Making a Trusted Advisor of the Procurement Function

Please welcome guest-blogger Bill Young, a Management Consultant. We have high regard for this person and we think you’ll enjoy the content.

The procurement function in an organization can play an important role—potentially both strategic and advisory. It can also, however, be dragged down into petty negativism. It’s in everyone’s interest to get it right.

Getting it right is the subject of a new article by the two of us, called The Role of Procurement as Trusted Advisor to Management. Link to a.pdf version here.

Following is a quick overview.

Procurement as Strategic Partner

Ideally, a firm’s procurement function helps broadly. Of course it manages the buying of commodity stuff cheaply.  It should also design good overall purchasing processes.  But ultimately it should also help an organization invest its expenditures wisely.

That last is a mandate most CPOs and CEOs alike would welcome—in principle. But they rarely get there, because procurement gets bogged down in a classic trust conflict: the conflict between transactions and relationships.

Procurement has pushed hard to attract brighter and better staff, but capability is not enough.  A genuine understanding of and concern for clients’ ambitions and goals is needed: procurement needs to be benevolent as well as capable in the way it works with clients.

The Transaction Trap

Most organizations measure procurement by how much they can cut cost.  This simple fact—the focus on cost savings as a metric—has outsized influence.  It means discussions are always about price—but not value.  Expenses—but not expenditures.  Cuts—but not contexts.

The cost savings focus drives procurement to excessively favor market-based, impersonal processes—which too often prevent the value of trusted relationships with suppliers. The transactional focus implied by cost metrics also favors explicit contracting, rather than the constructive use of implicit contracts on occasion.

This focus also leads to destructive gaming: you can’t prove savings if you’ve already cut the source of waste by strategically redefining processes, hence procurement organizations are tempted to “squirrel away” savings to appear the biggest.  The cost focus also means that purchasing’s clients know that ‘savings’ just means their budget is going to get cut.

The whole ‘savings’ focus drives dysfunctional, non-strategic behavior by everyone.  And it’s gotten worse since 2009: CPOs and CEOs alike, in a bad economic environment, have said, “Just go find some savings.”

The Trust Cure

It’s not often that we should start with metrics instead of strategy, but this may be the cart that should drive the horse.  Instead of focusing so extremely on cost savings, we suggest procurement focus on a Spend Control Index.  Details will vary by organization, but the gist of it is a unified scorecard that makes procurement accountable for all external spend—based on revenue, adjusted for items like salaries, interest, and above all, linked directly to strategic decisions.

Such an approach is easily linked to strategy; it enhances strategy implementation; and it is easily auditable. Most importantly, it allows for reframing of discussions between management and procurement; allowing the latter to behave like a trusted advisor.

Read the whole article here, or in .pdf form here.

The Role of Procurement as Trusted Advisor to Management

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Procurement’s journey from transactional processing to strategic business partnering is not complete.  Many argue it has even stalled. Some personal successes are evident, but they are individual achievements, not an organisational model that can be copied. 

We argue that this should surprise no one.  There are too many unresolved conflicts between the role of procurement and its internal clients, and that the savings metrics used by Procurement belong to a former age and aggravate the problem.   Where good relationships exist, they do so between individuals who trust each other in spite of these conflicts.  We argue that trust is fundamental and essential in the type of relationship that Procurement is aiming for, but that the metrics and governance used by Procurement are antithetical to its aims. 

Procurement has pushed hard to attract brighter and better staff but research shows that capability is not enough.  A genuine understanding of and concern for clients’ ambitions and goals is needed: Procurement needs to be benevolent as well as capable in the way it works with clients

Six distinct areas of conflict demonstrate how Procurement’s targets and metrics serve to defeat its strategic aims, and to undermine the work it invests in building capabilities.  These include incentives to engage late with vendors, to over-specify requirements, and even to shrink a business rather than grow it.

We conclude that there is a need for an alternative to Savings as the main reporting metric for Procurement; the one we recommend is Spend Control Index.  This isn’t a completely new concept, but very few organisations set out to use it rigorously as their primary indicator of Procurement’s performance.   In the authors’ view, doing so would catalyse a change in behaviour and encourage real trust–leading to the strategic business partnerships all parties desire.

Tensions in the Realm of Procurement

Procurement today is a complex management service, intended to support the strategic aims of the organisation.  However, some of Procurement’s intended customers are confused about its role and intentions–and hence don’t trust its motives.  This is only partially due to customers’ misunderstandings; a good bit of it is Procurement’s own fault.   Whilst presenting itself as a strategic business partner, some purchasing practices are in fact tactical–and worse yet, self-serving.

This creates a trust issue with Procurement’s clientele—both internally and externally.  In a day and age where collaboration is a strategic must, unnecessary tensions created between an organisation’s own business and functional units are strategically relevant and financially harmful.

Kinnaird and Movius, arguing for a more sophisticated approach to negotiations observed that, “On the one hand, business leaders…want to be able to sit down and talk freely with their counterparts, shaping deals and exploring potential options. On the other hand, we have procurement attempting to constrain dialogue within a process that it insists on controlling, seemingly fearful of the very relationships that business leaders want to cultivate.[i]

The reasons for lack of trust show up mainly in Procurement’s target metrics and the way in which Procurement reports them.  The metrics are excessively focused on savings, even when those savings are secondary or cannot be measured.  While savings are a proper target for certain cost-down programs, the aggregated total of savings is a misleading performance indicator: its acceptance and use create perverse incentives.

Deeper down, these tensions are an outcome of two distinct views of Procurement: one rooted in transactions, another based on relationships.  Both views are necessary; but the inability to distinguish between the two as the situation demands creates dysfunction.

We suggest that a solution lies in better defining Procurement’s transactional vs. relationship responsibilities.  We offer such a view, as well as a metric for control over external spend.  This is a performance indicator superior to cost savings.  Accepting this as an over-riding objective would align Procurement with its customers, create trust, and make it a truly strategic partner.

Context: the Changing Role of Procurement

Procurement has three broad functions.

  1. The first is managing internal transactionsfor ordering and receiving goods and services, and handling procurement data.  The primary goal here is to maximise the efficiency of transaction-flow and reporting.
  2. The second is support for vendor engagement and contracting processes.   Procurement’s roots are in regular price negotiations for raw materials, packaging, tools, consumables, components and other regular purchases.  It is largely a tactical and transaction-focussed process.
  3. The third area is “value-based strategic procurement that can translate into bottom line improvements to the corporation …to ensure that the Procurement strategy is aligned with, and that it rolls-up to, the overall corporate strategy.”[ii]

The Internet has created massive opportunities for driving efficiency in the first two functions—from automating order processes to establishing online, blinded bid systems, for example.  These have the lion’s share of attention in the general management press.  However, apart from that, the essence of the first two roles has not substantively changed.

It is in the third role that procurement has attempted a metamorphosis[iii], in several ways:

  1. Procurement is increasingly responsible for buying non-traditional services such as consultancy, audit, training, and legal.
  2. Procurement now challenges specifications developed by its own internal customers–and in some cases, even the basic need for a purchase.
  3. It may draft or even own the organisation’s strategy for buying goods and services with high transaction volumes, such as travel, office supplies and MRO (maintenance, repair and operation).  In some cases
  4. It may support or lead outsourcing projects.

This change, with half of [Procurement departments] looking after marketing spend and more than two-thirds in charge of professional services, suggests an increase not only in their responsibility, but also in influence at a strategic level. It also suggests a shift towards an increasing responsibility for people-related buying[iv]

General Managers and the public still tend to think of Procurement as being essentially about bargaining.  But it now aims to create value and even competitive advantage on behalf of its internal customers in all activities relating to vendors, according to this received wisdom.  But has its outlook matured sufficiently to match these responsibilities? And how do its customers see it?

Schiele & McCue[v] describe two main traits that determine the level of meaningful involvement that a purchasing department can have with client departments. They are:

  1. Ability: the extent to which the purchasing department has the requisite expertise and ability to benefit the client department
  2. Benevolence: the extent to which the purchasing department is concerned about the needs and interests of the client department

Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) have invested heavily in staff and training in order to build expertise and achieve the first trait.  But both traits must be present if client departments are to have trust in the purchasing department; and there is evidence that benevolence has not been addressed with the same rigour as ability.  [Italics show terms used in the original paper by Schiele & McCue].

The problems of tactics, conflict and trust arise when Procurement’s traditional, tactical roles are confused with the strategic position it wants to be in.  This typically happens in the realm of performance measurement.

Six Areas of Conflict

There are six areas in which confusion between the traditional tactical role and the new strategic role arises, and which in turn lead to conflict.

1. Price vs. Value Assessments

Procurement often helps internal customers (budget owners) to understand a need better, identify the best goods and services for that need, and undertake cost/benefit analyses for different solutions. When there are more factors to consider than price alone, Procurement uses weighted criteria to evaluate the best offer.  Customers often appreciate this help.

However Procurement’s target, as well as the annual assessments of its managers, is based mainly on achieved savings, so they have an incentive to push hardest on price rather than other factors that contribute to value.  The effect is that intentions are unclear, incentives are mixed, and customers are confused, even resentful.

2. Market-based Solutions

There is an instinct in Procurement to challenge price through competitive tendering.  This is based on a faith in the rational outcomes of markets dealing with common (commoditized) goods.    The aim of procurement then is often to formalise the requirements, remove subjectivity, and bring the service as close to a commodity as possible[vi] [vii].  It’s a great theory and hard to argue against – if it did not conflict with the way people actually make purchase decisions.

In practice, we as humans indeed use rational criteria in the screening part of a down-selection process, in order to create a short-list of suppliers, all of whom are qualified to provide the required goods or services.  But then we tend to look the supplier candidates in the eye to decide which one we would like to deal with; this final selection stage is less cognitively-defined and less tangible.  Senior managers are paid to make judgements, and they do so.

Procurement’s aim is typically to commoditise all goods and services so as to remove intangibles like trust from the vendor-selection process.  This works well in the first phase of screening, where those are unarguable virtues.  In this phase, we want an empirical, fact-based process in which the vendor is selected by weighted criteria, set against price.

But when it comes to the selection phase, client managers want to explore a relationship with the final candidates and test their own comfort level before moving forward.  This is a decision model that’s entirely different from the rational, screening process.  There’s nothing wrong with this conflict, but it is one that many Procurement staff fail to deal with because of their focus on the traditional, tactical transaction processes.

3. Explicit vs. Implicit Contracts[viii]

Explicit contracts are written and formal.  Implicit contracts are not: they are usually created during a working relationship and are based on trust.  Often the two go together: the explicit contract is agreed between the organisations at the start; and implicit deals, based on trust, develop between individuals working together.

Procurement, reflecting its transactional responsibilities, worries about cosy relationships that circumvent the formal buying process; but it may fail to recognise that implicit deals are essential – and try to over-formalise.

It may even go further, towards the deliberate exploitation of a vendor’s trust and the breaking of implicit deals.  For instance, a vendor may invest in production capacity and stock to provide reliability that justifies a price premium, only to find that the business is tendered to the lowest bidder.  Such a case represents a tragic triumph of the tactical—taking pride in counting transactional battles won – at the expense of a war lost on relationships.

4. Strategic Discussions

Chief Procurement Officers say their staff should become involved in projects earlier and more strategically, in order that they can drive efficiencies and cost avoidance during the planning and design stages of projects, not just during final vendor negotiations.  They recruit and develop purchasing managers with higher-level skills, who can work strategically with their clients’ functional leadership teams.

But these strategic discussions raise a tension when it comes to measuring performance, a tension that is frequently ignored. Procurement performance is typically measured by cost savings.  This is what many clients assume as obvious Truth, and many CPOs don’t offer an alternative.  Unfortunately, pursuing strategic objectives can lower the possible range of savings targets.  Here’s how.

At first, everyone agrees on the value of early, strategic engagement.  It creates clarity of the business issue, sharper specifications, more appropriate technical solutions, and earlier screening-out of unsuitable suppliers.  But this narrows the delta which Procurement is able to report as a saving.  With a smaller number of qualified suppliers, the gap between the highest and lowest bidder is reduced and it is even possible that the highest bidder offers the best overall value.  How, if they are rewarded mainly on savings, is the Procurement Manager incentivised to invest time and effort in strategy?

Until 2009, Procurement departments accepted (or conspired to ignore?) this paradox.  However, as the financial crisis hit, many CPOs told their staff to focus on tactical savings and to forget the strategy.  The switch in approach confused many clients and reinforced perceptions that Procurement was, after all, a tactical service.

5. Contrived Calculations

Continued use of transaction-based metrics to evaluate strategic objectives can lead to serious gaming of the system.  For example, procurement savings on raw materials can be translated into P&L accounts only if there are on-going purchases and like-for-like unit-price comparisons.  Often, however, this is not the case, so Procurement looks for reportable savings in:

    1. The difference between two quotes
    2. External benchmarks
    3. Internal changes (e.g. job cuts)
    4. Other benefits (e.g. production efficiencies, waste reduction, reduced working capital)

These calculations have a subjective element but they are nevertheless aggregated with unit-price reductions, to create the headline number reported by the CPO.

Reported savings also address only the areas that Procurement chooses to report.  A price rise (a negative saving?) is likely to go unreported.  And there is an incentive for Procurement managers to harvest savings the way farmers harvest hay, allowing the crop to grow longer in order to get a better yield.  Procurement managers may see larger reportable savings from areas that previously they have creatively neglected!

One Head of Group Procurement reported hopefully to a seminar[ix],  “The single reason for us being credible, for us gaining strategic and professional status within the business is nailing the notion of whether something is a genuine cost saving or a made-up number”.   In order to achieve this, Procurement departments may report savings under three headings: hard savings based on unit price reductions; cost avoidance, e.g. from demand reduction; and value-add, from additional business benefits without increased spend.  In the opinion of the authors, these acknowledge the weakness of savings reporting without offering a more useful alternative.

Realistically, most executives know that a CPO’s reported aggregate savings number is not real.  But they accept that cost reductions are generally desirable and should be encouraged.  So they offer praise to the CPO, and pretend that the reported savings are meaningful.  After all, they may think to themselves, there is little to be gained by scepticism.

This back-and-forth game is played with both parties insisting that they believe in rational, quantitative, measurable results, but with each vaguely knowing that the numbers are fudged.  This lends a hypocritical, even cynical, flavour to the relationship between Procurement and management–to the detriment of both.

6. Operating Budgets vs. Strategic Spending

Some organisations translate savings into budget cuts, especially those where Procurement reports through Finance.

Not surprisingly, managers may be disinclined to accept support from Procurement if their operating budget is reduced as a consequence.  Whilst these budget-owning managers did not previously voice their doubts openly about the unreliability of Procurement’s reported savings, it may be a different matter when their own budget is threatened in order to deliver Procurement’s bonuses.  To a client, it seems that Procurement’s aim is to always to shrink the business.

All six of these areas of conflict have one thing in common.  They arise because there is a single metric on which Procurement expects to be measured and which it emphasises above everything else when presenting its performance and promoting its value to the organisation: the aggregate total cost reductions across all of its activities, savings.

But savings have no value to other business units (though we duly note the value to financial stakeholders).  Regarding the management of the organisation, the only practical use to which the reported savings total can be put is the reward of procurement staff.     It does not help or guide decision-making in any other function; it does not inform the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ of management team decisions.  It stands alone, detached from everything else in the organisation; related only to the previously reported savings total.

When the CPO reports the aggregated savings total, she or he compares it only to two things:

  1. The previously reported total
  2. The volume of extra sales that would be required to deliver the same value to the bottom line.

Neither is likely to engage the management team positively, still less win their hearts and minds.

The Procurement Dilemma

The net of these six areas of conflict is that Procurement faces a dilemma.  By history and tradition, it focuses on managing transactions and increasing internal efficiencies of internal processes. The relevant measure for such a role is a focus on hard savings.

At the same time, Procurement’s increasingly successful self-elevation into strategic partnerships endangers its reliable sources of hard savings.  And since no one—including CPOs—has effectively argued for a new and discrete metric, unresolved arguments and confusion abound.  The role has changed, but the measurement has stayed the same–and no one has stated the problem clearly enough to permit resolution.

CPOs may deny this, but evidence is clear.  When interviewing Procurement managers about where they invest their time, they say they have to focus on reporting short-term savings.  Running a tender or auction is a quick and efficient use of their time: it delivers easily reportable savings and meets their targets.

On the other hand, identifying better business processes and becoming involved in change management are time-consuming and high risk.  In a cost-reduction climate, ‘You don’t need a weatherman / To know which way the wind blows’[x] so strategy loses out. This is the message that Procurement teams are getting: ‘Strategy is a nice-to-have, but when the chips are down, we are measured on savings.’

A Better Way

The solution is two-sided.  One part is a better understanding of the emerging role of Procurement, and the dual function it must perform.  The other part is the metrics, a particularly powerful tool in Procurement.

Because the very nature of performance assessment for Procurement is so quantitative, it may be useful to put the “cart before the horse” and focus on a revised metric as the most powerful lever for change.

It would be naive to stop reporting aggregate savings if there were nothing to put in its place.  But there is a move towards a different key performance indicator – one that has more credibility, can be supported by Internal Audit, and that aligns Procurement with the interests of its internal clients.  It allows procurement organizations to build the trust they need in order to become a strategic partner.

That indicator is Spend Control Index (SCI).  It is not completely new and some organisations have something close, called Spend under Management, with the nice acronym, SUM.   Instead of focusing on a spend area only when a purchase is imminent – and restricting reporting to those areas they have actively worked in – the aim is to make Procurement accountable for all spend.  Not just for the spend that can be easily seen and measured, but for a top-down calculation of external spend, derived from turnover, adjusted for salaries, earnings, interest, extraordinary activities, depreciation and working capital.

Using this base (100% of spend), Procurement identifies the proportion where spend is actively and fully managed by Procurement according to a strategy agreed with the business.   This article does not define the calculation of Spend Control Index as it may vary from one organisation to another; but we can identify factors that could be used as the basis of an audit.  After assessing the monitoring and control systems, an auditor would examine items of spend from different functional areas and supply channels.  By checking the level of control and compliance in each, they can sign-off on the Spend Control Index claimed by the Procurement department.  Key indicators of control for each item of spend include:

    • Is there an identified Procurement manager with accountability for ensuring that the item is efficiently and effectively sourced and that purchase transactions follow the correct channels?  Is this person recognised by the business as the point of escalation for purchasing issues?
    • Is the item covered by a Procurement strategy that is documented, less than twelve months old, and formally agreed with the budget owner?
    • Is there an internal communications document to inform users how to acquire the goods or services?   Are users instructed on how to find this document, how to deal with the vendor and how to escalate issues?
    • Is there an identified manager who is accountable for ensuring that the item is delivered and used according to the agreement and in line with business requirements?  This person may be called a contract manager, vendor manager or service manager and they are usually line-managed by the budget owner, rather than being in the Procurement department.
    • Are the correct procurement channels and transactions being used?

Reporting the proportion of total spend that is under control gets real attention from the executive team and relegates tactical savings to second place.  Maximising the Spend Control Index is more easily aligned with business objectives; and Internal Audit can check its measurement.  It is not even necessary for Procurement to manage everything hands-on.  In the same way that Corporate Counsel is accountable for an organisation’s legal compliance, but does not have to be present in every business meeting, Procurement’s role no longer needs to be so interfering.

Increasing Trust in the Procurement Function

If an organisation wants Procurement to manage its cost base strategically it must help it to escape from the rut of transactional models, and from the exclusive use of tactical savings as its main performance indicator.  Savings are a good metric for individual projects but, as an aggregate overall measure of performance, they are misleading and lead to perverse behaviours.

A function trapped by such a metric is unlikely to become a trustworthy partner to the rest of the organisation.  A trustworthy partner should be evaluated in terms of the benefits it can bring through being trusted more broadly.  The alignment of goals and metrics, through adoption of a Spend Control Index, will itself contribute to greater trust of Procurement staff, as well as in the system.

For continued reading check out: Trust-Based Negotiation


[i] T Kinnaird and H Movius “Avoiding the Three Deadly Sins” CPO Agenda Autumn 2008”

[ii] J Mahoney & G Stoller, “Strategic vs. Tactical Procurement – Shifting Focus Towards Value Creation” July 2009

[iii] A Moorhouse, “Insight into the changing role of the procurement professional”  (Bradford University School of Management) 2006

[iv] S Bagshaw (Editor), “Direct vs. Indirect Procurement – Market Intelligence Survey”.  (Supply Management & buying Team) September 2009

[v] JJ Schiele and CP McCue, ‘Professional service acquisition in public sector procurement: A conceptual model of meaningful involvement.’  International Journal of Operation and Production, Vol 26, 3 pp 300-325.  2006

[vi] J Bloom, “Agencies and Media Brands Turning Into Commodities” (Advertising Age)  22 June 2009,

[viii] J Kay, “Foundations of Corporate Success” (Oxford)  Chapter 4, Relationships & Contracts

[ix] S Santarelli “Cost Savings in the Spotlight“ (Procurement Intelligence Unit) 24 September 2009 Internet publication

[x] B Dylan “Subterranean Homesick Blues” Columbia Records [catalogue 43242] 1965

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The pragmatic, field-oriented follow-on to the classic The Trusted Advisor. Green and Howe go deep into the how-to’s of trusted business relationships—loaded with stories, exercises, tips and tricks, and deeply practical advice.


TrustBasedSelling“Sales” and “Trust” rarely inhabit the same sentence. Customers fear being “sold” — they suspect sellers have only their own interests at heart. Is this a built-in conflict? Or can sellers serve buyers’ interests and their own as well? The solution is simple to state, hard to live—and totally worth the effort.



The Trusted AdvisorThis classic book explores the paradigm of trust through the filter of professional services. It is a blend of thought and practice, clear ideas and practical suggestions, and it has found a place on many professionals’ working bookshelves.


Real People, Real Trust: A Learning Consultant’s Approach to Leadership

Heber Sambucetti is a senior learning consultant with Accenture, working routinely with some of Accenture’s most seasoned executives. Find out what Heber sees as the distinguishing traits of a trusted advisor, and learn how he has successfully turned the most challenging relationships into prosperous ones.


Heber (pronounced EH-ver) and I met in 2010 when I led a Being a Trusted Advisor program for the team he works with. I was immediately struck by his candor, caring, and professionalism.

I began my Real People, Real Trust interview with Heber in the same way I’ve done in the past, asking, “What does it take to be a trusted advisor?” Heber’s immediate response was remarkably similar to Anna Dutton’s; he said, “Above all else, you need to be sincere and genuine.”

Heber continued, “That’s the only way you can create the right type of environment for a business relationship to prosper. You need to come with a pure intent to help others, and truly care about the person across from you.

“Secondly, don’t be afraid to bring emotions to the business environment. That’s a necessary element to create a certain level of intimacy—and by that I mean a sense of familiarity, closeness, and an understanding of each other. That way, not only do people see who you really are, but it makes it possible for you to ask the tough questions and deal with the tough stuff when it counts. If someone’s angry, you should be able to address that—as in, ‘What’s got you angry? I sense frustration.’ Sometimes people are afraid to explore this side of things. Validating other people is important. Sticking to the task only gets you so far.

“Those are your foundational pieces—the genuineness, the pure intent, and focusing on more than just the tasks at hand. And then you need to be able to consistently deliver whatever it is you’ve agreed upon, and bring something better for their business. That requires understanding what success is for them. And don’t forget about what you care about too. If it’s a one-way relationship it will never work.”

Fighting Fires

During our conversation, I discovered that Heber was a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician in a prior life—something I never would have guessed, having interacted with him exclusively in a corporate environment. I asked him what parallels he saw between the world of consulting and the business of saving lives.

“In the fire department, I really learned first-hand the importance of establishing an environment of trust. When you feel like you’re part of a family, then you don’t want to let the family down, and you genuinely care about people you’re helping. You’re taught how to bring the best of yourself every day. The consequences of failure are extreme—your team member or a citizen loses a life. There is an unwritten rule that you all go in and you all come out; you don’t leave anyone behind.

“Sure, the stakes are different in business—mistakes in the corporate world won’t cost a life, no matter what the pressures you may feel inwardly, and I remind my team of that every day. But I still live by all those principles: be of service and always give it your best.”

Surviving the Heat

I asked Heber if he had a “proudest moment”—a time when he knew something important had shifted in a relationship.

“Once I turned a relationship from the individual being incredibly chastising and critical of everything—someone much more senior than me—to that person being a champion and educator. One day, after a series of interactions, I just had to lay it on the table. I said, ‘If you want to make me feel like sh** and perspire every time I talk to you, then you’re on target. But here’s the thing: I think I can learn from you. It’s true I don’t know everything, and we have a common goal of success with this project, so I need you to teach me instead of criticizing me.’ The person was taken by complete surprise and the relationship took a dramatic turn for the better. It was an intense moment. I ran out of deodorant. But I just had to say what was there.”

Heber then made a point to speak about taking responsibility for relationships gone wrong.

“When a relationship isn’t working, it’s easy to approach it from the perspective that you’re not doing anything and this person is beating you down. The question I always ask myself is, what am I doing to make the relationship better—or worse? What’s my piece to own? How have I let it fester? Holding yourself and others accountable are keys to relationships that work.”

Best Advice: You Snooze You Lose

I asked Heber for his best advice for someone who’s trying to increase trust in a relationship.

“First, ask yourself why you want to improve the relationship with that person; what’s in it for you. Always ask why. If the answer is, ‘Because I need to make my numbers and have them sign on the dotted line,’ think again. Would you want someone to approach you that way? No. OK, then try again from a different perspective. Put yourself in their shoes.

“Most people have a gut feel for what others are thinking and feeling, they’ve just hit the snooze button on it. They don’t want to look at it—it’s too raw, too emotional, too difficult, so snooze it is. And then they’re surrounded by alarm clocks all on snooze. That’s not sustainable.

“This applies personally as well as professionally. If I ever hit the snooze button with my son, he tells me right away. Children have a magical way of reminding you straight out that you’ve hit snooze—‘You promised me we’d play soccer, Dad.’ ‘We’ll do it tomorrow.’ ‘That’s what you said yesterday, Dad.’

“So I do what I can to minimize how many snooze buttons I have in life.”

Warming the Heart

Heber’s approach to building relationships reminds me of Heber: straight up, wise, humorous, warmhearted.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to have the Hebers of the world to keep me honest and out of danger.

Connect with Heber on LinkedIn.


The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know; Ralph Catillo: How One Account Executive Stands Apart; and Anna Dutton: A Fresh Perspective on Sales Operations.

How to Sell to the C-Suite

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest ebook: How to Sell to the C-Suite (pdf).

It’s the second in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each ebook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

How to Sell to the C-Suite reveals:

  • What’s different about selling to C-level executives
  • A powerful 3-part preparation plan for C-suite sales
  • 9 best practices for successful C-suite selling.

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Are You a Connector? A Catalyst? A Steward?

Are you an ENTJ?  An ISFP?  An Aries or a Pisces?  You may know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and you no doubt know your birthday–but what about your Trust Temperament™?  How do you go about building a trustworthy relationship with another person?

Our research has identified six different Trust Temperaments™, or preferences, describing how different people go about building trust.

You Might Be a Redneck If…

To borrow from Jeff Foxworthy’s famous comedy routines (though on a more serious subject), we’d like to offer you a little self-assessment opportunity.  Here are the six Trust Temperaments™ based on the Trust Quotient to check out below.  Each one represents two strengths from the Trust Equation.

What’s Your Trust Temperament?

If you like being the smartest person in the room, if you solve the hard problems, if you care about what other people think of your work, or if you’ve ever said “Lead, follow or get out of the way–”

You might be an Expert.

If you’re organized, dependable, sincere, if you’re the PTA president or Little League coach, if you’ve ever been called a kindly (or not-so-kindly) drill sergeant–

–You might be a Doer.

If you love ideas and framing the big picture, how things are connected, collaborating and brainstorming, and if you like to play by your own rules–

–You might be a Catalyst.

If you’re magnetic and caring, if you accomplish things through others, and if people come to you to find out what’ really going on around here–

–You might be a Connector.

If you care about the group and the mission, if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, if the phrase ‘servant leader’ has a positive ring for you–

–You might be a Steward.

And if you love the subject matter of your work (maybe more than you love people?), if you get sidetracked by insights but never by ego, if anyone has ever said to you: “Hello, we’re over here–”

–You might be a Professor.

Where do you see yourself?  To find out your type, take the Trust Quotient test.

But Enough About You–Let’s Talk About Us!

As we’ve said, these are natural styles, or tendencies, which draw on different strengths in becoming trustworthy.  Over the coming weeks some of us from Trusted Advisor Associates LLC are going to share our personal perspectives on what it’s like to be a…

Stay tuned.

Books We Trust: Drive by Dan Pink

Daniel H. Pink talks to us about Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his recent and highly successful book.

The Drive Behind “Drive”

Charles Green: In the dedication of Drive, you mention Sophia, Eliza and Saul, “the surprising trio that motivates me.”  What got you started on looking into this whole question of human motivation?

Dan Pink: Our kids were part of the impetus, I guess. But Drive is mostly the outgrowth of A Whole New Mind, which I published in 2005. That book argues that we’re moving from a world built less on logical, linear, left-brain, spreadsheet abilities–and more on the hard-to-outsource, hard-to-automate, artistic, empathic right-brain abilities.

After that book, people said to me: “If you’re right about this shift in abilities, then how do we motivate people to do this sort of work?” I didn’t have a clue. But I knew there was a body of research on human motivation. So I started exploring it.  And I quickly realized that it was a vast body of research–and much of it overturned orthodoxies I didn’t even realize were orthodoxies.

Motivation 2.0 and 3.0

Charlie: In the book you talk about Motivation 2.0, which still has a hold on many managers and businesses: the idea that without extrinsic motivators of rewards and punishments, people at work will be unmotivated, aimless and unproductive–that therefore employees and teams need to be motivated and managed externally.  How would you tie this view of human motivation to trust?

Dan: It’s inextricably linked to the idea of trust. If you believe you can’t trust employees, then you have to put in place all kinds of mechanisms for control. There’s no way around that. If you think other people can’t be trusted, then the Motivation 3.0 approach I write about is a total non-starter.

Charlie: Your idea of Motivation 3.0 stems from the understanding that we, as human beings, are intrinsically motivated to take on responsibility, to look for creative and intellectual challenges and to solve problems. Can you talk a little more about the three factors which make up Motivation 3.0 and lead to production and satisfaction for individuals at work:

  • Autonomy
  • Opportunity for Mastery (competence)
  • Purpose (relatedness)

Dan: Sure. The idea here is that if you want people to be motivated to do well on creative, conceptual, complex work, you have to pay them enough–and offer these three elements.

Autonomy is the drive to direct our own lives. People generally perform better when they have a little more autonomy over what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and with whom they do it.

Mastery is the drive to get better at something that matters and to make progress in our work. It’s hugely powerful and often ignored inside of organizations.

And purpose is our drive to contribute and to know that what we do has an influence in the wider world. For most of the work people do today, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are generally far more effective than carrots and sticks.

Motivation, Management and Trust

Charlie: “Managing” from the point of view of 3.0 requires a lot of trust of individuals; it’s a far cry from our traditional mindset around “managing” which equates largely to directing and controlling.  Managing from a belief in Motivation 3.0 really requires that the “manager” trust her staff to work hard, be productive, and do the right thing. What would you say to a manager who is afraid to take that risk of trusting?

Dan: I’d say three things. First, take a leap of faith and give it a try. Be willing to let people surprise you.

Second, think about the costs of not trusting. You’re basically saying you prefer controlled mediocrity (which is what you get with control and lack of trust) rather than a chance to do something amazing.

Third, ask yourself, “Can you be trusted?” “Can your spouse or partner be trusted?” “Can your best friend be trusted?” Maybe the people in your organization aren’t all that different than the people in your life.

Charlie: If 20th century “management” thinkers had had a Motivation 3.0 mindset, it seems to us that it could have been applied in routine, even production-line work–because basic human drives haven’t changed that much in 100 years.  Do you think that Motivation 3.0 is only applicable to the 21st century ways of working? Or is it that Motivation 3.0 is just more necessary to 21st century workers and 21st century work?

Dan: It’s an interesting question. As you know from the book, I’m trying to look at what science–not folklore or our intuitions–says about motivation. And the science is pretty clear: for routine, algorithmic work, “If-then” motivators–as in “If you do this, then you get that”–are effective.

But that doesn’t mean “if-then” is the only way to create a motivating environment for those sorts of tasks. It’s possible, for instance, to help people doing routine work sculpt their jobs to make them more autonomous and better avenues for mastery. Likewise, people often do routine work a bit better when they have some amount of autonomy over how they do their work–and when they know how what they do contributes to a larger whole.  So Motivation 3.0 is essential for creative, conceptual work. But it can also be effective for other types of work.

Innovation and Trust

Charlie: Motivation 3.0 seems to describe a fertile atmosphere for innovation. How would you link innovation and trust?

Dan: People don’t innovate when they feel others don’t trust them. Period. Innovation often depends on the absence of constraints. And mistrust is one of the most constraining forces around.

Charlie: Interesting; that’s exactly the linkage defined by Ross Smith at Microsoft and by Robert Porter Lynch. They both emphasize the lowering of risk that trust implies, which then permits people to openly engage with each other.

Dan: Not surprising. Mistrust is terrific for making people comply; it stinks for helping people engage.

Results-Only Work Environments

Charlie: In your book you give some wonderful examples of ROWE – Results-Only Work Environments, in which employees have great freedom as to when, where and how they work as long as the work gets done.  How close are we to seeing the wider spread of that way of thinking?  How does the technology, which lets people work outside their offices, contribute to even informal ROWEs?

Dan: I think the adoption of these new approaches will follow the general pattern of technology adoption in general. We often overhype the impact of new technologies in the short run–but underhype them in the long run. So I doubt these approaches will be incredibly widespread in the next 2 years. But in the next 10 years, they’ll become the norm.

The Talent Picks the Team

Charlie: When you talk about autonomy, you examine having influence or control over Task, Time, Technique and Team.  Talk to us about the Team element of this equation.  For example, putting together a “pick-up” team of like-minded people, or those who have skills you need—isn’t that hard to do in any work environment?

Dan: Team is a tough one. But Facebook has a really innovative approach to this. The company hires new computer scientists and software engineers and for the first few weeks puts them through a Facebook bootcamp. As part of that experience, the new hires interview around the company–with various product teams, technology teams, and so on. Then when the bootcamp ends, the newly hired engineer decides which team she wants to work for. That is, the company picks the talent. But the talent picks the team.

A State of “Flow”

Charlie: You mention Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s surprising finding in Flow that people reach a flow state–or being in a state of focus or complete absorption so that time disappears–more through satisfying work than through their leisure activities.  Why is that?

Dan: Csikszentmihalyi says it has less to do with the difference between work and leisure per se–and more to do with the difference between activity and passivity. Most work is at least somewhat challenging–and it requires some amount of effort. But many kinds of leisure are passive. Think watching television. There’s no challenge presented, no effort required.

So, since flow depends on the challenge being matched to one’s ability, passive leisure never results in flow.  That said, active leisure–think rock-climbing or oil painting–does produce flow. The key, I think, is to fashion our lives–at school, at work, at home–around being active and engaged.  Human beings weren’t meant to be passive and inert.

Charlie: Fascinating, Dan; thanks so much for taking time to explore this with me, I appreciate it.

Dan: Not at all.
Books We Trust: Drive by Dan Pink is the third installment in our Books We Trust series.

Previous Books We Trust interviews include:

  1. Jeb Brooks on You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale, by Bill Brooks and Tom Travisano; and
  2. Jill Konrath on Selling to Big Companies.

More Women, Smarter Teams

The title says it all: to help teams perform better, add more women.  An intriguing research project highlighted in the June 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review by Anita Woolley of Carnegie Mellon and Thomas Malone of MIT suggests what makes teams smarter: having more women on them.  The study also points out some things which you might intuitively think would help, but don’t.

In contrast to some earlier studies which used surveys to get feedback from team members, this research examined teams’ performance on solving puzzles and completing team tasks in the lab.  The researchers studied almost 200 teams, with randomly assigned members.  Each team was given tasks to complete, including puzzles, brainstorming, decision-making and solving complex problems.  Woolley and Malone then compared the results of the task-completion to other factors like individual intelligence and group cohesion.

Individual Intelligence Didn’t Matter

It turned out that the sum of the parts did not equal the whole; teams with members who collectively scored higher on standard IQ tests were not the “smartest” teams.  Group cohesion, group satisfaction and other factors we might think would contribute to smarter teams didn’t correlate with performance either.

More Women = Smarter Teams

The one factor which stood out in the research was that the higher the percentage of women in the team, the better the results in team IQs.  The researchers suggest that their findings go beyond “diversity in teams is good;” the data indicates that except at the very extremes, where performance flattens out, the more women on the team the better for the team IQ.

The researchers speculate that this may be due to generally higher social awareness in women, a contributing factor to smarter teams, or to other factors not yet identified.

Five to Fist and the Blogojevich Jury

One fascinating clue to women on teams and how they make decisions is provided by a look inside the Blogojevich jury, made up of eleven women and one man.  Jezebel wrote that instead of taking an immediate up or down vote on various counts, the jury used a teacher’s device of “five to fist” – hold up five fingers if you completely agree, a fist if you completely disagree, and 2, 3 or 4 fingers to indicate that you’re somewhere in between.

In the Chicago Tribune Mary Schmich suggests that:

The jurors reached their decisions with no bullying, no shouting, no pouting. A colleague of mine who has covered a lot of trials said she’s never seen a jury build agreement through so many shades of gray.

My take-away? Make sure your teams have plenty of women, and oh, while you’re at it, try “five to fist” for coming to consensus.

19 Reasons I Love Evernote

Many people have asked me how I get so much done.

I just submitted my third book (with co-author @AndreaPHowe) to the publisher. I write a fair amount of blogs, articles, and presentations. I tweet. Plus the usual complement of email and other correspondence.

I’m not a super-technoid, though I do all right for someone who graduated high school in 1968.

I haven’t solved procrastination. But what I do, I do efficiently. Here’s how.

My Hardware/Software Setup

Hardware: an iMac at home, a MacBook Air (latest generation), most recent iPhone. I own an iPad but use it mainly for reading. (One tip: I buy multiple earbud pairs and power plugs, and leave them several places: briefcase, office, car, basement).

Software: My Big Four:

  • Voice-to-text programs
  • DropBox
  • Kindle on Mac/iPhone/iPad
  • Evernote

Today I want to tell you about Evernote.

Evernote: Not Your Father’s Memory Storage

Evernote saves files. Similarly, a Maserati is an automobile.

I could try and categorize for you what it does, but sometimes a straight-ahead list of features does best. So here are 19 Things I Love About Evernote.

  1. 1-2 click storage. At worst, it’s one click to open the program, and one more click to open a new folder—which saves automatically. At best, one click on a browser button, and the window is saved.
  2. Instant cloud. Everything I put into Evernote on my iPhone, iMac, iPad or MacBook Air is instantly available on Evernote in every other platform. Everything. Like instantly. This is how a cloud should work. (And yes, Evernote does Windows).
  3. Wanna save that browser page? Click the clipper icon in Firefox, Safari, Chrome—done.
  4. Wanna save that article? That .pdf? That selected section of text? Click.
  5. How do you take notes for your phone calls? I never had a great solution before Evernote. Now, before I pick up the ringing phone, I click Evernote. Boom, I’ve got a clean file ready to type notes. I label them “Notes, person-name.” That’s all I need, because it’s date-stamped, and I can search on anything.
  6. Search and retrieval is extremely fast.
  7. You can organize information by tags, or by folders you create. And you can create stacks of folders.
  8. Or–you don’t even have to organize information at all; Evernote searches on text within all files.
  9. You can forward, or send directly, email or email attachments to Evernote; it comes with a unique-to-you email address.
  10. Save photos and audio files—Evernote is Not Just About Text.
  11. Send scanned documents and faxes to be saved to Evernote. (I love using iPhone scanning software like JotNot Scanner Pro for receipts and contracts, then sending them directly as a .pdf to my Evernote email address).
  12. When I go to the airport, I no longer write down the floor/section where I left the car; I snapshot/Evernote it.
  13. Inventory all your personal belongings for insurance purposes.
  14. Dictate notes to Evernote—and have them not only saved as audio, but transcribed as well (this is an enormous timesaver, by the way).
  15. Dictate notes through a dedicated phone number; auto-saves and transcribes into Evernote.
  16. Send tweets direct to your Evernote account.
  17. Don’t have a smartphone? Any phone with a browser can use it.
  18. You can share on Facebook. If you do such things.
  19. It is free. Up to some pretty high level of storage and usage. Above which you can pay, and the rate is not at all unreasonable.

I’m cutting back on Delicious and Instapaper, because Evernote seems to have it covered.

If you’re not satisfied with my 19 reasons, check out Andrew Maxwell’s blogpost 100 Different Evernote Uses.

By the way, my take on Evernote is far from comprehensive, or even organized. You’ll find a far deeper example of how to use Evernote by @MichaelHyatt in his post How to Use Evernote as a Blogger. Pretty powerful example. And in turn, Hyatt recommends Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials–which looks pretty interesting too.

(For the record, I have absolutely no relationship with Evernote whatsoever, beyond being yet another satisfied customer).

Managing For Trust

Supposed you asked me the score of the latest Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees game, and I told you “12.”

You: Twelve? What kind of score is that?

Me: Twelve points were scored in the game; you asked the score, that’s it.

You: Well, who scored how many?

Me: New York scored 7 and Boston scored 5.

You: Well thanks; you could have led with that!

Silly. But that’s exactly what happens with trust metrics. People say, “Trust in business is down.” Cue the dialogue.

You: Trust is down? What kind of metric is that?

Me: Well, some people trust less, some businesses are less trustworthy; the net is down.

You: Wait: how much of the “down” is made up of people trusting less; and how much of the “down” is made up of business being less trustworthy?

Me: 73% of it is business being less trustworthy; 27% of it is people being less inclined to trust.

You: Well thanks; you could have led with that!

Are you trying to improve trust in your organization? You might want to start with clarifying the problem you’re trying to fix.

Are you trying to create more trustworthy employees and managers, so that customers and other stakeholders will trust you? Then focus on the personal attributes of trustworthy people, and on the kinds of principles and values that are observed in trustworthy companies.

Or are you trying to get your people more willing to trust others? Getting better at trusting means better risk management, delegation, personal growth, people development and innovation, to name a few benefits.

What is it that you are trying to manage?

Never mind, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” Heck, you can’t tell the score without knowing what game you’re playing!

Trust Primer Volume 11

Our goal at Trusted Advisor Associates is to help people and their organizations become more trustworthy and trust-enhancing. It’s always exciting when we meet people who believe as we do. It’s even more exciting to talk to those who have found success by applying the same principles we talk about.

This month we place a spotlight on real trusted advisors, success stories of real professionals who make trust part of the foundation of their business strategies.

The Trust Primer Volume 11 features three powerful interviews: Chip Grizzard, CEO of Grizzard Communications; Jeb Brooks, son of author Bill Brooks and Executive Vice President of the Brooks Group; and Mahan Khalsa, partner of Ninety-five-5 and author of Let’s Get Real Or Let’s Not Play.

Each of these three demonstrate in their own unique ways how concepts of trust have played out for them in sales and leadership careers.

Get the Trust Primer volume 11 here

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