Updated: Sep 15
Collaboration is more important than ever before. In fact, an organisation's survival may depend on how well it can combine the potential of its people as well as its suppliers. By connecting the external market with their own organisation and its customers, Procurement has the opportunity to facilitate and deliver significant shared value. Collaboration matters like never before.
I’ve read many surveys on leadership and collaboration, particularly of recency. Deloitte’s Future of Work research found that 65% of the C-Level executives surveyed have a strategic objective to transform their organisation’s culture, with a focus on connectivity, communication and collaboration.
When one gets underneath the surface of these surveys, six crucial leadership behavioural themes leap out. I’m referring to leadership at all levels, call it strategic leadership if you so choose. Whether you're the Chief Procurement Officer, the Head of Category Management or the Buyer, when you think about building and embracing a collaborative culture, you already realise that your job has changed. I really don't think and hope you'll ever look back. So, this is absolutely not about old-school leadership and hierarchical thinking. This is also not a new leadership philosophy. This is about embracing the fact that we are better together. A single, collaborative eco-system. To make the impact required and to inspire others, requires collaborative leadership. It's about self-awareness and its about emotional intelligence too.
Here are the six leadership behaviours:
1. Silo 'busting'
I really struggle with the word 'silo'. It is why wastebaskets were created. Silo's are sizeable organisational blockers, built to last by those whom create them. The collaborative environment we seek is kept from forming. The creativity, innovation and growth potential is essentially being silo distanced. 'Silo' is a term that has been passed around and discussed in boardrooms for at least 30 years. They remain a growing pain in the organisational backside.
Silo mentality describes the mindset present when departments don’t share information. Wherever it's spotted, silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles and fear of exposure or failure. Silo mentality cause organisations to waste time, resources and money. They wreck collaboration.
Silos get busted by leaders, not by technology or processes. Procurement has privileged access to typically all parts of an organisation and its supplier base too. Get on the front foot and create unifying goals and objectives. Build 'silo-busting' into your balance scorecard and set the pace for collaboration, both internally and externally.
2. Trust matters
A collaborative team isn’t a group of people working together. It’s a group of people working together who trust each other. They also understand their own and each others' strengths and weaknesses. Trust is the key binding agent for collaboration. It is where procurement and the supplier base can also unite, like never before.
As a leader, you need people to trust you. But how do you show that you trust them? The way sharing of information is communicated determines whether it becomes an obstacle to or an enabler of collaboration. Perhaps a cynical view, though some leaders I have observed who profess to value collaboration, undermine their effectiveness by withholding information or sharing it on a 'needs to know' basis. This makes them feel important.
Leaders build trust through honest, consistent and transparent communication – easy to say, often trickier in reality than it sounds. Procurement leaders take note. Put the ego to one side and build trust with your colleagues, customers and suppliers. It's hard work and unanswerably essential to achieve true collaboration leadership. What one finds is that when you take the time to get to know your colleagues and suppliers, trust builds faster. Embrace all feedback, not just positive, and always have your learning and listening chips switched on. Build joint goals. Create the time to celebrate successes. Adapt, learn and grow, together.
3. Body language tells its own story
Negotiators are taught how to assess body language. Not just negotiators I hasten to add. In its most simplistic form, there are two sets of body language. One set that projects sincerity, authenticity and warmth. The other send signals of status and influence. For collaboration to flourish, focus your energy on the former. Authenticity is key. Be yourself.
4. Promoting diversity
Diverse thinking is an essential ingredient for collaborative leadership. It reinforces my point about leadership at al levels. Team members at the same level, and with a similar background, are found to perform worse than those with varying skills and knowledge. There's a tendency for similarly minded individuals at the same level in an organisation to seek affirmation from one another i.e. they tend to reinforce each others predisposition. Innovation is triggered by cross-functional working. Creative breakthroughs occur most often when ideas collide and then combine. Collaboration enables innovation.
Development Dimensions International (DDI) has studied leadership for almost fifty years. In their latest research, with over 15,000 leaders from more than 300 organisations, DDI looked at leaders’ conversational skills that had the highest impact on overall performance. At the very top of the list was empathy – specifically, the ability to listen and respond empathetically. Learn to understand before be understood. So, for great collaborative leadership, if you recognise this as a development need, then work hard on developing it.
6. Primal instincts
Human beings have two primitive instincts that guide a willingness to collaborate — or not — and they are triggered under very different circumstance. The first instinct is to hoard and has been traced back to early humans hoarding vital supplies, like food, out of fear of not having enough. The more they put away, the safer they felt. We've all observed this instinct and many experienced it of recency. In the workplace, when people feel ignored or threatened, they retreat and hold on to knowledge. The second instinct, on the other hand, is that humans are also a learning, teaching, knowledge-sharing species. According to evolutional psychologists, this trait is also hard-wired, linking back to when humans first started gathering in clans. Leaders trigger the 'sharing instinct' when they create psychologically safe workplace environments in which people feel secure, valued and trusted.
In a world of arguably unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, collaborative leadership behaviours are so important to organisation survival, recovery and growth. Collaboration as a skill set is no longer a 'nice to have'. There are tools and techniques to help develop your collaborative skill set further, whether you are a buyer or seller. Successful supplier and procurement collaboration will make a transformational difference. Contact us at www.procurementpotential.com to discuss how we can help you and your organisation.