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A CPO’s Take on Boosting Your Personal & Team Profile
The CPO's Corner
Many procurement practitioners have asked us about getting more credit, both for their teams and for their individual efforts. To make sure you get the in-depth answers your hard work deserves, Joanna breaks down her answer into three parts:
Part 1: Creating Awareness for Your Team
We’ve received a number of questions about raising one’s personal or department profile. There are lots of ideas here, so I will respond in three parts. We’ll start by focusing on your team and in next month’s column we’ll look at some ways to increase your individual profile.
Procurement and supply chain organizations are not normally the center of attention in a firm – unless something is going very wrong. But when you are contributing positively day to day, it can be frustrating for someone else’s flashy big project to be getting all the attention, while you and your team have done some great things as well.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Whenever there’s a significant corporate initiative – a big new product launch, a major software implementation, etc.- there is usually an implementation team and often someone with communications responsibility. Employees need to understand what is going on; executives and investors want to know the results. The communications process reminds people what they need to be doing as individuals to support the program, raises a flag when things go awry, and celebrates when goals are achieved.
This is often one of the last things we think about doing when it comes to getting the word out about our personal accomplishments. Yet communication – spearheaded by yourself – is one of the most effective things you can do.
Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, you can speak up. There is nothing wrong with calling attention to great contribution via whatever recognition program your company has in place. Awards might typically go to the marketing or sales or R&D folks, but there’s no reason you can’t be proactive and nominate your team.
Don’t have a recognition program? Then ask one of your senior executives to send a note to members of your staff who have made significant contributions. The C suite is usually happy to do it. Senior executives spend a lot of time dealing with challenges – they relish the opportunity to “catch someone doing something well.” Another way is to ask a key manager to drop in on one of your staff meetings. Not necessarily for a long presentation, but for a “drive by” where they pop in for a few minutes and recognize someone for a job well done.
In these examples, you have to do the work. You have to take the initiative, reach out and communicate to the senior exec, and make sure that the drive by is scheduled if that’s the way you go. But guess what? There’s an ancillary benefit here because the C Suite (or your boss, at least) gets a chance to see you exhibit some real leadership qualities. In a world where people are only too happy to hog all the credit themselves, you score points by recognizing the fine work done by other people. Not too shabby.
Part 2: Raising Your Personal Profile
What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? If it’s in a professional setting you probably have checked them out on LinkedIn or other social networking site. What happens when someone’s profile is not well tended – the information is old, there’s no photo, few contacts? Doesn’t leave you with a very good impression, does it?
So the first thing you should do is spiff up that online presence. Make sure your site looks as good as those of the people who are leaders in your field.
You may be thinking: this is all about the outside world, what about within my company? I’d counter with the belief that it’s very much about getting better known within your firm. It’s a passive way of self- marketing. Have you noticed how many times your profile gets looked at by people within your company? Probably a lot more than you realize. If you grow your network by linking with key peers within your firm, then increase activity by commenting on posts or posting some original thoughts yourself, those coworkers will be getting little reminders of you as they receive notifications of your activity. You can create an image of yourself as a forward thinker, engaged in your profession. (just whatever you do – don’t do it during working hours)
That carries on to your company’s IM or “White Pages” system, where once again your information should be clear – and include a good photo if the system allows.
Just as we talked about marketing your team last month, you should have a plan for yourself. There’s probably someone in your network from Marketing – why not ask them for advice? And if that person works within your company, even better. Corporate cultures are all different, and someone in a people-focused role like marketing may have some great observations for you.
It’s often hard for those of us in support functions to speak up. So rather than trying to become the “life of the party:” overnight, consider working on two short paragraphs: one, an introduction on yourself, that “elevator speech” you’ll use when you meet someone new at work or find yourself actually on an elevator with someone. The second is a question or two – something you can ask the person you meet, as a way to begin a short dialogue. If you get tongue-tied like me, having a question or two in your hip pocket is a good way of initiating dialogue.
Part 3: Finding an Advocate
Hopefully the last two parts have given you some ideas on raising awareness for yourself and your team. There’s one more thought that I’d like to share – and it has to do with finding an advocate.
In an ideal world, our bosses are out there every day, advocating for us and for the people who work for us. But our direct supervisors may be preoccupied with other issues. For example, many procurement professionals report through to the CFO, who is focused on business results and analyst calls. We may work for someone who is reluctant to publically praise people on their own teams. Or they may be new themselves and still finding their own place within the executive team.
So maybe you need an advocate. You have delivered some good results for the business, haven’t you? Is there a particular project that stands out? Who’s the head of that group? Does he or she know what you’ve done?
When you look around your workplace, do you see your staff? Why? Why aren’t they sitting with their key internal clients? Reshuffling seats is the first thing I do when I go into a new role. If the people on your team are good enough to work with a measure of independence and you are confident they will represent Procurement well, put them where they will bond with their internal clients. And if they can’t, you need to have a plan for how you’re going to create a team that will get there. There is nothing like day-to-day interaction to foster positive relationships.
Do you work in a virtual office where that isn’t an option? Ask the business leader to allow you or a key team member to regularly participate in their staff meetings or calls. And if you’re on the line, make sure you are actively contributing to the discussion.
Wherever you are getting good results, partner with the business beneficiary to make sure that the head of the business unit receiving the benefits is aware of what you’ve jointly accomplished. Ask that person to be one of the people giving input if you have to nominate people to provide 360 degree feedback for you. Work your way in, be visible, and get embedded in the business part of your organization. One step at a time.
Please comment back and contribute your thoughts on how you’ve raised awareness of your group within your company. I’ll compile them and share in a future column.
Joanna Martinez is a global procurement / supply chain leader and the founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC. She is a frequent lecturer and blogger on procurement topics and also provides coaching, strategy development, training, and cost reduction opportunity assessment. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to technology startups.
As either regional or global CPO, Joanna has led transformation initiatives for companies in many different sectors: among them Johnson & Johnson (consumer products), Diageo (beverage), AllianceBernstein LP (financial services) and Cushman & Wakefield (real estate services, property management). She has also held client-facing roles, effectively giving her the opportunity to “sit on both sides of the table”.