Monday 22 February 2016

Does everybody already have great soft skills?

I'd be a rich woman if over the last 30 years I'd been given £1 for every time I'd heard that 'soft skills' are under the spotlight again in procurement, and that CPOs and Procurement realise the benefits soft skills can deliver if done right!

(PS added March 2017 - For soft skills read emotional intelligence - they're the same thing just with a different label but perhaps that's just my age again :-) Here's some notes from an EQ conference I attended in 2015) 

Forgive me if I don't believe you this time either! Despite the fact that I'd dearly love to be proved wrong, and have put heart and soul into selling the benefits for the last 16 years.

It's not just because suppliers told me last week that most procurement people they meet are like Mr Wolf. Although that certainly reinforced my view.

It's not just because KPI's and performance measures still seem to focus on short term price reduction, to the exclusion of other long term value benefits we can deliver. Although they certainly reinforce my view.

It's not just because when delivering workshops sharing the soft skills used in category management and supplier management (ie the enablers for getting more value from it) many of those there say "this is all very well but we can't use them in our day to day activities - it's not what the organisation wants us to do." ** Although it certainly reinforces my view.

It's not just because CEO's and CFO's continue to run roughshod over procurement strategies and contracts at whim - see my letter to CFO's re ownership of payment terms, and post on why procurement isn't seen as strategic by your board, and post entitled toxic leadership. Although they certainly reinforce my view.

It's not just because of all the horror stories accumulating in my Pinterest board - often involving organisations bullying suppliers into reduced prices or increased payment terms. Although they certainly reinforce my view.

It's not just because I still get told "but I don't do the soft fluffy stuff" when clearly they're breathing and using criteria to determine what they will, and wont, do every day. Or someone queries whether there's room for kindness in the work we do. Although it certainly reinforces my view.

Each in their own way reinforcing the sad reality I'm having to face that very little has changed in 30 years, and soft skills is just a euphemism to do what we've always done - ie to not listen to internal stakeholders or suppliers, and to use the skills instead to support unacceptable business practices in order to get short term gain!

It's too easy to take for granted that just because we can talk to other people, and often manage to keep colleagues, managers, internal stakeholders and even suppliers satisfied that we're communicating and influencing well, and therefore using our soft skills effectively. As I said in a post last week, there's many characteristics that are hidden or unknown, and I'm sure many of those relate to our application of soft skills.

What are you doing to ensure the continual professional development of your and your teams' soft skills? And ensuring the aspiration we have for procurement becomes a reality rather than it just feeling like another ground hog day.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

** I feel the need to say "not all clients" but certainly the larger percentage of those attending workshops.

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