Is it hard to learn soft skills?

Gurjit Degun
20 March 2014

Gurjit Degun © Akin Falope20 March 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Soft skills are a major part of being a successful procurement professional. Only the other day, Henry Swan, head of procurement at Kent County Council, told me of his ‘sell not tell’ ethos for his team.

He said that taking the approach of telling people how they should buy goods and services will not get you far, but selling the idea of saving money in the long run will. Swan also believes he got the job two-and-a-half years ago because he explained to the council he would help it reach its goals, instead of telling teams what to do.

Arriva’s Mainland Europe procurement director David Loseby, who is helping to transform procurement for the division, is picking out employees with strong soft skills to develop them as purchasers. He believes that it is harder to teach soft skills than procurement processes.

So how exactly can you learn good soft skills? At the eWorld Purchasing & Supply conference a couple of weeks ago Tracey Leforte, deputy director of procurement at Barts Health NHS Trust, touched on this when she said people may pick up or mimic good behavioural traits of others. She explained making the most of your soft skills, such as communicating, listening and empathy, is crucial when dealing with stakeholders.

How else can procurement professionals learn such skills to succeed? Or does this come with the experience that Swan, Loseby and Leforte all have in the profession? How did you learn your skills? Why not share your tips below.

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