supply chain career?

business

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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

 

5 Key Considerations for Developing Procurement and Supply Chain Teams

Great-teams

Back to the Future: what does your team need in 2020?

I was speaking to an old friend about how the development of procurement teams has changed in the past 5 years. I found the conversation interesting and inspiring as he and I challenged the wisdom of traditional programs. No longer can companies be satisfied with traditional programs focusing on tactical and strategic functional skills. In recent years much has been accomplished in both the Procurement and Supply Chain profession; costs have been reduced, inventories optimized, logistics closely managed and there’s a renewed focus on supply chain alignment and integration. Lifecycles are shorter causing velocity and flexibility to be key drivers of supply chain and procurement success. So what type of skills development do our teams need now?

As we look to the next five years, we will need to design development programs that are enable companies to extract value, get innovation, improve speed to market and gain supplier to customer alignment across the entire supply chain. This will involve business integration, transparency and relationships that go far beyond what we have today. Once these new skills are embedded, synergy and interdependence will drive the supplier/customer interactions as we quickly respond to customer and market demands.

Since competency assessment models are being developed for the skill sets needed for today’s supply chain professionals, they will be inadequate as the supply chain continues to evolve unless future skills are included. Standard training programs where everyone goes through fixed, common training modules and development programs designed for functional competence will not accomplish what organizations need. It is essential that learning and development professionals and providers realign programs to move from a functional orientation to a business and relational skill-based approach.

It is true that procurement and supply chain teams still need technical and commercial skills. In fact, a few hours ago a Bloomberg news story got my attention that commodities are crashing like it’s 2008 again. To be competitive in the next five years, especially when faced with situations like commodity fluctuations wreaking havoc on your financial supply chain, these core skills must also be developed:

1) Influence

Organizations have changed from the command and control management model to a matrix organization structure. The interaction between business units, conflicting priorities, business drivers, budget holders and stakeholders has driven the need to develop our teams in influencing skills. The new opportunity to tailor processes, develop high-performing business teams and deliver increased levels of value depend on our ability to influence others.

2) Leadership Skills

The supply chain and procurement teams have a big role in the value contribution to their respective businesses. It is essential that we identify the right people in our organizations through succession planning, then provide leadership rotational programs, development programs and interesting projects to prepare them for their eventual role as company leaders. Companies need multi-generational leadership, combining experience and new digital thinking, for optimal results.

3) Relationship skills

It’s often difficult to understand that relationship skills are not innate. To ensure competitiveness, value extraction, alignment and trust across the supply chain, it would be wise to develop our teams in strategic relationship skills. The ability to be analytical, trustworthy, create options and operate with a principled approach is a learned skill. People operating in a tactical mode will no longer fit as the profession evolves. Since face to face communication is becoming antiquated in a fast paced environment where e-mail and text messaging becomes more the norm, written and verbal skills are more important than any other time in the history of the profession. Both internal and external company relationships will determine whether company goals are met or not.

4) Onboarding

While we are bringing in talent when we find it, it is essential to continually assimilate new employees with the company mission, vision, processes and culture. These development programs require orientation and integration of new employees so they can quickly integrate and use their talent, thus making contributions as soon as possible.

5) Learning

Developing supply chain and procurement professionals for the future is not business as usual. Much attention must be given to the soft skills of business when there are dramatic shifts in supply chain. Learning will continue to be an ongoing process as we advance with our technology, industry consolidation and innovation.

I am glad that my old friend asked me to provide one nugget of my learning and development philosophy. It made me think hard about moving to the future now. I am invigorated to provide the tools of the future now!

What skills are you developing?

The Talent Management Game

I was asked to speak about talent management to a group of about 1,800 procurement leaders in the insurance industry. In the same week, in meetings with two CEOs in different industries, both discussed talent management as a key strategic imperative for their respective businesses.

I started to think about the attributes of a great talent management program. I pondered which industry sets the standard for attracting, retaining, developing and deploying talent. Perhaps because I just experienced the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in Phoenix and attended a workshop for sports related philanthropy, the sports industry stood out for managing talent.

Finding Talent

Both college and professional coaches scout talent, follow high potentials throughout their high school and college careers, consistently review player strengths and weaknesses, create a shortlist of needs, cultural fit and potential, then they recruit. While they may recruit star players, they always have their eye on recruits who have few bad habits, but are extremely coachable.

Starting with talent with the right attitude, smarts and cultural fit, coaches teach players the business by starting them in a rotational program, introducing them to mentors, shaping thinking, behavior and practices. They pare down the team; are they good enough to make the cut? Some companies like GE, Textron and others have embraced this process and move future leaders through the rotations, make them survive boot camps and grow into their destined positions.

I lived in Ann Arbor when Tom Brady played for the University of Michigan. He started college as 7th on the quarterback depth chart, and moved to back-up QB for two years. Then he battled Drew Henson for the starting position when Brian Griese graduated. In the 2000 NFL draft, he was selected with pick #199 in the 6th round. Now considered by many the top NFL pick of all time, he’s the poster child for finding “talent” with a high degree of coachability and high drive to improve.

Retaining Talent

Players are not developed to leave the team in free agency. Coaches must have defined career paths, challenging projects, continued coaching, training and development processes to drive the competence and capability of players to another level. Teams must also have an incentive scheme that makes it more difficult to leave once an investment is made in an individual. Just like sports, company development programs must be focused on individual and team needs to retain the talented employees they’ve invested in.

Playing the Game

Professional athletes are not only expected to have high skill levels and good game thinking, they are also expected to provide leadership to new recruits. The same is true in business, when the leadership and technical skills are in place, the business is learned and the team member is playing to his or her capability, it is important to align responsibility, authority and accountability with the individual and their position to help them become winners.

Winning the Championship

To get the best players, coaches and general managers know that they must grow, manage, develop and invest in talent to get to the championship. Talent management, whether leading procurement, supply chain or company organization, is not a short term proposition. It requires a plan, patience and investment to put the best team on the field. Great talent, customized to your business strategy, is not usually found as a star; find the coachable player and develop talent–great draft picks are waiting!

What’s your winning talent management strategy?