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There’s more to professionalism than knowing stuff

August 19, 2014

Many contracts, procurement and legal staff want to increase their influence. Many complain about not being involved earlier, or not being part of the ‘core team’.

Research has shown that one key element of being respected and included is to bring incremental knowledge and connections that others do not have. That is one aspect of ‘professionalism’ – being connected to a professional network, having access to a respected body of knowledge.

But that is not enough. Many contract managers and lawyers are knowledgeable and well connected, yet still do not feel these attributes are fully recognized. As Cendrine Marrouat points out in a recent blog, professionalism is also about showing care and respect for your audience, especially in how you communicate. If we appear arrogant, or dismissive, if we fail to pay attention to their views, it should not surprise us that we are not included – because our behaviour is then not inclusive. Key to being wanted is the sense that we listen, ask questions, take time to appreciate the views of others and why they hold them. We need also to explain the rationale for our position based on what we know the other party’s interests to be.

For example, if we want to promote a new contract management system, our message to the CFO will most likely promote the bottom-lime impacts it can have, as well as the improvements in data flows. The General Counsel will like the idea of being able to access contracts reliably and to improve the quality of insight and governance. But these benefits are not going to have much appeal to the head of Sales. They will most likely interpret those ‘benefits’ as meaning increased control over the sales force – and greater control equals less business. So with Sales the message has to be one of more empowerment, easier access to standard forms and agreements, speeding up of cycle times.

Ultimately, our success is driven not solely by what we know, but also by how we communicate that knowledge to others. But if we don’t take time to learn, then our knowledge is also limited.

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