People Skills: An Aerial View
By Elizabeth Rennie
My daughter and I have been looking at colleges recently, and I must admit that I’m both proud and a little dismayed that her top choices are thousands of miles across the United States. But traveling with her and exploring new parts of the country together has been a wonderful experience that I know will bring us both fantastic memories.
Recently, she and I were on a flight from our hometown in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles. I ended up chatting with the man next to me, who turned out to be a former Navy logistics officer. He now consults with companies around the globe to help identify areas for improvement with their logistics, transportation and distribution processes.
I shared with him that I was with the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) and was excited to be taking on the role of editor in chief of our flagship publication, SCM Now. Ever the journalist on the hunt for a story, I also asked him if he had any ideas for subject matter that would be interesting to our readers. Considering the type of consulting he does, I assumed he would pitch me ideas on the industrial internet of things, last-mile challenges, robotics and automation, or maybe cybersecurity. But everything he talked about had to do with people.
Soft skills, the talent pipeline, managing change: These are the areas where he finds the most opportunities for advancement and transformation at his client companies.
He inquired about my own people skills. Alas, I had to admit that I did see areas for improvement there. Although I couldn’t be luckier to work with my team here at ASCM — especially our amazing SCM Now editor, Kia Wood — I have found that I have a difficult time collaborating with people who don’t seem passionate about the job. I confessed that I’m just not the most patient person in the world.
He then asked me if I’ve ever had an author submit a story for my consideration, which at first glance seemed unpublishable. Perhaps the hopeful contributor did not speak English as a first language. Or maybe the story was extremely scholarly in its approach: appropriate for a journal, but not a trade magazine.
I replied, “Of course. If the content is great, it doesn’t matter if it needs a substantial developmental edit. My job is to be the writer’s coach, and I’m happy to put in the time.”
This, of course, was the aha moment he had planned for me. People often come with challenges that can seem complex and time-consuming. But if the content is there — talent, ingenuity, problem-solving skills — then the effort you expend figuring out how to coach them is well worth it.
SCM Now magazine’s resident management expert, Michael Morand, CPIM-F, CSCP-F, CLTD-F, notes that sometimes this requires a creative approach. In his most recent department, he writes, “The human element of teams requires managers to consider how knowledge of science, art, philosophy and social sciences will be received and understood by associates — and there is no shortage of ways in which these practices may be applied. One could leverage scientific management to improve efficiencies, behavior theories to improve motivation and leadership, and quantitative management for analytical and optimization techniques — all the while cautioned by contingency theory to consider unique conditions.”
I will be keeping these strategies in mind here at ASCM, and I will teach my daughter about them too. As she embarks on this exciting journey toward her future career, I want her to always put people first and grasp every opportunity to learn from those with diverse personalities, motivations and perspectives.