Each of us has had that "aha" moment when the light comes on and you realize that you are capable of performing at a higher level in your organization (or another organization) and taking on additional responsibilities and accountability. Perhaps we were recognized by a peer or superior for a job well-executed, or we've just received a positive performance review and a discussion about next year's goals that was company-focused on what we were to accomplish in terms of value-add over the next twelve months.
It's at this point when we realize that development is a two-way street - we are looking to gain broader experience, learn something new, or take on a different challenge, while at the same time driving value for our internal stakeholders and management. After all,
career development is ultimately the responsibility of each and every one of us - not necessarily that of our employer, our manager, or the human resources department of our firm. Of course, in a perfect world, all of these parties come together to provide a nurturing, developmental environment that provides a unique career path and learning experience for each of us - but, get real - how often does that happen!
When thinking about the kinds of skill-sets that are shared by procurement executives, we generally separate them into four (4) distinct groupings:
Leadership Skills that transcend the management of day-to-day tactical activities
Procurement-specific Skills that provide unique subject matter expertise, and
Management Skills that establish the foundation for success across a variety of disciplines
Enterprise Skills that are required to operate within the context of your current and future roles within an organization
Each of us has a current mix or inventory of these skills depending where we are in our careers, and as we take responsibility for managing our unique career path or trajectory, it is critical to
honestly assess where we are in each of these four areas, and of course what our needs might be. Early in our career, we might have a focus on learning the ins and outs of our current organization, their policies, the culture, and the specific "remits" or value-adds of the sourcing and procurement team As we grow our individual capabilities, we should consider the shifting requirements of our role (both currently and aspirationally) and consciously alter the mix of the training and development that we seek to obtain. Notice the emphasis - "seek to obtain".
Do not make the assumption that the opportunities will come and seek you out. We each have to take the time to prepare for the next role - and even the one after that. That may mean asking to attend specific classes or seminars. It may mean looking at the available on-line curriculum and making time to take a class (either before or after work), or it may mean looking for a developmental or project-based assignment that allows exposure to new skills, commodities, suppliers or stakeholders. After all, if we have been working on the same commodity or service for 10 years - how likely is it that we will be selected to assume a broader role across multiple commodity or service areas without that additional exposure? A sample of how your training and development emphasis might change over a career is listed in the chart below:
Our career development with most organizations will be a blend of: formal internal training (either instructor-led or online/web-based), on-the-job experiences in our current or project assignments, external training classes, and additional experiences that may include seminars, conferences and outside activities that build our knowledge base. Don't sell the outside activities short in building your individual skill-set. Outside not-for-profit work, team activities and volunteerism can build critical abilities in teamwork and collaboration, stakeholder management, financial analysis, project management and negotiations. Don't substitute this practical experience in lieu of learning a structured approach to any of these critical management skill areas - but recognize that the blend of this hands-on experience and the process knowledge and tools that you gain in classroom training is invaluable in developing and honing your expertise!
It is often said that leadership skills can't be trained - that you have to be born with leadership skills, and perhaps that is true for some of the true visionary leaders. However, there are several traits that all leaders possess that we can certainly learn and improve at as we move through our sourcing and procurement careers. Leaders, as a rule:
Listen and Synthesize Objectively, and
Inspire Confidence Through Their Knowledge-base
These are certainly skills that each of us can build - formally and informally as we move through our careers. Think back to the individuals that you have recognized as leaders - and they may or may not have been the manager that you were working with or for! Leaders know what they are talking about, listen and synthesize additional inputs as required and make decisions and communicate them effectively. When I am looking for a leader in an organization, I seek out the person who can say "yes" - not the many individuals that can say "no". Those tend to be the managers - not the leaders.
To move to the next level (and the level after that) in a sourcing and procurement organization, each of us has to deliver against our goals each and every period. But, beyond that, we need to ensure that we take responsibility for obtaining the training
and experiences to develop our individual skills including Enterprise, Management , Procurement, and Leadership skills to ensure an appropriate career path. After all - ultimately,
each of us wants to the person "who can say yes".