Coaching for 2019

With instant and global connectivity there's really no limitation on coaching sessions.

Contact me now if you'd be interested in finding out more about what's involved - whether for a one-off kick up the ... session, a retreat like weekend, or a more gentle programme of coaching sessions.

Or first read about the myths and benefits of coaching.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Time for a new buyer/supplier paradigm?

Funny how thoughts go – I was watching an interview with Oprah and the topic of #Metoo came up. As I was reminded of the behaviours the movement was fighting to eradicate, behaviours such as bullying, disrespect for others, pushing forward even when they’ve said no or the distress the actions are causing is visible, and blackmail (indirect or direct in terms of fear of losing the work/money if behaviours are challenged), I wondered whether business, and procurement were hearing the call for change too.

Can I stand here and say I’ve never shown those behaviours to a supplier – no - however unintentionally and, I hope, however many many years ago.

Can many Procurement departments say they’ve never done this - no.

Can many organisations – no.

You see - to me - bullying is bullying, blackmail is blackmail - the context in which is is taking place doesn’t alter its appropriateness and yet it seems that’s not a belief shared by everyone. “That’s just the way business is” is as prevalent a response to these behaviours today as I’m sure “that’s just the way Hollywood is” or “that’s just men being men for you” was years ago.
  • That’s just the way business is when suppliers fear speaking up, or saying no to unacceptable requests for fear of the repercussions.
  • That’s just the way business is when buyers assume because suppliers aren’t speaking up that they can keep doing what they're doing even though they know it's unacceptable behaviour.
  • That's just the way business is when sourcing send a 100 page tender to 15 suppliers knowing who they want to give the business too.
  • That’s the just way business is when Procurement ask suppliers at 1700 on a Friday for a response at 0900 on a Monday even though it's been on their desk for weeks.
  • That’s just the way business is when …..
In January two years ago I invited us not to leave our humanity at the office door. Then life got in the way and, whilst walking the talk, I didn’t do as much as I could to challenge unacceptable behaviour. Perhaps #metoo has given me the confidence to once again return to this topic and to want to explore with buyers and suppliers alike how we move to a new paradigm for our relationship – one that doesn’t fall back on old stereotypes and abuses of power.

Any thoughts on how to take this dialogue further much appreciated. Perhaps you’re already managing to avoid these behaviours in your organisation – and if so I’d love to hear from you.

I’m certainly looking forward to an event being hosted at the Fire Starter festival on kindness in procurement which is a start. Although 4 years ago I was saddened to hear even kindness was thought to be counter to how business is!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Purchasing Coach review of 2018

Happy New Year - even if it's a little belated.

As January 2018 started much quieter than in previous years I wonder if I’d drained my blogging juices with a post a day in December 2017 introducing a range of tools I use in coaching, facilitation and problem solving?

It was also a sign of a quieter blogging year here on Purchasing Coach with the publication of my book Can’t see the wood for the trees in August and all things landscaping Your Life (LYL) that accompanied that, and then the death of my father in October resulting in posts here not being as frequent as in previous years (see 2016 year in blogs). Nor perhaps as controversial as I’m starting 2019 blogs talking about changing the buyer/supplier paradigm (out on 21st).

That said, there’s a few blogging highlights I’d like to share and they cover the topics I love to talk about:
  • Words having Power
  • Procurement
  • Soft skills and Self Awareness
  • Coaching

Words have power

Interestingly I started the year with one of my favourite subjects ‘the power of words’. That is, the power for words we use to contain the kernel of a solution within them.

Interesting with how the year ended that it started with a post over on the LYL blog on solutions for when “life gets in the way” with other posts here covering:


A letter that outlined that procurement needs to get back to delivering real value and not just the cost savings they think that organisations want that actually diminishes the relationship between the two. That is, it could be a match made in heaven and yet often feels like a one night stand or friends with benefits! One element of the letter was expanded upon over on my Landscaping Your Life blog and touched on what happens when we've exhausted the low hanging fruit.

In November my interview with Phil Ideson at The Art of Procurement aired – discussing all things procurement, soft skills and with a little Landscaping Your Life throw in for good measure.

As I do every year on metal health awareness week I invited procurement to consider mental health in procurement within our own organisations and that of our suppliers.

As ever, soft skills was a frequent topic in training and coaching sessions and an index of soft skills posts was posted for clients to dip into topics we’d discussed.

Other posts on this subject included:
  • The impact the roles we use to describe what we do has on the outcome we achieve, and the impact of simply changing the description can have. (Although wonder of this is really a words have power post :-)). After all procurement isn't just all about fire fighting!
  • Taking your rose coloured spectacles off – notes from a presentation I did at a CIPS local branch meeting on self awareness being the key soft skill that would have greatest impact on personal and organisational success


As a coach I’m often asked about the benefits of coaching and also realise there’s some myths too that stop people considering coaching as a means of them achieving more in their personal and working lives. I wrote 2 posts to help shed more light on what to expect from a coaching relationship.
Although if you’d rather not have a human as a coach my recently published book Can’t see the wood for the trees provides insight on how to have nature as your coach.

The book uses a process (LYL) I first developed over 20 years ago to help managers understand why suppliers needed to be managed, and how it was the same as looking after your garden ie I discovered that gardening was a great metaphor for supplier management. The process then expanded to using landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

You’ll find more about the LYL process using #landscapingyourlife on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There's also in index of LYL highlights for 2018 including notes from a session on planning for success in 2019.

Here's to a fabulous 2019. I can guarantee I'll be continuing to share here what excites, inspires and challenges me.

You know where I am - +44(0)7770 538159

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Monday, 19 November 2018

Talking about death

In loving Memory 
John David Jones
23rd December 1928 to 15th October 2018
Aged 89

On the morning of 15th October, in the company of his loving companion Jean and two paramedics, my Dad died - his mind, body and soul slipping peacefully away and leaving this world.

One common thought those close to us have had since that time is that he died as he would have wished - at home, still independent, and with a mind still able to solve the telegraph cryptic crossword puzzles he loved so much, and with an increasing frustration at the fortunes of Aston Villa!

I know it's not a choice everyone has, and yet conversations we'd had over recent years and months certainly helped that become a reality for my dad.

A bank manager, in times when that meant something, he retired at 57 and had an active life until ill health in his late 70s stated to curtail his travels. In recent years each hospital visit was longer, his body finding it harder and harder to bounce back.

Since his death the one thing I am very thankful for was that Dad and I talked about was his death. Not in a hurrying it along sort of way but in a matter of fact practical sort of way. A practical sort of way that has provided much solace for my soul of recent days.

He was organised - boy was he organised - he'd written a list of his wishes - down to and including "not one single flower" at his funeral, his will was up to date, he'd chosen the music he wanted playing (leaving 2 CDs), and we even had all the details of every account he owned. Details he'd first started to pull together decades ago long before he felt death might be imminent.

He let me know where all this information had been left. That is, he didn't want anyone inconvenienced and also knew what we wanted and what he didn't want! No wondering for us if we were doing the right thing, or disagreements between siblings and family about this or that decision we were being ask to make by the undertaker.

My Dad and I had even talked of his wish to not be resuscitated. Which would have amounted for nothing if the doctor hadn't taken an hour of his time to discuss my Dad's wishes in March of this year.

"How would you like the next year to be like John" he asked on a home visit that simply included a doctor talking and listening to his patient "would now be a good time to talk about a do not resuscitate?"

As my Dad made his wishes know the doctor turned to me and said "He's very clear on that then?"

To which I replied "he always has been."

"I'll get the paperwork sorted."

Shortly after that, when his domestic carers were contracted, we had to send the documentation back as the duration of the DNR was not clear. A lack of clarity that would have meant the DNR being ignored by the carers, paramedics and the hospital for fear of reprisal.

Upon arrival to his house on 15th October the paramedics asked if there was a DNR. They were shown the paperwork and then, as his body started to fail, the paramedics honoured his wishes to not be resuscitated and allowed him to go.

I can't tell you how much peace it gives me to know that Dad's wishes were honoured. I grieve for a loss of Dad but not for his passing and know it was as he would have wanted. In March of this year he had turned to me and said "If this is my time to go I've had a good life and am happy." I honour and accept that statement.

Four days after his passing a report by the Royal College of Physicians was published saying "Doctors need to start early conversation with patients about dying".

Thank you so much to my Dad's doctor for having that conversation.

I'd also suggest though that families need to have the conversations too. Not as death approaches, but as my brother and I have done since my dad has passed, well ahead (hopefully) so that our wishes are known by those who are left behind to sort out the details.

Generally blogs end with a call to action and that feels a little weird on this subject. Never the less I will not shy away from inviting you to have the conversations you need to have on the subject.

I'll leave you with the poem my Dad asked to be read at his funeral.

"Let me go" a sentiment it feels that lay behind the wishes he made know in writing with the doctor back in March.

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want no rites in a gloom filled room

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not too long

And not with your head bowed low.

Remember the love that we once shared

Miss me and let me go.

For this is a journey we all must make

And each must go alone

It’s all a part of the master plan

A step on the way to home.

When you are weary and sick at heart

Go to the friends we know.

And bury your sorrows by doing good deeds.

Miss me, but let me go.