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Thursday, 5 July 2018

Have you taken off your rose coloured spectacles?

Before my holiday I gave a talk at a local CIPS branch meeting and addressed my answer to a question posed about 'how to stand out from the crowd'. It was of course a given that the tag line to that question was 'using soft skills'.

Consider for a moment which of the following would you say was the most important soft skill?

The soft skill that would enable you to stand out from others, and enable you to get that interview, job or promotion?

Perhaps the soft skill you're thinking of isn't there.

Here's my answer to that question:

Having taken up sea swimming last year I've signed up for a Firth of Forth swim in September (eeck!).
Since swimming, and certainly since telling people about my 1.4 mile swim to come, I am constantly aware of the different temperature comfort zones we all have:


I've never liked temperatures over 20 degrees but who knew I would happily embrace swimming without a wet suit in 8 degree water with frost on the ground to watch sunrise!!


Aren't we all a little like the weather though with a range of temperaments:

Some of us able to demonstrate a different temperament every hour, and others stuck in one for months on end:

The key, is the predictability of our actions:


With the ability to flex those actions to suit the situation:

and to not get stuck in a fixed way of being:



I'll ask you again, which of these soft skills is the most important?


The accuracy of your answer depends whether you took your rose coloured spectacles off long enough about yourself to assess which of these skills you excel at, and which need a little more TLC and development?


Which was the crux of my answer - I believe self awareness is the key to standing out from the crowd.

Self awareness allows us to bring into conscious awareness the skills we're competent in (our strengths) and those we're not (areas of development).


Self awareness also allows us to understand who we are - our identity - to enable us to ensure we're not trying to be a round peg in a square hole:

On the night, using the Frameworks for Change Process I use in coaching sessions, we then explored strengths we might have:


and also the potential development areas:



One attendee said she was off to speak to her manager to ask them what soft skill she may wish to bring out of unconscious incompetence so that she may develop her competence in that area.

How can you put your self awareness to work in order that you increase the potential of you standing out from the crowd?

Always more than open to discussing how I may help you or your team increase your self awareness, and even release some of those unhelpful behaviours that are holding you back  alison@alisonsmith.eu +44 (0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach 
Using unconventional tools to get you back on track 

The FCP process, the insight, setback and mentor cards used here are from Frameworks for Change © Innerlinks - www.innerlinks.com.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Landscaping Your Life and turning a corner


Over on my Landscaping Your Life blog I revisit this corner on a local beach, and explore how turning a corner in nature might just help provide a different perspective and insight to a challenge/niggle/frustration you're facing.

Alison Smith
Using unconventional tools to get you back on track.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Garden full of suppliers

For over 20 years I've used gardening as a metaphor for supplier management. It was the foundation for Landscaping Your Life, a tool I developed and use in my coaching, where nature more broadly is used as a metaphor for life.

Why gardening?

Because many of our internal stakeholders, especially those in the UK, know more about gardening than they do about supplier management.

They know that lawns need mowing.


Lawns also need weeding,


along with many a flower bed (or is it just mine?),


and the odd wall.

The power of the metaphor is realising suppliers also need mowing and weeding - just like that long tail of suppliers that needs to be reduced.

Plants also need pruning, whether it's to ensure they flower again this year,


flower again next year,


or to ensure they're fit for the purpose they're in the garden for anyway (ie like this rhubarb that once it's bolted it is too late to save it for this year's crumbles and pies!)


That's the purpose of supplier contract, risk and performance management reviews. Checking that suppliers continue to meet the needs of the business, and haven't expanded their remit into areas they're not supposed to be in, or clearly have no expertise on.

Sometimes plants/trees need chopping down as they're no longer providing fruit, and have died.
Like those Suppliers whose contract expired years ago, or that keeps getting extended, when no one is really sure what they do, nor value they deliver.

There are plants that are just coming into flower,


plants that continue to flower over a wide period of time,


plants that are just about to flower,


plants that open and close with the sun,


plants that will flower much later, 


and plants that never flower - and are there for their decorative leaves.


Always room for a picture of a cat me thinks, who accompanied me around the garden whilst taking my pics.


Remembering that each supplier has been chosen to meet different business needs. 

Each supplier also with their own needs, some needing time in the greenhouse before planting out (especially here in Scotland),


others more frequent watering,

feeding, or support.

The challenge in business is, that many managers treat suppliers like the tree planted in the corner of the garden, left unmanaged and forgotten with roots that are now undermining the very foundations of the house. Oblivious to how their own behaviour supported the undesirable outcome.

What attention do your suppliers need, and when will you give it to them? 

More analogies between gardening and supplier management can be found on this Purchasing Coach Pinterest board. There's also a number of video blogs on the subject over on a Purchasing Coach playlist.


Watch out on the Purchasing Coach Twitter, Facebook and Instagram this week for insights arising from Chelsea flower show #RHSChelsea that can be applied to supplier management.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing seeds for effective supplier management.