First impressions count, but how do you back up the first impressions by making sure that you stand out from your competitors? You need certain skills!
Data analysis and research
The ability to identify sources of credible data, develop a fact base and format it for presentations and reports is crucial. Knowing how to collect, cleanse and collate information is, however, just the start. Expertise in analysing and interpreting it is just as important. You need to be able to identify key issues and apply analytical frameworks to identify potential for improvement. Your analyses and insights will be enhanced if you can find relevant information and market intelligence in professional magazines, on the internet or by tapping the existing knowledge within your procurement department.
Communication – verbal and written
Knowledge and insights are of little use in procurement, a very people-based profession, if you don’t know how to communicate them to others. The rising procurement professional must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. The ability to speak and write in a clear, concise and user-friendly fashion – in every format from emails through meeting notes to detailed reports and presentations – is essential.
Procurement people can often find themselves in a “piggy in the middle” situation at work, as they are mediators between different sets of stakeholders, with seemingly very different demands. Being able to identify stakeholder groups, analyse their needs and then formulate strategies to manage them in a way that works for all concerned is a crucial skill.
Attention to detail is taken as read in a competent procurement professional. In addition, you should be able to see the big picture and work out the best way forward. The ability to set a credible, workable strategy is essential for the aspiring high-flyer. Further, you must be able to implement a defined strategy efficiently with teams and revise it as necessary to produce the best results.
A successful manager is able to deliver effective projects with clearly defined objectives, methodology and outcomes. This includes identifying key milestones, dealing with risks and escalating any potential delays to relevant stakeholders as appropriate. Modern management often involves advanced structured approaches and using software project management tools. If you’re familiar with or qualified to use these, then so much the better.
Mentoring and coaching people
The best managers are not only good at what they do but are also skilled in passing on their knowledge. This is often best done informally or on the job, through mentoring and coaching. It will not only benefit those who receive your help but also make them feel valued and contribute to achieving better results for the group, and the organisation as a whole. Being recognised as a good teacher or coach is a valuable asset.
As many an Oscar winner has observed, the support of a team is crucial to the star’s success. Working effectively in a team allows you to deliver more than you would be able to do on your own, and will bring untold achievements. Going it alone is okay for heroes, but in the world of modern business, the group effort is what makes a real difference. As a good team worker, you need to recognise your colleagues’ different abilities and inclinations and work with them to leverage everyone’s skills and achieve the best results.
The nature of authority has changed dramatically since the time when the boss told workers what to do and they obeyed. Now it’s all about motivating and inspiring your team to do their very best. And remember, you don’t actually have to be in the leader’s position to show leadership. Focus on nurturing and encouraging others, whoever they may be. To do this well, you need to understand other people, gain their confidence and promote objectives that they will sign up to.
The skill of negotiating effectively and winning agreement on a deal that is acceptable for all parties requires strong communication skills, empathy and creativity. It also needs to be supported by an ability to evaluate various options quickly. In practice, this is likely to call for comprehensive modelling and analysis of various options, and packaging these into formal meeting documents outlining negotiating strategies.
Looking the part is essential. Like it or not, people judge others on their appearance and, if you present yourself as smart and businesslike, you are more liable to be treated as such. You should aspire to demonstrate honesty in all your dealings, a professional approach and respect for your colleagues and business partners.