By Dr. Tom DePaoli
Purchasing departments are usually close-knit organizations that must endure constant crises, challenges and rapidly changing supply chains. The need for teamwork is especially important.
In a previous blog, I noted that a purchasing leader needs to be trusted and trust his team members. Having unimpeachable integrity is key. I then listed various tactics to accomplish this. More noteworthy, usually because of a lack of resources, and constant firefighting, a purchasing leader must carefully coach his professionals. One method to do this is by placing them in areas where then can succeed and not fail.
One tool that I have used to discover what purchasing professionals are good at, or what makes them stand out, is the Gallup organization’s StrengthsQuest. This testing instrument helps people discover their strengths (also called themes) and appropriately use them. Each individual has five strengths identified. There are 34 total identified themes or strengths. These are placed in four domains: Executing, influencing, relationship-building and strategic-thinking. For a team, it is essential to share these strengths so that team members can realize what they are good at and what their teammates have as their strengths. The purchasing leader can then assign purchasing tasks to people based on their strengths and what they are not only good at, but likely actually prefer these tasks. In other words play to the strengths of your team members.
Let me give an example. One of my strengths was identified as strategic. The general description of this theme is: People exceptionally talented in the strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
A more specific description about me is: “It’s very likely that you might generate certain types of ideas quickly. Occasionally you draw links between facts, events, people, problems, or solutions. You may present numerous options for consideration. Perhaps your innovative thinking fosters ongoing dialogue between and among associates, committee members, teammates, or classmates. Because of your strengths, you might have a knack for identifying problems. You might generate alternatives for solving them. Sometimes you consider the pros and cons of each option. Perhaps you factor into your thinking prevailing circumstances or available resources. Maybe you feel life is good when you think you may be choosing the best course of action.
“Chances are good that you may be viewed by some people as an innovative and original thinker. Perhaps your ability to generate options causes others to see there is more than one way to attain an objective. Now and then, you help certain individuals select the best alternative after having weighed the pros and cons in light of prevailing circumstances or available resources. Instinctively, you sometimes know what has gone wrong. You try to uncover facts.
“Perhaps you are not intimidated by an overwhelming amount of information. Like a detective, you might sort through it, attempting to identify pieces of evidence. Following a few leads, you might begin to see the big picture. Maybe you generate schemes for solving the problem. You might choose the best option after considering some of the prevailing circumstances, available resources, or desired outcomes. By nature, you may see solutions before other people know there is a problem. You might start formulating answers before your teammates, coworkers, or classmates understand the question. Sometimes you generate numerous ideas before sorting to the one that makes the most sense in a particular situation.”
This strategic strength or theme has done me well in my purchasing career. I focused more on strategic relationships with suppliers, creative projects with suppliers, long-term strategic plans, and being prepared with options when things go wrong. As we all know, in purchasing things unfortunately, do sometimes tend to go wrong.
But enough about me!
The point that I am making is that a purchasing leader should take the time to understand the strengths, skills and talents of their professional team and mesh them into the goals and tasks of the organization. The key point is to give purchasing professionals clear chances to succeed by using their strengths, rather that berate them for their weaknesses.
StrengthsQuest is an excellent tool, which I recommend, to help the purchasing leader build stronger and more powerful teams.