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Self-Leadership Resources: Personal & Interpersonal Skills


Jenna Lee McMillen
Jenna Lee McMillen, President & Professional Development Trainer/Speaker, LeeWay Presentations, Dallas, Tx 75243, 972-624-5200.

83rd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1998 

Your "Partners" in Effective Purchasing

Abstract. Exceptional technical expertise and invaluable experience are often foiled by energy-draining, relationship-eroding behaviors, which diminish trust and destroy self-confidence needed to produce desired results in the purchasing business. Five personal and interpersonal resources comprise the necessary skill-sets for effective Self-Leadership and People-Relating -- your "partners in purchasing" -- which set the stage for maximum performance & productivity. Therefore, to increase your Purchasing Manager's "IQ: Impact & Influence Quotient" TM, master the following skill-sets:

  1. Develop a Self-Reflection & Self-Awareness Mind-Set
  2. Process Emotions and Information with Clear Thinking
  3. Counter the Risk in Change with Resiliency Skills
  4. Clarify Roles with Assertive Boundary Setting
  5. Lead with Respectful Behavior to Prevent Unnecessary Conflict

Develop a Self-Reflection & Self-Awareness Mind-Set. Fast-paced purchasing environments produce breathless time pressures, compelling multiple-priorities, conflicting opinions and irritating competitive games. These "occupational hazards" -- the relentless situations caused by the nature of the purchasing business -- can be managed, frustration minimized, energy freed for necessary tasks and important relationships caringly maintained.

This requires choosing proactive responses to replace reactive impulses -- which begins with greater self-awareness -- observing the relationship between behaviors and resulting outcomes and selecting purposeful actions to produce the desired results.

Professionals report that the most strides in helpful, insightful self-awareness result from a self-commitment to devote at least five minutes at the end of each busy day to conduct a non-judgmental review of the day's activities.

The purpose of this in depth review is to discover 1) which circumstances, 2) what behaviors of people and 3) what kind of self-talk contributes to mounting stress. These three elements usually reveal a predictable, recurring habit pattern.

Then, proactively determine 1) how the circumstances can be modified or eliminated, 2) what response to another's behavior will facilitate understanding, instead of aggravation, and 3) replace time-wasting, energy draining, critical self-talk with a constructive focus on what to do next to improve the situation.

Process Emotions and Information with Clear Thinking. The purchasing field is laden with potential for unclear communication and misunderstanding, unmet and unreasonable expectations, disappointing outcomes and bad news. These relational "mine fields" tend to contribute to explosive, mindless emotional outbursts.

People typically react to hurtful feelings with one of these self-defeating habit patterns -- Wipe Out...don't feel or Blast Out...explode.

The alternative to Wipe Out or Blast Out is to Think Out! To unblock and steer with thinking, identify and manage overwhelming feelings -- fear, anger, depression, jealousy, humiliation & helplessness -- which tend to surface when difficult experiences occur. Use feelings and emotions as helpful information only...not as driver's to action.

Prevent "recycling and rehearsing the hurt" by 1) slowing down the process and 2) removing yourself from a situation that is stirring adrenaline and pushing for an uncontollable reaction. Give yourself time to restore clear thinking. Learn to separate facts from feelings from judgmental labels. Then, identify twisted thinking errors found, by David Burns to distort reality, and counter them with a rational response.

These twisted thinking errors include: 1) All or Nothing Thinking, 2) Overgeneralization, 3) Negative Mental Filter, 4) Discount the Positives, 5) Jump to Conclusions, 6) Magnification or Minimization, 7) Emotional Reasoning, 8) Should Statements, 9) Labeling, and 10) Personalization and Blame.

Remember: Feelings don't have a navigation system or way to steer...that's the task of the thinking system. Keep it clear and untwisted to reach your desired destination in purchasing management.

Counter the Risk in Change with Resiliency Skills. There is one thing everybody can count on in the purchasing management business -- change will happen! Changes in structure and procedures, in tasks and abilities needed, and in clients and co-workers seem eternal. Resiliency is the ability to proactively respond to risk factors that accompany change. It means countering them with positive, protective and productive strategies to "bounce-back" and "move forward".

In essence, resiliency skills are an individual's "Inner-Net" -- the personal "safety-net" which moves someone from danger and discomfort to new behaviors and growth-producing frontiers.

Attitudes matter! Suzanne Kobasa and Salvaore Maddi in the Hardy Executive identify three qualities they discovered successful professional regularly exercise when faced with change. They confront issues immediately and solve them using Three Resiliency Attitudes:

  1. Control - To counter powerlessness, they exercise a sense of decisional control of responses they make to unexpected, unpredictable and uncontrollable events.
  2. Challenge - To diminish threat, they view change as an adventure...a challenge to find the new advantage or benefit for oneself in this situation.
  3. Commitment - To reduce alienation, they remain engaged and involved in what they are doing and maintain relationships as a source of strength and support.

There are eight "energy-draining & danger-making" issues which tend to accompany change. They are blame, failure, guilt, risk, grief, worry, resistance and expectations.

The following "Inner-Net Strategies" put the three resiliency attitudes to work on these change-related issues. They help professionals keep pathways open to new opportunities and maximize the benefits ushered in by change:

  1. Eliminate Blame - Instead of condemning self or others for misfortune, take a look at one's part in the problem, own only one's part and devote energy to search for a solution one can support.
  2. Learn From Failure - Instead of labeling self a failure and giving up, view a "miss-take" as an opportunity to log what does not work. Determine what one needs to travel in a "hope-full" direction.
  3. Use Guilt As a Guide - Instead of punishing self for wrong doing, admit what one did wrong, review what one would like to have done instead, and re-do -- next time use the new plan rehearsed. Face and admit mistakes. Forgive self and others. Align standards and behavior to resolve the "guilt gap".
  4. Take "Thoughtful" Risks - Everyone has potential as well as limitations. This ambivalence can lead to anxiety and procrastination about a decision. Act on one's potential. Admit limitations and acknowledge danger. Seek support from others. Risk at the right moment. Avoid mindless recklessness.
  5. Grieve Over Losses Completely - Every change and choice carries an element of loss. Grief is a natural process with stages. Those who grieve early, incorporate the meaning of the lose and establish life beyond the loss quicker.
  6. Reduce Worry with Action Steps - Worry can be a drain that takes dreams down a deep hole! Worry often wastes time that could be spent on positive ventures. Fret not! Face danger and put the "energy of fear into focus" on action steps to counter worry and move forward safely.
  7. Counter Resistance with Attention to Needs - Determine what one needs. Search for how this new circumstance can meet that need in a new way. Weigh out the costs and losses in the new situation. Recognize the gains this new opportunity brings. Identify new skills and behaviors needed. Develop plans to acquire them.
  8. Adopt Realistic Expectations - When change is needed to reach new goals and performance levels....Expect the Best! However, establish "realistic" criteria for what the best would be in "effectiveness terms" and matched with "real" time, resources, experience and expertise of the people involved. Prepare for the unexpected. Celebrate progress. Learn from errors. Regroup, redesign and redefine what is the Best. To expect the Best means to give yourself and others support so both can produce the mutually beneficial changes!

Clarify Roles with Assertive Boundary Setting. Many misunderstandings that occur in the purchasing arena are often related to violating another's boundaries, feelings of powerlessness and a sense of lack of control. Fortunately, it is possible to exercise one's rights without violating the rights of others. To do so requires assertive behavior.

Assertiveness means being proactive in listening, asking questions, clarifying expectations, checking out assumptions, determining roles and responsibilities, setting guidelines for performance and developing mutual agreements about interdependent work.

It also means expressing feelings honestly and appropriately and standing up for oneself -- saying no, setting limits on time and energy, responding on one's behalf to criticism and sharing an opinion. Assertiveness is not aggressive behavior that abuses another. It does not deny the rights of others to be free from unfair criticism, name-calling, manipulation, diminishing comments and showing disrespect for differences.

Assertiveness also is not passive behavior which tends to reduce one's respect for self and invites abuse from others. Assertive behavior promotes equality in relationships and makes it possible for everyone to gain.

Lead with Respectful Behavior to Prevent Unnecessary Conflict. Conflict is inevitable when two or more people are together for any length of time. The prevention of senseless conflict requires that respectful processes, attitudes, actions and communications be applied especially in the midst of turmoil and before conflict breaks out. RESPECT can be a top priority and can be communicated, even when everyone is under pressure to perform and produce.

Current mediation models emphasize the importance of setting up "safe, respectful environments" as a prerequisite for issues to be resolved. Both parties make a commitment to start the process with clear, mutual agreements on how each will treat the other respectfully when emotion-laden differences surface.

To maintain an environment of respect, requires that each person make a commitment to intentionally choose non-violating words and align them with caring actions. This keeps energy high and focuses on changing hurtful behaviors while still meeting critical deadlines.

Social scientists now make an important distinction between realistic conflict -- characterized by opposing needs, goals, means, values and interests -- an unnecessary conflict -- conditions, behaviors and organizational climates -- which tend to produce needless, unwarranted tension between people.

The following CONFLICT PREVENTION CHECKLIST is based on methods developed by Robert Bolton in People Skills. It provides professionals in purchasing management with eight pro-activities to create "respect-filled" work settings which preserve each person's integrity without the outbreak of violating words and destructive actions:

  1. Eliminate Roadblocks - End conflict-promoting interactions such as ordering, dominating, threatening, judging and name-calling.
  2. Use Reflective Listening - Help self and the other person express "negative" emotions in a safe setting -- early -- before hurts develop into major conflict.
  3. Lead with Assertiveness Skills - Get needs met with minimal strife. Clear up errors and seek accurate information. Avoid use of passive or aggressive communication which invites abuse and counterattack.
  4. Avoid "Triggers" and Read "Storm Warnings" - Be aware certain words, looks or actions tend to send people into conflict. Some issues send vibes that trouble is stirring -- take heed.
  5. Drain Off Own Tension Without Increasing Another's - Release tension without swearing or shouting at another. Use a Third party to vent your emotions.
  6. Increase Emotional Support - Show appreciation & give recognition...the more a person is cared for, the less that person needs to fight.
  7. Heighten Tolerance and Acceptance of Others - Seeing the hurting person behind the hurtful act, lessening expectations that others will read our minds and offering forgiveness when mistakes are made......these help us see the humanity of others.
  8. Engage in Issues Control - Deal with one issue at a time, break it into smaller parts, start with issues that are easiest to resolve, find out how your needs and the other's needs can be satisfied and set up safe setting to express views and feelings.

Make a Commitment To Attend To These Five Self-Leadership Resources Daily. They are your "Partners in Effective Purchasing":

  1. to assist you in developing greater self-awareness,
  2. to clear the mindpath for creative decision-making,
  3. to allow maximum resiliency during times of change,
  4. to establish equality in relationships with appropriate assertiveness and
  5. to prevent unnecessary conflict and build strong, respectful relationships for resolving legitimate differences which end in mutually supportive win/win outcomes in your purchasing arenas.

Book References:

Alberti, Robert E.and Emmons, Michael L. Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Living. San Luis Obispo, California: Impact Publishers, 1990.

Bolton, Robert. People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: A Spectrum Book - Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1979.

Burns, David. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: Plume - Penquin Books USA Inc., 1990.

McMillen, Jenna Lee. Top Ten Pathways for Pro's: Self-Leadership Skills Manual. Dallas, Texas: Self-Published, 1997.

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