Creating Alignment with Challenging Internal Customers

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a highly important part of negotiation and success. In procurement, professionals tend to excel at strategy and following process and downplay the magnitude of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has been linked to career success more than intelligence alone, proving EQ a critical tool to have. Luckily, unlike IQ, EQ proficiency can be developed through exercise. On a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja I spoke with Antonio Humphreys, Adobe’s marketing procurement lead, to discuss emotional intelligence and its importance in procurement. 

Too often bias leads us to believe we do or do not have the ability to carry out certain tasks or relate to certain types of people. Managing bias is the first element of strengthening EQ. It is counterproductive to enter meetings with pre-existing biases of “problem customers” or stakeholders. The preconceived notion that someone is unrelatable is a hindrance to negotiation and to growth of emotional intelligence. Going into meetings with a positive mindset doesn’t necessarily mean looking at everything with rose-coloured glasses, it means committing to a perspective of learning from failures and professional and personal development. Managing bias is another form of self-regulation, an imperative part of EQ development. 

Growing EQ over time is achievable; spending the time to develop it is of the utmost importance. There is no process alone that can create alignment with stakeholders. Being adaptable and relatable will create stronger alignment with problematic customers and categories. Keeping a journal can identify self-behaviours, habits, and actions that can be adjusted. The extra attention on self-behaviour allows us to create a list of checks and balances that leads to self-awareness and self-regulation. Self-regulation allows us to control impulses, such as bias, that will ultimately help a negotiation. 

Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and developing influence and good social skills are all pieces of emotional intelligence that can be focused on and developed. Motivation is the driving force to bring meaningful change, which brings success. Empathy is required of any good leader, in order to see things from the perspective of internal team members and external stakeholders. Influence and social skills are necessary for team management, collaboration, and conflict resolution. 

Overriding the impulse to control, and taking time to listen to stakeholders is significant. Procurement people crave control, which bleeds over into internal relationships. Hearing and knowing the difference between stakeholders in a tech project in Japan versus a marketing project in Germany is a building block to solving inevitable conflict. “You want to dissect it, understand [it], [and] get to the core of how it originally started,” says Antonio

For constant practice at improving emotional intelligence, Antonio urges procurement professionals to put themselves into new positions, like working abroad. “You’re not going to learn from the risks you don’t take.”

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