Episode 9: Profiling the Sourcing Hero
By Katherine McCleery | November 2, 2020
Once again we are joined by Phil Ideson, Founder and Managing Director of Art of Procurement. He is one of today’s top procurement leaders and has a unique perspective on what it means to be a Sourcing Hero.
During this episode, we discuss the results of procurement professional profiles we’ve been collecting and attempt to highlight the commonalities we find among Sourcing Heroes and allow Phil the opportunity to comment on our findings. Phil’s insight into the value-role procurement professionals can play for their organization and the stakeholders on the other side of the table, is super helpful. We hope you will take the time to listen.
[3:33] Profiling Sourcing Heroes through surveys & Phil’s thoughts on our results
[7:10] Empowering procurement without marginalizing individuals
[14:20] Phil’s experience and thoughts about his own profile as a procurement professional
[18:24] The survey results from Phil’s profile
[19:55] How can you know if you should pursue a procurement career?
[28:01] Ways you can impact your organization in positive ways
Empowering procurement with individuals in mind.
We hear a lot of “how-to” statements about how to go about empowering procurement, such as — “Move from the tactical daily tasks to strategy,” “Align yourself with the business,” “Reach out to stakeholders,” — all of which are great and are at least part of the answer. But when the things touted are not within your natural skill set as a procurement professional, how do you move forward? Part of the answer comes through personal growth, pushing yourself past what comes naturally so you can learn skills that will help you improve and serve your stakeholders even better.
Draw comfort and confidence from your results.
As we looked into Phil’s profile, gathered through a tool we use called Culture Index, we found his results to be a bit different than the typical procurement professional’s profile. His “natural” traits and the “job behavior” results revealed by the survey don’t line up the way you’d expect. We asked him how he accounts for the differences. He says that when he was in the corporate environment he got comfortable through the results he achieved, which gave him confidence that he was doing the right thing. From there he made a personal commitment to growth in those areas. There is a lesson to be learned here, so keep reading (listening).
How can you know if procurement is a fit for you?
Phil’s profile provides a great example of how the way someone is wired can be adapted so they can excel in a procurement role. But Phil says that adaptation doesn’t come without some intentional effort on your part. He says you have to be comfortable pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and that you need to be self-aware enough to ask self-evaluative questions such as these:
Where am I spending my time? Am I more comfortable doing analysis behind the scenes, hiding behind the numbers? Am I actually actively listening to what stakeholders want? Am I taking the initiative to be a part of stakeholder calls so that I can know what they want?
If you find yourself in the spot where you are happier being behind the scenes, you need to challenge yourself. Find ways you can reach out to and convince skeptical stakeholders to do something, anything with you.
Learn to tell stories based on the numbers.
Many procurement professionals believe that the numbers should do all the work. But Phil points out that often, the data doesn’t matter. Stakeholders often see and understand the numbers and still don’t want to work with you. How do you move forward in that situation?
You start by listening and observing. Find out what is important to the stakeholder. What are they measured by? How does what they specifically do align with what the organization needs? Once you have answers to those questions, develop the skill of working backward from how they are measured and what they are worried about. Then craft a story where you can be part of a solution that matters to them. It will be different for every individual, culture, and company but you will find yourself being more successful as a result.
Procurement focused on relationships will be more successful.
Phil suggests that every procurement professional learns to take a relational approach rather than purely following a process. It’s the process approach that only cares about cost savings that has given procurement the image of hard, uncaring, and even mean.
As an illustration, Phil suggests that you’re not likely going to be fired for missing your savings target if the stakeholders involved thought you brought value to the table and helped them achieve their objectives. But he has seen procurement professionals lose their jobs when they hit their savings target but everyone involved felt they were a jerk.
You don’t have to carry on the stereotype of an unfeeling, mean procurement person. Start by learning to step back from the immediate concerns of the deal and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself, how can you as a procurement professional add value to the stakeholders you’re working with, not in a passive way but by becoming a trusted consultant who helps them create better outcomes than they could on their own?