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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Soft Skills

When soft skills in procurement and supply chain management are mentioned there are a number of potential responses:
  • I don't do soft skills
  • Soft skills are great but they don't benefit the bottom line - we need cost reductions NOW 
  • Soft skills are great but we don't have time to do develop them further
  • Soft skills are great but we use them every day, and already know how to use them effectively
  • Soft skills are great, we've done a lot to develop them already, and have a plan in place to develop them in 2017
  • Soft skills are great, what can you do to help us develop them further in 2017
I'm sure there are many other responses.

Let's start with what I mean when I use the term 'soft skills'. Soft skills are a combination of why we do what we do, and how we do it.

The why being provided by our personal:
  • Identity
  • Values
  • Beliefs, and
the how being provided by the level of competency we have for skills for example of:
  • Understanding ourselves
  • Understanding others
  • Managing our own state e.g level of confidence
  • Managing the state of other people
  • Effective communication
  • Influencing others
  • Resolving conflict 
  • Managing change
All skills that to me are essential when dealing with other people. Essential, if you need to influence others, that is.

With that concept of soft skills in mind my reply to the above responses about soft skills are shown below:

I don't do soft skills
We're all human beings and get enthused and angry about different things - understanding what these are for yourself, and for others helps you to ensure you press the button for enthusiasm not the one for anger! Whether that's the enthusiasm/anger buttons of stakeholders, suppliers or colleagues.

Other blogs that explore this further include "But I don't do soft fluffy stuff" and 'the case for soft skills'.

With some people you just need to know to pull rather than push the door to understanding!
Soft skills are great but they don't benefit the bottom line - we need cost reductions NOW
Ignoring internal stakeholders and shouting at and bullying suppliers will only get you so far. If you need a step change in the outcome you're getting you're very unlikely to be able to do it alone. Collaboration requires that you utilise your soft skills - the more urgent the demand the more likely that soft skills would reach parts that stamping your feet and getting angry just won't get to! 

Soft skills are great but we use them every day, and already know how to use them effectively
Of course there are people already using soft skills effectively. Sadly there are also many procurement professionals still not doing so. I wrote a blog answering this last year 'does everyone already have soft skills'.
Soft skills are great, we've done a lot to develop them already, and have a plan in place to develop them in 2017
Great - I'm glad to hear it. Do please let me know if I can do anything to support you. I also look forward to hearing about the positive outcome achieved as result of further enhancing 'how' you do what you do. Good Luck.

Soft skills are great, what can you do to help us develop them further in 2017
It would be best to chat through where your team are currently, where you want them to get to, and we can then plot a course from one to the other, and decide where I can best add interventions to help you along the way. Please call +44(0)7770 538159 or email me on alison@alisonsmith.eu.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

This first week of 2017 I'm exploring the topics that make me tick - those topics that inspire my action (including the odd rant), and that are subjects that I share often in the procurement consultancy, speaking and coaching work that I do. They're also subjects that I have expertise in, enjoy, and that also make a difference when applied well.

Posts so far this week have covered:
  • Don't leave your humanity at the door - because I get frustrated when I hear people tell me that we have to leave our authentic selves/humanity at the office door, and instead apply rules that cause other people and the planet great distress. I believe taking our humanity to work with us is what being a B Corp is all about, and is something I'm going to be talking to B Corporations about during the year. (Post script links to two posts that explain more about this. My response to the excuse for the lack of humanity in business "that's just the way business is", and "the sky is not the limit" a reminder that nothing is impossible.) 
  • Language - because words have power, and we often unconsciously use words that hinder us achieving our goals.  
  • Soft skills - as above.
Topics to be covered later in the week include:
Another means of finding out more about who I am, what I do and the results achieved can be found be reading 2016: My year in blogs which was written at the end of 2016.

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