3 ways to improve soft skills for procurement (How to)
Soft skills are highly sought after and now more than ever, procurement professionals are seeking ways to improve their soft skills to deliver strategically
Improve your soft skills in procurement by understanding Emotional Intelligence.
According to The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) soft skills are “highly sought after skills for modern professionals and dominate the top five skills in demand for 2020”.
Soft skills include a combination of people skills, social skills and communication skills which include the ability to influence, build relationships with internal stakeholders, provide leadership and manage external supplier relationships.

“The key for procurement professionals to deliver strategically is through the development and use of the right soft skills.”
(Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply)

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a foundation for developing and improving soft skills. Understanding emotional intelligence is a way of improving soft skills for procurement professionals. EI is defined as “the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others”. People who have high emotional intelligence will instinctively create an alignment with others and can easily build rapport and trust. They have natural empathy and will pick up on the concerns and needs of all stakeholders. For example, in a group meeting they will notice those who don’t get their say and will seek to ensure everyone is engaged. They will have the ability to diffuse emotionally charged situations that could easily escalate and become unproductive. They are innately motivated to seek win / win outcomes and have the ability to influence and communicate winning ideas and strategies that resonate with other people.

Emotional intelligence is a human skill and just like any other personal skill it can be learned and improved by developing more self-awareness, self-reflection and by taking the time to practise.

In this article we explore 3 ways to improve soft skills for procurement professionals by using communication techniques; rapport, re-framing and chunking. Each can help to develop both EI and soft skills to improve any interpersonal relationship.

  1. Rapport
Rapport is the instant connection that we feel with another person. When we meet someone for the first time we often experience a natural connection to them. What we are sensing or ‘feeling’ in that moment is rapport. Rapport is not about agreeing with people all the time. There are times we may disagree, but we can still have our differences and at the same time maintain rapport.

Rapport is the single most important factor for communication and building relationships. With rapport you can influence, people are much more likely to share information, listen and accept others’ ideas and will be motivated to create opportunities together.

It is important to note that in building rapport our body language has a large part to play, particularly our facial expressions. Rapport has to be genuine, most of us have probably experienced a time or a situation with another person when the words being spoken by them haven’t matched the nonverbal (body language) messages. When you build rapport you must be both genuine and consistent. Refer: Albert Mehrabian model

These are some easy ways to develop rapport:

  • Simply being friendly and approachable will build rapport

  • Showing an interest in the other person (develop your listening skills)

  • Look for the humanity in a person

  • Find reasons to like the person (even if you don’t initially feel a rapport or connection)

  • Think about rapport as building a bridge between yourself and the other person by finding the
    common ground between you such as shared experiences, sport or interests

  • Consider your body language and what you might be ‘saying’ unconsciously to the other person.
The way we view the world may differ from others, so when building relationships it’s key to understand that others may not see things the way you do.
2. Reframing
Reframing is a technique that allows you to introduce one or several different points of view and is a useful technique for solving problems and generating ideas.

There may be a time when our ideas are not being taken up, or the other person just doesn’t seem to ‘get it’. First of all, you need to become aware of your need to reframe. A deeper awareness of the other person will alert you to notice that you have lost rapport or that they seem disinterested. Then try reframing your idea and offering a different perspective to them. It’s a bit like asking someone to put on a new pair of glasses and see the world in a new way from a different perspective. The world hasn’t changed, but the way you are enabling them to view it has.

Reframing can be used for:

  • Problem Solving
    • creating a vast array of solutions to a problem
    • turning a problem or challenge into an opportunity
    • looking at the problem from different angles
    • generating new ideas

  • Relationship management:
    • when there doesn’t seem to be a solution to a problem
    • when the relationship hits a difficult situation – perhaps performance issues or supply shortages – reframing can help to manage emotions and allow clear thinking

  • Negotiation: as a recovery method when there is an impasse.

  • Behavioural Change: when someone is stuck in a fixed mind-set or an unhelpful pattern of behaviour or habit.
If a problem can’t be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem.
– Brian McGreevy
3. Chunking
The chunking technique is an essential tool for communication as it prevents overload of information and ensures that your message gets through. The chunking technique was established based on studies by Harvard psychologist George Miller who found that the number of unrelated items a human brain can memorise is generally between five and nine. It is still accepted today that our working memory (prefrontal cortex) has some capacity limits and tires easily.

The chunking process involves taking individual pieces of information and grouping them into larger chunks. For example a chunked number 256 – 894 – 879 is easier to remember than 256894879.

If you are preparing a communication or message:

  • Begin with the most important point you want to make (concepts or titles)
    • Break each concept or point into smaller but related points
    • Order the information in a logical order

  • See if you can remove any detail without losing the value of the communication

  • Use pictures as visual cues to help support your points
Whenever you read a book or have a conversation, the experience causes physical changes to your brain.
– George Johnson
Sue Dixon is an experienced Supplier Relationship Manager, NLP Master Practitioner in Business Communications (INLPTA) and holder of a Brain Based Coaching certificate (Neuro Leadership Institute)

About the Author:

Sue Dixon MCIPS Chartered

Senior Procurement Solutions Consultant

Sue has over 20 years’ leadership experience in procurement and contract management across a broad range of categories and regards herself fortunate to have worked at several of New Zealand’s leading organisations. Sue is an advocate of professional procurement and is enthusiastic about working with clients to help them gain the business advantages of Zeren’s technology solutions.

Like what you see? Share with your network.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin