I have had the good fortune of working with some tremendous procurement leaders in my career. Some I worked for, some worked for me, and others are colleagues I have met through my association with NIGP, NAEP and ISM. When thinking about the qualities that make them great leaders, I realized they were quite similar to our own mothers.

They provide needed resources. A good procurement leader will ensure that his or her staff has the tools they need to be successful. This includes things like hardware and software systems needed to do their work and the ergonomic office equipment to do it comfortably. Make the business case for an e-procurement tool that increases their efficiency. Obtain the funding for other needed resources, such as professional development and training. I even encourage you to defer your own training and computer upgrades if it means your staff can obtain theirs. True leaders are selfless. I can’t tell you how many times my mom would let us have her bank card and Oldsmobile on a Saturday night. So often she put aside her own needs for those she cared about.

They offer praise and support. There is great work being done by procurement staff every day in our offices. We should be continually looking for ways to acknowledge these efforts. For example, share a glowing customer accolade with the entire department or inform senior leadership of cost savings achieved by a negotiated procurement. This is a great way to support your team and build morale, as procurement professionals are often the unsung heroes of an organization. I’m reminded of my mom praising my accomplishments after a football game. When I reminded her that I was only in for two plays, she said, “Yeah, but those were the best ones!”

They are highly organized. With so much being asked of today’s procurement professional, there is really no choice but to be highly organized. This includes effectively managing your schedule, prioritizing important tasks, utilizing project management techniques and leveraging technology whenever possible. The latter includes the use of cloud-based systems for managing RFP evaluations, shared Google drives for disseminating documents to groups and dashboards that provide real time data and metrics for quick decisions. Organized? My mom ran a household with four children, served as a shuttle service, worked at Sears, volunteered at church and never missed sending a birthday or anniversary card. In fact, if you sent her a thank you card, she would send one back thanking you for thanking her.

You can count on them. The true leaders I have worked with over the years always seem to come through. By that, I mean that if they said they were going to do something, you could count on it. They take on the tough procurement, work with a challenging group of stakeholders and get the contract in place when needed. A good leader will also be open and consistent with their staff. If they say they will get back to someone on a request to telecommute, they do so. I believe that a reputation of being dependable and accountable is a hallmark of a true procurement leader. My mom was always someone I could count on, even in my adult life. She would say, “D., I will put on some coffee and we’ll figure it out,” and she always did.

Last year I lost my mom to cancer. Jean Matthews was the youngest 72 year-old you would ever meet. But she still helps me today; when faced with a procurement dilemma or tough decision, I stop and think, “What would mom do?”

DARIN MATTHEWS, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, is the director of procurement  for the University of California, Santa Cruz. He also serves on the school’s adjunct faculty. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several books and article on supply chain management. Contact Matthews at darin@ucsc.edu  


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