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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Creative Problem Solving

I returned from a Scottish Institute for Business Leaders meeting yesterday full of the joys.

As with every one of their meetings there was a speaker in the morning - this time Paul Fletcher speaking on innovation. He certainly got us thinking about innovation, the need for it, what it is, how others do it well, and what it looks and feels like to do it. A Hackathon anyone?
In the afternoon the SIBL members and guests split up into smaller groups to address real life issues, and to act as a executive board if you will for each other.

Two of the groups followed the normal pattern of using Action Learning to discuss, explore, shift and then to identify actions needed to move a situation they're struggling with forward.

As with other times I've attended a meeting Drew Pryde, SIBL's chairman, let a self selecting group come with me. Over the years these sessions have included all of the unconventional tools I use in my work, including a walking session in the woods. These are tools I use when I'm coaching procurement professionals, delivering training, facilitating procurement team strategy days, or as in this case supporting business leaders from other professions.     

As we'd been talking about innovation my sales pitch was "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. Let's innovate and do something different, something unconventional, but something that's very effective too." Basically, if you've not solved the problem via conventional means, and perhaps keep going round in circles, let's do something different instead.

I'd brought a number of tools with me, and during the initial scene setting and challenge sharing start to the session, we decided to focus on two of the tools - pipe cleaners and collages.

WOW.

Can I say that again WOW. (and sorry you have to take my word for it.)

Perhaps because I've let go of the apologies about using the tools. Perhaps because I've got better at making people feel less resistant to something different.

What ever the reason, everyone there came away enthusing about the tools, and the insight and new way of looking at the situation they'd brought to the session to explore.
Confidentiality restricts what I can share, but everyone's body language had noticeably shifted at the end of the session when speaking about their situation. You'll find other non confidential and, therefore, more detailed explanations of using pipe cleaners and collage by following the hypertext links.

One member commented that the process allowed the individual to guide themselves through the challenge towards resolution. That is, it wasn't so much other people there making assumptions about what message a collage had to convey, but the individual's unconscious helping them notice that which would be of most benefit.

On reflection I see that others weren't telling the other person what they would do, or what they thought they should do - which often can raise the barriers to change. You only have to think about how you felt last time someone told you what they thought you should do to get a sense of that. I'd go so far as to say every time someone tried to provide a solution, rather than just ask a question to help the person explore the situation more fully, I stepped in.

It links to the morning's session. Paul said "innovation is just knowledge having fun" - I'd say that's what the unconventional tools are about. They also support a saying I saw recently
 :
We're the best people to give ourselves advice. We just need the right space, the right support, great questions, and an environment in which we feel safe enough to keep our barriers down so that solutions can be found, and transformation take place.

When will you next try something different to help get you out of the challenge you're facing?

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

If you'd like to discuss how I could run similar sessions for you and your team do please get in touch. alison@alisonsmith.eu +44(0)7770 538159

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Is your communication going down the drain?

I posted this image on my LinkedIn profile, and asked how your communication was being impacted by fog?

That is, the sort of fog you create yourself, that makes the message harder to understand, and requires that listeners slow down, and sometimes even cancel their plans.
I then went on to commit to share posts I've written, or to write some new ones, this and next week on what we can do to improve our communication at work - with colleagues, internal stakeholders and suppliers.

After making the commitment, and whilst out with my personal trainer, I saw water coming out of an over flow and made this short video blog.
 As I share them on LinkedIn I'll add links to these blogs below:





Or do please pop over to LinkedIn and follow me there as I share posts/thoughts in the moment - I'm always happy to accept requests to connect with avid readers of my blog.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change - Inside and Out

Monday, 23 January 2017

Getting the most from attendance of workshops

 :
I've written a blog for Future Purchasing entitled:


It was written because there are occasions when people invest 2-3 days of their time on a workshop, and have given no thought to how they will get the most from it. There's a blog next week aimed at managers, and what they can do to ensure their teams get the most from the time away from the office.

For some attendees it's as if they turn up and expect the trainer to do all the work. A bit like turning up to the gym with no idea of your goal, hoping the personal trainer will do most of the work for you, and then being disappointed with the outcome.

You have a choice use the time wisely ahead of time, or hope the trainer is a miracle worker and can get you to learn just the thing you most needed to learn.

The trainer can only take it so far to develop a workshop to support your learning and aha's, the post invites you to think about what you can do to help them, and make it a truly inspiring and valuable use of your time. It includes:
  • What you can do before attending the workshop 
  • What to do during the workshop
  • What do afterwards
I've also written a blog entitled:


And addresses the same points as above but from the perspective of a manager sending their team to attend a workshop, and wanting them to get the most from the investment in time and money.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The sky is not the limit

 

It would seem you can't take the trainer out of the girl.

"What was your biggest learning" I asked my friend's 13 years old son who had accompanied me to Edinburgh last night to hear Colonel Chris Hadfield, astronaut and previous commander of the International Space Station, speak. 

"To go after what I want to do in life" he replied. 

I certainly couldn't ask for more from a very early birthday present.

On the other hand, having written only the day before on taking humanity into business, or more precisely on not leaving humanity at the door, Auntie Alison had other learning from the talk. Others there I'm sure will have taken other insights from hearing him speak. 

Space exploration has for many reasons asked us to consider our humanity.

Back in the 60's when I was born Russia and America's goal was the moon, and yet what it seems space exploration gave us first was a view of the Earth. 

Here's a film called the overview effect which shares the insight about humanity from those who have seen the earth from way out there in space.

And whilst not mentioned specifically during last night's talk here's Chris talking about how the overview effect gave him perspective. If you have time do please listen to him talk about "seeing the world over and over again until it seeped into me permanently."
On that day in November 1962 when I was born "the goal to go to the moon was not just hard, it was impossible". In fact, on the morning of July 20 1969, as Chris reminded us "you still couldn't land on the moon." 

Then at 20:18 UTC this happened:

The impossible became possible, and the sky was no longer the limit

The first words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the lunar surface say it all

"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Fast forward to 2017 and you have an International space station that was "built by 15 countries who don't get along". Built because they had a "shared vision of the impossible".

In questions at the end Chris was asked about his aspirations for his future. He spoke of the need to inspire the young and "let them see things that don't exist yet."

Space exploration, those first steps on the moon, the journey there and since certainly invite us to think about what it means to be human.  Invite us to have a vision of the impossible so that those things that don't exist yet at some point will exist.

I realised when I wrote my post on Thursday "It's just the way business is" that many believe that it's impossible to turn the tanker that is business around and away from its current course. I wrote then about not giving the belief, that it's impossible to take humanity into business, any room to take hold.

Last night reminded me - If humanity can do the impossible and go to the moon, humanity can certainly do the impossible and go into the board room! 

I'll leave you with a video of Chris singing space oddity from space

"Can you hear me Major Tom"

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change - inside and out

To explore taking humanity into business, and into purchasing too, do please get in touch - in comments below, by email alison@alisonsmith.eu or call me +44 (0)7770 538159. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Should we change Meeting's name?

Did you hear about Pavlov? He was researching salivation in dogs (as you do), and realised that, when he entered the room to feed them, and then later when he just rang a bell, the dogs salivated. That is they had an unconditioned response that meant seeing him (or hearing the ring of the bell) meant they automatically salivated without food being anywhere in sight (stimulus - response).

We do this all the time - it's what any phobia is based upon - there may be no logical reason to fear most household spiders in the UK but the person with a spider phobia over team has learnt an unconditioned response to feel fear when they see a spider, or perhaps the stimulus has to be the spider moving in order to illicit the response of fear.

Many of our bad habits continue as a result of such unconscious stimulus/responses:
  • We feel a particular emotion, and automatically, and every time we feel it, we start eating chocolates
  • We sit down to eat our tea, and automatically, and every time, turn the TV on
  • We go to the cinema, and automatically, and every time order an extra large bag of popcorn too 
  • We go to the gym, and automatically, and every time, go the pub straight after
It's the automatic, unconscious aspect to the response that points to it being unconditioned behaviour.

We also have unconditioned responses to people and places - we only have to hear their name or see their picture and will respond either positively or negatively. We didn't have to replay an event or think about the person consciously. Our stimulus response meant that unconsciously our body reacted to the image in a particular way - as it would every time it saw a picture of them.

In NLP terminology this process of stimulus/response is called anchoring, because we've anchored a particular response to a particular stimulus.

I wonder is that what we're now doing when we hear the word 'Meeting'.  
Over time what response have we built up unconsciously and automatically to the word 'meeting'. or perhaps it's the response we have to the sight of meeting room, or the response we have to certain people's meetings?

As with anything, if you're happy with your or others response to the meetings you hold, then there's no need to change anything.

The challenge comes when you know your meetings are not meeting expectations.

I read a post from Bernard Marr entitled Stop going to Bad meetings which provided some tips on how to improve the meetings you do attend. Subsequent comments have provided other suggestions - including my own to have a walking meeting.

I wonder however, what happens if we consider Pavlovian conditioning and apply it to meetings. What could we be doing that means we're generating an unconscious and automatic negative response from our attendees?
  • Calling it a 'meeting' may be enough to generate a negative response - the association over time between the word and death by powerpoint and boredom etc. In which case could you call it something else?
  • Similarly using the word 'agenda' may be enough to generate negative response in others.
  • Starting on the hour, and lasting an hour links it to other meetings people have attended - it's not highlighting it as a meeting with a difference, it's telling everyone's unconscious what to expect - a meeting that's just like every other meeting you've attended. Which, depending on the culture and success of meetings at your organisation, is either a good thing or not!
  • Starting the meeting with the most boring, lengthy and least interactive topic. "It can only get better" isn't a great thought you want your attendees thinking at the start of a meeting.
The aim for those leading meetings is not to allow the anchor to previous useless / time wasting meetings to fire up for attendees, and for it to then generate a response of expectant boredom. We must take responsibility for flagging that this meeting is different, purposeful, will be full of energy and run efficiently and effectively. I for example often invite people to consider what quality they are bringing to the meeting/training - but if I did that every time it would soon melt into the background noise of pointlessness.
What can you do to ensure your next meeting meets and even exceeds expectations, and starts to build a positive anchor for when you invite people to a meeting?

Words have power, that's why I love exploring the negative and positive impact the language we're using might be having on us achieving our goals. However odd it might seem using 'problem', 'solutions' or 'answers' could just be the difference between success and failure!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

More on the procurement consultancy, training and coaching services I'm offering in 2017 here - a clue - it includes soft skills, unconventional tools, creativity, language and inspiring change in procurement!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

That's just the way business is!

I started 2017 with an intention, or was it a plea, to ensure that Procurement didn't leave their humanity at the negotiation door. After attendance of a conference on mental health today I realise leaving humanity at the door is a challenge many in business face, not just procurement professionals.
The conference I attended was HeadTorch's #WorksMental in Glasgow. I was official tweeter sharing some of the snippets from the day, and connecting with other's from around the world also speaking about mental health whether at Davos, Westminster Palace's #Headstogether, or BellsLetsTalk over in Canada! (see the # link for more on the tweets shared).

The picture below shows us all celebrating our #mentalhealth, and acknowledging that it's something we all have, 100% of us, with NO exceptions. Acknowledging that just like physical health, mental health is something where we all have good days, great days, meh days and bad days. 
The challenge is whilst physical health is generally talked about and accepted in organisations, there's still a stigma associated with talking about mental health.

As I heard the stories of managers reactions to those with mental health difficulties today I was appalled and saddened. Bullying behaviour, disrespect, abusive language all being validated by the words "That's just the way business is"!

Interesting to consider of course that those business leaderships wouldn't feel the need to justify their behaviour if they thought it was acceptable.

With January 20th, and the presidential inauguration fast approaching, I'm also reminded of similar bullying responses that seem to suggest "That's just the way politics is" too! The same self interest, protectionism, bullying behaviour that justifies inhumane treatment has been seen there too.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and change the situation - but I can't - not over night anyway.

Here's where my thoughts are on WHAT WE CAN DO:

If "it's just the way business is" then it's like that because people acted without humanity and people accepted it. Over time we learnt that the values that drive our actions outside of work are certainly not the ones that can or should drive our actions at work! Somewhere along the lines we all started to believe the lie "That's just the way business is" and started to act from that belief. We accepted or turned a blind eye to those actions that, if undertaken in our personal lives, would have us disowning or walking away from the relationship.

I often get told I'm naive to expect business to operate differently. I also get told:
  • You can't do that in business (about some of the unconventional tools I use) - when I do do that in business  
  • You can't be honest to a supplier - when I get GREAT deals from suppliers by being honest
  • You can't turn down work when you have no work just because it's unethical - when I did just that and survived to tell the tale, and didn't compromise my values as a result!
I also get told 
  • You're different - you're not like the wolf like purchasers 
  • It's a refreshing change for a purchaser to act like that
I'm not that different really - all I've done is not accept the belief that I have to leave my humanity at the door when I'm working.

Yes it is that simple.

Before you start with "But that won't work" or "If I do I'll get abused/harassed for it", please hear me out.

Firstly who is this "business" you're talking about - are you not a part of this entity called a business? And if so what are you doing to change your own actions to align with this better business we want to see in the world.

If you believe it won't work, and that's your reaction before you've tried doing it then you are still believing that business can not change - belief in the possible has to come first, otherwise change will never be possible.

I was the same over 11 years ago - I felt dis-empowered, bullied, and couldn't see that there was a different way for business to operate. Time and distance provides a perspective that says business can be all the positive things we want it to be - we just have to believe that it's possible.

It doesn't come, however, without making difficult decisions.

Just like the bullied wife, who can't see beyond the belief of her husband that she's worthless without him, and thus so far has stayed and put up with the bullying, disrespect, abusive language, self interest and protectionism, we each have a choice:
  • Leave and find a relationship that enables us to take our humanity to work every day
  • Have faith in the underlying humanity of the other person and work on the relationship, so it may grow into it's full potential 
  • Continue to believe the lies that "that's just the way it is", and accept the consequences of that decision  
Together we can bring humanity back into business - we just have to believe it!

PS: Having just returned from hearing astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield speak I've written a post "the sky is not the limit" where I end with the words:

"If humanity can do the impossible and go to the moon, humanity can certainly do the impossible and go into the board room." 

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

To provide more evidence of the possibility of taking our humanity to work I'm wanting to interview organisations where humanity is embraced in all of its daily actions, and especially procurement. I'm hoping that will include B Corporations, and that The Elders may also be able to point me in the right direction. Any suggestions of organisations to talk do please do get in touch +44(0)7770 538159 alison@alisonsmith.eu.

Attendance at other #worksmental conferences have had me writing the following posts:
And some posts aimed at Procurement professionals:

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Nudges in performance

I've just posted a blog over on LinkedIn entitled:

Nudging performance with Just In Time(JIT) and In The Moment (ITM) Interventions

It encourages us to proactively plan for the nudges rather than wait for them to happen - after all if it's anything like a recent Excel nudge in my performance I'd been doing it the long way round for years!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

Friday, 13 January 2017

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Services for 2017

Last week in my blog I explored 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, training, facilitation and coaching (1:1 or 1:3) work that I do. They're also subjects that I have expertise in, enjoy, and that also make a difference when applied well.

Posts have covered the following topics (follow the hypertext link in the heading to the post I wrote on the subject):
  • Creativity and Innovation - because there's a law of diminishing returns, and if we keep doing what we've always done we get what we're always got! 
(The plate was made using Marianne Williamson's wonderful words - our deepest fear...)
  • Soft skills - because if achieving your goals relies on working with other people soft skills are the fastest way of unlocking misunderstandings and achieving results.
  • Language - because words have power, and we often unconsciously use words that promote failure and hinder success.  
  • 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.) 

I trust that has given you a sense of who I am, why I do what I do, how I do it, and started to perhaps give you a sense of the impact it can have on the individuals and teams I work with.

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.

Wishing you all a wonderfully creative and inspiring 2017, I do hope you'll get in touch to see how we may work together this year - directly or for your team or clients.

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

To find out more about how I might be able help you or your team to inspire change in 2017 do call me on +44(0)7770 538159 or email alison@alisonsmith.eu. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Procurement

30+ years ago as my finals approached I still didn't know what I wanted to do, and went to see a career's adviser who said, "with your out going personality and analytical skills I'd suggest procurement is the profession for you".

And as they say - the rest is history: expediter, direct buyer, indirect buyer, category manager, procurement manager, communication and personal development manager, and for the last 10 years procurement and supply chain consultant, speaker, trainer and coach (see blogs on the enablers covered in recent category management and supplier management workshops).

After qualifying in coaching, soft skills and use of some highly unconventional tools there have been times in the last 15 years when I've thought I might like to venture into life or business coaching on a more full time basis, or considered delivering self development workshops, but the pull of procurement has always been greater.

I remember listening to this video blog a few years ago, and hearing my enthusiasm for procurement towards the end of the recording.
I realised that if you cut me through the middle it says procurement - it always has and always will be a big part of my life.

It's why I now focus on delivering the coaching, soft skills and unconventional tools to procurement professionals and teams. I understand the work procurement does, I understand best practice and the challenges of implementing it, and have certainly got the T-shirt with working with challenging stakeholders and suppliers.

It's my enthusiasm for procurement and for inspiring change within it that shines through the work I do. It's what keeps me engaged and enthused, and yes often provides the momentum for the rants shared in the blog.      

If you're in need of change in your procurement team then why not get in touch and let's explore how I may help your team achieve achieve their goals, and even exceed expectations. alison@alisonsmith.eu or +44(0)7770 538159. I look forward to hearing from you.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change - inside and out

This first week of 2017 I've explored 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 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 - because if your goals rely on working with other people soft skills are the fastest way to achieving your goals
  • Use of unconventional tools - as above because they're particularly good at bypassing barriers to change. 
  • Inspiring change - because effective change comes from motivated people. 
  • Creativity and Innovation - because there's a law of diminishing returns, and if we keep doing what we've always done we get what we're always got!  
  • Procurement in large corporate organisations - because it's the environment I've worked in for over 30 years. (Did I really type that? Although more can be found on the journey of working for myself in my happy 10th anniversary blog written in March 2016.)
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.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Creativity & Innovation

One of my Moo business cards uses the above gaping void image  

creativity always with purpose. 

Just as the use of unconventional tools I talked about yesterday is always with purpose too.

'If we keep doing what we've always done we'll get what we've always got' may be an over used saying but it's true - especially when the outcome we're getting isn't aligned with our goals. 

It's only through creativity and innovation that we can truly understand the opportunities that exist. The challenge is we so often expect creativity to appear just because we've put it on our to-do list, or by command when we all sit around the meeting table in the office, and decide there and then we're going to write a list of innovative solutions to the challenges we're facing. 

Change is never going to happen if we stay in our comfort zones and think we already know it all, or believe we've already tried it, and it didn't work! 
Change also isn't going to happen if we operate within our safe and known stereotypes. A stereotype that for procurement were described as Mr Wolf by some suppliers in 2016!  
Change comes from thinking differently, from changing our perspective, and from opening our minds to the possibilities that have yet to make themselves known.

Change might therefore come from deciding to take the red pill (see the extract from the film The Matrix below)
Or from metaphorically walking through door B (in the middle of this collage) and avoiding all the A doors around the edge that just lead us to back to what we've been doing for some time.
Change might also come from going in squares and not circles as happened on a recent workshop,
or from allowing the pipe cleaners to determine how to move from ineffective communication 
to joined up communication.
or from going for a walk 
Or any other activities that get us out of our normal way of thinking.

What gets you into a creative or innovative frame of mind, and when will you next need its support to get those creative juices flowing in order to find the solutions you're searching for, and that have thus far eluded you?

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. 
  • Language - because words have power, and we often unconsciously use words that hinder us achieving our goals.  
  • Soft skills - because if your goals rely on working with other people soft skills are the fastest way to achieving your goals
  • Use of unconventional tools - as above because they're particularly good at bypassing barriers to change. 
  • Inspiring change - because effective change comes from motivated people. 
  • Creativity and Innovation - as above.
The remaining topic to be covered tomorrow is:
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.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Inspiring Change

I expressed much of what I'd like to say about inspiring change in a blog last year - so I will let you read it there rather than get in trouble with the SEO police and duplicate it again.

I'll just leave you with some images from other blogs I've written to give a sense of what my passion for inspiring change is all about.

If we're resisting change through down right strength of character
or thinking the grass is greener (click image to find more of Leigh Rubin's work)
perhaps because we have our head in the sand


or we're even stuck in a rut
we may keep doing the same thing and expecting different results 
(please note: please turn down the volume before listening to this)
 or we might be feeling a little deflated 
or off colour

We need to be inspired to be the change we wish to see in the world
That inspiration can come from many different sources, and posts earlier in the week on language, soft skills, and unconventional tools, and tomorrow's on creativity and innovation can point to potential solutions. Solutions that result in

Stepping out of the rut,
turning a corner,
breaking out of the mould,
understanding other's points of view,
simply taking personal responsibility for our own actions,
knowing what we need to stop doing

or knowing where we're headed and where we are in relation to that

Where in your life do you need to be inspired to change, and what will you to today to achieve the motivation to take that action?

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. 
  • Language - because words have power, and we often unconsciously use words that hinder us achieving our goals.  
  • Soft skills - because if your goals rely on working with other people soft skills are the fastest way to achieving your goals
  • Use of unconventional tools - because they're particularly good at bypassing barriers to change. 
  • Inspiring change - as above
Topics to be covered over the weekend 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.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Unconventional tools

My name is Alison Smith, and I often use unconventional tools when coaching, and also when facilitating sessions.

There I've said it, and here's why I use these unconventional tools:
  • The main reason is they're very effective at inspiring change (more about that in tomorrow's post).
  • They really are effective in a business context - as, for example, the CIPS board of management, Scottish Institute for Business Leaders, and Professional Speaking Association in Scotland can confirm.
  • They're effective because they're very good at bypassing resistance to change.
  • They're different - which means they retain people's attention longer as individuals puzzle and wonder about what's going to happen next.
  • I'm very good at using them to facilitate change - the feedback I get supports that I keep the session grounded and aimed at achieving the goals, at the same time as expertly using my intuition to guide clients in the direction of maximum growth to unlock potential. 
  • I'm good at keeping a healthy sense of fun in the session.   
  • I love using them - there's nothing so satisfying as not knowing where a session will go, and then facilitating the client's journey, and seeing the difference it has made at the end.
  • I like new, creative and innovative tools that tap into our unconscious - because just like an iceberg the solution is more likely to be found in what we're not logically and consciously aware of. 
I spoke in more depth about the unconventional tools in my 2016: my year in blogs post.

Here's a quick introduction to a few of them:

I'm spending the afternoon today facilitating a Transformation Game - it's a tool I use in personal coaching sessions, and is very effective at helping clients identify and remove what's holding them back from achieving a goal they have in any area of their life. (The hypertext link takes you to a transcript of game on finding work/life balance.)
It's not for the fainthearted, and its business cousin the Frameworks for Change Coaching Process is a tool I'm more likely to use in business coaching and facilitation sessions.
Other sessions might include making or exploring collages:
or pipe cleaners (the example here was the antidote to lack of communication in an organisation)
or using nature as a metaphor for our lives (if for example they want to feel more grounded)
or exploring the sayings people are using (such as having their head in the sand)
I said they were unconventional. The hypertext links above take you to blogs providing more detail about how a session using each of these tools might work. There's also more unconventional tools in the post I wrote in December last year (including walking meetings).

(Post script addition: more here from a recent Scottish Institute for Business Leaders (SIBL) meeting when I used 2 of these tools to facilitate change for a small group of SIBL members).

Please don't let the above pictures put you off - as I said in the opening I use them because they're effective. The session using pipe cleaners in a supplier management workshop is a recent example where some truly transformative solutions emerged.

I don't use every tool in every session, and some sessions stick with more traditional tools (from my NLP or business toolkits for example for goal setting or communication planning). Some group's resistance to unconventional tools also steer me in other directions. That is, the aim of achieving the outcome for a session is paramount - with the means of achieving it being adapted to suit the outcome, audience and organisation.

For more detail on what a session might look like for you do get in touch - alison@alisonsmith.eu  +44(0)7770 538159. I look forward to hearing from you.

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. 
  • Language - because words have power, and we often unconsciously use words that hinder us achieving our goals.  
  • Soft skills - because if your goals rely on working with other people soft skills are the fastest way to achieving them
  • Use of unconventional tools - as above 
Topics to be covered later in the week include:

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.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Purchasing Coach: Language

In this first week of 2017 I'm going to be sharing more about what I as the Purchasing Coach get up to. The posts won't be written in any particular order - just prompted in a particular line of thought as I see things, or have conversations, or set about my to-do list.

Yesterday's post for example was prompted by the 10 minute task for the #64MillionArtists which tapped into my values, and why I do what I do in the way I do. The post that arose from that was entitled 'Don't leave your humanity at the door.' 

Today's prompt came from a more mundane activity - the good old New Year spring clean. From conversations with others it would seem it's not only me that has an urge to make order of the chaos at this time of year, that here in Fife seemed to mount up at home after returning from every trip away last year!

As I tidied up my office I came across this box of plasters/band-aids. I'd kept it with the intention of writing this blog....   
Language has power. 

When their child has hurt themselves no parent continues to say "ouch". 

Just think about doing that for a moment - what happens when you say "ouch". What happens when you think about having cut yourself, and then saying "ouch". To me it feels like we're poking ourselves where it hurts, ie increasing the pain!

Parents know when a child comes for a plaster to utter words that support the outcome they want - "there, there", "shall I kiss it better", "you poor thing" and so on.

Isn't that therefore the intention of the plaster - not for us to think it's going to make us hurt more but that it's going to alleviate our pain,

The following image seen in hotels all around the world speaks to the same issue:
In big bold letters in bathrooms in every country of the world we're being reminded to forget something - ie to leave something in the hotel!

It's not the intention of the hotel chains nor the plaster manufacturers but unconsciously we're receiving the opposite message to the one they're wanting to convey.

I love language, and as a result have written a number of other posts exploring how our language can give us more control over the outcome and can either help or hinder us in achieving our goals. Examples include:
I also write posts over on Landscaping Your life where I use nature as a metaphor for our lives. Posts there have explored how sayings we use to describe a situation we're stuck in can also be used to get us back on track - for example:
Language is certainly something I often pick up on and explore in coaching and training sessions, in communication planning, and in procurement, category and relationship strategy development too.

In what way might your language be hindering your progress, and what changes can you make to the language that would change the outcome you're getting? 

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring Change Inside and Out

More on The Purchasing Coach services being offered in 2017 can be found by following the link, and do include exploring the language being used within teams and with suppliers.