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From the President: Managing People Is the Hardest Thing We Do - and It Isn't Just For Managers

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Lisa Deal, C. P. M.
University of Florida
NAEP President 2015-2016

Buyers and Chief Procurement Officers all manage people.  You may be thinking, “Nope, I don’t supervise anyone,” or you may already agree that I’m correct.  In my experience, the key to successful purchasing is to manage relationships with people.  We often find ourselves translating vendor- or procurement-speak and culture into University speak and culture.  I happen to supervise folks but even when I didn’t, I figured out some key tools I needed to do well at my job.  Here’s my list:  crystal ball, witch hat, magic wand, riding crop and pom-poms.  I have almost all of those tools in my office (I leave the riding crop at home).  Here’s how I use them (metaphorically).

  • Crystal Ball:  We always need to look into the future to think about what’s coming next.  Think about the next step in the solicitation, or after negotiating a contract how it will be implemented, or how to improve the contract next time. 

  • Witch Hat:  It’s not really fair but sometimes when I have to hold people (suppliers, colleagues, my boss—even customers) accountable, I say “My witch hat is on,” so folks know I need to be tough.

  • Magic Wand:  Ok, so mine makes noise and lights up and can’t really perform magic, but sometimes I wish it did.  Since I can’t use it for magic, I remember that I can poke people with it, meaning remind them what needs to happen. Are contract milestones being met?  Has someone forgotten to provide data?  Missed a deadline?

  • Riding Crop:  This one may be self-explanatory—it’s the witch hat and wand (poke) taken to a higher level.  I have never had to use it, but folks know I have it (at home).

  • Pom-poms:  Celebrate the success, even when it’s small.  When the customer provides a solid specification, or a colleague helps you, when you learn how to do something new or reach a milestone in a large project—celebrate (we ring a bell in our office, we also have a Happy Board).

I hope these tools don’t sound too silly.  We try to have fun in our office and use the metaphors to help us get through the daily challenges of procurement—but yes, I really do have pom-poms in my office.  I hope you find these tools helpful. Feel free to share what you use, or borrow mine.  Looking forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting in San Antonio. (Should I replace the riding crop with spurs?)

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Tags:  leadership 

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Comments on this post...

MaryLou Wilson says...
Posted Friday, April 15, 2016
This is a great article. I am requesting these supplies from my supervisor. Thanks so much for sharing. It will help me manage my dealings with those who purchase.
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