In demand planning we often talk about those unicorns who are analytically minded and yet can still deal with ambiguity and relate to people. They are rare creatures who can make sense of the data, then sit in front of sales and marketing and speak their language too. 

Ever wondered why some Demand Planners just seem to succeed and are rock stars, and others struggle and hit the rocks? The difference between success and failure may not be dependent on intellect or even analytical ability, but on leadership skills.

Let me take you through the 7 characteristics of highly effective demand planning leaders that are necessary to succeed today.

1 – Problem Solvers

They can look at an issue with an objective analysis and evaluation to form a judgment and develop new strategies. They are not afraid of voicing their opinions and lead from the front, bringing solutions, not problems. Highly effective demand planners are not afraid to make well-informed, effective and timely decisions, even when data is limited, or solutions produce unpleasant consequences. They can visualize the total process and aid in locating problems and demonstrate effective use of information and gathering techniques, analyzing situations, and identifying implications to make correct decisions.

Good Demand Planners try to be an effective listener first and foremost and ask questions to better understand assumptions and needs

2 – Social Intelligence

Socially intelligent people tend to be effective communicators—at all levels of the organization. Even Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had a version of this:  “Seeking to understand requires consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage.” Good Demand Planners will try to be an effective listener first and foremost and ask questions to better understand assumptions and needs. They will work on being able to express ideas or information clearly and if they do this while seeking to understand the other person’s needs and concerns, they significantly increase the credibility of their ideas.

3 – Critical thinking

They actively and continually look for connections and reasons why things happen. They visualize links between seemly disparate things or events and how things impact, and correlate to, other things. They can apply logic to break down facts and thoughts into their strengths and weaknesses to solve problems and get the job done. They follow less their gut instinct and try to find a quantitative basis for an idea, and form a logical opinion about something based on the information or evidence that is available.

4 – Learning Agility

Learning agility is a mindset and corresponding collection of practices that allow leaders to continually develop, grow and utilize new strategies that will equip them for the increasingly complex world of demand planning. They demonstrate an interest in personal learning and development, seek feedback from multiple sources about how to improve and develop, and modify behavior based on feedback or self-analysis of past mistakes. This person is the one reading this right now and attends conferences regularly to keep up on what is new and expand their horizons.

Good Demand Planners know that ambiguity is a fact of the environment we work in.

5 – OK With Ambiguity

Not only are they okay with ambiguity, but they expect the unexpected and succeed in a world where they are expected to be wrong.  In some ways, their superpower is being able to communicate risk and uncertainty and try to tame the beast. Ambiguity means leaning in, not running away. And learning from mistakes, not trying to forget. Good Demand Planners know that ambiguity is a fact of the environment we work in. Ambiguity cannot be ignored. Ambiguity is embraced as an educator and mentor for the highly successful Demand Planner.

6 – Entrepreneurial

The ever-changing nature of business means that success depends on not just adapting but innovating. Successful Demand Planning professionals are creative in their approaches and are not afraid to try something new. They are not locked in on the way we used to do things, and will challenge and look for new solutions. They do not work in a silo – they collaborate with others. People with strong entrepreneurial skills know how to identify and pull together the key individuals to get things done. Finally, they are very customer-centric, focusing on adding value both internally and externally.

Highly successful Demand Planners possess the ability to stand strong and be wrong with confidence.

7 – Self-Awareness

They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right. Highly successful Demand Planners possess the ability to stand strong and be wrong with confidence. They know that in the boardroom or S&OP meeting others smell fear and will attack uncertainty. Demand Planners present forecasts not as facts but with confidence to instill confidence in others in the process. They take pride in doing the right thing instead of having the right outcomes. With this they are not afraid to take chances and learn from their setbacks and failed attempts.

The above habits are a journey well worth taking to becoming a superstar demand planner. Will you take the challenge?