Another Ducking Digest?!
June 5th, 2023: How to Accelerate Your Supply Chain Career, Part II
Welcome to What the Duck?!, a podcast with real experts talking about direct spend challenges and experiences. And now here’s your host, SourceDay’s very own Manufacturing Maven, Sarah Scudder.
Welcome to Another Ducking Digest. This is a weekly 10-minute news show hosted by myself, and we have a very special guest for the month of June: Jeff Brown. Lindsay, who is our normal subject matter expert, is off in Europe with his wife, traveling for the month. Jeff, very gracious to step in and share his expertise with us each week for the month of June. Jeff has 20+ years’ experience as a COO and GM who’s led operations, supply chain, and entire visions for many, many large organizations. He’s also a lean evangelist and one of the most recommended leaders on LinkedIn. Today, Jeff is going to be talking about how to accelerate your supply chain career. Part one, I would ask you to drop us a note in the comments, tell us where in the world you are joining us from, and if you have a career question at any time this morning, drop it in the chat, and we will see if we can have time to get to it. All right, Jeff, with that, I am going to turn it over to you for part one of our conversation.
All right, well, thank you, Sarah, for having me here. It’s, it’s great to be part of the show and hoping to share a few of my experiences at least and help some of the viewers here or listeners. So thank you for the nice and kind intro. So what I want to share with the audience here today is a four-step process that I’ve essentially created or kind of derived through my career that helped me get unstuck. At one point in my career, I was stuck for eight years as a very low-level manager, and I just could not get out of that. I was at a good company, but I was stuck. And so I started looking and benchmarking and, and, and really researching what I could do to get myself sort of unstuck in my career. So that’s what I’d like to share with you guys.
So this is what’s worked for me. I’m not gonna, you know, say that it’s gonna work for everybody, although it has worked for virtually everyone that I’ve shared it with. So, hopefully it’ll help your viewers. So again, four-step process. We’re gonna share two of the steps today, and then the other two steps in next week’s podcast. So definitely, you know, flag this so that you can come back for next week’s podcast as well. So this process has helped me to more than 10x my income over my career and helped me to quickly get to the C-suite of a publicly traded company. So hopefully it’ll help you as well. So the first step that I’d like to share that helped me is what I call sort of building the foundation for success. And it is a lot about mindset. So the first part of Foundation for Success is really optimizing your inside game and your outside game.
So you’re gonna hear a lot of sort of sports analogies, most likely with what I’ll share here today. And, and your career is not unlike an athlete’s career, a sports person’s career, right? So think of your inside game, your mental game, what’s inside your head, but also think of your outside game. You know, when I say outside game, I mean how you are seen by others, right? So how you conduct yourself in meetings, how you dress, every single thing about what people see in you, your style of working with others, everything that they see is your outside game. So when we say inside game, what I’m talking about is having a free agent mindset, right? This is not a rogue agent mindset though. So this does not mean that you are out for yourself, in fact, you wanna have a free agent mindset, meaning you’re up for going with any team that is going to pay you well and is going to help you develop in your career. But you need to have a team focus with that free agent mindset, right? So not a rogue agent, but a free agent that is very team-focused. So that’s kind of the first step here as part of your inside game, the outside game.
One of the things I learned early in my career was you don’t want to conduct yourself for the level that you’re at. You want to conduct yourself in every way for the level that you want. And so, let me just use an analogy throughout today’s presentation here. If you’re a manager and you’re trying to become a director someday, and we’ll just, you know, stick with those levels, but it could be any level in the organization, but let’s just stick with manager trying to become a director. You want to conduct yourself in every way as though you are already a director. And that is what helps you to be seen as a director and likely be moving up in that role. Now, this is the inside outside game. Let’s move on to the next one. The next one is having a solid company strategy. So a lot of folks will talk about their careers and, and they’ll be very focused on themselves, but you really also want to think about the company that you’re in, right?
So sort of the team that you’re on, the field that you’re playing on, right? To use that sports analogy, it, you really cannot get ahead in a company that is going nowhere. So look at their financials, understand, are they struggling or are they doing well? Check their values, make sure that those values line up with yours. Make sure that there’s not significant issues with the leadership team. You know, one time I worked with an executive team and the head of HR was nearly walked out in handcuffs, that’s a serious leadership problem, right? Just having differences of opinions is not what I would call a serious leadership problem. But if you have significant leadership challenges, that might be a time to go and change teams. Also, take a look at the development that they offer. Is there a little development or is there a lot, right?
And what other promotions are happening? It’s, again, it’s very difficult to be thinking you’re gonna get promoted if you look across the organization and no one else is getting promoted, okay? So, you know, you wanna look at, okay, are promotions happening? Is it pretty consistent? Is there development of staff happening? If there’s not, you may want to think about joining another team. And then the last one here on the company strategy is looking at the level of bureaucracy or politics. And as long as there are humans in the working world, there’ll always be bureaucracy and politics, right? There’ll always be people playing favorites, but as long as it doesn’t rise to the level of being toxic, if it’s not rampant, then it might be a very fine team to be a part of. But if it is toxic and things, you may want to get out.
So that’s, you know, parts of the company strategy that I had looked at early in my career. And then the next one is how to get unstuck. So all of us, or many of us at least, I certainly was there. Like I said, I was stuck for eight years. Many of us get stuck in portions of our career and we find it hard to break out of, right? So the five most common sticking points that I found, and these are not the only sticking points, if you will, but these are the five most common ones, are hard skills. The number one is really soft skills, your leadership experience, and then your overall level of experience and knowledge in your subject matter. And the last one is what we’re gonna talk about coming up here, which is how do you deliver massive amounts of value?
If you are a steady eddy and you kind of deliver your goals and objectives then, and you’re not delivering what is deemed massive value, that may be exactly why you’re not getting ahead. As a matter of fact, doing your goals and objectives consistently is not what gets you ahead. So, and this is actually something that’s misunderstood by so many, is that they’ll say, “I’ve done my goals and objectives, I’ve done ’em consistently, I meet them every time.” If you only meet your goals and objectives, that basically keeps you in your seat, that doesn’t allow you to rise up. So you wanna make sure that you’re delivering massive, massive amounts of value. And the last one is a little shortcut to promotion that I’ll share with your viewers here. Many companies have what’s called a hypo list, stands for high-potential employee list.
And not all companies, smaller ones tend to not have this, but anything that, you know, companies that are medium or larger, virtually all have what’s called a hypo list. So again, high-potential list. You wanna make sure that you are on that list. And what you can do is you can ask HR if they keep such a list and are you on it, you can also ask your manager and then let them know that you have every intention of wanting to get on that list. And again, start delivering the massive value. Be seen as ready for the next level, as we had mentioned with your outside game and everything else, and get yourself on that hypo list. So again, shortcuts, promotion. So those are all the things, kind of the four steps within the foundation for success. Now let me quickly move over to massive value, and then hopefully we can answer some questions from the folks listening in here.
So, massive value to me, this is sort of the heart of what I was able to do to get unstuck from my career. The prior section was all about, you know, creating the right foundation for this. Then you layer on massive value and you become almost unstoppable. So delivering massive value. So why massive value is so important? I mentioned the five key sticking points of how people kind of tend to get stuck in their career, you know, soft skills and hard skills and leadership in the others. But if you can deliver so much massive value, it almost minimizes, or even in some cases negates, the importance of the others. If you can deliver just a mountain of value, then that takes over. And this is why this is so important, that you really understand what is truly valuable in your business to the leadership of the company and things like this.
So, you know, what I like to say is, you know, I created so much massive value once I kind of figured out what that was and what it meant, and I learned about like, how do I deliver massive value? I’m gonna talk about that in just a second here, but I delivered so much, think of like walking through your building and there was a mountain of money sitting in the middle of that, in your company, if you will. No one would be able to ignore it. And that’s essentially what my teams and I were able to do, was deliver so much value that no one could ignore this. It kind of became the elephant in the room. And you can, I didn’t lose you, did I? Sorry, we’re back. Okay, great. So once you deliver a massive amount of value, you really cannot be ignored any longer in your career.
So that’s the point that you want to get to. So just the level of the importance of massive value cannot be overstated. So there’s a prerequisite, though, to promotion that I want to throw out there that many don’t realize. And it’s a process that I call the TOPS process. So think of if you want to get to the top of your organization, so the TOPS process essentially means your training, t training and development needs to not only be at the level that you’re at, but also the level that you want. Okay? The P, I’m gonna skip over the O for a second, I’ll get there in a minute. The P is performance. Again, you need your performance to not only be at the level that you’re at, but also largely be at the level that you want. So again, if you’re a manager and you’re trying to become a director, then you want to have your training and development and your performance already, largely at a director level, right?
This allows promotions to be more of a pull process where you get pulled up, not a push process where you’re pushing yourself onto your company and pushing your way up the corporate ladder. You want them to pull you up because you’re conducting yourself as a director, for example. You’re delivering the value, you’ve been trained, your performance is already at that director level largely, and then it becomes an obvious pull process to pull you up to the next level. So this is, you know, again, what helped me in this TOPS process, the S in TOPS is really for successor. And what that means is that if you get promoted, you’re largely going to, or likely gonna leave a vacuum in the work that you used to do. And so you don’t want to leave a vacuum that actually creates a boundary or a limitation on your ability to get promoted.
So develop people on your teams to be able to take over much of your responsibility. This frees you up so that you can be pulled upwards. So that’s the S. The O is the opportunity at the next level. And this is the reason why I left this till the end, is that this is the one that’s in your company’s control, right? But think of it like a train arriving at the station. You want to have your training, your performance, and the successor already set up when that train arrives, which is the opportunity at the next level so that you can get on that train and ride that to the next level, right? So don’t wait for an opportunity to open up and then do those things, do the training and development, the performance, and get your successor already before the train arrives, and then you’d be ready to go. All right, so, hey Jeff, next, we’ve got some questions coming in from the audience, so, okay, let’s do about a minute, or more, and then I want to make sure we get time to got it some of their questions.
Sure, sure, sure. So, massive and measurable amounts of value, right? Again, the strong preference is for team value, not individual value. It’s common for many folks that I speak to and coach and things to think, you know, I don’t deliver massive value, but you actually likely do. In many cases, when we dig into it, you know, you might be a hundred thousand dollars cost for the company. They’re not spending a hundred thousand on you just so that you can deliver 20,000 of value. You probably are delivering much more of that value than that. So really look into how much value you truly do deliver for the company and understand that as deeply as you can. And then the other thing is think bigger. So if you’re thinking, I’ve gotta get this report done this week, and things, think bigger than that. Think, you know, can I improve service level 9% and, you know, for a value of $5 million, or can I trim lead time by two days for a value of a half a million dollars?
And, and these massive amounts of value, you then log them, you store them, you total them up, and this all becomes part of the value that you deliver. So think of big significant things that will really move the needle for your company and that will move the needle for you. And those are the things you want to be involved in, in delivering value. The four key values, by the way, are dollars, time, risk, and quality. So what I recommend to folks is to write dollars, time, risk, and quality across the top of a whiteboard and start identifying ideas under each that you can do in your role, or again, ideally the next-level role that you want. What things can you do to deliver dollars, time risk improvement, and quality improvement? Okay, so those are the four key values.
And think of this, if your single most successful way to deliver massive value, if your career were a test, would you want the answers to the test? If you got into no trouble getting the answers to the test before you took the test, would you want those answers? Would you want to be, you know, be able to use those to do the very best you can?
And I’m here to say that there are answers to the career test and they’re available for most of us. And what the best way that I’ve been able to find a tap into it is a process called benchmarking. So if you go out and benchmark, you can use Google, you can do a number of different things. If you benchmark how the very best in your industry are doing, are at that level of being the best, how do they get there? What processes did they take? What are their goals and objectives, all this. And then you mirror those. It can help you to get to that level in the organization very, very rapidly, and then use innovation to go beyond benchmark and set the new benchmark. But benchmarking is unbelievably powerful. It is the rule, and I’m sorry, it is the answers to the test that can actually get you to peak performance very, very quickly. So that’s actually all the material that I had for today. I’m happy to answer any questions from viewers.
So first question, how, what’s the best way to let your boss know you want to move up quickly in the organization?
Yeah, great. So first of all, per just like performance reviews should not be a surprise, right? If, if you’re getting surprise in your performance review with what you’re hearing, then you’re probably not connected close enough with your immediate boss. And so that boss, listen, we’ve all had bad bosses, and if they’re not keeping a close connection, then you probably need to keep that close connection with your manager. And so make sure that you truly understand where their head is at with regards to your performance. Don’t let them just drive the whole org conversation, if you will, in your one-on-ones. Definitely ask, “How am I doing? Are you getting everything that you need?” Right? And so that you’re less likely to get surprised in that vein. If you’re having those close conversations on a, you know, periodic basis every other week or something like this, then you should be able to actually ask the boss and say, “Listen, you know, I have an interest, I have ambition, and I wanna move up in my career.”
Make sure your boss knows that. Because what happens is when leaders get together at the end of the year, performance review time, or even midyear, they talk about each of the individuals on their team. They need to know that you have an aspiration and an interest in moving up. You wanna get their ideas on how you can best move up. But just be open and honest and have that conversation with your boss, you know, get their ideas. Not all of the bosses will have fantastic recommendations, ideas, some won’t. And so don’t just rely on your boss to be your only source of information on how to get ahead. They actually might not know how to get ahead, right? So talk with your manager very openly and transparently. Also, the other trick that I find is partner up with HR. Okay? So HR, they don’t like dealing with some of the negative aspects of HR all day long. They love to work on things that are much more positive, like how to promote high-potential employees and things like this. So, you know, befriend some folks in HR, let them know that you have an ambition and an interest in moving up in your career, and don’t be bashful about it. Make sure to have those conversations and get their ideas on how you can best move up.
How long should you stay at a good company with a bad boss?
Good question. So we talked here today, all it is a great question, by the way. We talked all about delivering massive value. So the, the, I have a very particular answer to this good company with a bad boss. It’s all about massive value. Again, obvi, obviously, if there are ethical and moral issues and things like that and you need to go, then you need to go. So that aside, it’s all about are you able to deliver massive value. So let me explain if, and I have been in this situation just like this audience member where I was in actually a bad company, not necessarily a good company, and I had a bad boss, but I was looking at the opportunity in front of me and I was able to deliver massive amounts of value, so I stayed, right? So think about if you’re a, you know, a star quarterback or whichever, where can you drive the most or the most massive amount of value and go there.
So if you can, if you’re with a bad boss and that boss does not get in your way of delivering massive value, then perhaps you stay. If that boss does get in the way of you delivering massive value, you know, maybe it, you know, the boss is bothering you so much that you just can’t concentrate or whichever, then it’s time to go. But for me, it’s all about delivering massive amounts of value for your company, but also for yourself. If you stay at a company and you are not delivering massive amounts of value for your teams, which gets tagged onto your professional brand, then you are literally wasting your time there, right? You need to be delivering massive value wherever you go. And if you’re not, it’s just a waste of time. So it’s all about the massive value for me, and that has worked out pretty well.
All right, join us next Monday, 10:00 AM Central. We are going to talk about how to accelerate your supply chain career, part two.