There has been a lot of talk, including in this column, about the skills and knowledge that the next generation of procurement professionals will need to succeed, and how CPOs can attract and develop that future talent. But what about the skills and knowledge that current procurement managers need? CPOs need to address that issue too. And they can start by looking in the mirror.
As important as negotiation skills and financial knowledge are, pure people-management skills are essential. You need them to build a team and get team members to work together to achieve well-thought-out goals. Your managers do too. But, often, those management/leadership skills are missing at middle-and-top-management levels, sometimes in procurement, sometimes elsewhere. You don’t need to know the history of such infamous managers as Sunbeam’s “Chainsaw” Al Dunlop to recognize the problem. Nor do you have to be familiar with reports such as that in a recent issue of The Economist,” which said workers in France are poorly managed. The disengagement of managers from the workforce that the report identifies is often just as characteristic of American, British, German, and Indian companies as French companies. Even The Harvard Business Review, has said that management is often theleast efficient activity in an organization. Don’t believe that? Just think of some of the characters you might have worked for yourself early in your career. Hopefully, most were supportive and role models. No doubt, though, some were idiots. As the Gallup polling organization has reported, people leave managers, not jobs.
In his excellent new book, Next Level Supply Management Excellence, Bob Rudzki, president of Greybeard Advisors and former procurement executive at Bayer Corp. and Bethlehem Steel, says that good managers successfully cope with complexity, but good leaders successfully cope with change. I agree, and add that you can’t be a good manager without being a good leader. In fact, I like to think of the word “leadership” as an acronym for a series of management activities:
Listening to goals, concerns, and ideas of others, staff members and stakeholders alike
Empowering others to think and act creatively
Attacking the right supply chain problems
Defining clear objectives
Engaging in the detail to be sure you understand issues and to set an example
Revising and regrouping when reality collides with theory
Saluting those who perform well
Helping those who don’t so they can improve
Institutionalizing a collaborative mindset
Persuading everyone to believe that their job is the most important one in the company
Management and leadership go hand in hand. So, besides looking for good future managers/leaders, develop the ones you have now, starting with yourself.
Paul Teague is US contributing editor of Procurement Leaders. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.