Five top tips: How to be a great procurement boss

Tania Seary
posted by Tania Seary
12 February 2015

As we enter 2015, it's time to take an in-depth look at how to be a great procurement boss. While it may be the first time in charge for some, for others it's time to learn how to become a better leader.

The current consensus is procurement job hunters today are just as selective about their next boss as they are about the organisation they want to work for. That’s why it’s important to be seen as a great boss –  to not only cement your own successful career trajectory, but to attract great people to your team and inevitably make your job much easier.

Here’s five tips to becoming a great procurement boss:

1. Know your stuff. Due to the increased demand for procurement professionals, the profession is attracting leaders with a wide variety of experience and skills into senior positions. This is fantastic because it ensures CPOs are true business leaders and can genuinely relate to, and deliver for, business stakeholders. But all leaders must ensure they know the basics of the function. Either by undertaking some professional accreditation and training or by immersing themselves in the profession. A leader who understands the fundamentals of the function won’t be caught out in an embarrassing situation when pushed on the detail.

2. Set the goal posts. Great bosses understand their organisation’s business objectives and ensure their own team’s targets align with them. Any good CPO will understand what is expected of their team, but the challenge lies in translating the big picture to each individual. Explain the link to them. Work with your staff to help them understand how the different dimensions of their role delivers value. Start by touching on efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer service and other non-cost related drivers which are critical success factors and they’ll start to see the connection more clearly.

This is also an insurance policy for your performance as a CPO. If you get approval from the organisation about what you and your team are delivering, you’re not just fulfilling your contract with the organisation, you’re also elevating the team and profession across the board.

3. Stay in touch. Think carefully about your personal communication strategy with the team to make sure you aren’t seen as either “invisible” or “in your face”. You want to find a balance so your team understands their input is valued and they have space to work fluidly. There are so many options for communications - from Skype, text, face to face, email, social media and the beloved phone - and, as leaders, we should use all of them to make sure that our people feel valued and connected.

I know a CPO who has a team of 200 people dispersed throughout Asia. He was disciplined about his communication with the team – he diarised a 30 minute phone call with each team member each month. After some informal chat, he asked three simple, yet important, questions: How are you doing against your KPIs? How do you plan to meet them? Is there anything I can do to help you? If that’s not the way for you, think about which communication strategy will suit your personal style and your team.

4. Bring in the power brokers. One of your most important roles as a leader is to ensure the senior leadership of the business is totally, and visibly, committed to your team’s purpose and success. At appropriate times you need to call in senior leaders to communicate to your team how valuable their role is in meeting the organisations’ objectives. There are many ways to do this – team meetings, written letters of support, etc. Make sure you don’t overuse this though as you can’t call on senior management too often, or you’ll lose credibility with both sides.

5. Promote your people. Great bosses promote their people. They put them on projects that give them access and ‘air time’ to senior decision-makers. Nominate them for awards, special training, anything that will give them recognition for their hard work and help them build their career. High-calibre bosses know that great teams are made up of brilliant individuals. The more profile and respect the procurement team attracts, the easier it is for the whole team to produce results for their internal stakeholders.

So, whether you’ve been given your first opportunity to lead, or you’re turning over a new leaf to be a better boss, build on these five points in 2015 and you’ll have a dream team of talent knocking on your door.

Tania Seary is the founder of three procurement-related businesses: The Faculty, a procurement management consultancy; its sister recruitment firm The Source; and Procurious, an online networking business for logistics, supply chain and procurement professionals. Follow her on Twitter @TaniaSeary

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