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Thursday, 15 June 2017

The world needs your inner hero - NOW

If 200 firefighters could walk into that burning building anything is possible. Imagine therefore what difference we would make if we all acted from own inner hero?

Little did I realise at the start of the year how much I would be reminded of our shared humanity as the year progressed. At the time I shared my desire to ensure that we don't leave our humanity at the office door. 

As recent events here in the UK have demonstrated it's our humanity that we have in common. It's our humanity that means people will put their differences to one side, and go to extraordinary lengths to help another. It's also our humanity that means that people are now looking for sustainable change so that the mistakes of the past are never repeated.

If we can continue to keep our hearts open, and take the level of humanity we've seen in recent weeks and months into the work we do - just think what difference we could all make in organisations, politics and beyond.

The world needs your inner hero - NOW. 

More here on what started out as a potentially stretching objective for the year - 'to not leave our humanity at the door'.

Alison Smith
Unlocking potential using unconventional tools

#innerhero #humanity

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Self-Confidence - the difference between success and failure

Self-Confidence is often the major differentiator between failure and success – which is why it surprises me that we so often ignore what we could be doing to increase our own, or our team’s confidence. I'd go as far as to say that, certainly in the UK, anyone expounding their confidence too loudly and saying "I believe in me" would be labelled as arrogant rather than assured. Despite confidence's positive impact on personal and organisational performance. 

When I undertook my modelling project on negotiation I discovered that the major differentiator between a successful negotiation, and an unsuccessful one was the level of confidence someone felt before entering the negotiation room.

Not so unsurprising really when you think about it.

It leads us to then consider what benefit a 5% increase in confidence delivers? Or does the benefit only get interesting when confidence increases 50% or perhaps even 100%. Or is confidence on a more digital scale where we simply do or don't have confidence?

Confidence banishes a number of emotions and thoughts that hinder success, and delivers other characteristics that support our success. In and of itself not a guarantee of success, and yet something that certainly improves the probability of success.

Why bother some ask? And that's the crux of this post – I bother because it's the single biggest outcome of the coaching sessions I provide. I know that as a result of that increase in confidence my client is able to do something that they previously wouldn't have been able to do.

Confidence can banish, reduce or negate
  • Fear or dread
  • Doubt
  • Negativity 
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Comfort zones
  • Resistance 
  • Rigidity
Confidence can provide, enhance or support
  • Clear thinking
  • Clarity of communication
  • Creativity & innovation
  • Improved decision making
  • Motivation for action
  • Openness to change
  • Flexibility of approach
  • Ability to address or tackle issues head on
  • Joy for life
  • Self expression
All aspects that impact performance - on an hourly not just daily basis.

Confidence can wax and wane, and the key for anyone is therefore understanding what work's for them in getting confidence back when it's evading them.

Future posts this month will explore the processes for increasing our confidence.

What benefits does confidence provide you - please do leave your suggestions in comments below or on the LinkedIn discussion I started. More importantly what tools do you have in your toolkit for ensuring your, or your team's, confidence is available when it's needed?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Potential using unconventional tools +44 7770 538159

You may also find the postcard written to Procurement with love from confidence of interest - it's one of many postcards written from our soft skills brought together in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit. The toolkit provides an unconventional means of exploring soft skills and their development. 

The notes from a recent talk at a CIPS branch meeting on Soft Skills for Procurement Success, that used the toolkit as the content for the session, may also provide insight.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Would your team win gold at Chelsea?

I love watching the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – it’s the time of year when I yearn for greener fingers – or perhaps it’s just more time to use them.

The pride, passion and enthusiasm for all things horticulture is conveyed in the many TV programmes as they interview the winners, runners up, and anyone involved in this wonderful show. 

Tears, laughter and relief mix as they finally receive the feedback on all their efforts.

Yesterday it was announced that the M&G Garden designed by James Basson won the prestigious Best Show Garden 2017. (The above video is the making of the garden based on a quarry in Malta - here's a tour of the finished garden). 

Every year hearing their stories has me considering what is needed in order to even get to Chelsea never mind win gold or even best show garden. For me it includes:
  • Commitment & passion for what they do
  • Effective Team work
  • Great design, planning & creativity – often having taken a year or more to do
  • Attention to detail
  • Timely implementation – they have 3 weeks on site to get the gardens ready for judging on the Sunday (brought forward a day this year), followed by a week of visitors
  • Spot on plant selection & quality – with weather significantly impacting what’s at its best for that one short week
  • Careful and loving planting
  • Meticulous plant care and maintenance
The project success has much to do with all the things I've listed - failure on any one of these and they might have failed. As head gardener and designer for the project James Basson will have been responsible for ensuring it all worked perfectly.

For whatever you're head gardener of - could you say the same?

Would your effort on tending to those in your team enable them to win you a best in class? Do you have the passion? How much planning have you done? Are you attending to every detail? Are you giving it, and them the care they need? and would you delight in their success?

What seeds do you need to sow today for your team to win best in show later in the year?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach

Unlocking potential using unconventional tools

Another Chelsea inspired post this week was entitled Benefiting from the fruits of your labours, I also wrote a LinkedIn post about learning from Chelsea in order to bust some moulds, shift perceptions and expand comfort zones whether in Procurement or more broadly.

Monday, 22 May 2017

What should you call your soft skills?

At the CIPS East of Scotland branch meeting last week I gave a talk on Soft Skills - skills that for example include motivation, communication, influencing, change management, decision making, time management and so on (more on what I spoke about here).

One of the subjects we touched on was the use of 'soft' skills as the term used to describe these essential skills.

I've ranted before that soft skills aren't something that only those in touch with their emotions have. They're something we all have, and use daily. Soft skills are how we do what we do, and their effective use will make a huge impact on the outcome we get.

When I asked about the use of the word 'soft' last week, people suggested the term conveyed that they were unimportant or weak skills.

You only have to look at the power of water ie something seemingly very soft to realise that soft shouldn't mean weak nor unimportant.

It still raises the question about whether we should give these skills a different name? What about:
  • People skills
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Behavioural skills
  • Essential skills
  • Social skills
  • Humanity skills 
I suspect however, that we end up with the same issue. Perhaps it's not 'soft' that generates the belief that they're unimportant, it's that they're unconscious, below the surface, and linked to our emotions and our humanity that makes them scary, and something therefore to be ignored or avoided. (Perhaps time to let go of the musts, oughts and shoulds about what is and isn't appropriate in business?) 

With that in mind, we can call them what we want and people are still going to resist exploring them.

One solution might be to link the skills to the outcome they help you achieve, for example why not call them:
  • The skills that get you the job
  • The skills that get you through your day
  • The skills that help you prepare for your retirement!
  • The skills that mean you can afford to go on fabulous holidays 
  • The skills that help you cope with people in your life 
  • The skills that add meaning to your day
  • The skills that keep the roof over your head
  • The skills that get you out of bed every day
  • The skills that help you decide what to to
  • The skills that keep you out of danger (or try to)
  • The skills that help you open your mouth and say what you want to say when you want to say it
  • The skills that help you change a boring day into an exciting one
  • and so on
My recommendation therefore is to find a term that makes most sense for you personally. A term for the skills that will inspire your action to review your current competency of a skill, and also inspire action to develop the skill further too.  

What will you call these very essential skills that support your humanity?

Alison Smith
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools +44(0)7770 538159

I've developed a Soft Skills Toolkit. The aim of the toolkit is to provide discussion points for personal or group exploration of your soft skills, allowing you to understand what options you have, should you decide to develop a particular soft skill.

There's 2 versions of the toolkit - Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills aimed at procurement professionals, and Dear Human Being, with love from your soft skills aimed at a wider business audience. They're only £4.99 for personal use, with pricing available on request for organisational use.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Benefiting from the Fruits of your Labours

RHS Chelsea flower show is here, and with it the art of the possible.

Every year about this time I think about growing my own vegetables. I think about how lovely it would be to eat the fruits of my labour later in the year. I dream of freshly picked green beans, beetroots straight from the ground, and picking ripe juicy raspberries from the bush. I imagine the recipes I could use, and the wonderful meals I could cook with the home-grown fruits and vegetables. The fun and laughter with the friends I’d invite to share in the delights of my garden.

Then reality sets in as I watch my neighbours as they spend hours I don’t have, nor have the motivation, sowing seeds, carefully putting them in the greenhouse, watering then daily, pricking out and thinning the seeds as they grow, repotting them, and then feeding and generally putting a lot of time and effort into their own fruit and vegetable plots.

When I told Terry, the guy who mows my lawn, of my plans he smiled sweetly as he recalled all the times he’s had to tell me he’s going to prune a bush, or set about the garden to weed it after it’s got very overgrown.

Isn’t that the same in many organisations? Not for fruit and veg but for our suppliers? We have high hopes and expectations of our suppliers, and yet we, and our organisation, are not prepared to put in the effort needed to bring forth that bounty?

If we expect suppliers to do it themselves without our support and assistance then we shouldn’t be surprised if we end up with an overgrown lawn, a tree whose roots are busy undermining the house’s foundations, plants throttling other plants, or plants that have died through lack of water.   

Many of the horror stories of procurement gone wrong can track their origin to suppliers left to fend for themselves, or inadequately cared for. 

Who in your organisation is responsible for tending for your suppliers, and will the fruits of their labours meet organisational expectations in the autumn?

Gardening is a metaphor I often use with non-procurement managers as it’s something they can relate to more easily than the process we enthuse about and understand intimately. Thispost explores the metaphor further, and I’ve also pulled together a Pinterestboard exploring different aspects of the metaphor.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential using Unconventional Tools 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Soft Skills for Procurement Success

I spoke about Soft Skills at the CIPS East of Scotland branch meeting earlier this week. I'd like to hope that at least some of those there were inspired to come to hear more about soft skills, rather than just the CIPS/Hays salary guide 2017 that Suzanne Dillon shared with us earlier in the evening.

I used my recently developed soft skills toolkit as the basis of my talk. The toolkit uses postcards written to procurement from their soft skills.

At the start of the session I asked people to share the challenges they have with soft skills. As a result, I promised to pull an index together of posts I've written to answer the challenges, and to provide further information on subjects touched on in my talk.

This is that very index, for you to dip in and out of as needed over the coming days, weeks and months. You just need to follow the highlighted hypertext link and it will take you to the relevant post.

They won't be going anywhere so no need to read them all in one go :-). Just get a coffee, or wine for that matter, and pop along when you're in need of a different perspective, and pick a post or two to read.

Content of the Talk:
  • How can you influence others - vlog with insight from those flowers that follow the sun.
Challenges you asked for additional insight on 
I'll have to come back to and write posts to address the following challenges: 
  • "When do we use our soft skills?" I'll do a soft skills diary at some point, and for now will just say - I think soft skills are responsible for 'how' we do everything every minute of every day.
  • "How do we develop our soft skills?" The same as any other skill - it's simply a case of taking it out of unconscious awareness into conscious awareness. You'll find more here. It's why I've developed the Soft Skill Toolkit, and you'll find more about how to use that here.
  • "How do we measure the impact of soft skills?" I suspect it's in people achieving their objectives better.
  • "How do I get my team to take soft skills seriously?" Hmm what gets measure gets done - so the answer may lie in the measures of success used in the organisation.  
  • "How do I increase peoples level of self awareness?" Whilst it is very personal I do think the culture within an organisation can help - vulnerability and asking for help need to be accepted and encouraged in order for people to lower their defences long enough to hear the feedback. Which starts with the manager being a role model for this too. This post, asking if we have our head in the sand about our own level of self awareness, might also help. 
Unconventional Tools that I use in Coaching and Training
My Passions
  • This index of top 10 Purchasing coach posts might explain more about what I get passionate about - the main ingredient not mentioned already is about taking our humanity with us to work every day, and inviting procurement to be Enlightened and not to fall back on being Mr Wolf (descriptions used by some suppliers I trained last year)!
The Sales Pitch - ie what I could do for you
  • Coaching
  • Organisational soft skills training
  • Team facilitation - unlocking the potential of procurement teams
  • Open workshops - I'm going to be offering some 1 day soft skills workshops here in Fife over the summer - do drop me a line if you'd like me to send you details once they're sorted. I can promise they won't involve sitting in a hotel conference room all day. 
  • I also deliver procurement and supplier management workshops - direct and as an associate. Here's an index of posts linked to the content and discussions during a 3 day category management workshop, and updated after each session. 
Email or even call me +44 (0)7770 538159 

Hopefully you'll have found at least one post that adds to your insight on soft skills, and has inspired you to do something different. Which reminds me of something I forgot to say, and that's that the quickest way to learn new things is to get your 'doing new things' muscle working by doing something different everyday - here's how I fared when I did it for 28 days last year.

Do keep in touch - here in comments, over on LinkedIn, or email.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking individual and procurement potential using unconventional tools
(with some conventional tools thrown in for good measure)

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Love from Learning and Development

If your soft skills were to write a postcard what would they say?

Today it's the turn for learning and development to get something off their chest.


Dear Procurement, 

We love the 70/20/10 model - after all it reminds you that there's multiple places that your learning and development takes place - i.e. experiential via on the job learning (70%), social interactions (20%), and formally via training events (10%).

The biggest challenge is that in order for learning and development to take place you do need to be consciously aware of what's not working for you. I'm sure you all have stories to tell of people who think for example, that they're great at communication, listening or negotiation. Yet being on the receiving end of their communication, listening or negotiation skills you would resoundingly disagree.

The key is moving from unconscious incompetence into conscious incompetence - knowing what you don't know, or could get better at. It's only then that a plan can be developed for a competency to be improved or enhanced.

The question you need to answer is how do you become aware of your incompetence areas for improvement or development if it's not consciously obvious to you?

360 degree feedback is one mechanism, so too observing others you admire and noticing what they do and how they do it. YouTube, books and online learning are all great places to find out how those that do something well do it. Podcasts, vlogs and blogs too - even Arianne Huffington's Thrive Global got in on the act yesterday sharing a post on the power of constant learning.

From there it's a case of comparing what you do to their model of excellence, and then making changes to your behaviour, and noticing the impact they have on your performance.

There are some barriers however to even these activities working, and that's either being resistant to the feedback, or having beliefs that either a particular competency is common sense and so innate that anyone can do it, or a belief that you're great at the skill, and no one can tell you otherwise.

All and any learning requires that you be open to alternative ways of doing something.

Soft Skills is one of those areas where so many people remain oblivious to what can be achieved with just a little tweak here and there, or a little perspective change. You may want to read the top 10 things to remember when communicating to give you a sense of some of the things you might be unconscious about.

How can you become more aware of your own level of competency with respect to soft skills, and what can you do to identify a plan to learn and develop them? After all, we can personally think of nothing better than doing that, and so can certainly support you. We just need your intention and we'll then be gladly be of assistance.

We look forward to a great year ahead full of surprises, busting a few limiting beliefs, and celebrating the expansion of you comfort zone or even getting in touch with you comfort universe.

With love from Learning and Development 

PS: Doing something different everyday is one activity you may want to try that we can guarantee will help you develop your skills.

A selection of postcards from others of your soft skills have been brought together into the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit. You can find more about buying the Toolkit here - for personal use (at a cost of only £4.99) or organisationally (cost on request).

A toolkit entitled Dear Human, with love from your Soft skills has also been developed, and is available for non Procurement professionals wanting to develop their soft skills.

There are examples of other postcards in posts on this blog from change managementemotions,
and your mental health.

Follow the link to a post providing an example of how to use the postcards to develop you, or your team's, Soft Skills.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential Using Unconventional Tools. +44(0)7770 538159

© Alison Smith 2017

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Have you taken your eye off the ball on coaching

Have you taken your eye of the ball on coaching in business?
It goes without saying that sports gold medallists have a coach, so too championship and grand final winners. Yet when it comes to business we often feel as if it's of no merit to have a coach! Is it just easier to keep an eye on the ball when there's a real ball involved I wonder? In this post for Future Purchasing, for whom I'm an associate, I invite you to consider the benefits to be obtained if you do have a coach, even if it is for the more mental activities we do when in the office.

For more on the coaching I personally offer do see here.

Another post for FP that aligns with this post, is about the similarities between parenting and procurement.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

With love from your suppliers' mental health

It's Mental health awareness week (#MHAW17), and with that in mind I wrote a postcard yesterday entitled Dear Human Being, with love from your Mental Health

Today I wondered what postcard our suppliers' mental health might write to procurement. After all, we all have mental health, and that includes our suppliers. 

Please note: This is a postcard I'd suggest that is written to the wolves that still exist within procurement, and not to the more enlightened procurement professionals. (A term coined by a group of suppliers at a workshop last year).

Dear Procurement,

I'm sending this postcard because I know your supplier won't. After all, like you they believe it's just the way business is - dog eat dog an all that!

We just wanted you to understand how your actions negatively impact us, and plead to your own sense of humanity to think about the repercussions of those actions. After all, we're human beings like you, not bar codes or robots!

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that there are six key areas of work that can cause stress, and in turn impact mental health. The six areas are; role, relationships, demands, change, control and support. 

Let's consider the impact you can have on each of these.

Clarity of role is often a given in buyer/supplier relationships. Although there are times when your actions bring up conflict when you ask your supplier representative to take your side against their own organisation. Perhaps an area our own organisations can impact the most, by understanding this will happen, rather than pressuring them about it. Perhaps even championing our staff for being client centric.

The HSE talks of avoiding conflict, and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

Conflict is often a given in buyer/supplier relationships which means it's up to both parties to understand how to manage their own reaction to conflict, and to understand their style - both the pros and the cons of that style - and on self and others.

Just letting a supplier have it in a rage, and believing your behaviour to be an acceptable reaction to the 'poor' performance you're receiving is unacceptable. So too bullying behaviour, and abuse of your power. Don't leave your humanity at the door - you wouldn't act like that out of the office 5-9 - so why do the rules change 9-5.

If you want to know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your behaviour, and it is such a great technique for facilitating change, try standing in our shoes for a moment.

And for anyone believing this postcard is aimed at others and not them - you may want to look at the behaviours you've buried your head in the sand about - those behaviours that others see and you deny.

This area includes work load, work patterns and work environment.

It's perhaps the key area where you impact us. For example tenders with questions you'll never assess, short deadlines, deadlines that mean we have to cancel plans, work the weekend and late into the night. Often passing your own ineffective planning and organisation onto us.

Or what about telling us we are in with a chance when we're not! Or setting selection criteria that might as well mean it's useless us responding to you.

Change management is something managed ineffectively in many organisations, and we're not sure procurement is the sole contributor to it done badly. We'd even suggest that it's one area where suppliers impact procurement's mental healthy badly.

Mental health is achieved by having control over the work we do. Procurement has such a huge contribution to make in this area. Output vs input specs being just one of many contractual changes that could be considered that would significantly impact the mental health of those responsible for delivering a service to you.

When did you last say thank you to a supplier, or show them your support? And before that, when did you do it. A thank you can go a long way, and when stressed I'd suggest it can go even further.

We hope something we've said has triggered a thought about how you can behave differently to your suppliers to support their mental health. In turn we will encourage the suppliers to do the same, and to consider you're mental health - after all you are human just like us, and not a bar code or a robot.

With Love from your Suppliers' Mental Health

It's also interesting to consider what behaviours buying and supplying organisations demonstrate that are counter to their own organisational values statements. After all the majority of values statements include openness, honesty, trust and respect - more here. Adoption of these values would certainly support everyone's mental health.

If you like the idea of aspects of yourself writing postcards to you, you might also like my Soft Skills Toolkit where different soft skills have written postcards to you.

The aim of the toolkit is to provide discussion points for personal or group exploration of your soft skills, allowing you to understand what options you have, should you decide to develop a particular soft skill.

There's 2 versions of the toolkit - Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills aimed at procurement professionals, and Dear Human Being, with love from your soft skills aimed at a wider business audience. They're only £4.99 for personal use, with pricing available on request for organisational use.

Alison Smith
Unlocking personal and organisational potential using unconventional tools +44(0)7770 538159

Monday, 8 May 2017

Dear Human Being, with love from your mental health

It's Mental health awareness week (#MHAW17), and with that in mind I wondered what postcard my/our mental health might write to us. After all, we do all have mental health. 

Later in the week there's a postcard To Procurement, from their suppliers' mental health.

Dear Human Being,

I saw this postcard and it reminded me of your relationship with me!

It can often feel as if I'm the invisible part of you - always there and yet not always acknowledged.

Do you know what that feels like? To know that my own existence is denied by the very person I love and support.

Denying my existence is like denying you have a mind, or a body, or, if you've had them, denying you have children. It's a lie, and a lie you seem to feel comfortable telling.

Your relationship with me should be very similar to those you have with your children; nurturing and supportive and allowing me to flourish. Planning for the day when you don't have to look after my every need as I can now fend for myself.    

I thought that the style of parenting where children are seen and not heard, told to speak only when they were spoken to, and sent to their bedrooms for some minor indiscretions, were only stories told from days gone by. Yet that's how I'm treated - in 2017 no less - told to be quiet, ignored, and pushed away.

How do you bring out the best in your children: you listen to them, you believe what they tell you, you support their strengths, you help them develop the areas they require development in, you encourage them, and you help them build their resilience and confidence. You love them.

To bring out the best in your children you don't ignore them, disbelieve everything they say, call them a liar, or act as if they mean nothing to you. You also don't bully them or shout at them when they make a mistake or don't know what to do. You certainly don't hate them.

As someone I consider to be my guardian all I ask of you is to apply your very best parenting skills, so that we may flourish, grow and succeed - together.

With Love from your Mental Health

If you like the idea of aspects of yourself writing postcards to you, you might also like my Soft Skills Toolkit where different soft skills have written postcards to you.

The aim of the toolkit is to provide discussion points for personal or group exploration of your soft skills. Allowing you to understand what options you have should you wish to develop a particular soft skill.

There's 2 versions of the toolkit - Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills aimed at procurement professionals, and Dear Human Being, with love from your soft skills aimed at a wider business audience. It's only £4.99 for personal use, with pricing available on request for organisational use.

Alison Smith
Unlocking personal and organisational potential using unconventional tools +44(0)7770 538159

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Your world you see is not the whole truth

I'm a witness in court this week, and will be asked to swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Which I will do, but even then it can only the truth as I saw it, from my perspective.

These 3 images are the truth too.

The images were taken from the same spot - that is, they are all representations of the same whole - just from a different perspective. None right or wrong just one aspect of the truth based on the filter they view the situation from.

Just like we're doing everyday for every communication we enter into.

The insight that our truth is not other people's truth is No2 in my top 10 of things to remember when communicating.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking procurement potential using unconventional tools

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The top 10 things to remember when communicating

I turned up at the garden centre yesterday to realise we hadn't agreed whereabouts in the garden centre we'd meet. I'd not met the person before, and whilst we both did have a LinkedIn profile picture to refer to, in a busy garden centre that wasn't going to be of much help.

I headed for the cafe entrance, and when they hadn't appeared at the agreed time I decided they might be waiting for me inside the cafe, and so walked in and looked around hoping to get eye contact with someone who was looking for someone who looked like me!  

Isn't that what we're doing all the time - communicating and thinking it's clear, and only realising the error of our ways when we come to act on the communication. It's just too easy to get it wrong without realising it.

I've written a lot about communication here on the Purchasing Coach blog, and today thought I'd share the top 10 things to remember when communicating with others - ie the aspects of communication that I think make the most difference.    

I suspect if we broke-down communication into it's component elements we'd discover that it includes:
  • Who is doing the communicating
  • Who is the recipient of the communication 
  • The intended outcome of the communication - the why? 
  • The information being communicated 
  • The means of communication
An internet search suggests we might want to include: body language, non verbal communication, listening, clarity, empathy, friendliness, confidence, open-mindedness, respect, questioning, reflecting, clarification, rapport, charisma, assertiveness and so on and on. 

As you reflect on this list are there any that surprise you? Have I missed anything? Which of these topics would you consider you excel in? What about areas for development? 

I'm not suggesting I disagree with any of the above topics. I just think if we're not careful we end up over simplifying the nuances that can often result in miscommunication. 

It's these nuances I'd like to highlight in this top 10.

1. They're not you
The other person does not have the same information as you do, they don't think like you do, and they have different preferences to you. 

It's very dangerous therefore to assume they're just like you, and to tell them what you'd like to hear just as you'd like to hear it. More here

2. How you see the world is inaccurate/false 
With so much information to take in we can only take in a small fraction of that information. We therefore have to filter the data, and the means by which we filter include our memories, beliefs, and values. More here.

3. Your values will be motivating your judgement of the situation
Values motivate our actions and help us achieve what we achieve - they explain why some people are inspired to climb Everest, and why others have never left their home town.
Values are also the means by which we judge others. That is, I might get very angry about how someone is behaving towards me, and someone else can look on and wonder why I've got into such a state. The difference in reaction will be due to our values - the person is compromising one of my core values, and not any of the other person's.

More here on your values, and this on respect (because we all have different definitions of what it looks, sounds and feels like).

I've also written a post on how to take account of stakeholder's values in your communication too.

4. They're often mirroring your own behaviour
There's likely to be circumstances where you also demonstrate the same behaviour, that you're experiencing from the other person, and yet you're getting frustrated with them about. More here.

5. Words have power
We use words assuming that there's common understanding about what those words mean, and that there will be a positive impact.

I use chocolate in workshops as an example of how many different representations we might have for such a seemingly simple word.

Other posts have looked at the different responses to words such as answers vs solutions, transformation and change, and indiscriminate use of 'they' when apportioning blame for the current situation.

The sayings we use also provide such a rich source of information to help find solutions whether that's going around in circles, or can't see the wood for the trees.

6. Stand in their shoes
If you're having problems communicating with another person the quickest way I know of obtaining insight is to stand in their shoes. To physically imagine standing in their shoes. It's one of the most frequently used tools in my training and coaching sessions. I'd suggest I have a 75% success rate of using it with others, and obtaining helpful insight. More here.

7. You can change how you say something, and still be true to yourself
One of the most frequent responses when someone is asked to flex their style during training or coaching sessions is "why do I have to change - why can't I just say it as I want to say it, and make them adapt to my style rather than me adapt to theirs."

My response in training sessions often involves me enacting this picture, where understanding between you and the other person is the door. You can push all you want but understanding will only be achieved if you open the door.

8. You need to be in the right state of mind and body
It's no surprise that miscommunication arises when we often rush into a meeting having taken no time to prepare or catch our breath, sometimes without eating, drinking water, and perhaps even after an argument with someone before.

It is imperative, therefore that we consider our own state before any meeting, and have a handy strategy for shifting into a resourceful and appropriate state before walking through the door. See links for how do it in meetings here, and how to develop your own prescription for positivity.   

9. Try using a metaphor
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures.

I can talk to a stakeholder all day using procurement speak and data we find interesting, and bore them senseless. Yet talk about needing to feed, weed, prune, mow, and water suppliers, just like you would plants in a garden, and they're engaged and asking what they can do to remove the tree/supplier that's uprooting the foundations. More here.

10. Try using Unconventional tools
Use of unconventional tools can often help to bypass the resistance we have to change or finding a solution.

We used pipe cleaners in a workshop last year where we were exploring what turned out to be different aspects of communication gone wrong with stakeholders and suppliers.

If you're still unconvinced you may want to read my post 'where has convention every got us'.

I'd love to know what you would have included in your top 10 of things to remember when communicating - do please leave comments below.

What soft skill would you like to develop, and what steps can you take to start the journey?

Always happy to help.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential Using Unconventional Tools. +44(0)7770 538159

A selection of postcards written to procurement from your soft skills have been brought together in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit. You can find more about buying the Toolkit here - for personal use (at a cost of only £4.99) or organisationally (cost on request).

The aim of the postcards is to bring soft skills development out of your subconscious, and into your conscious awareness. Doing that enables you to start an exploration about what the soft skill is all about, what the benefits might be if used effectively, what your level of competency is with respect to that skill, what good and not so good looks like, and how you might develop the skill further.

Other postcards shared on this blog have covered an introductionchange management, emotions, confidence and there's also a post on how to use the postcards to develop your soft skills (on your own or in groups).

A toolkit entitled Dear Human, with love from your Soft skills has also been developed, and is available for non Procurement professionals wanting to develop their soft skills.

© Alison Smith 2017

Friday, 28 April 2017

Dear Procurement, with love from Confidence

Dear Procurement,

We were thinking about the postcard that emotions sent you earlier in the week, and were wondering whether many people would even consider their emotions to be a soft skill. Perhaps they're not in the truest sense of the definition.

What emotions do have though is a huge impact on the outcome of your behaviours. You can be an expert at doing something, but if fear, sadness or anger take hold, your ability to use those expert skills may just go out of the window.

Confidence may not strictly be a single emotion either, more an amalgamation of a number of emotions, but we're certainly something that if you don't manage well can significantly impact the outcome you achieve.

We'd love to help you achieve your goals, and yet we're often taken for granted or ignored. There's so much you could do to access us more often, and yet you act as if you have no control over our appearance or disappearance.

We've sent a picture of tree roots because they remind us that when you're grounded in the moment (some might say the NOW), and authentically yourself (with no 'shoulds' 'oughts' or 'musts') you are confident.

What can you do every day to ensure the relationship between us supports your goals, rather than prohibits success being a reality?

With love from your Confidence

Other posts using the theme of postcards written to procurement from their soft skills have covered an introduction, change management, emotions and a post on how to use the postcards to develop your soft skills (on your own or in groups).

A selection of postcards from others of your soft skills have been brought together into the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit. You can find more about buying the Toolkit here - for personal use (at a cost of only £4.99) or organisationally (cost on request).

A toolkit entitled Dear Human, with love from your Soft skills has also been developed, and is available for non Procurement professionals wanting to develop their soft skills.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential Using Unconventional Tools. +44(0)7770 538159

© Alison Smith 2017

Monday, 24 April 2017

How to use one of the Soft Skills Postcards

"How do we use the Soft Skills postcards?" was one question arising from a discussion about the newly launched Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit.

The toolkit contains a series of postcards written to Procurement from a selection of Soft Skills - there's been a couple of blogs to give you a flavour so far - one on Change Management and one on Emotions.

As with any of the unconventional tools I use in my coaching or training there's always a positive intention behind using them. ALWAYS.

In this instance the postcards have been written with the aim of starting a conversation about Soft Skills - what are they? what do they help you achieve? what are the implications of not using a Soft Skill well or at all? how is your relationship with them currently helping or hindering you? what does good look like? what about not so good? what steps might you want to take to develop a particular Soft Skill more fully? when will you take those steps? how will you check the outcome or impact of those actions? and so on.

The postcards just provide these discussions with a different perspective or two.

Let's consider the postcard sent to Procurement from Change Management:


Dear Procurement,

In preparation for the launch of the Hays Procurement Salary Guide and Insights 2017 we were looking at the insights from 2016. Unfortunately I'm not sure it was such a good idea, as we ended up being very upset to see that only 46% of those participating thought Change Management was an important skill, where as 80% thought Communication and Soft Skills were.

Ignoring the semantics of whether Change Management is a soft skill, we're a little puzzled by the outcome. To that end, we've invited Problem Resolution and Creativity over for a meal during the week to help explore what we could be doing differently to raise awareness of how much of what Procurement does involves Change Management.

If you're putting in place a new system, a new process or wanting a wider set of KPIs we're involved. If you're changing suppliers we're involved both internally and externally. If you're developing sourcing, category or relationship strategies were involved. We're also involved if you're wanting to implement or roll out a new contract. In short there's very little of what you do that doesn't include us.

We agree Communication and Influencing skills are great, but how you use them is informed by what you're wanting to do, and if that involves change then there's other factors at play that you need to be aware of before you can decide on a communication or influencing strategy.

It would seem we need to adopt some of our own models to help you change your views about what we're saying. We may need to go back and review the different words we use to depict change.

We look forward to making the journey with you, so that together we can truly transform organisational Procurement.  

With Love from Change Management 

The aim of the Postcard is to provide some food for thought about your relationship with Change Management.

Questions you may want to consider or, if you're working in a group, might discuss or explore include:
  • What is change management? 
  • What other words are used instead of change management? 
  • Does the choice of word have an impact on the recipient of the words? is that impact positive or negative?
  • What are the different models of change management? When would you use them? 
  • What procurement activity does change management apply to? What activities would it not apply to?
  • What are the implications or ignoring change management?
  • What elements of change management do you need to consider before developing a communication or influencing strategy?
  • What will you do to develop this skill further? 
Hopefully this example has given you a sense of just how useful these postcards could be as personal or team prompts to develop soft skills within your organisation.

Always happy to help with coaching, training, facilitation or development of a (conventional or unconventional) soft skills programme.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential Using Unconventional Tools. +44(0)7770 538159

How to buy, and more about the Purchasing Soft Skills Toolkit here.

© Alison Smith 2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Dear Procurement, with love from your Emotions


Dear Procurement,

Like many emotions the timing of this card could be better.

Here we are just starting to let the world know about the series of postcards from your Soft Skills, and we're already writing about emotions! At least Change Management managed to get a word in first yesterday.

That's emotions for you - they're not exactly the thing you can predict nor manage - excitement can just come upon you with no advance warning, so too despondency.

The reason for the card today is because we went to Falkirk at the weekend and saw this, and felt it was such a great image to represent your emotions.

Yes of course, we could have waited a while before sending the postcard, but wouldn't we just be doing what it's too easy to do, and hold back emotions just like the lock gates in the postcard.  

What's your relationship like with your emotions? Who has responsibility for and access to the keys to open the lock gates to release the emotions being held back?

Just a thought!

With love from your Emotions

For more on the Dear Procurement, with love from your Soft Skills Purchasing Coach Toolkit see here. A more generic version entitled Dear Human Being, with love from your Soft Skills is also available here.

Follow the link to a post providing an example of how to use the postcards to develop you or your team's Soft Skills.
© Alison Smith 2017