Nothing ‘soft’ about key skills

Rebecca Ellinor Tyler is former editor of Supply Management
6 July 2015

Procurement is about communicating, problem-solving, influencing and negotiating, says Rebecca Ellinor Tyler

As someone said to me recently, “The problem with soft skills is the word ‘soft’.”

It’s certainly not a particularly helpful description of abilities that are crucial to high-performing organisations. Perhaps they need rebranding.

They include relationship-building skills such as being a good communicator, working well with colleagues, accepting responsibility, showing respect, managing time, working well under pressure and managing conflict. Nothing soft about those. They also refer to your level of emotional intelligence – or emotional quotient – which includes self-awareness, empathy and social skills.

Indeed research by Development Economics on behalf of McDonald’s concluded soft skills are worth more than £88 billion to the UK economy alone. That’s expected to rise to £127 billion in the next decade.

And for CPOs of high-performing teams, soft skills can be what gives them the edge, as Frank Scharadin, executive director of global procurement at MGM Resorts International, tells us in our cover feature.

Emotional intelligence in particular he says, delivers long-term success for procurement because it can help navigate difficult negotiations and lead you to the deal you want. In some cases CPOs look for individuals with these innate abilities over technical competencies, which they believe are easier to teach to those they hire.

Brooke Fowles, a former CIPS Australasia Young Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the year, believes they are at the heart of procurement. “At its core,” she says, “procurement isn’t about templates, flow charts and approvals – it’s about communicating, problem-solving, influencing and negotiating. It’s using these skills to understand the needs of the business.”

The importance and application of these abilities, as well as tools to help you raise your self-awareness, will be addressed at the CIPS Annual Conference in London on 8 October. Go to for information.

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