What makes a high-performing procurement team?

HighPerformingTeam_100.jpgBy Abby Vige

How do you build and nurture high-performing teams?
Recently, I realised that my management brand is being built whilst I’m busy planning how I want to be a better manager. In other words, it’s the small daily interactions of how I show up in the world that count, not the long-term plans yet to be actioned.

Big gestures show your leadership style, sure, but where people really form an opinion about the type of leader you are is how you greet them in the morning, how you handle stress, how you help them when they are stressed, how you organise yourself and the team in small ways. Also, how you back them when it counts or if you back them at all.

I realised that I am working in the opposite way to how I have been generally managed in the past and the management styles I have seen around me. If building high-performing teams is seen as a strength of mine, what is it that I do?

First, let’s get back to the basics…

1. Present, informative leadership
Heads of departments or general managers will be exposed to lots of high-level information, often well above the relevancy and pay grade of most general team members. When managers share information down the line it helps to build a common vision and brings all levels along for the collective ride. It also helps to contextualise what being busy really means. It helps each person to prioritise according to their organisation’s higher goals or hot topics of the day and, ultimately, helps to build meaning.

2. Flexibility (true flexibility)
Flexible working arrangements are often talked about but rarely effectively executed by management. It requires someone to let go of the need to control every aspect of how they feel the work environment should run. It requires shifting to an outputs frame of working rather than presentism and hourly bum-in-seat time. Showing decency and respect towards team members will render more tangible outputs than, say, denying annual leave requests and privately rescinding public approvals for people to work from home. All this does is build a culture of hierarchy, a need for control and a lack of trust.

Respect and trust breeds loyalty which produces higher output, care and pride for one’s own work.

3. Developing through empowerment
Development is an eye-roll producing topic for most managers and even some employees. But it is really important and it doesn’t have to be a tick-box exercise, it can be genuine and effective with little effort.

Hacks for a procurement development plan review the follow areas in detail:
– Technical experience related to an individual’s job
– Cross-agency and cross-team learning
– A focus on commercial and supplier management (or other specific areas in the sector)
– Formal training, courses or workshops
– In-house learning
– The procurement lifecycle (knowledge gaps)
– Building strengths
– Procurement trends: what to research or learn about to become a team expert

But, here’s the thing, you actually have to complete the tasks and have the meetings! If these two things are executed, it will evolve naturally – it really can be as simple as that!

4. Building people’s strengths
The concept of playing to your strengths is not a new one but, because of the human tendency to want to be good in all areas of our work, it is pervasive and needs to be called out frequently.

5. Hiring a blended team
Part of establishing a high-performing team is understanding the types of roles, personalities and levels of technical expertise that you will need for long-term success. What isn’t required, or even possible, is having all of the types of roles, personalities and levels of expertise. This is a utopian view that is probably rarely going to happen. Instead, try to balance out the management style first, e.g. a creative, fire-type needs more structured staff to offset this nature. Then, expand from there, matching the roles in the team with what they will need to be successful and then pair them off.

You’re dreaming mate
I can already hear my hairdresser in my ear saying: “this is all very well but it relies on people not taking the p*ss and having a good team to begin with. It relies on people wanting to do good work in the first place and not just focusing on getting out of the office fast enough to make Friday happy hour (on a Tuesday)”.

Yes, it does.

I have only worked in one place in the past 10 years that had such a degree of toxicity that none of these tactics would have worked. Maybe it is because I do my homework first before applying for jobs and I research culture, leadership styles and team dynamics. But I would like to think that in the profession of procurement, most people are highly intelligent, capable individuals that just need a bit of trust and support to flourish and meet their highest potential.

My final tip
Tell your team and your staff that they are doing a good job – you’d be amazed at how this makes people feel.


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