Tag Archives: procurement skills

The cost of soft skills

I read an article that reminded me of an incident that is worth sharing. I was working in a very large food company and as a consultant and we recommended a new organization structure for procurement. We had evaluated a purchasing director who was talented, respected by his team and technically very good. As I approached the CEO and recommended the employee for the promotion, he objected and responded, “no way”. We discussed the employee and he agreed that my observation of his skills was correct. Then the CEO commented that the employee gave an awful presentation in front of his team and lost credibility. He was concerned that the senior staff would be disappointed with the appointment. The decision was made to recruit from outside the company.

Sometimes you only have one chance to make a first impression. Many of us are not comfortable making presentation or speaking in front of large crowds. While this is a soft skill it is essential for success in a career in procurement or supply chain. The ability to logically present a business case, influence and persuade others could help you to either elevate or sink your career. When conducting training classes, I often encourage all participants to take the leadership role and make presentations for the team. I’m always surprised that many people are comfortable taking a back seat when it comes to presentations. I’ve had people outright refuse to participate. Once a participant told me, “I don’t do presentations.” Unfortunately that was said in front of an HR and Management representatives auditing the class. I don’t think they survived the incident. The class room and meetings with peers are perfect places to perfect this critical skill.

The moral of this story is that everyone needs to take inventory of the soft skills and develop them. Business presentations are a critical skill, don’t neglect it.

Will the soft skills enhance or sink your career?

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The Missing Link: Why Procurement Competency Assessments Alone Fail to Make the Grade

Don’t get me wrong–as one of the original developers of the on-line procurement competency assessment in 2004, I am still a strong advocate of the process because it provides a directional compass indicating where a team’s skill should be developed. The problem is that many companies offering training and development have limited knowledge concerning team dynamics, industry specialization and capability of the team to deliver on the mission and vision of the procurement leader.

High performing teams are comprised of individuals that have the technical procurement competency combined with these attributes:

  1. The ability to influence
  2. Effective communication skills (oral and written)
  3. Collaboration and relationship skills
  4. Intellectual comprehension
  5. Process skills
  6. Creativity and Innovation
  7. Drive and energy
  8. Curiosity and ability to test the boundaries
  9. Planning skills including ability to correct the course of action when necessary
  10. Financial thinking

In the past 25 years of coaching, mentoring and training thousands of procurement leaders, I’ve learned a few things. Personality is a key driver in performance. For example, to be effective, procurement folks should be curious and a little like the Columbo character–always questioning. The best procurement people question specifications, cost, process, geography, business requirements, supplier selections, performance and everything in-between. If you’re naturally curious, this comes easy; if you accept information as facts, questioning is a learned skill.

I have conducted face-to-face assessment centers to test for overall competence and it has been effective in recruiting. I am now working on a new model that combines technical skills with personality attributes online to help leaders build high performing teams.

Are you content with your assessment?

Three Hours of Power

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The Secret to Achieving Strategic Procurement and Supply Chain Goals

As I watched the Olympics last night, I saw the thrill of swimmers and gymnasts achieving their strategic goals and became even more excited about this blog. This week I’m honored to have guest blogger Chris Brogan. Those of you who know me understand that I’m all about implementable solutions and Chris’s tools and suggestions work. He’s had a huge positive impact on Linda, me and our business and he’ll help you win, too.

Three Hours of Power
By Chris Brogan

I’m writing to you within the three hours I’ve allotted each day to reaching my goals for myself and my business. It’s part of something I sell called the 20 Minute Plan JUMPSTART but it’s something that I work from daily. Remember the old ad? “I’m not just the president. I’m also a client.” True of me.

Three Hours of Power

The basic concept of the 20 Minute Plan is that you take 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening to set up your days for success. The mantra behind this is simple: your day is your week is your month is your year.

Your day is your week is your month is your year.

What you do today influences your weekly goals, and impacts your monthly progress and ultimately shows up in what you get for the year.

The three hours part is what I call the 9box. It’s for a simple reason. Take three hours and split them into 20 minute blocks. That’s 9 blocks of 20 minutes each. On my little sheet I work from, it looks like one side of a stretched out Rubik’s Cube.

In those three hours go ONLY that which moves me closer to my goals for me and my business. No client work. No honey do list stuff. Only priority work. Grade A top shelf stuff that will move the needle.

The To Do List is the Enemy

You’re so busy that you’re not doing anything. Let THAT sink in a moment. Are you one of those people who answers “How are you doing?” with a deep sigh and says, “Oh, busy!” And then you open your mouth to draw in air and your eyes are a bit wide, like, whew the exhilaration.

Guess what? 1.) No one cares that you’re busy. 2.) How successful is that busy making you?

People love their to-do lists. They feel excited when all the boxes are checked off. I call to-do lists noble masturbation. It feels good, but it’s not the real thing.

Sure, you have work to do. Whatever. We all do. But if you don’t dedicate some time to the actual priorities and efforts that will move your business forward, you’re just eating up hours on tasks.

The to do list is the enemy. Make it a third class citizen in your life.

Work Inside Three Hours

You’re awake roughly 16 hours each day, if you get 8 hours of sleep. I get 8 or more. You’re probably too busy to sleep as much as me.

Of those 16 hours, people speak for a lot of your hours: family, friends, work, clients, whatever. Find three. You can find 3 out of 16. And make those about your priorities. This isn’t piano lessons. This is “this will make me more successful because I’m investing time and focus in it” type stuff.

You can find it. And your success will start giving you proof that it’s working. And then you’ll defend it. I promise. It’s how I’ve written ten books and counting, while still traveling to consult, speak, and spend as much time as I can with my kids and my fiancé. Join me in taking some of this power for yourself.

Chris Brogan is a business advisor and New York Times Bestselling author. Learn more about him at http://chrisbrogan.com

5 Ways to Deal with Emotion in Negotiation

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Many times we enter negotiation with detailed plans, strategies, positions and a BATNA, but, sometimes, we forget that people on the other side have goals, objectives, needs, wants and strategies, too. When both sides are passionate about meeting their objectives, emotions, planned and unplanned, become part of the interaction. When dealing with emotion in negotiation, the one thing that that works for me is to be tough on the problem and soft on the people.

I have participated and observed several thousand negotiators across the globe and have found there are four skills separating the effective negotiators from poor negotiators:

  • Listening. Effective negotiators do more listening than talking.
  • Questioning. Question effectively and use questions to your advantage.
  • Communicating. Be clear, unambiguous and to the point.
  • Relationship. Separate the problem from the people

Effective negotiators learn how to recognize and deal with emotional people, challenging tactics and maintaining focus on the key issues.

Dealing with emotional opponents can be challenging, but here are 5 tips for managing emotional players in negotiations.

  1. Anger – find out why they are angry
  2. Insulted – address the feeling and move on to key issues
  3. Guilt – move away from the guilt and focus on the key issues
  4. Exasperation – empathize and understand
  5. False flattery – refocus the discussion

It’s important that you do not make substantive concessions in hope of deescalating the tension or sustaining the relationship. Always focus your points on the fact that you want an agreement that is fair to all parties. Avoid assigning blame or pointing out deficiencies and help them save face, it’s essential that you build and sustain trust by always separating people from the problem.

How do you diffuse emotion in negotiation?

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

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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?

The Economics of Cheese

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What every sourcing professional should know

When you read this week’s Wall Street Journal story A Cheese Glut is Overtaking America, after thinking about doing your part to assist with the report that every American would have to eat three extra pounds of cheese this year to work it off, did you think about the economic impact and why this story matters to sourcing, procurement and supply chain? There are many lessons that can be learned from agricultural commodities and understanding the economics, especially in strategy development and managing volatility and risk.

During my career I have managed agricultural commodities and I understand the value and role that economics plays in sourcing. Let’s look at a commodity cycle we’ve experienced in recent years. It’s not difficult understand that after a period of drought, many crops fail and grain prices increase significantly. Farmers then look ahead to a tough winter of feeding cattle with the high cost grain, which will have a negative impact on profitability. As a result, farmers send their cattle to the slaughterhouses and cut their losses. As consumer demand remains steady and exports continue to rise, there is little doubt that the limited supply will force prices to rise. As the weather becomes more stable and grain prices fall, it’s natural for farmers to increase their herds of cattle, production of milk (and cheese!), flocks of poultry and grains. This is the easy to understand supply and demand economic cycle.

In this recent cycle, the opportunity to capitalize on the high prices became apparent to many farmers, however, the failure to understand the impact of the high US dollar on exports and the collapse of the export market, has caused increasing inventory levels, plus the time requirements to flex the size of herds and flocks has built up to the glut of some commodities. Gluts, shortages, currencies, pandemics, weather, labor, regulation and government stability all contribute to agricultural commodity economics and add financial and capacity complexity across supply chains, requiring an increased understanding of the economics to gain control. Today, I’m wondering how many Midwest farmers will switch from planting corn to soybeans, since the USDA projects that soybean production in the US and South America will be tight over the next two years while global demand continues to rise. How much corn is planted, of course, will impact the economics of food supply chains, but it also will impact ethanol, alcohols, building products, plastics and even tires.

Sourcing professionals involved in commodities of any kind can make or break their company’s profitability. The skills required to manage the complexities of commodity sourcing are understanding economics, extensive research of the market, having the right tolerance for risk and volatility, maintaining a calm demeanor and building extremely strong supplier relationships at both the farm (producer) and broker levels. They also need an analytical approach combined with communication and quick decision-making skills to be effective in commodities. We can all learn much from understanding the economics of commodities.

Have you thought about the economics of low-priced Cheddar?