Saturday 17 December 2016

My year in Blogs

I've loved 2016 - I'd even go so far as to say it's exceeded expectations.

It's hard to say definitively why, but if I was to guess I'd say it's got a lot to do with doing the things I'm passionate about, I'm good at, and that also make a difference. A fabulous triad to be bringing into work every day. Well - not every 1 of the 366 days in 2016 obviously. Like everyone I have days when it's just work, and I'm looking forward to the end of the day, especially the day after a 3 day workshop or I've travelled back from somewhere! That said, I've have thoroughly enjoyed the largest percentage of 2016, and share here my highlights as told by the blogs I've written.

The Purchasing Coach's 10th Anniversary 
Little did I realise when I left full time employment in February 2006 that I'd still be here ten years later! Yep February was my 10th anniversary of working of myself, and the highlights shared at the time can be found here.

Soft Skills Development (or should that be: (Not so) Soft Skills Development) 
Soft skills development has always featured on workshops, and always gets a mention in the answer to 'what will you do differently as a result of attending the workshop' question.

This year, however, I've had much more opportunity to explore soft skills with clients via numerous half day 1:1 coaching sessions, and 1:3 clinics.

The clinics offer the opportunity to apply soft skills or procurement tools and techniques to current working challenges, allowing attendees to leave with a new strategy for dealing with their work then, and in the future.

Clinics in 2016 have covered stakeholder engagement, creativity, negotiation, planning & time management, and business requirements. Clinics on facilitation skills, and conflict resolution are being considered for 2017.

Feedback from these coaching and clinic sessions have included:
  • "I’m more: resilient to the challenges, positive, confident and motivated" 
  • "My stakeholder is now listening, and more respectful of me"
  • "I no longer take problems to people but also take potential solutions"
  • "Coaching has challenged me to think differently"
  • "It’s been great to try out different scenarios in a safe environment"
  • "I am taking more responsibility for my own reactions and judgement of others"
It's perhaps the reason I've loved this year so much, soft skills and personal development is an area I'm very very passionate about, and it can have such a transformational impact on the individual, those around them, and their results. What's not to enjoy :-)

Blogs on the (not so) soft skills have included:
With the occasional rants
Unconventional Coaching and Facilitation Tools 
I'm certainly motivated by difference. Whilst the syllabus for workshops might often contain similar content, the way of conveying the learning is in constant change. I'm always looking for a different and more effective means of embedding new insight, as much to keep me fresh and excited about the training as anything.  

When solving problems the more conventional tools and techniques have often already been tried by the coaching client before the session, and found to be unsuccessful. Sometimes resistance to change may also be making itself know. In these instances more unconventional tools, that keep barriers down, can be a huge advantage. It's certainly why I have them in my coaching toolkit. They don't come out for every session, but they're there to use if needed AND if I believe it will support the client in moving from where they are - to where they want to be. 

The more unconventional tools I used this year have included:
  • Use of metaphor - I LOVE it
  • Changing our language - because words have power
  • Exploring the metaphors contained within our language - for example going around in circles, getting out of our comfort zone/universe with links in those blogs to other blogs written in previous years on not seeing the wood for the trees, being stuck in a rut and so on.
  • Using our submodalities to change our perspective on a situation - in one post I explored becoming more confident using this process
  • Use of nature as a metaphor for our lives - such an insightful tool
  • Taking a walking meeting as we did on recent workshops in Warsaw (at the request of the client after the success of it happening at an earlier workshop) 
  • Using pipe cleaners to solve problems - one solution to a communication issue was shown in the picture above
  • Doing something different every day - it's such a powerful tool for shifting mindsets 
  • Frameworks for change coaching process - because sometimes we don't know what the solution is, and don't want to be told by someone else either, and might just consider what the cards have to ask us. 
  • Collage - yes you read that right - collage 
Procurement Transformation and Change Management 

There's also been time in the office developing category management and supplier management toolkit's for clients, and the accompanying training workshops (via other consultancies and direct). The above links don't take you to blogs written this year but blogs written last year that have been updated to include content covered during this years workshops.

Other popular blogs written on procurement this year include:
With over 80 posts written this year on this Purchasing Coach blog, and over 30 written on my Landscaping Your Life blog the above index only provides a snapshot of the blogs I've written this year.

and so finally...

Travels, and walking the talk

I left a voicemail message for my mum saying "I'll ring you when I get to Schiphol - no wait I'm not going via Schiphol this time - I'll call you from Brussels". I've also missed 2 connecting flights, had my luggage turn up a day later than me, and now need a new suitcase because mine has split!

In other words travelling has certainly featured a lot in 2016 - from Glasgow, Manchester, Derby, and London in the UK, to Atlanta, Shanghai, Amsterdam and Warsaw further afield. Many multiple visits, webex's, conference calls, meeting rooms, meals in restaurants and airports, and many nights in a hotel!
On my return from Shanghai in August I took a well needed social media break, and as you read this I will already have started another. I'll be back full of the joys and raring to go in early January (see Services for 2017 blog to give you a sense of what might include, and my new year's resolution "we didn't leave our humanity at the door" post).

Wishing you festive greetings, and a great start to 2017.


Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Using unconventional tools to unlock the potential of procurement teams.

Follow hypertext links above to other posts written on the subject highlighted.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Is your language stopping you from finding the solution?

Yesterday I suggested that the solution to a problem might be found in the very words we're using. That is, the solution to going around in circles may be to metaphorically explore the circles, or that trees would provide the solution when you metaphorically can't see the wood for the trees, or that procurement not having a seat at the table in organisations would be resolved by exploring how to get a seat at other types of table.

In this post I'm suggesting that the words we use can also stop us from finding a solution. As Caroline Myss says "words have power". They have power because words create internal representations in our mind. If the image that comes to mind when you use a word is this
rather than this
There's no surprise that you think and feel differently about the situation, and the likelihood of finding solutions might be very different too.

We're all different, and so a few of you may be more inspired by the brick wall, however the majority reading this will think of solutions more easily when imagining the 2nd picture or a similar image that conveys for them movement and ease.

I'm not just talking about words like can't, impossible and never which certainly tell the mind that a solution is out of reach but other words.

In the past I've written about using 'no pain, no gain' as a particularly unhelpful saying. Today I'd like to explore the use of 'problem.'

I'm sure we've all caught ourselves saying we've got a 'problem' and then correcting ourselves to say 'challenge' or even that the 'solution is currently eluding us'. We instinctively understand that labelling something as a problem means we're saying to other people, and our own mind, that it's all the things listed below.
We're telling ourselves at the onset, as soon as we use the word problem to describe a situation, that it's complicated, difficult, muddled and messy! Any wonder then that solutions are hard to find?

I saw the following job advert on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, and initially responded to say I loved the job title.
How fantastic does being a Head of Problem Management sound.

Until I considered what it actually meant, and could potentially mean within the organisation.

Does a problem manager just manage the problems - make lists of them, define them, sort them into piles and see success as well managed problems? Do those in the organisation go to the problem manager to gossip and moan about the problems. Perhaps there's a notice board where problems can be viewed for all to admire - ranking problems out of 10, and being particularly pleased when they've identified a 10/10!

It may sound silly, trivial or down right rude to you - and it might be. The proof is in whether problems in the organisation are lower or are now resolved quicker as a result of having a Head of Problem Management or not.

I'd love to explore whether a Head of Solution Management might reduce problems encountered in the organisation - you never know perhaps the Head of Problem Management hands their problems over to the Head of Solution Management for them to be resolved?      

What do you think? Would it make a difference to you? Do you notice the impact words have on you, and make a conscious decision to use words that support the outcome you want?

If you're getting the results you want there's no need to pay attention to the words you're using. If success is eluding you, or there's an increasing sense of stuckness then why not explore the language you're using to describe the situation. You never know, your language may just be what's keeping the solution at arms length.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Available to help you and your team explore how the language and metaphors you're using might be helping or hindering you in finding solutions, and stopping you achieving your 2016 2017 goals. Support available with other soft skills development too.

To find out more do get in touch either via or +44(0)7770 538159

Tuesday 13 December 2016

A sense of Hopelessness and Achievement

As social media started to buzz with the forthcoming sleep out in Edinburgh on Thursday, in aid of Social Bite's village project for the homeless, I reflected on my own experience of sleeping out for charity in 2009.

Here's the blog I wrote at the time:
When I said I was going to be in a sleeping bag all night for charity people assumed it included a tent but it didn’t. A ground sheet, a mat, survival (or plastic) bag, sleeping bag and lots of layers then me against the elements. The elements sure had a sense of humour in Edinburgh on Friday night – 45+mph winds and rain too.

We bedded down at 12 and left at 6. So we were only there for six hours. Four of my team mates shared the same ground sheet, with other teams on other ground sheets within singing distance. I’m not sure an impromptu chorus of “always look on the bright side” was heard but a song about rain was. It was interesting to hear it gather momentum as we all started to sing from within our own sleeping bags at some point in the middle of the night. There were of course others on other ground sheets in 4 other locations around the UK. 700 sleeping bags in total.

At one point I could hear the rain, not dissimilar to what you can hear when you’re in a tent. But this time the rain I could hear was only inches away from my head falling on the survival bag I’d managed to pull over my head by bending my knees. The Byte Night branded wee willie winkie hat, that all 700 of us wore, was pulled down my face. The only part of my face open to the elements being my nose so I could breath. We realised of course when we got up in the morning that the rain we heard had then moved on to the mats and ground sheet and then had nowhere to go. So we woke in pools of water. If we were lucky we were dry although many weren’t and emerged very wet and even colder. 

There were some insightful moments I shared on twitter about the connection to nature as I lay there looking up at the moon or that you can hear the wind coming (we had about a minute of hearing it getting nearer and nearer and knowing any moment it would hit us too). 

But many of the other insights weren’t shared because they came when I was too cold to text and didn’t want to move for fear of the rain or wind then being able to get at me. 

Insights that some people do this every night. Imagine not really being able to get comfy enough to fall asleep or the cramps and aches because of how you’d had to sleep to keep dry and out of the wind. What about not getting up to go to the toilet because you know you’d then have to get back into your sleeping bag with all your wet clothes on. Or knowing when you do get up that you’re going to have to dry your clothes and sleeping bag somehow. I had a whole new sense of appreciation for the hand dryer in the toilet the next morning. If there hadn’t been a queue I’d loved to have stayed there longer getting dryer and warmer.

We were there to support Action for Children who support homeless young people. Scotland has a higher percentage than anywhere else in the UK with 15 in 1000 of young people being homeless. We were there for one night. I could get up the next day and throw the wet and soaking sleeping bag, mat and clothes into the survival bag, throw that into the boot of my car, call into Tesco as I drove home, collapse into a nice warm bath and then have a massage from a friend later on. My face that had the brunt of the wind was able to be well moisturised during the day. Similarly my feet that had got wet and stayed wet all night.

Those we were supporting aren’t so lucky. I’m not sure they do get things dry and can’t imagine the physical aches and pain everyday that join the emotional ones of why they’re even there in the first place. So hopelessness in the title because that’s how a night in the rain can make you feel. I certainly understand why people who do this every night can get into a spiral unable to see a way out? I also understand why those who support Action for Children do what they do to help young people out of the spiral. 

Achievement because it’s something I wasn’t expecting. As the weekend has progresses the sense of achievement has increased. I didn’t realise I’d feel proud of doing it nor that it would make me realise how much I can do if I set my mind to it. I’d done it to raise money after all and as a team am pleased we raised over £1.8k and as a location over £45k and increasing.

So today’s call for action is to do something that really feels like it’s outside your comfort zone and realise how much more you can do. If that doing then helps others that’s even better.

In the intervening 7 years the need for a call for action unfortunately hasn't changed, even if the charity being supported has. Next time you go to walk past someone asking for some change on the street why not stop, or support social bite by giving generously, or alternatively buy your lunch from their Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen shopsor choose to help someone who needs it to get themselves literally and metaphorically back on their feet, because we all need a hand, and a friendly face, now and again.

Monday 12 December 2016

Are you feeling festive?

My social media feed is full of people saying that they're now feeling festive. Generally this feeling has been preceded by seeing or doing something - whether that's receiving their first Christmas card, wrapping the presents, singing the first carol or, as in my case, decorating the tree. 

In other words we're attributing a feeling we're having to an external stimulus. 

It's interesting that we often forget this wonderful strategy when we're in need of changing how we're feeling. I'm sure we can all recall times when for example being more confident, positive, calm, or focused is eluding us, and yet is just what we do need for the task in hand.

We have a choice in that moment about staying with the state of mind we're in, or doing something to change it.  

It's a bit like the song that's just started playing on my ipad - we have a choice what style we sing Hark the Herald angels in. We don't have to end as we started. In any moment we're free to turn the dial up or down, to find just the right emotion we need. 
I've written before about my prescription for positivity. It's a checklist I have for things I know shift my state to a more positive one. A list that includes listening to songs that help, and will now have another Pentatonix song added to it "Mary did you know" - which gives me goosebumps and a sense of connection with all that is, and of hope for the future. A sense of hope that I take into my work after listening to it. (Or perhaps I'm just in a Pentatonix sort of mood :-) - they were recently on The Voice over in the US singing Jolene with Dolly and Miley!)

The prescriptions we have to achieve any emotion will be unique, and will also include things to stop doing as much as things to start doing as I wrote about in posts about happiness, not spending time with miserable mackerels, or sitting at my desk and trying to be creative!
Other posts I've written have explored the strategies we may employ to achieve states of mind such as creativity, more bounce, and presence

Using external triggers to shift our state of mind is also a frequent theme I explore over on Landscaping your Life where I use nature to inspire change - posts have included confidence, and speaking with confidence.       

What state of mind do you need to achieve your goals today, and what do you need to do to be fully present in that state?   

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

and sometimes feeling festive may just require waiting for a different time of day!
Follow the hypertext links in the text to other posts I've written on the subjects highlighted.