As Demand Planners we hear a lot about technical skills but without the all-important soft skills, it is difficult to apply them in a meaningful way. Regardless of your industry or experience in the field, we all have room for improvement. By practicing these 10 traits, you will be a better demand planner, and you will greatly increase your value to your organization. The best part? You can start doing them now because there is no training necessary.
1. Be Positive
This appears first on the list because in my opinion, it’s the most important. A negative demand planner will struggle to gain the trust of business partners, which is fundamental to its role. It is true that no one likes to be around a negative person. Being negative is a failsafe way to alienate yourself, your function, your profession, and even your entire department from being recognized as a valuable business partner. This is true internally and externally, even when working with vendors or collaborative forecasting partners. If being positive is not part of your nature, seriously consider that it will greatly impede your success. If you want to be successful in demand planning, make the effort to be positive. Try to find something good even in a challenging or frustrating situation. Take the time to consider others’ viewpoints and respond in a way you would want them to respond to you if the situation were reversed.
2. Be Friendly
Being friendly is the cousin of being positive. As a demand planner, it is important that people trust you, they think you are personable and approachable. Even if someone doesn’t like you personally but can say you are a friendly person, that’s a good thing. It’s as simple as smiling, saying hello, asking people how they are doing, remembering someone’s name, etc. If you’re having a bad day, or are frustrated about something, deal with it in private. Don’t let people see you roll your eyes or sigh about something. Otherwise, it will be perceived negatively. Being friendly should not be limited to your sphere of influence; be friendly to everyone you come in to contact with at the office, on the phone, at the company gym, or anywhere.
3. Be Punctual
Being punctual is a direct statement of how much you respect people’s time. Show up on time for meetings. Start conference calls on time. Don’t cancel or postpone things at the last minute. This works the other way, too. If you’re scheduled to finish a meeting or call at a certain time, stick to it. Start wrapping things up five minutes before the meeting’s scheduled end. Everyone will appreciate punctuality, even those who aren’t good at it. If they know that you always start on time, they will be inspired to make the effort to be punctual, too. Even if latecomers prevent you from starting on time, end at the originally scheduled time. Keep in mind, of course, that you should do what’s best in each situation, so don’t practice punctuality at the expense of other things on this list.
4. Be Proactive
Being a demand planner affords you some degree of latitude with regard to the scope and boundaries of what the job entails. Make it what you want it to be. Don’t wait for the work to come to you, define it for yourself. Come up with new approaches to things and seek others’ opinions. Think of ways that you can provide more value to a coworker, another department, or your entire organization by doing something differently, better, or not at all. Get involved in projects that are outside your normal scope. This should be how you approach your role as demand planner, not just something you do. This can open new doors for you in the future by allowing you to expand your sphere of influence, build new skills, and help you discover new areas of strength or interest.
5. Be Teachable
We can always be better. Ask for feedback, listen, and use the advice to improve yourself or the way you are trying to accomplish something. Also learn from others. Find out how they approach similar problems or deal with similar situations. This is a great way to start conversations when networking with people who are in your field but are from different industries or companies. After meetings or presentations, ask your peers what you could do better next time. Have a regular touch-base with your manager to find out how he/she thinks you can improve. Take feedback graciously, do not be offended, and grow from what you learn.
6. Be Helpful
Show initiative to help your colleagues, whether it’s unjamming the copier or creating a PowerPoint template. Offer to cover meetings for your manager when he/she is overbooked. Show other departments what you’re working on and ask them if it could be a valuable resource for them to use. Remember that you provide a service. Seek ways that you can help others make better business decisions.
7. Be Transparent
Don’t assume that others know what you’re trying to do or why it’s important to you. Make it clear to those you work with what your goals and intentions are, and why it’s important to accomplish them. Be humble enough to ask a peer or manager for help with something you can’t grasp. Explain to others what assumptions you made to arrive at a forecast and what the risks are to the numbers. Don’t be afraid to report less than-stellar results against a goal. Be real, be transparent, and be truthful.
8. Be Dependable
Always deliver on what you promise. If you said that the demand review deck would be provided the day before the meeting, make sure it is. If there are follow-up actions from a meeting, ensure they are captured and followed all the way through. If you said you would check in with someone about something next week, make sure you actually do. It’s easy to let things slide and be forgotten. Find a systematic way to prevent this from happening. It could be as easy as putting reminders on your calendar or using sticky notes on your monitor.
9. Be Dedicated
Follow-through is important and one of the best ways to show your commitment. Finish projects well and ask if there is anything further that needs to be done. Go the extra mile, stay later if you need to finish something, and take time to verify that things are accurate before publishing them. Recognize the importance of the service you provide to your organization and act accordingly.
10. Be Fearless
It might be easy to shy away from a project that seems overwhelming or aoutside your expertise. If you’re presented with new opportunities, jump at them. Set yourself up for success by clarifying expectations and asking for help. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Practice getting out of your comfort zone.
What is described above are basically soft skills, but they are very important. No matter how technically skilled a person is, without soft skills, he or she may not be able to add much value to the business.
This article was originally published in the Journal of Business Forecasting Winter 2018/2019 Special Issue: Women in Demand Planning and Forecasting. To get the journal delivered to your doorstep quarterly, subscribe here or become an IBF member and get the journal plus access to the entire IBF knowledge library, discounted entry to conferences and training, members only workshops and more.