10 suggestions for developing presence
The recognition that procurement and supply chain management are strategic to the success of businesses puts us in the spotlight with senior management. While technical and commercial skills help procurement professionals drive significant revenue and value from supply chain, executive presence helps them get their own seat at the table.
A few weeks ago, while teaching a class in the automotive industry, I asked the participants to look at the company’s procurement cost savings goal and the value contribution that was expected in the current fiscal year. Then I asked them to look at the company’s margin percentage and identify what level of incremental sales would be needed to make a similar contribution to the company’s profit margin. Like many cases when I ask this question, the response was that sales would have to achieve several billion dollars in incremental sales to achieve the same impact. This is why procurement professionals are being asked to:
- Deliver real value
- Collaborate internally and externally
- Build implementable strategies that continue to deliver value year on year
- Influence and inspire stakeholders
- Change styles and appeal to executives in complex matrix organization structures
- Adopt styles that meet the business needs of stakeholders in a global framework
- Move away from speaking procurement and tighten up messages for an executive audience
- Understand and develop political skills for the boardroom
With this in mind, I conducted an informal survey among some of the CEOs and CFOs about the readiness of their senior procurement staff to move into leadership roles that lead to running the company in the future. To my amazement, their response was that many of their teams lack executive presence and influencing skills.
It is essential to find champions, mentors and stakeholder support in any business. When dealing with complex organizations and difficult strategies, gaining alignment of the businesses will assure success. No one survives with a death by PowerPoint style in a Twitter world. Building frameworks that detail opportunities, benefits, cost and risk are the language of business.
Here are 10 suggestions that will help you enhance your executive presence:
- Connect with your audience and know their pain points
- Present your proposal with a TED-like talk
- Hone the message for your executive audience
- Speak with commitment, passion and energy
- Don’t stick to one method of persuasion; adjust your style to the audience
- Focus on active listening and engagement
- Be confident
- Use facts and data
- Anticipate what questions will be asked in advance
- Look the part
Mastering these skills will increase confidence that you have the capability for key leadership roles. But, don’t forget you must earn trust by saying what you’ll do, then doing what you say.
Technical competence gets attention, but executive presence gets the seat at the table.
What still resonates with me 10 days after the Super Bowl
Yes, like many of you I’m adjusting to the gap between the end of the football season and the start of baseball. This year, though, I’m still thinking about the Super Bowl and the leadership it takes to succeed in adversity. While faced with adversity, several players in the Super Bowl had been cut from their former squad’s mid-season and, of course, Tom Brady was suspended for 4 games. Against all odds, after a blowout 1st half, the Patriots team maintained a steady head and won the game.
I listened to a Terry Bradshaw interview with Tom Brady about leadership and it really made me think. His attitude was incredible. He indicated as a leader you are the one person that can motivate he team, if you persist you will succeed, and the team will believe that they will succeed. If you come to the huddle defeated and down, the team will also reflect that feeling. The team executed a flexible strategy, stayed motivated and overcame unbelievable odds.
The leadership lesson we can all take away is that a steady leader with a flexible strategy, motivated team and steady execution of the strategy will succeed against all odds.
The best revenge is success! Congratulations to the Patriots!
Are you down for the count or on a steady course to win?
Last week I attended the Zycus Horizon 2016 conference and was reminded of a conversation I had early in my career with a Chief Executive of a major food company. I’d completed a current state analysis of the business and needed to report on the team’s performance. Procurement’s performance was poor with limited cost improvement, poor coverage in volatile commodity markets and lots of complexity as the team had excessive spot market transactions, no risk analysis and limited supplier management. After reviewing the results with this executive, he was obviously aggravated and demanded to know who should be fired!
My response was a complete surprise to this executive; I told him that management’s expectation was low, there were no targets for cost improvement, no requirements to hedge commodities to protect the plan, limited engagement with the supply base, no requirement for innovation or value. The CEO paused and said, “I guess I should fire myself.“
5 Things that CEOs and CFOs should expect from the procurement team:
- Cost management
- Value Management
- Supplier innovation
- Speed to market
- Improved warranty
- Improved cost
- Continuous improvement
- Supplier investment
- Complexity reduction
- Business strategy alignment
- Supplier relationship management
- Internal and external collaboration
- Supply chain mapping, audit and risk management plans
It is unfortunate that Procurement’s past haunts its future ability to be strategic. I believe that value extraction will be the key to procurement leadership in the future. Is it better to gain a few cents on a product or be the first in the market? Is it better to save a few cents on refractory bricks in a glass furnace or develop a brick that extends the life of the furnace one year? It’s time to raise the expectations for the procurement team and deliver the performance that adds to shareholder value.
Are your expectations getting in the way of success?
Photo: My team manager Cubs Hall of Famer Andre Dawson helping set my expectations before my next at bat at the fantasy camp championship game. I was hitless at that point, but after Andre changed my focus, I got a hit off A’s Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers!
No longer can procurement and supply chain pros live in a functional bubble and survive. Although some mid-tier and small companies still act functionally, they’re becoming extinct. Today’s business requirements to drive value delivery, speed to market, spend under control and increased supply chain velocity requires cross-functional and cross-business mastery along with technical, influencing and political skills.
In the interesting McKinsey Quarterly article Decoding Leadership by Claudio Fesser, Fernanada Mayol and Ramesh Srinivassen, the behavior that organizations should encourage and develop in their teams is discussed. When we think about developing our teams for leadership, what are the priorities? Do they include influencing, decision making, problem solving and adapting?
The McKinsey authors identify four behaviors that account for 80% of leadership effectiveness:
- Be supportive
- Operate with strong results orientation
- Seek different perspectives
- Solve Problems effectively
As I think about the procurement and supply chain, there are a few additional behaviors that should be developed for a high performing team:
- Learn and understand all aspects of the business
- Develop a speak for management accounting
- Champion change
- Develop a clear vision and share your mission
- Foster mutual respect
- Champion organization values
Many of organizational development programs are based on technical skills only. As I approach a new year and develop new training initiatives, I plan to work with company leaders to expand development programs to incorporate core behaviors for leadership. Many organizations realize that leadership drives performance, but leadership is too often considered a soft skill. Everyone involved in procurement and supply chain needs to consider a leadership program for high potentials. First quartile leading companies do!
Don’t rely on experience to create leaders.
Photo credit: Sebastian Pichler