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Creating Alignment with Challenging Internal Customers, Ep #92

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Antonio Humphreys leads marketing procurement at Adobe and joins us to chat about identifying and solving internal challenges. Antonio helps us dispel the myths around challenging internal customers and what we can do to improve these internal relationships. Spoiler alert! A lot of it comes down to Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

Antonio delves deep into the human-centered approach procurement professionals need to take to develop great working relationships with internal customers. From there, understanding the relatable elements that are going to establish a good relationship quicker is going to give you a big advantage. You’re developing different relationships internally versus with suppliers and Antonio helps us navigate the waters so they don’t have to be so stormy!

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:43] Anthony’s background in procurement
  • [4:19] Why procurement people struggle to create relationships
  • [9:27] Why it’s necessary to develop emotional intelligence
  • [17:58] How to navigate conflict resolution
  • [20:39] How to develop emotional intelligence

Creating Internal Alignment

Procurement attracts people who crave control over an experience or a relationship. They’re almost taught to do that with suppliers and it tends to bleed over into internal relationships. Butit’s part of our jobs in procurement to relate and establish strategic relationships with any group we’re supporting—including our own internal customers. It’s an agnostic skill that we need to have. If you don’t have it, you won’t be successful. Antonio points out that you have to be able to flex your EQ muscle and really assess who your business partners are. You must use your listening skills, employ empathy, and understand their pain points and challenges. What is their style? Adjust accordingly. Show up and earn your seat at the table.

Starting the relationship with positivity is important—including understanding the assumptions you might have about the person, the team or their function within the company. It’s easy to assume that marketing people are too “outside the box” or creative compared to IT and therefore harder to work with. It is important to check your preconceived notions from the start. Instead, you have to go in with a bit of confidence knowing what’s worked well in the past. How have you been able to successfully influence and drive results? Where is it that you’re truly driving that value and kind of influence within that relationship? You have to embrace a positive mindset. Everything won’t be rosy and perfect—but you learn from those situations.

If you walk into a conference room with 10 other people and you’re the new person in the room—what are you going to do? How are you going to establish yourself? Will you drive the conversation or listen to the people around you? We need to understand and assess first before jumping in and helping to develop a strategy. How are you going to react to internal customers you’re supporting? If you can do it well it sets you apart in the industry. They’ll see you as a strong project manager and consultant, not just a “procurement person”.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Procurement must seek to understand internal customers before you can engage in productive and meaningful conversations. For example, consider the creative process of your marketing department—the how and why they made a decision is important to understanding where they’re coming from. You NEED to be conscious of that. You have to ebb and flow and adjust and tweak your approach. You’re going to need to adjust your approach if you’re working on a tech project in Japan or a marketing project in Germany. You have different cultural mindsets and business issues that come into play, not just different personalities. How can you help support them? How can you understand the current nuances? Once you understand their challenges, you can decipher how you and your team can help them. Listening to the issues on their end and always work towards a fair resolution.

Navigating conflict resolution with internal customers

Navigating conflict resolution within an organization can be tricky. Antonio tries to get as much information as possible, dissect it, and get to the core of what started the issue—and how it got to where it is. He recommends getting varied perspectives from multiple people. Then you give an initial set of recommendations, make sure everyone’s voice is heard, and come up with a solution together.

The focus should be to have good, direct, honest one-on-one conversations. Don’t hold things back. Know that you’re part of the same team and you want an amicable win-win situation. Choose to work towards whatever needs to be done because it’s for the good of your relationship and organization. If you can’t learn to navigate those waters with internal customers successfully, you will get stuck in the mud.

How to develop emotional intelligence

According to Antonio, developing emotional intelligence sometimes means moving into new areas that make you uncomfortable. If you’ve been in a particular role or category for many years, why not move into another area and broaden your horizons. How can you challenge yourself to grow and work with many different types of individuals? The varied experience you gain when you challenge yourself to do that is incredible. Not only that, but when you look at things from a global perspective, it’s elevated ten-fold. If an opportunity comes up to work globally or even live abroad, they don’t come along often. You’re not going to learn from the risks you don’t take, right?

Secondly, did you know that emotional intelligence is more correlated to your career success than IQ? It’s very clear that if we want to improve our internal customer relationships and get better at what we’re doing, then EQ is something that we HAVE to develop. So what are some ways to do that? Firstly, you’ve got to become self-aware. Learn to understand yourself by reflecting on your habits, behaviors, and actions as much as you can. Keep a journal on how you react to things. To hear the rest of Antonio’s thoughts on internal customer relationships and how to improve your emotional intelligence—listen to this episode of the Negotiations Ninja podcast!

Resources & People Mentioned

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