Giving clear communications of expectations

Successful Supply Chain Leader Profiles

Carol Keers

Successful Supply Chain Leader Profiles

In over 30 years of coaching I have seen many talented Supply Chain and Procurement professionals from around the world, each of whom had the opportunity to be more effective by closing the gaps between what they intended and how they came across to others. I coach my clients to shrink those gaps authentically and permanently.

Every one of my clients has benefitted from a greater understanding on how they are perceived and how to make the needed changes. Typically, they move toward being perceived as the person they thought they were before. When people know themselves better, they create a more authentic versatility in their leadership communication and executive presence.

Executive Presence in Supply Chain

Why should Supply Chain or Procurement professionals care about executive presence or understanding how they are perceived by others?  Because they can have far more of an impact than they realize – on people, process and profitability.

Executive Presence Success Behaviors

The Poynter Institute determined four interpersonal behaviors that create a climate for a productive workplace. They are:

1. Being calm under pressure

2. Showing an authoritative perception without bullying

3. Giving clear communications of expectations

4. Being clear on how much you care to keep people motivated

These are very aligned with the seven C.L.E.A.R.L. attribute definitions of executive presence from the book, Seeing Yourself as Others Do – Authentic Executive Presence at Any Stage of Your Career (Thomas Mungavan and Carol Keers - The attributes are:

    COMMAND of the Room with Charisma

    LEVERAGE Influence, decisiveness and Power

    EXPECTATIONS: Strategic and Tactical

    AUDIENCE Connections

    RELATIONSHIP Competence Locally and Remotely

    LISTENING Engagement

    INSPIRATION, Motivation and Praise

Individual Attributes

Coaching needs to be customized to a person’s specific style; adjustments needed depend on who you are and who you need to communicate with to properly adapt for maximum success. Let’s look at two examples of Supply Chain leaders with very different communication and interpersonal leadership styles. One leader is perceived as too soft and the other as too hard.

Leader Profiles

First is a Procurement leader in a global organization we will call “Ron”; he is personable, transparent, collaborative and highly knowledgeable. However, he is also perceived as too “nice” – too indirect, conflict adverse and not able to communicate the impact of Procurement to senior leaders in other disciplines. Ron believes his work should speak for itself – but to be heard, it needs to speak a lot louder.

Next is “Mark”, who has an opposite style. He is a brilliant Procurement leader in a global company. He is unwaveringly principled and has a clear opinion on everything. Mark has zero fear in challenging the status quo, in calling out bad behavior, or poor assumptions from people who know nothing about Supply Chain. As a result, he tends to question people like a prosecuting attorney, can seem nonverbally defensive or angry and is perceived as lacking empathetic collaboration outside his group.  That’s why Ron and Mark have completely opposite coaching goals as follows:

Perception of Being Too Soft

Desired coaching outcome for Ron:

1. He needs to spend more time understanding what his team is doing and how they’re doing it so he knows what he doesn’t know – don’t just assume all his geese are swans.

2. He should have a better feeling for how his suppliers are being treated. Seek out and spend time with mid-level suppliers and find out, “What’s our reputation? How are you being treated? Do you get a fair hearing from us?” Be more aware to make sure that people three levels down from him are treating vendors on a consistently professional basis.

3. He is very well respected as a subject expert – to get to the next stage he needs to market the power of his function. Global procurement is now half of the company’s spend – how can we move it willingly into other parts of the organization that aren’t under his wing?

Perception of Being Too Hard

Desired coaching outcomes for Mark:

1. Trusted relationships – build stronger, more accepting relationships with peers in Supply Chain and the Operating Units

2. Collaboration skills – build more collaborative bonds with the people and teams that he serves in Sales, plants or Supply Chain

3. Improved results – the key deliverables that Mark is responsible for should improve based on people seeking him out instead of avoiding him

Changes Needed

As you can imagine to implement these changes Ron and Mark will have to take virtually opposite approaches and expand their communication and leadership capabilities.


The long-term coaching commitments for Ron to make for himself are to be tougher and stronger in impact and showcase his capabilities:

1. Show a clear, concise and confident communication style. Demonstrate powerful, professional non-verbal impact in all settings while maintaining warmth and engagement.

2. Don’t assume my work speaks for itself. Demonstrate my depth of understanding of the many components and processes within our company. Update and enlist the partnership of senior leadership more frequently and consistently on initiatives.

3. Own my leadership role more fully – make my vision and expectations known, hold my ground, hold others accountable, and develop more mature conflict management skills at all levels.


The long-term coaching commitments for Mark to make for himself are to be more engaging, get buy-in and use his innate charisma:

1. Increase collaboration with my leaders and peers. Lighten up more nonverbally and show the vulnerability to ask for partnership and help.

2. Say less more often – be concise but give others more of an accurate understanding of what I’m thinking so I’m not misinterpreted.

3. Be more engaged in team settings by showing greater acceptance of ideas and affirm others more often as a listener.


Two different people, two different company cultures, and two different approaches needed. There is no one solution that works for everyone. When you are making changes that are lasting and authentic, make them the ones that will help you the most.

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