Formula for Successful Leadership in Procurement

I would like to share the leadership philosophies that I believe to be most effective in leading a strategic function such as Procurement:

  • Build a winning team
  • Set clear strategic direction
  • Empower team to deliver outstanding results
  • Identify, mentor, grow and develop top talent
  • Establish results orientated, meritocratic culture

Implementing these formulas seems simple; however, in reality it is not. Below are some of my thoughts. It’s not exhaustive and can be tailored to meet particular organizational needs.

Key elements in building a winning team are:

  • Assess capability of team to establish current and optimal mix of A, B and C players. Transition C players out and replace with mix of A and B+ players.
  • Have a clear view of what you’re looking for in right candidate and find a recruiter that understands Strategic Sourcing so no time is wasted.
  • Screen CV’s not only for content, but also structure and presentation which tells you a lot about a candidate. Look for quantified achievements in CV.
  • Design interview questions to inform you of capability relative to what you’re looking for. As an example for negotiation skills you could ask tell me about a negotiation you pursued in your personal life that left you most satisfied. The answer should tell you whether candidate has passion for and ability to negotiate.

To most effectively set clear strategic direction strategy must be:

  • Designed to deliver on the vision of overall organization and the division that Sourcing is part of.
  • Clear, simple, easy to communicate and understand.
  • Developed and executed with support from a Strategic Data Analytics resource, including development of tools and performance metrics.
  • Tied to quantifiable performance metrics (against which team members will be measured).

To most effectively empower team to deliver outstanding results:

  • Empower team to create and execute category strategies.
  • Appoint individual team members to lead specific corporate wide, global and/or cross category initiatives that have potential to deliver significant value to the business.
  • Support team by establishing effective peer group and cross functional networks within organization to help overcome potentially roadblocks to delivery.

To identify, mentor, grow and develop top talent:

  • Align responsibilities to match growth potential, personal development plan and career path of team members.
  • Encourage periodical 360o feedback to feed into personal development plan (subject to right organizational culture).
  • Invest time in personal and career development of staff.
  • Calibrate individual performance with peer group and communicate accordingly.
  • Clearly communicate additional experience and skills that need to be developed to make the next step.
  • Support targeted training program designed to support the development of additional experience and skills required to make the next step.
  • Advertise individual’s achievements amongst peer group and executive leadership.
  • Establish robust succession plan.

To establish a results orientated, meritocratic culture:

  • Establish practice and culture of fact based decision making, critical thinking and analytical approach.
  • Praise individuals publicly for outstanding accomplishments, recognizing and celebrating achievement.
  • Facilitate exposure of high achievers to executive leadership.
  • Recognize outstanding performance through remuneration and promotion.
  • Ensure that staff treat people with respect and meet ethical standards in pursuit of outstanding results.

By James Thorpe, Vice President Global Strategic Sourcing, ACCO Brands