I was recently at a party (in itself remarkable for an introvert) and was asked by the hostess, “What do you do?”. I answered with one of my typical answers, “I’m a supply chain consultant”. Most people know about consulting, but few know about supply chains. I used to answer “Procurement consultant” but even fewer people understood that one. I explained my work of supporting Procurement and Supply Chain transformations through strategy development, organization design, assessments, education and category support and she either had enough information or needed a drink. She noted, however, that another guest had been a ‘Purchasing Agent’. I’m not a slave to titles but he and his wife live in a beautiful house and I doubted he’d been a Purchasing Agent – certainly not his last job before retirement. His wife cleared up the matter – he retired as a Head of Procurement.

Why am I sharing this little story? The people at the gathering were all retired business leaders yet none of them understood the meaning of ‘supply chain’ or ‘procurement’. How do you define what you do? Do people understand it when you tell them? If not, how do you illustrate for them the strategic role you play in the life of your business?

Ready answers to these questions are particularly important when interacting with stakeholders. It is vital that you claim the role you want to occupy and ready to do so. In the stakeholder engagement staircase below where do you want to be? A contract expeditor at the bottom of the staircase? A partner in joint strategy development?