Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Benefit of the doubt

I've thought long and hard about writing this blog but it needs to be said - or it needs to be written anyway.

As part of a recent Purchasing Coach relaunch I've brought to the fore what I, and those who have worked with me for years, see as my USP - my use of unconventional tools to unlock potential.

Using them doesn't mean I can't do conventional. Using them also doesn't mean I can't understand business needs, and the requirement to meet or even exceed procurement objectives.

I get that - I've successfully worked in procurement for major corporates for over 30 years - I really do get that.

What I have discovered though is when people are stuck, or breakthrough thinking is required convention doesn't always cut it.

That is, doing what you've always done, in the way you've always done it, isn't going to get different results. It hasn't for the last x years, and wont for next x years.

As I've written about before: If what you're doing is working then that's great, I'm happy for you, and I agree you certainly don't need my help. If, however, what you're doing isn't working then doing something different is needed. I have a few ideas on how to help you do that, but let's get this clear, change is needed, and any resistance to that change needs to be addressed. The decision is more about who will help you do that.

I can't think of anything better than being faced with a situation that requires unlocking. Call me odd, but I get a real buzz from that sense of stuckness. Or perhaps the better way of describing it is - I get a buzz from the potential that's available to be released. As a result I've become very good at helping people release that potential.

I have a frustration though - sometimes it feels like those most in need of unlocking, or with the greatest potential to be released are kept away from me :-(.

One of the common reasons I hear from those people who decide not to use me to work with someone else is:

"I totally get you Alison, but they won't. I'm afraid they're just too x,y,z, and not open minded enough to get you."
Let me share with you some examples of the circumstances in which I've heard these words:
  • A senior executive was feeling very stuck and unmotivated in their role and was thinking of leaving. After a session using a couple of the unconventional tools they'd got their old joy for work back, and had a spring in their step. 
  • Leaders at networking events who gained significant insight from using one of the tools. 
  • A very conventional manager who had relaxed in my company, opened up and told me things they shouldn't have, and told me they knew I would do the job very well.
  • A procurement exec who has worked with me before, and they and their team have benefited from the work I do, and the way I do it, but they have now moved to a new team.
  • An MD of a supplier who saw how good I was at what I did and how I did it.  
I asked a trusted colleague and expert on influencing why this might be happening and their insightful response was
  • "You're just very good at getting rapport with people - so they think you're like them, and that like them you will also have problems with the same people they have problems with."
I wonder if other things are at play too.
  • The need to conform can get in the way ie all those musts, oughts, and shoulds of what is acceptable in business and what isn't acceptable. After all it's taken me long enough to be comfortable selling the unconventional, so I understand it's going to be even harder for others.
  • We don't take our own identify off before we stand in the shoes of the other person to see if they might benefit from a session.  
  • We don't give the other person the benefit of the doubt for being open minded enough - ie we've written them off. Yet it's those very people I get the most satisfaction from working with and often get the biggest shift in behaviour from.
  • Because I acted in a certain way with you - you assume I'll act exactly the same way with the other person - for whom that behaviour, you think, will push their buttons.
  • Some of the blocks are personal, and someone can feel very exposed when discussing them. In any session these are handled sensitively. Someone can however feel very uncomfortable selling the benefits of the process because they feel they may need to share their own experience. Forgetting that, whilst they know what happened, unless they say anything no one else ever will.
Of course I'm not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and in some of the instances when someone chooses not to put me in-front of  their colleagues, stakeholders or suppliers they're making the right decision.

However do please give me the benefit of the doubt because:
  • What I do is grounded with the need to meet business needs. Laughter, fun and weirdness all have a place - so long as we're heading in the direction of unlocking the potential - so long as the end result will be someone being able to use potential that's been hidden. That is, there is definitely, as the saying goes, method to the madness. A lot of method, and a lot of thought. Similar to those swans you see making it look easy and effortless, and lots going on underneath. 
  • I do flex my style - in coaching, facilitating and when training. That's what I teach others to do - to flex their style to increase understanding between others. It should go without saying therefore that I'm very good at using those skills myself. 
  • Unconventional might feel uncomfortable to you but I've done it since I first started work - I'm comfortable with it, and am very good at positioning it with others. I'm great at allowing others to think it's weird, and to get them to give it a go anyway. To allow them to believe it won't work, and still try it. For allowing them, however they might be feeling and what ever the outcome might be, to be perfectly ok with that outcome.
Over the next month I'll be sharing examples of these unconventional tools applied to real life procurement issues to give an insight to how beneficial they can be - with hard not just soft benefits.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools.

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