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Thursday, 22 February 2018

You have a choice - A or B

It's so often the other person who is to blame - they're rude, disrespectful, impatient, don't understand, arrogant, at fault, wrong, resistant, lying, dishonest, lazy, selfish, hiding something, and so on (A) However .... there's always another perspective .... If the response you're getting isn't the one you'd expect or desire you might ask yourself "how have our or my own personal behaviours, words and actions contributed to the current situation?" (B) In A we're suggesting there's nothing we can do to change the outcome, in B we're taking personal responsibility for what we can do to facilitate a different outcome. I'm not suggesting B is easy. Yet B is the route I often ask others to take when coaching and facilitating them - because that's that's how personal growth is nurtured, how comfort zones are expanded, and where solutions are found. Every day you have a choice to go with A or B - what will you choose?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

I wrote a blog on that - Soft Skills

On Monday's Soft skills workshop we touched on many subjects I've written a blog on.

As promised here's an index of those posts: 

We used a number of unconventional tools for problem solving and providing a different perspective on a number of challenges with stakeholders. (Many of the following posts have a festive theme as they were part of the advent series of 25 posts sharing unconventional tools for coaching and facilitation).
We had an "interesting" discussion on Time Management, and here's a few posts on the subject:
Well-being also cropped up, and here's a couple of posts that might resonate.
As ever, there's so much we could have covered in such a short space of time. The post I wrote on the 7 barriers to optimal performance may shed some light on what soft skills you may want to focus on for further development.

Anyone interested in finding out more about soft skills, problem solving or creativity workshops or coaching do get in touch +44 (0) 7770 538159

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dear Organisation, With Love from Procurement

Dear Procurement - please see this BIG PS especially for you.

Dear Organisation,

I’m sorry. I think we got a bit lost, and I wanted to explain myself and find out whether there was a future for us.

I know you think I conned you; that maybe I’m not what you need. And I take full responsibility for that. It wasn’t deliberate, but I don’t think that I showed you my best qualities. I’d like to.

Sometimes, I’ve let trying to please you get in the way of offering the advice or support you required to help you achieve what you needed to. I know that’s what you loved about me when we first met, but I think we’ve moved past that. What I should have given you is good, long term, advice.

I really hope that we can make this work, and that you’ll agree to give me another chance.


I don’t think I’m deluding myself that you’d even consider trying again. And so, when you’ve had some time to think, I’d like to talk more about how we could do better together.

I still love you,

With Love from Procurement xx

For the much extended, lighthearted, and glossy version of this letter in PDF form to use within your business see my LinkedIn page here. You'll also find a less glossy but extended version as a LinkedIn blog.

and do follow #WithLoveFromProcurement on social media - even better - why not get involved?

Dear Procurement

Dear Procurement,

The Dear Organisation, With love from Procurement letter written to organisations around the world, to open up the dialogue with us, was heartfelt. 

The perception of many about our profession, and the value we can add is woefully inaccurate. 


and there is a big huge BUT, 

The perception others have of us is actually up to us, or is it down to us? Either way, we're responsible for the reaction we generate in others. 

If people view us as penny pinchers, it's because that's what they see us doing. 

If people view us solely as the bad cop, it's because that’s who we are when we’re with them - day in, day out. 

If people come to us to only fight their fires, we’ve obviously only told them to ring 999 in an emergency, and not provided 101 or any other alternate numbers they need for other situations where our skills could be used. 

If they don't give us time to do our job properly - why did we not know about it sooner? Proaction or reaction is a choice we make every day. Reaction will always have us on the back foot. 

Until Procurement stop moaning and blaming others, and start taking personal responsibility for the perception of us by others nothing will change. Yesterday’s letter was one of the many things I'm doing to change the conversation - what action have or will you take today?

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Juggling balls and spinning plates?

I'm never one to pass by a metaphor in a clients language. Not least because they're a quick and easy means of exploring a situation, and finding a wide range of potential solutions.

For example, if someone were to say they felt like they were juggling balls I'd be more inclined to explore the balls, than I would all the things on their to do list, emails, priorities and behaviour of their boss currently responsible for all those balls etc. The main reason being, we can get so lost in all the facts, data and judgements that we end up defending the current situation.

Over the years, I've had many people describe the current undesired situation as like they're juggling too many balls. My response would be to ask more about the balls - type, colour, number, size, direction of travel and so on.

It'a not the current real life situation we're exploring, it's the representation of juggling balls we're interested in.

Once the current juggling has been described, drawn, enacted or simply considered then it's time to consider the options that exist.
  • What happens if you put the balls down?
It's important we don't go back to the real life situation just yet, but instead stick with the metaphor a little while longer.
  • Can the balls go in a bin? 
  • What happens if you make the balls bigger or smaller? 
  • What about changing their colour?
No right or wrong, nor judgement, just what ever answer comes to mind.
  •  Can someone else look after a ball for you?
  • Can other people juggle the ball instead?
  • Can you pop the balls? or blow them up? or let them float?
  • What about making them very light?
  • Can you stop the balls coming straight to you? (we recently had a velcro board where all balls had to go first as part of the decision making process about whether to pick them up or not)
  • Can they go into a bag? 
  • Can you change the balls into something easier to juggle

The aim is to keep exploring the metaphor until you've exhausted all the potential solutions - fun, silly, logical, absurd - no right, no wrong just - a exploration of the metaphor you're using.

Once you've done that, and only then, you can explore what these suggestions mean in the real life situation - solutions that thus far you'd been resisting or had not even considered.

For example, putting all the balls on a Velcro board meant that people throwing balls in the direction of the person could see what else they already had on, and might decide someone else could take responsibility for the ball. Which meant them developing a log of what they were being asked to do, and when people came to them with more work to visibly been seen to be adding it to the list, and discussing it's relative important compared to other activities on the list.

Spinning plates is a metaphor that aligns very much with juggling balls and many of the solutions might be very similar. At the weekend someone suggested they simply needed to put their plates on a plate rack - which felt much less stressful and easier to deal with than the previous model. Although we also discussed adding blu tac under some of the plates to help them stay there whilst the person took a well earned rest!!

The aim is to provide your mind, that currently feels stuck, to understand there are other options and be open to exploring how to apply them to the current situation.

How is the language you're using to describe the current undesired situation also the solution? 

Always happy to help explore your language with coaching sessions of 30, 60, 90 minutes available. Although weekend retreats also available for a good old life overhaul!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Using unconventional tools to unlock personal, procurement and business potential.

Other recent solutions, explored in the blog and found within the very words we're using, have included going around in circles, life gets in the way, we're on different pages, and fun vlog about turning over a new leaf.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Are you on the same page?

Earlier in the week a delegate mentioned wanting to get onto the same page as someone else, and I wondered if exploring the phrase itself would shed any light on how we might go about doing that in reality.

Logically it means finding common agreement about a situation or solution. The process for doing that however can be fraught with problems. With both sides potentially not wishing to move from their current thinking, and even resisting seeing the other persons point of view or perspective.

Exploring the metaphor may just help us uncover some, so far, unconsidered strategies.

Putting the situation, we'd like to get on the same page with someone about, to the back of our mind, let's explore the literal meaning of the words a little more.

Please note: My unconscious is going to notice the things within the metaphor that make the most sense for me at this time, and may be different than the things you notice. You may therefore want to spend some time exploring what not being on the same page means metaphorically to you, before reading my own thoughts.

Here's my thoughts.....

If we're not on the same page as someone it presupposes we're on a different page.

To me the pages are in a book, and therefore the different pages could be in the same chapter, the same book, the same shelf, the same shop/library, the same city or country, or the same world or not.

What are the potential solutions to getting onto the same page in each of the above situations:
  • Same chapter - If we're on a different page in the same chapter I'd suggest we need to simply delete some of the paragraphs and sentences between the two positions. To provide less detail, perhaps summarising each paragraph into a sentence. Although if we're using Kindle, or any other ereader, we may be able to get onto the same page by making the font smaller. 
  • Same book - We need to head to the introduction of the book to discover what links the two chapters - to understand the goal of the book, and how each chapter supports that goal. Or perhaps we need to rewrite the book? Or just look at the index to find them on the same page.
  • Same shelf - Again we're looking at finding the common ground that makes sense of all of the books on that shelf. You may want to consider the book title that could contain each of these pages. Easier perhaps if it's the same genre of book, rather than simply written by the someone with a surname starting with the same letter of the alphabet! 
  • Same shop/library - Perhaps not so easy to find common ground if we're simply in Barnes & Noble, Waterstones or WHSmith (Unless of course you both like the same bookshop, and can explore what it is you like about them). Easier if we're in a specialist bookshop with some common interest shared by all the books there. 
Don't worry about how this exploration relates to real life, just explore the different ways we can be on different pages, and the solutions available to moving to being on the same page. 

Follow the weird and amusing tangents your mind takes you on. In metaphors there's no right or wrong, just what your mind brings into your conscious awareness. Laughter is always a great sign of shifts happening, so do please follow any and all absurd and humorous thoughts.  

The aim is to find all the potential solutions before applying the real life situation to it. It's as if we're keeping all the real life reasons we're not on the same page out of sight and mind whilst we explore means of finding resolution.   
  • Same city - Here I think we need to start to explore what we both like/find interesting or even don't like about the city first, before even attempting to understand and consider the other person's page. Or perhaps it's about getting a map of the city to understand how far apart you are from each other, and to understand the route from one to the other. Or maybe it's about exploring the city together first, as there may be another page you've missed.  
  • Same country - Here at least we're talking the same language. If we're not in the same country the solution is to first find a common language to speak - or a need to get out our respective phrase books. (Remembering that many books have different titles around the world - ie they're not literal translations of each other.)    

Being on pages on different worlds reminds me of the following collage that often provides insight in problem solving sessions in workshops. (You'll find out more about using collages for that purpose here).

What additional scenarios and potential solutions came to mind for you as you've read this post? My notes are full of pictures of the above situations, and may certainly have helped my mind make links between very different ideas that currently exist on different pages.

One additional thought - if we wanted everyone to be on the same page about everything we'd just have one big book in every shop and library!! How weird would that be? or only one book on every topic?

Once we've explored the metaphor it's then time to apply the solutions to the current situation, and notice what we notice.

Simply reading the above exploration may have shifted something, which means you're already saying "oh it's not a problem really" or "I can see we're not really that far apart".

There's many ways you can do this:
  • You may already know it feels like you're in the same book or same shelf, and can therefore explore how that might lead to an opportunity to find agreement. 
  • Alternatively you may wish to test applying each of the above solutions to your situation, and identify an action plan from there. 
  • Or some other solution may appear.  
Here's the strategy that has come to mind for me - a situation where its apparent it's not just 2 people on different pages but a number of us!!

Example: Not being on the same page about how to develop and market my business. Lots of people are giving me different advice, and I'm feeling a little resistant to listening to them, and yet know I need to do something different.
  • Page 1: Use social media to market your business
  • Page 2: Call three people every day to talk about what you can do for them
  • Page 3: Focus on what difference you can make in the world as result of your success (contribution, philanthropy etc)
  • Page 4: Focus on your Website/Blogs
  • Page 5: Find raving fans
  • Page 6: Focus on the end result
  • Page 7: Concentrate on what you're passionate about
  • Page 8: Go with the flow
  • Page 9: Enjoy life 
  • Page 10: Listen to your intuition
Initially I feel the need to put the above pages into books:
  • Marketing your business: pages 1, 2, 4, 5
  • Setting up your business: page 7
  • Happy Life: pages 10, 8, 9, 3, 6
Hmmm ..... already it feels less like they're all pulling me in different directions. We all have the same goal.

It certainly feels like I'm at least in the same shop, and am drawn to going to the Mind and Body section first, and then over onto the Business section (which is what I always do when I visit a bookshop anyway), with an action plan forming that suggests:
  • Be me - intuitive, laughter, fit and health
  • Identify the difference I wish to make 
  • Make sure the business delivers that difference (doing what ever it takes to shout about it from the roof tops)
Which means another page, not on the original list, has appeared a page about how to get fit and healthy, and feels like the missing link. If you'll allow me to mix my metaphors for a moment - not being able to see the wood for the trees about where to take my business is significantly impacted by the health of my mind, body and soul. If I focus on getting that more balanced, vibrant and flourishing, he route out of the wood will become clearer.    

Which reminds me of this vlog:

A post from the advent series of posts has a completely different take on being on the same page, and suggests you don't need to do that to find a solution. Just open the book at any page, notice what you notice, open another book, notice what you notice, and develop a plan from there.

Not where I expected this blog to take me, and yet at the same time such a GREAT example of how using metaphors can help us find the missing link, to take responsibility for what we need to do differently to move from where we are to where we want to be.

Do let me know how you get on with getting on the same page in your life.

I'm always available to coach you or your team to do this too - email or call me to find out more +44 (0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking your potential

Other Purchasing Coach, and Landscaping Your Life posts written about solutions hidden in our language include:

Monday, 15 January 2018

Life gets in the way

If you find yourself saying "life gets in the way" when talking about achieving your goals you may want to pop over to my Landscaping Your Life blog and have a read of a post helping you to unravel your personal relationship to those words.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Will it be a bright 2018?

Happy New Year.

I wonder, are you envisaging a 2018 that's like one of these images?

or more like this? 

And more importantly is it working for you? If it is, read no further. If you know your relationship with 2018 could do with a little tweak or two then see if the following might help nudge you in the right direction.

Is it a representation that will help you achieve your goals this year? or will it help you to find the motivation to set some goals? or more of what ever it is you feel might me lacking at the moment?

As you consider your representation, what happens if you make changes to it - does 2018 feel, look or sound more or less as you would like it to be?

You may want to make your image of 2018 bigger, smaller, add or take away colour, give it some movement, move it, add a sound track, take a picture of it, change the focus, or draw it. Basically, any change or changes that make 2018 the year you'd like it to be, if of course it isn't already.

The image that represents 2018 for you might not be a number, it might be another image all together. If a landscape comes to mind you might want to pop over to my Landscaping Your Life blog for more about what changes you might want to make to the landscape.

You may not have an image for 2018 at all - it may be a feeling or a sound. The aim is to ensure that what ever your representation is for 2018 that it supports what you want to do in 2018, and not hinders it. 

The following images my help provide some clues about what changes could be made.

What about a theme tune for 2018?

or even a dance?

There is no right or wrong - just what ever comes to mind. You may want to make a collage? A model? or even bake a cake. 

Exploring the representation we have for aspects of our lives is one of the unconventional tools I decided to save for this first post of 2018. Many of the other tools I use in my coaching and facilitation had a festive feel applied to them in my advent series of posts at the end of last year. It's certainly one of my go to tools when someone is wanting to shift a current situation.

What changes might you want to make to 2018, and when will you make them?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change in 2018