Tag Archives: leadership skills

The best revenge is success!

football-american-game-runner

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?

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Five skills for effective change management leadership

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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. – Leo Tolstoy

It’s tough working in today’s manufacturing environment with automation, mergers and acquisitions, demand for value, ever-increasing drives to increase quality, productivity and, innovation, innovation, innovation. Organizations launch programs like ISO, lean manufacturing, cost and value improvement, technology and process change initiatives to drive improvement and competitive advantage. So many times initiatives like these fail because the leaders and line managers do not understand nor lead change. Some leaders take the approach to change the people or CHANGE THE PEOPLE. Yes, if your team doesn’t embrace change, you can change them for new hires (if you have time), but, if you don’t have good change management competencies and tools, you’ll find that you are the one changed out.

Leaders must build a vision. The vision statement is simply a contrast of the current state and a view of how the future state will transform the company, daily work routines and provide the opportunity for the company to become more competitive and increase the value delivered to customers. The leader must lead the change and create the vision. The line managers in the firm have the difficult job of planning the change, implementing the changes and overcoming skepticism and managing resistance. If done well, the change and change process will embed itself in the organization’s value and culture. People who are not in line with the change will soon fall out of favor with the organization, colleagues and, eventually, the company as the change becomes the cultural norm.

5 steps to improve your ability to drive and manage change:

  1. Create a clear vision and communicate it to everyone
  2. Create quick and short-term wins and publicize them when achieved
  3. Build on the successes always showing progress
  4. Make the change fit the company values and culture
  5. Reward and publicize success

If you can break down change programs and follow these key steps, there is little doubt that people will want to be associated with the successful programs, part of a winning culture and get rewarded for their effort.

Are you up to leading a change program?

Making a Difference through Mentoring

mentor

5 tips to be a better mentor

Many people have asked me what one thing has made a difference in my career and what can they do to help their careers. The answer is always the same; I was fortunate to have a couple of great mentors to lead me through political landmines, point me in the right direction and provide helpful hints to keep me on track. I was reminded of this last week at the ISM Conference when I met the 2016 R. Gene Richter Scholarship Program recipients. I’ve been fortunate to meet every Scholar since 2004 and see the Scholars and their mentors grow from their mentor/mentee relationships.

Like many who are fortunate to have great mentors, I have also developed mentoring skills over the years. Through paying it forward by mentoring, plus building and delivering training for over 10,000 students, I’m very proud to have played a part for those who have gone on to fill executive procurement and supply chain positions in some very large organizations.

To be a good mentor, it is really important that you feel a need to give back and that you are willing to make yourself available to the mentee. It goes without saying that the mentee must be someone worthy of the guidance and direction and someone who will carefully consider the message and value that you bring to the table. It’s important that mentees realize that they must make their own way in the world with the advantage of having a sounding board and someone to help them understand the political and market dynamics.

Mentoring is not for everyone, but, if you want to give back, here are some tips:

  1. Be positive in attitude and keep things in perspective. It’s important that the mentor keep the big picture in mind for the mentee. Sometimes the complexities of business keep our orientation tactical, so remember to step back for the broader view.
  2. Pick a few mentees. It’s easy to get caught up in the process, but it takes time, energy and planning. Be sure your mentee will respect your time and is worthy of it.
  3. Set out some rules and expectations at the onset of the relationship.
  4. If you make a commitment, stick to it.
  5. Be open, listen and don’t over commit.

Mentoring has been a rewarding and meaningful experience and I would encourage everyone to try it. These 5 tips will help you keep the process going and assure success.

Who mentored you?

Leading Procurement and Supply Chain Transformational Change – Do you have the right stuff?

astronaut photo: NASA

Never content with status quo, companies that excel want to be the very best. They constantly drive continuous improvement, yet many procurement and supply chain professionals lack the confidence and capability to assess, build a business case for change and manage change across the business. How can companies and individuals get “the right stuff” to get to best in class?

The process starts at the assessment of the current state of the organization. Typically, it reveals an inefficient organizational alignment, gaps in the processes, competency issues in the team and systems which may or may not support the procurement and supply chain mission. I have seen leaders shy away from and resist change, while defending the current ways of doing business. Over time, the resistors of change are displaced by more progressive individuals. Those who stand before the management highlighting the issues and delivering a plan for change always accelerate their careers in the business.

Early in my career I worked with a purchasing leader that attended a seminar at Penn State. He approached the CEO and Chairman of the company, detailed that his team was tactical and influenced the senior management team to let him to build a change program. The change was painful and difficult, but resulted in over 40 million dollars in savings, streamlined the organization structure and the company achieved a leadership position in their sector. He moved on to different positions in the company, eventually ending up as CEO of one of the major divisions.

What made this individual a success? He created the assessment of the current state of the business by looking at the core competencies required to be successful in the food business and measuring the gap to achieve the best organization, processes and people to reach world class in his industry. He looked at benchmarks with the understanding that they are merely data points. To make benchmarking successful, one must understand both the process implemented to achieve them and the business cultural adjustments required to make them work. Too many times, the focus is on the size of the gap, which can cause some to think “we can never get there.” The focus should be on taking the first step, then the momentum to keep the team moving. Whether it’s a meter or a marathon, some will run, some will walk and some will do both to reach the finish line, so a plan should be developed that considers the company culture and the speed that the team can practically achieve.

Once the change model is identified and a plan developed, it is only the beginning and once started, it is ever evolving. There are lots of drivers of change, like:

  • Technology
  • Economy
  • Competition
  • Innovation
  • Profitability
  • Industry consolidation

It’s important that procurement and supply chain team members understand that each of them has an important role in how these drivers impact the business and in making the changes needed for the business to succeed. For example, similar to, but broader than technology, product and service innovation occurs faster and faster, often making the ‘shelf life’ of current products shorter and shorter. Innovation in new product ideas, product packaging, integrated supply chain operations and distribution channels, customer service, and marketing are all examples of areas that can be market-changing for a business. Clearly suppliers can provide many of these innovations, if managed properly. The procurement and supply chain team is in the middle of the action.

What skills are needed for transformational change? One of the core skills of a leader is the ability to influence. The ability to evaluate your organization, develop a solution and build a business case to get the business to invest are critical skills of leadership.

Since change impacts every aspect of the organization, the change process really needs a good business case including all cost, risks and the measurable return that the company will see at the end of the process. The implications should be clear that the organization will be changed (reflecting the global, regional and local requirements of the business) to simplify the supply chain and increase velocity, flexibility, value and customer needs. As a result of the change, people will need development (some may no longer fit in the business) and processes will surely change.

Its always best to establish a management steering committee to remove roadblocks and select a project leader and a cross business/cross functional team to build stakeholder awareness and engage them. Build Change Champions and willing helpers to support the transformation and have a plan for the opponent and cynic who may work to disrupt the change.

There are many reasons change initiatives fail. Usually, failure is the result of:

  • Lack of management buy-in and commitment
  • Lack of leadership
  • Lack of focus and commitment
  • Resistant too hard to over come
  • Lack of knowledge
  • No process
  • No strategy

Procurement and supply chain transformation is exciting and can create competitive advantage for your company. It takes leadership, focus, influence, management commitment. It is a big task, but those with the confidence and capability will accelerate their careers.

Do you have the right stuff?

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?

Strategic Agility is a Leadership Imperative for Procurement and Supply Chain

I read an interesting blog post by Steven Krupp (CEO Magazine) on strategic agility that can be applied to Procurement and Supply Chain leaders. In my 20+ years of consulting, I’ve learned that procurement leaders will fail and lose all credibility and effectiveness if they are not flexible and display strategic agility. It’s a career-ending move to say we don’t do it that way, we can’t do it, we tried it before and it doesn’t work. All of these demonstrate non-openness to change, lack of flexibility and limited strategic agility. Today’s business environment with its uncertain economies, drive for short-term earnings, increasing regulation and unstable markets can threaten the procurement leader who likes the status quo. It takes consistency, a great deal of courage, discipline and tenacity for leaders to be flexible during change and agile in strategy. Good leaders lead their charges to calculate and take the right risks to achieve their goals.

Each Procurement and Supply Chain leader must develop these skills:

  • Anticipate changes in the supply chain
    Do a minimum review with the team once a quarter to identify where key markets are headed. Be able to anticipate changes in the global economic climate. Review where exchange rates are strong and where they are weak. Be sure that you have a supply chain that is aligned with your business strategy. Work to develop strong supplier relationships that add value that will be seen all the way to the customer.
  • Challenge the conventional wisdom
    Strategic leaders are not afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom. Rather than having extensive category and industry experience, recruiters and organizations are now looking for a proven track record of conventional challenge. To challenge conventional wisdom, it’s necessary to speak up and voice your opinion on key topics even if not popular to show how ways, processes and opportunities can be met by changing traditional business thinking. Leaders display innovative ideas, strategic plans and solutions to age-old problems.
  • Learning from Experience
    There is no better teacher than experience. Giving people the responsibility, authority and accountability for decision-making will make them stronger and provide the opportunity for changing the status quo. Of course, there may be mistakes, but good leaders use those mistakes to build a learning organization that takes calculated risks for the benefit of the entire company. A true leader is open to this type of delegation and a culture of learning vs. retribution.

To be successful in this profession, a leader must anticipate changes in the global economy, category markets and integrated supply chain. Leaders of the future are those who challenge conventional wisdom, create new ideas, consistently improve performance and encourage their teams to take calculated risks and rewards, modifying plans as necessary.

How are your strategic agility skills?