Passion is never enough: we need intention most of all

At one of the more recent Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) annual conferences, Ellis Watson, a veteran CEO with an impressive CV, called for procurement practitioners to display passion in everything they do. Step-up and take your message out to the business was his plea. I’ve been thinking about this again recently, both in respect of my coaching work and a debate I got involved in regarding the optimum balance between deep technical professional skills we hope to acquire, and the necessary stakeholder engagement proficiency we need to be effective in our workplaces.

I’ve come to the conclusion that passion is never enough. Let’s talk about the passion….

Passion for what? For your profession? Not enough. For your ‘kitbag’ of procurement or sales tools and templates? Not enough. Passion for your shiny new IT system that aggregates spend data and promotes contract compliance? Not enough either.

Indeed, Watson was particularly scathing about procurement technology, singling it out for attention as something of a distraction. Technology is not the answer he asserted; and I agree with him. No amount of technology will secure support and commitment from stakeholders unless it pushes their buttons. I’d say the same goes for Sales; when was passion ever enough to be successful?

It’s a familiar message, but procurement exists to serve the interests of the business, not itself; and it’s passion about the downstream impact of procurement’s contribution that is worth getting worked-up about. If your in sales, your competence in creating value propositions that hit the spot with customers, delivered with panache and skill, is core to your success.

So now we have passion, coupled with expertise and skill. Even then, those are still not enough. Passion and skill is nothing without INTENTION. In the end, both procurement and sales need to work with stakeholders in doing things together. It is intention that gets people into a room together, to share experience, knowledge, insight and to enthusiastically engage in the creative process that results in workable strategies for procurement categories, key supplier and customer relationships and those stakeholder-sponsored initiatives that aim to grow the top line, as well as help make savings. It is intention that turns a desire for greater value capture from the supply chain into concrete plans for action that are procurement are destined to deliver. And it is intention that transforms a key supplier relationship into one that delivers tangible value improvement, not any feel good factor.

If you’re in procurement, you’ll know when your part of the business is fulfilling its purpose when stakeholders are beating a path to your door with intent to draw on your expertise to help them achieve their objectives. Similarly, as a sales or account manager, acting with real intention in providing value to your customers and clients and, being a real advocate for their interests within your own business, will have a massive impact on your effectivess and professional reputaion.

Operate with a passion for either of those things and you might be on to something.

By David Atkinson

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