Last weekend my 13-year-old son brought a set of triplet brothers up to our cottage for a weekend. While my wife and I already know the boys, we had not interacted with them on a consistent basis in over 5 years. So the boys were put into a strange environment, asked to do things they had not done before (knee boarding/jet skiing), and were without the comforts of home (we do not have a TV in the cottage or internet).
Within a day I became convinced that any one of these three boys had the “right stuff” for a purchasing career.
Why? As purchasing professionals, we are often put into new and unfamiliar circumstances that require us to take on new tasks and fix problems that we may not have encountered before; a supplier going out of business, a trip to a new country, or the need to buy a new commodity. While some view these as obstacles, they really represent opportunities for us to showcase our people, problem solving, and leadership under stress skills.
This concept is highlighted in “The Lessons of Experience” by McCall and company, Lexington Books 1988 – refer to chapter 3 Trial by Fire. When I read this book I realized that 4-5 key events in my career had shaped my career path and my outlook on a myriad of issues.
So what did the boys do that impressed me and that I think good purchasing professions do when in new circumstances:
- When they did not understand they asked.
- When they saw someone working they asked: “Can I help?”
- They kept their cool when put under extreme stress (my wife says I drive the boat too fast when pulling a tube loaded with 4 kids).
- When they were faced with a new task or opportunity they accepted.
- They never complained about the TV and Internet they were missing.
- When they were idle they sought out things they could do on their own instead of complaining.
What are the top 5 career opportunities that I was given:
- Being a production supervisor in a unionized/union driven manufacturing environment at 21 years of age.
- Having one of my suppliers stop production of the Ford’s 1986 Taurus during its critical ramp up phase.
- Leading a team to develop common business processes and launch Ford’s first global purchasing system. It was difficult accepting this opportunity.
- Taking a Foreign Service assignment when I was just getting used to living in Detroit.
- Jumping off the cliff and starting my own company.
So, my advice when you are faced with an opportunity to do something you have not done before is to act like one of the triplets.