In the Zone with Joe Postiglione

Posted: 04/07/2018 - 03:42

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In this episode of the Sourcing Industry Landscape, Dawn Tiura interviews Joseph Postiglione. As CPO for the National Basketball Association, Joseph R. Postiglione Sr., CPSM, is responsible for a set of businesses and services to produce the game of basketball. Joseph is the author of Don't Believe Everything You Think: Change the Way You Feel By Changing the Way You Think, in which he advocates for living in the moment and understanding the impact that emotion has on decision-making.

Dawn Tiura: Hello everyone. This is Dawn Tiura from Sourcing Industry Group. I've got a very different interview that we're going to be having today. You just have to listen and find out why. But I've got an incredibly interesting man who has an interesting story, and an interesting approach—one of the first times I've heard of this talent set wrapped up in a CPO. Not only is he a CPO, but he's a CPO of the NBA. He's got a very unique position in that regard, as well.
Dawn Tiura: I want to introduce you all, today, to Joseph Postiglione, Sr. He is the Chief Procurement Officer for the National Basketball Association. So Joseph, welcome to the Art of Procurement.
Joseph: Thank you, Dawn. Good to be here with you, and to share my insights with the listeners.
Dawn Tiura: You're at the NBA. So first off, that's pretty cool, and I'm sure you were the envy of almost everybody you talk to in the CPO world. So, just tell me [just] a little bit about what it is like to be the CPO of the NBA.
Joseph: It's true. I get so many interesting comments and statements about, boy, what sounds like the best job in the world. Of course, I think it is as well. It's an interesting environment from several levels. Obviously, because it's the NBA and, second, because I came here with the opportunity to build a global procurement function. This is a business that has millions and millions of fans across the world. It's truly a global brand and the business is booming. It's just spectacular. And so the opportunity from the point of view of the League—and let me explain what that means: If you were to look at a visual, right, the league is the point guard; it's a center circle that's the direct recipient of the 30 professional teams around it. The 30 teams, in fact, own the business of the game. And the league sits in the middle that essentially runs the “game” of the game of basketball.
Joseph: It puts on the production of the events, the transmission and the streaming services that go around it. All of the offerings that go out to the fans, the vis-a-vis League pass, and some of the other streaming types of services. So it truly is the production of the game of basketball. From that point of view, it's a very interesting set of businesses and services that go on to produce the game. I sit in that at the point guard circle of the middle. I don't support the teams, but I do support the production of the game of basketball. From that point of view, I get to see the inside, the data center, the replay center, involved in many different interesting aspects for the production of the game of basketball. From that point of view, it's very different from other procurement related activities that I've had in the past, or even jobs for that matter. And so it's a very interesting point of view from a CPO's perspective of the game of basketball. The direct product is the production of the game, and the indirect services that go that surround it to actually put it on.
Dawn Tiura: You're under a lot of stress then. If the game is not produced well, or if one of your feeds isn't working, do they point the finger at you?
Joseph: This is not directly related to me. The contracts and the services that go into the identification of the specifications are done by others and some significantly brilliant people that are in places to do that. Those specifications and the short list of suppliers come to me in a cooperative way. We put the agreements in place that best support it. If something goes bad, which I can tell you, it is remarkable how few times that happens.
Dawn Tiura: Knock on wood.
Joseph: Yeah, knock on wood, indeed. It's not a direct result of anyone or anything. So, here, this is one of the parts of the wonderful environment that there is no finger pointing. There was just a massive collection of response to correct it.
Dawn Tiura: Wow. I think that's pretty neat. How did you make the leap, because you were at, before, at NYU Langone Medical Center, which is one of the best medical centers in the world. So, your spend profile had to be dramatically different. Can you tell me about how you made that move, and what prompted you to make that move?
Joseph: Sure. It's an interesting—my history is quite interesting actually—from a number of different perspectives. My career has been almost equally spent between management consulting with Deloitte Pricewaterhouse. I did some events with Oracle. I've had a rather unique set of experiences where you learn the art and the role of consultancy, always around procurement and supply chain related activities. The second half of my career has been in the corporate space or in the private space with entities like, as you mentioned, NYU Langone Medical Center, Bristol-Myers, and a host of other large corporations. So, I've had the opportunity, from a category point of view, to see business from many, many different perspectives. And the thing that allows the transition, at least for me, to be not difficult at all, is really in the focus and the subject matter expertise of how procurement needs to be built and managed.
Joseph: Because, I'm at a level now, where I don't need to be as concerned about my subject matter expertise at the category level, the selection of qualified people and making sure your team is rounded and coming from a very positive and proactive place is really the focus is that I have. To your question, the healthcare space is extremely difficult from many different perspectives. The politics, if you will, the change management sets of activities are vastly different, because you're dealing with doctors and their physician preference. That's not always, but many times, in conflict with an economical matter or a decision, that has to do with this pair of surgical gloves versus that pair of surgical gloves. Even though the difference is 90 cents to maybe $3.75. Right. You have a couple of different interesting conversations that develop. So, it's different from the perspective of change management and your ability to impact the change, as opposed to in a corporate setting where it's a little easier.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah, It's funny. I spent some time consulting, myself, and I was at Kaiser Permanente out in California. Doctors and nurses, boy, they love to just throw, people are going to die, by every change you possibly want to suggest to them. You probably don't get that in the NBA, but I think you'd probably get more passionate fans and more passionate people in the NBA, than you do get in medical. So, I can relate to that. I want to also talk about, you had written, you've written a book called Don't Believe Everything You Think. It's a short book out there, but it's fantastic. Tell me, what was the impetus for writing that?
Joseph: Yeah. This is probably a culmination of life's experiences. As I mention in the book, somewhere around the year 2000, 2001, the winds of change were blowing pretty strong in my life. I became aware of life coaching through a postcard that wound up in my mailbox that really was my neighbor's. I delivered the postcard, but I had a chance to see it. The seed was planted. I did some research into what this was about and decided that I was going to look into this as a professional development matter for myself. It was like a master's level course in the art of coaching through a sanctioned entity of the international coach federation, which, it's not a regulated body, but it is in fact a sanctioning body for the world of professional coaching. Having gone through that, it was so cathartic in helping me understand several different things.
Joseph: I'll give you a couple of quick examples, that there's three references of time in a person's life. There's a minute ago. There's this moment and a minute from now. Most of us spend most of our time ruminating a minute ago, about things that happened. Maybe it didn't happen the way we like them to happen and we're sort of stuck in the past. Then the balance of our time is focused on the anxiety of a moment from now for things that have not yet happened. But, we tend to project the nervousness about those things. We lose the very thing we have, which is this moment, is really the only thing we have. The ability to be able to understand yourself from sort of a GPS perspective and see exactly how much time you're spending in a minute ago, in a minute from now. The fact that I'm losing this minute was extremely cathartic for me.
Joseph: And in a sports analogy, it's exactly the concept of the “zone” that everybody talks about, when an athlete is performing at their absolute best or even a professional procurement or whatever it might be. When you are focused in a negotiation and you're zoned in, you are absolutely in this moment. Nothing is going to distract you because, a: you know what you're talking about, and you know the message you want to deliver, and you know the mins and maxes of whatever position you're trying to pertain. I relate to this very strongly back to procurement and the concept of negotiating. But, that's how this whole thing started. As a result of that, I had an entrepreneurial stint. I went, actually, into the school that I attended and became an owner; [I] grew the business and became an executive and life coach for five years.
Joseph: What's happened since then is, I've never lost those learnings that I have. In fact, I use that in my performance management process for the people that report to me. They get an hour of my time each month. They have to manage it. The first half hour takes them through their performance plan; what's working and what's not working. The second half hour can be about whatever they want to talk about because it's a safe zone. Human beings don't come to work leaving all of your troubles behind and they're super productive. So as people feel comfortable, that you truly are listening to them and not judging them, they're able to tell you some things that you might be able to give them some ideas—not telling them what to do—but giving them ideas as to how to free themselves from some of those burdens. In a real high level way, that's how I got to this. The book was the culmination of those learnings and how I wanted to pay it forward to help people understand that they're really paper chains that keep many of us from achieving what they want to achieve.
Dawn Tiura: That's amazing. So many things that the book told me: just even that our memories are pretty much inaccurate. It was really a light on for me, to stop and pause, 'cause I'm a multitasker and I go all over the place, to stop and do something really, really well. When it's done, do the next task really, really well rather than trying to do them all at the same moment. It helped me, it helped me get a little more centered than I was before. So, I think it's a fantastic book and it was really helpful. I wanted to then move into certified emotional intelligence practitioner. A lot of people don't know about EQ and the IQ, could we start with a basic understanding with that?
Joseph: Again, this happened back when I was in that entrepreneurial stint, the idea of assessments of how you judge ones EQ. We know about the Myers-Briggs and some of these other personality trait kinds of assessments. Emotional intelligence has to do really with how well you understand your own emotional elevator and you deal with it. How well you can perceive the emotions of others. So that, you don't miss an opportunity to truly hear what someone is telling you or truly understand what's holding that other person back. Again, I come back into our current conversation about procurement and it is extremely important to manage, for me, to manage my own emotions because again, I'm subject to so many different things that are passing through my psyche, to be able to parse those things out, be focused in the moment and be in a calm state.
Joseph: That's my objective, in terms of self-control, for my own emotion. Second, and as important, when you're having a conversation, negotiation, whatever it is, is to perceive how the other person is from an emotional point of view. Are they anxious? Are they nervous? If that's the case, what could you do to try to alleviate that? How can you help make that other person comfortable? Not in a manipulative way, but in a caring way, so that the conversation can be successful in whatever way success is defined by you and the person that's having it. I would say that that would be probably the most succinct way to explain that.
Dawn Tiura: You must be the most amazing boss to have all those skill sets and to be able to mentor your people. I think it's just incredible. I wish I had a mentor like that when I was coming through. So, you've obviously been the who's who in procurement; you're somebody that a lot of people look up to. Tell me a little bit more about change management and the importance. Because I know that's something you've always stressed. Change management can make or break almost anything. So, can you share some of your insights on change management?
Joseph: Sure, and thank you for the compliments. I appreciate it. I can tell you before I answer that question, the people that that report to me, it's one of the most impressive things that I hear and I'm so proud to be able to hear it, that they tell me pretty much what you're saying, what a difference you make to me. I so much appreciate the fact that you listen and you're able to relate to me in these kinds of ways. I take that with no grain of salt, that is incredibly important and it is a big part of the pay it forward piece for me. So, thank you for recognizing that.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, no. It's definitely there. Wow.
Joseph: On the change management side, and I equate this back to some of the things we've spoken about already, especially in the case where you're building a function, if not sustaining it. I have semi-annual meetings with the most senior folks here at the NBA. I take them through a recap of the previous six months: what my function has done for them, a preview into the next six months in terms of what we know is coming. I also go back and ask them about things that are challenging to them. I come back to their agenda. I probably should have prefaced this by saying when I first got here, that this set of activities, I did on a monthly basis. Where I went to meet these folks and had them get to know me:
Joseph: I'm not the new sheriff in town. I'm not here to tell you who you are going to be able to do business with or who you can't. I'm here to help take non-mission critical things off of your desk, put them onto my desk, so that I can develop and deliver the most cost effective, spot on services or goods that you need at the time in which you need them. So, this was a primary important message that I had to start with, and had to continue to deliver, until people begin to (a) understand it, and (b) believe it by virtue of how I interacted with them.
Joseph: The change management piece is, it's a continuous flow of things: from what you do in the beginning to how you continue to grow it and sustain it, by having these levels of conversation. What this does, at the end of the day, is build an incredible bond to the extent that that bond is possible; some instances you have personality challenges and you have to figure out other ways. But for the most part, people want to do business with people that they like and that they don't somewhat agree with but have credibility, and come from a place of I can trust this person and this person has my best interest at heart. That's the primary foundation of everything that I do and every relationship that I build here.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah. When I started in consulting, I was a CPA doing total cost of ownership, cost modeling for sourcing. I didn't have that side—the change management, the people side. I didn't have those skills. I came at it with the numbers are there, don't be stupid, look at the bottom line. I couldn't understand why numbers didn't motivate people. I was lucky to have someone, a bit like you, who was a PhD in Organizational Development, sit me down and just teach me change management. Boy, my entire world changed. The way I approached work changed. Yet, I still meet CPOs today, Joseph, that don't understand that. They still try and ram their programs through. It's a really important lesson. I would love to invite you to come to one of our summits and present on this. I think it's something that everybody needs to understand and learn. I guess that's probably why your EQ is so high, as well, is that you got it at a younger age and then lived it and breathed it. So, really impressive.
Joseph: Thank you again. I appreciate those comments. Most kind. I'm happy to help and participate wherever I can to spread the news. Those of us that are seekers of truth, that understand that there's deeper value to things and, I truly believe that's part of who I am, if not a great part of who I am, these kinds of things, I don't want to say come easier, but the opportunities to learn them and explore them seem to be more consistent. Right? Windows and doors open and close all around us and sometimes, we're cognizant of them and most times we're not, I think is the unfortunate side. But, not everybody's going to get to the same place at the same time. I remember, I don't know if I shared this with you when we first had a chance to chat, but that—through my training I learned that—in this example, there's three kinds of people:
Joseph: There's those people that don't know and think that they do know, and those folks should be avoided. There's those folks that don't know, and don't know that they don't know; they are like children and could be awoken. Then, there's those that know, and know that they know, and they should be followed. You can put people in different groups for different kinds of things, because we have a great preponderance to try to classify and categorize things. Sometimes it's for good use and other times it's not so good when we do that. But, you see this all around you, people that are like batteries and you get attracted to them. Then, there's those that are drainers that just suck the life out of you. Sometimes we have a choice and sometimes we don't, but we have to figure out a way around it. That's where emotional intelligence comes in.
Dawn Tiura: That's fantastic. From being a consultant to being an entrepreneur, to being in healthcare supply chain, to the NBA, to being an Author, to being a Certified Coach in EQ, to having so much understanding of change management, you are an incredibly well-rounded person. Folks, I told you it was going to be interesting talking to Joseph. I just can't tell you how interesting of a person he is and how much we can learn from him. So Joseph, if you have a parting shot, what would you like to say as a takeaway for somebody? One takeaway. I know you have so many lessons that we can learn, but what would be the one?
Joseph: I think this is really about a personal assessment about where you are. To the extent that your mind is open to understanding things from a different perspective. The idea of understanding emotional intelligence and understanding how it can or has either negatively impacted you in your life and how it can positively influence you going forward, I think is a great journey worth taking. It just opens up the doors to so many different things when you begin to see that the way you think causes you to feel what you feel. And when you feel a certain way, it dictates largely the actions that you take.
Joseph: Thoughts yield emotion, and emotion yields action. And the more a person can understand that and take back the control of the thoughts that you choose to spend your time on, you can choose to feel better. So, if you're feeling badly about something, take a look at the thoughts that are passing through your mind, and you'll largely find that they're negative or they're anxiety based. That's causing you to feel what you feel. Getting in touch with those things and putting them in perspective and truly recognizing that you can change the way you think. If you do, your life can change in a most remarkable way. I would say it would be that.
Dawn Tiura: That's fantastic. Folks, remember the name of the book, Don't Believe Everything You Think. It's available out at, not that I'm putting a plug in for Amazon. Joseph, I have so enjoyed our time together today and if nothing else, I'm a big fan of yours. I'm already a fan of the NBA, but I'm now a big fan of yours. So, thank you for the time; it's so enlightening, and I enjoy every minute I get to spend with you.
Joseph: Thank you, Dawn. Thank you for those kind comments, and it was my pleasure spending time with you and the listeners.
Dawn Tiura: Well, thank you. Please join us on another podcast very soon. Thank you. Have a great day everybody. Bye-bye.

About The Author

Joseph R. Postiglione Sr., CPSM, is Chief Procurement Officer for the National Basketball Association. He is a procurement executive specializing in indirect procurement and in creating highly functioning procurement/sourcing units. Joseph was Inducted into Cambridge Who's Who in Procurement in 2010 and received an honor award as a finalist for the 2011 NJ ISM Procurement Executive of the year. A skilled negotiator, he is an indirect spend expert who also possesses a Certified Empowerment Coach certification through iPEC and a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner certification through GENOS.