Women in Supply Chain: top tips for leadership and teambuilding

Leading female supply chain professionals discussed effective team building, preparation and planning in procurement in the virtual talk, Empowering Women in Supply Chain Network, held by SAP Digital Supply Chain. With obstacles, from disruption to cybersecurity and remote working challenges, continuing to plague procurement teams, it’s vital to have a capable and supportive hand at the helm.

Speaking at the virtual event about key ways to create successful teamwork, Sheri Hinish, global offering leader of Sustainable Supply Chain and Circularity at IBM, said: “I think the biggest thing in preparing for team building is embracing the principles of radical collaboration. You have to create the right space for all to thrive, both at the individual level and organisational level.

“A huge part of that means that the titles and egos must be checked at the door.”

She added: “People typically have a reluctance or an aversion to instability and risk that’s associated with change. So, your job as a leader is to help create that stability by sensing, understanding context, meeting social needs of others, de-risking ideas in a group, and then positioning them. Also, navigating social risks like status, certainty, autonomy, fairness, creativity, all of those are very important to create the right environment.”

Everyone in a team should take the initiative to bring ideas and solutions to the table. Amber Hood, vice president of Sales & Operations Planning and Customer Service at US beverage company Keurig Dr Pepper, highlighted: “When getting your team in a position where they’re ready to run, setting clear accountabilities and ensuring they know what is expected from them is really important. Then, you can trust them with space, and challenge them to come not just with problems, but solutions.”

Tatiana Martinez, logistics director at household consumer producer Colgate Palmolive, North America, advised leaders to look for the trends that show team members’ strengths, and “connect and take advantage of individual competences” to increase overall productivity. “I believe in the power of a team, and that in a team one plus one does not equal two. If you’re able to identify the strength from every person in your team, the output is exponential,” she said.

Plan by ‘anchoring on what you know’

While planning to resolve disruptions caused by pandemic in 2020, Hood ensured she had knowledge needed to update the company, and created a direct line to senior management. She said: “Be courageous and draw a line in the sand. Anchor on what you know, find a place to start, and over-communicate as this is critical at times of change. At Dr. Pepper and Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), we increased our cycle of connection points between S&Os, making sure we’re talking about what’s happening more frequently.”

Hood sought leadership support and had meetings with the CEO Robert Gamgort everyday at the beginning of Covid-19, which enabled them to make quicker decisions and stay ahead of competitors.

“Keep it simple. Tell them what you know, what you don’t know, and separate out the ‘inform, discuss, and decide’ so when you leave the meeting they trust that you have a grasp of the concepts and next steps,” she added.

                                             

Take inspiration from personal challenges

Martinez drew on personal planning and procurement expertise while setting up support for her son who was born with special medical needs. “We have this plan to become a leader. But it’s going to be a different path [for everyone], and taken at a different speed. [By building the supply chain to support my son’s special needs] I was able to create opportunities for myself and keep succeeding in the supply chain,” she said.

“I think it’s a combination of not waiting for people to do things for you and taking initiative on your own, learning by creating that network, and aiming for your goal.”

Unforeseen situations can come from business and personal aspects of a person’s life, and keeping perspective of what truly matters when things seem chaotic is key, said Hinish, when talking about unexpectedly finding out she was pregnant with her third child.

She elaborated: “In my haste to climb, I briefly overlooked the blessing of becoming a mother again, because I lacked perspective. The reality is that no matter how much you plan, being agile and responsive, and having the ability to recalibrate as things change, that’s the best preparation because life happens. Of all the things I’ve had to adjust to, especially in the last year with Covid, this one was the most eye-opening for me.

“There will be times in your career, where you’ll have to make really tough decisions at the intersection of career growth, personal matters and values, and when you reach that fork, always remember that life is not a straight line and you have to embrace the squiggle, and always be true to yourself and prioritise your health and your family.”

Words by Lucy Patchett

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