Procurement people should be likeable? That’s c***, you stupid ******* ****

Andrew F Smith, our guest blogger, talked yesterday about the qualities procurement people need now, particularly in terms of relationships. That was timely, as Procurement Leaders featured a piece last week I wanted to comment on. It came from Paul Teague’s discussion with ” author, teacher, and consultant Jimmy Anklesaria, founder and president of The Anklesaria Group, a Del Mar, CA consultancy”, on the topic of the most important character traits for procurement.

Now I must admit, I googled Anklesaria, and he has had a very distinguished career, so I started hesitating about having a go at his comments. But I think on balance, despite his eminence, I will do that anyway. And I don’t believe from his cv that he has worked in a line management procurement position, which maybe explains his view somewhat.

Actually, much of what he says – and Teague’s’ comments - is very good stuff. The first four qualities he says that procurement people need are Ethics, Patience, Understanding and Cultural Awareness. All fine, and I wouldn’t argue with any of that. I might change “patience” into “tenacity” which strikes me as a little more dynamic, and perhaps we could include something like initiative, innovation, or creativity? But it’s not a bad list..

But then – he includes “likability”. And that, I’m afraid, is nonsense.

I’ll start by taking issue with Paul Teague. He concludes the piece by saying this.

Sales people have a saying that applies here: people buy from their friends. In procurement, we’re all sales people.

Well, sales people may say “people buy from friends”, but in general, that is nonsense  as well. I acknowledge that for a few spend categories, and professional services would be the best example, personal relationships do often come into it. Although even here, we see procurement increasingly involved, partly to take away some of those subjective decision making factors that lead budget holders to appoint consultants they “like” rather than those most capable of doing the job.

And outside that – does the Ford category manager for gearboxes care about whether they “like” or are “friends” with the sales directors of their suppliers? Or the Tesco soap powder buyer feel warm towards the P&G account manager? I doubt it very much.

Now back to Anklesaria. He is talking about internal relationships. And as Smith’s post here said, building those relationships is important. But I don’t think ‘likeability’ comes into it. Sure, you probably won’t be successful if you are a miserable, uncommunicative, rude, odoursome, arrogant individual. But – and this is the key – neither will you succeed if you are a lovely, likeable, charming, incompetent fool. And we’ve all met a few of those.

The key word for me would be “respect” rather than “like”. The stakeholders need to respect you. Now being likeable can be part of that – but it is not sufficient in itself. Equally, you can be liked – and not respected. Indeed, that is not a good combination for procurement person, as the internal stakeholders will enjoy spending time with you, but then feel free to ignore you and do whatever they want.

I’ll come back to his tomorrow with a couple of real life examples to illustrate this.

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Voices (5)

  1. Plan Bee:

    If Procurement wants to stay in the era of PO’s and publishing RFP’s then by all means strive to be liked.

    I cant ever imagine a writer from the fields of HR, IT, Finance Marketing etc stating that their professionals need to be liked. Like a Finance Controller? yeuucchh!

    Respect is the right word, respected for having a balanced well thought out viewpoint, provising opportunities for challenging the staus quo from a total business standing. Thats what I’d strive for.

  2. John:

    I think a very important trait is the ability to be a stakeholder “wisperer”. What I mean is a person who is politicaly astute and has the ability to smooth conflict…conflict can exist internally with employees as Dan above suggest and with outside contractors and vendors…they are often bitter after losing a procurement (larger contracts) and find sneaky ways to undo your procurement such as calling your local AG or CEO/President and accusing fraud…especially in public procurement.

  3. bitter and twisted:

    Dan, time to surrender then – the war is lost.

    1. Dan:

      Nonsense. There is still the tried and tested strategy of ruling through fear.

  4. Dan:

    Nobody likes us. We spend our days telling people that they’re not allowed to do what they want to do.

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