Less stress, more success. Ideas for improving supplier relationships

Working with partners is easy, right?

We may have the very best of intentions for our business relationships, but most of us realise that working harmoniously with other people is not always a piece of cake.

Even when we start on the right foot and know that everyone is doing what’s agreed, it’s not unusual to find ourselves in a partnership that is at best functional or formal and just not that innovative, productive or forward looking.

Rather than just ‘get by’ in our day to day dealings with others, we can make things much better. Here are some strategies for improving relationships and ultimately achieving much more for the business and the individuals involved.

Why do procurement relationships matter? 6 reasons…

Better sharing of new technology and ideas
Securing the best team
Favourable prices
Support beyond contractual obligation
Generous terms
Improved product availability

It’s about communication

Great communication helps to build stronger connections and improve teamwork, decision making and problem solving. Being good at it brings benefits even in difficult times because it helps people to handle each other in a way that minimises conflict and keeps trust intact.

It’s worth thinking about the balance between email, phone and face to face communication. Too much of one and the relationship could quickly become remote and impersonal and too much of the other can be time intensive. However, investing some time in regular catch ups, finding out how things are going, making small talk and just listening to the other person could be more than worth your time.

It’s about people

Director, buyer, account manager, delivery person or accounts clerk, everyone we deal with is an individual, with their own way of handling a range of situations. Understanding how you and the people you’re working with are likely to react in certain circumstances can help to produce better outcomes.

One way of working out how people can behave in given circumstances is a behaviour assessment tool known as DISC. We are each said to be a mix of Ds, Is, Ss and Cs, but to have a stronger tendency towards one or two of the types, depending on the situation.

Pie chart

To explain DISC better, Nicola Soames of Diadem gives the example of a lift, where she says D types rush in, frantically hitting the close the doors button. She says that I types won’t be able to resist making conversation with the other people, an S person will patiently hold the door open, saying there’s plenty of room for more and Cs will be calculating the weight of everyone in the lift to make sure it doesn’t exceed the maximum capacity.

By recognising our own styles, we can become more aware about how we make decisions and how this impacts on other people.

It’s about calm

Communicating with people during times of difficulty can lead to problems if either party is too stressed. If something is going awry, it is worth taking a couple of minutes to calm down before picking up the phone or penning an email.

Among his advice to senior executives, Simon Reynolds says that the three breath release significantly reduces stress. This involves inhaling deeply and imagining all your worries leaving as you exhale and then repeating this twice.

Another tip is to write down everything that is also going right at that point in time and keeping it where you can see it. If workload worries are affecting your approach one piece of advice is to make an ultra-clear to-do list and then circle only the critical priorities.

Calm, clear conversations that don’t lay blame and are focussed on jointly solving the problem will be far more likely to see the issue resolved quickly and the relationship move forwards on a constructive footing.

It’s about collaboration

A great example of collaborative working that helped deliver business critical initiatives comes from Qantas. Jane Harley, CPO of Australia’s largest airline, managed to develop and nurture good procurement talent during a crucial time when the company embarked on a major business transformation.

Stating that ‘collaboration is key to transformation,’ Harley and her team sat down with business partners to understand their needs. By realising that their partners wanted procurement to work alongside them and to take ownership, the Qantas team made their collaboration effort more physical. Some of the changes that made all the difference included procurement hot-desking with business partners and changing the business language.

Procurement Insights: For more procurement insights join us at our LinkedIn page under Banner (Part of the EVO Group of Companies) or follow us on Twitter @Banner_1.

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