Don't let anyone tell you differently. To be great in a sourcing role, you need a special combination of skills. Good sourcing professionals have the unique ability to execute flawlessly, and the personality to sell their ideas internally. Back "in the day" people thought of procurement/sourcing professionals as order takers. Never mind the fact that that description was never accurate...but it is most certainly not true now. Today's sourcing person must be passionately interested in learning. They must be full of curiosity and very observant about the world around them. Current events are filled with things that impact the supply chain—crowd sourcing, the cloud, conflict minerals, sustainability in Asia...every one of these things can have an effect on a sourcing person's role. At SIG we see hundreds of sourcing professionals every year in person. It is very obvious why some of them are successful and why some of them are not. If I were writing a job description for a new sourcing person, I would look for someone who is flexible, passionate about learning, interested in mentoring and very intelligent. In the past, people "fell into" sourcing careers. Today, they are highly-sought after and people often enter them from the most unlikely of paths. We have lawyers, accountants, engineers, and many other hard science professionals that have moved into sourcing by choice. This unique hard science background combined with the other talents seems to be the most successful combination for sourcing leaders. While an engineering or law degree is something that anyone who successfully pursues one can get, coupling that degree with interpersonal skills produces a special breed of person that is not that common. You can't underestimate the importance of being "a people person." Although it seems counterintuitive, this is one area that I feel can actually be taught. When I went into sourcing I was a CPA with a Masters in taxation. When I started working on sourcing projects, I couldn't understand how people would not get on board with me when the answer was so obvious to me. I was a numbers person, not a people person. If the number showed you that the answer was obvious, why was I not getting buy-in? Thank goodness I was working with folks who had PhDs in Organizational Development. Through them I learned that people follow when they feel good about a decision, not when they are forced. I was sourcing body part replacements at the time, like "hip replacements" for a major hospital network. My business case and cost model clearly showed that we should communize on the types of replacements we should purchase. Can you imagine my naiveté to think I could use a business case to convince a surgeon to change their operating procedures? Wow did I get an earful. I was told by one surgeon that if we implemented our recommendation, we would kill people. Literally, "people will die" was the response I received. So what was intuitively obvious to me, wasn't to other people. That lesson taught me that if I could not influence the stakeholders I would never get buy-in. This was in the early days of change management, and boy did I have a lot to learn. Now I fully understand that you can only be a leader if you get the "people" aspect of sourcing...and yes, after much painful coaching, I learned how to influence the doctors and get the sourcing approved. At our upcoming SIG Global Leadership Summit in Fort Worth we have many sessions geared towards talent management. We are also hosting a CPO panel which will address some of these issues. In my pre-Summit conversations with the panelists, I've heard the many different paths they've taken to reach the executive floor. I can't wait for them to tell their stories. Every one of them is an influencer, has tenacity, is very likable, intelligent and has a great personality. While their leadership styles may be different, their ability to lead is very evident. Join me at the SIG Summit so you can appreciate the value sourcing professionals bring to their organizations. I sure do!
Dawn Tiura, CEO and President of SIG, SIG University and Outsource, has over 26 years leadership experience, with the past 22 years focused on the sourcing and outsourcing industry. In 2007, Dawn joined SIG as CEO, but has been active in SIG as a speaker and trusted advisor since 1999, bringing the latest developments in sourcing and outsourcing to SIG members. Prior to joining SIG, Dawn held leadership positions as CEO of Denali Group and before that as a partner in a CPA firm. Dawn is actively involved on a number of boards promoting civic, health and children's issues in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Dawn is a licensed CPA and has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MS in taxation from Golden Gate University. Dawn brings to SIG a culture of brainstorming and internal innovation.