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Be Braver – to change the things you can, and accept the things you can’t

07/07/2020 By


“In times of uncertainty and risk, it is our capacity to respond with courage, strength and resilience that enables us to manage change. We may all be in the same storm, but we sit in very individual boats.” This is a quote from Caroline Pankhurst, who helps individuals, leadership teams and CEOs develop the soft skills needed to embrace, manage and achieve positive outcomes from personal and business challenges.

Her story is an interesting one. She spent more than 20 years working in two parallel streams, digital tech and commerce. For the former she created and led high-performing teams, delivered multi-million pound solutions for some big-name brands and sat on boards across digital, creative, marketing and communications agencies. For the latter she conducted contract negotiations and devised delivery strategies, and dealt very much with procurement from the side of the fence that pursues a good deal, managing service-level and contract agreements, again for some high-end firms in financial services, telecoms and the third sector.

Her core passion, however, lay in people, psychology and managing change, and a few years ago she returned to it in leap of faith. Her accumulated experience of how the way you think, behave and react to situations can impact the outcomes you achieve, led her to set up an organisation called ‘Be Braver’ to help teams and individuals grow in confidence and courage. She and other certified coaches help people recognise how these actions manifest themselves in the way teams, and the individuals within them, work and how leadership teams overlap on strategy and growth, and in managing risk.

Having now established a strong reputation through success stories with some big organisations, agencies, smaller tech firms and even not for profits, with results that are both tangible and immediate, we were interested to know how her work could benefit the procurement professional. At this time of remote working, with a sea change in how we communicate and work as a team, with concerns over our future roles, and the day-to-day pressures of supplier relationships, new and re-negotiations, sourcing of short-supply materials, building a procurement strategy fit for the future, and the different risks we run every day, we thought we would tend to our readers’ ability to cope rather than provide advice on the best software to use, or the market trends to watch out for.

As Caroline told us: “We are all too busy being busy to pay attention to our mental health. There are a lot of worries for everyone at the moment, a lot of ‘what ifs.’ There is a lot that is simply out of our control, but what we need is the courage to be able to wait out the things we can’t control, and the confidence to focus on the things we can.”

So we asked about how Be Braver works in practice:

“Typically,” she said, “we are invited in by a CEO, or leadership team, to help with personal development for teams not working to full potential, or for individual coaching to help surmount challenges. In a time when we are driven by fear and uncertainty and risk, we tend to revert to fight or flight thinking. But that starts to stifle creativity, our ability to solve problems and make decisions. As procurement people know, every day we are involved in making decisions where the outcome is uncertain.

So it’s all about being able to approach that with a brave mindset and tackle risk with an attitude of fail forward, take the leanings and not be afraid to take calculated risks. Businesses are being forced to make big changes at the moment, and lack of boldness can limit their ability to make good decisions for the company.

Because fear makes us risk-averse, which affects the decisions and choices we make, it has a knock-on effect on the business. When we are fearful, we may be inclined to play it safe during negotiations for example, we might put more weight on keeping our job than what is best for the company. So at Be Braver we typically begin by conducting a type of situational analysis – to get clarity on a current issue or situation for the business, and to understand what is driving fearfulness.”

There are four pillars supporting the strategy:

Clarity – of what the company vision is, the goal, and what the barriers are that are inhibiting them. Be Braver spends time getting to grips with the values, beliefs and behaviours that work for the company, and how they are addressed by the organisation.

Confidence – the fears, the limiting beliefs, the barriers and challenges are all laid bare. The coach uncovers the strengths of the organisation, whether that be the people, the processes, the systems or the solutions, and teaches you the confidence to play to them.

Courage – taking all those insights to discover what you could do if you had no fear, they look at what you could achieve that you’re not achieving right now — all the things you’d like to be doing but are too fearful to do. Risk is a big part of the courage audit. What are the risks you are facing at the moment and how they interlink with the analysis of confidence.

Connection – an approach is planned for what you need to achieve, and a programme or roadmap developed which connects with the leadership team, the stakeholders, and anyone who needs to be brought on board, to align with company values.

Each programme is completely bespoke to the business and its challenges. “We work with individuals or on team dynamics,” she explains, “but before working with teams, we conduct interviews, research and coaching before they come together as a group. Some teams want to learn how not to work in silos, how to unite to fulfil a given objective, how to do that in line with business strategy, how to communicate and how to make decisions collectively – it’s surprising how many businesses do not understand the importance of this. Companies cannot make really important decisions when working in silos. And especially now, with remote working; it’s a skill we haven’t had to use before, so we have to learn to work as one.”

In her experience, Caroline finds there are many people over-compensating at work at the moment – working late hours because they have children at home, or are worried about being furloughed. Many are in back-to-back meetings, not taking breaks, and find it hard to say ‘No.’ “We think we can take the offline world and just replace it online – but we can’t,” she says. “We have to learn how to do this, and do it well, for everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

She cites an example of an online B2C/B2B firm they worked with recently. Nearly all of their B2B business had disappeared, but B2C business had grown to accommodate those losses. However, the B2B business was able to stay open, because the CEO had the courage to put warehousing decisions in the hands of the teams: how they could make sure the warehouse teams worked safely, which roles could work from home, how much capacity they wanted to manage and how much business they could sustain. He took the approach that any amount of business is good, and in doing so put the health and safety of his staff first. As a result of empowerment and autonomy, and the courage to make that decision, the result was increased output.

“We are in a period of discovery,” she says, “and we are being forced to conduct our business in a different light, but with confidence in our decisions, and the courage to see them through, we can all adapt to whatever the new normal will be.”

You can find out more about the Be Braver approach here.