My first recommendation on Emotional Intelligence is for procurement and supply chain professionals to benchmark their own personal emotional intelligence aptitude. I used the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradbury and Graves. There are other sources and advice on how to improve emotional intelligence. Know your starting point.
Here are some areas where strong emotional intelligence and empathy skills help:
One field I would begin with is in hiring, or talent management. A few behavior-based questions will help here:
- “Name a time when you had to lead a cross-functional or diverse project team. How did you get familiar with team members strengths and weaknesses. What tools or strategies did you use? What were the project results?”
- “Describe your very best relationship with a supplier, customer or colleague. How did you develop the relationship and achieve trust?”
- I recommend that you focus other questions on how the candidate got to know colleagues and gain their trust.
Another area is the understanding of cultural differences in global suppliers. Reaching a strong cultural understanding will make or break the sourcing process. Understanding the culture of the sourcing country is difficult. Culture includes social organization, political beliefs, the legal system, religious beliefs, language, and the educational system, to name just a few. Any one of these areas requires extensive study and understanding in order to be successful.
- Deep supplier relationships or partnerships require nurturing and frequent attention. There will be setbacks and the process of reconciling them and resolving conflict should be discussed with the supplier in advance.
- Gaining employee, colleague, customer or supplier trust and confidence. Acquiring the trust of a person is different or idiosyncratic for each individual. The challenge is to discover the particular key that unlocks their trust. Emotional intelligence will help you read the person’s trust-enabling factors. Having high integrity is always a good supporting factor.
- Negotiations results depend on reading the party you are negotiating with. One of my rules of thumb is to always have three ‘must’ goals and three ‘want’ goals in advance of every negotiation. Write them out and bullet list tactics under each one. Make sure you and your team conduct an after-action review or negotiation debrief and learn from the results to adjust in the future. Review if you felt your team related with the negotiating party.
- Understanding the soft background information about a person. Research their interests, hobbies, likes, and favorite charities or causes. This could provide a good starting point to connect.
- Deselecting or rationalizing a supplier. The way that this is handled, professionally and with compassion, will enhance your reputation and appearance of fairness. Being sympathetic and listening to the supplier are critical or your future sourcing endeavors.
- Tailoring employee development or training plans to both the organization’s and the employee’s wishes. Doing your homework about the employee’s skills, understanding their job requirements and, most importantly, their fears and dreams will help.
- Discovering the voice of the customer (or VOC). VOC means to me the one or two key reasons or attributes a customer buys your product or service above all others. Often face-to face interactions with the customer are the best. Direct focus group observation does help. An example of VOC is most lawn mower companies (reason to buy) know that the customer wants their lawn mower to start in two pulls or less.
- Executing information-based research and negotiations. This method departs from traditional approaches to negotiations and gains a deep understanding of the supplier’s industry, their margins, and their culture. In essence, this is an immersion or empathy therapy with the supplier and their competitive landscape. Best described as the procurement professional knows as much or more about the supplier and their industry as they do!
- Professional competency, certifications and achievements. Knowing your own capabilities (self-empathy) and getting results with them, will build team loyalty and confidence.
My conclusion is that procurement and supply chain professionals must continuously develop their emotional intelligence and empathy. The above are just a few of the focus areas, and I am sure that there are more that the reader can identify.