- Stop blaming everyone, yourself included. It doesn’t help. Everyone has experienced a slump.
- Re-connect with your network. When is the last time you called some of your friends in the industry? You don’t have to call with the mission of getting a new job, but just try finding out what’s been going on with them. Sometimes helping a colleague with a challenge can help you feel better. You don’t have to tell them you’re in a slump – you can say that you’re experiencing growing pains and you’re just connecting and looking for new ideas to help inspire your team.
- Learn a new skill. Change is the only constant in the universe. In an ever-changing industry, it’s always a good idea to stay current on new trends and technology. If you or your team is not feeling energized or the negativity is too strong, a team-building exercise (as small as an unexpected trip like going out for coffee) can help.
- Look for resources you have internally. Stop looking outside for the savior. Yes, it could be that we’re lacking in some way, but then we start selling ourselves on the idea that we’re failing because we’re lacking in a specific talent. That might not be the case.
- Trust as a foundation. Establishing trust as a major element of your team is key to getting the most out of employees in your organization. What you can see in a lot of organizations are elements for creating distrust. Although time sheets are required for billing, and open floor plans are more efficient, your employees may feel like they’re constantly being watched. Although some of these tools and strategies may be operational necessities, creating ways to make a workplace feel like a place of trust are even more important than ever.
- Failure is okay. Not only should failures (big and small) be okay, but the lessons learned should be rewarded. If your team is pushing limits to their creativity, there are bound to be some failures along the way. At Facebook, “Fail Faster,” was a key mantra. The faster the Facebook team failed, the quicker they got to the right solution. The main point being, once your team gets over the fear of failure, solutions and success come faster.
- Have a framework to work through disagreements. In many organizations, the fear of conflict can paralyze progress. As a team, it’s important to have a framework for working through problems so these issues don’t fester and create blocks in your team’s productivity.
Working and winning projects can be an intense process. Long hours and tight deadlines can really create a lot of drama for proposal teams. In order to keep the team working well, a deep foundation of trust, openness to failures, and a framework to work through disagreements are all key to making sure a team survives all of the bumps in the road. Contact us for more help with training your proposal team.
Boost Proposal Team Morale in Five Ways
A proposal team working on a tight deadline can create a steam-cooker-like environment. Even the nicest marketing professional can get snappy when an architect, senior planner, and project manager are giving three different directions for an upcoming shortlist presentation. Although it’s important the best product gets submitted to the client, breaking down the team in order to get it to that point is not ideal, because usually there is another deadline sneaking up immediately behind your current one.
Avoid crushing your proposal team’s morale by using these five tips during your next project pursuit: Delegate and Support New Team Members, Communicate Daily, Be Positive, Don’t Practice “Dirty Delegation,” and Make Internal Debriefing a Positive Experience.
1. Support New Team Members
In the 11th hour of presentation prep, it’s easy to want to take the PowerPoint privileges away from the struggling newbie navigating the mouse and looking for the right function for the past 10 minutes, but don’t do it. You may not remember it, but you were once new to your job. The novice navigating PowerPoint might actually know what they’re doing, but the lack of sleep, nerves, and poor direction is causing this newest team member to move at the pace of molasses. In this moment, if you and your team can stay calm and patient, not only will you boost your team member’s confidence, you’ll build loyalty.
2. Communicate Daily
In agile methodology, there is a daily stand-up meeting. This is a short meeting (key word being: short) to address what each team member will be working on that day. If you have remote team members and you’re preparing for a deadline that’s 2 weeks away, a daily call (FaceTime even better) is a great way to keep your team engaged. If you don’t have time for 10-minute meeting leading up to the submittal or presentation deadline, why are you even chasing this pursuit? Make sure you discuss how your team will connect through the entire proposal pursuit process at the kick-off meeting.
3. Don’t “Dirty Delegate” or Redo a Proposal Team Member’s Work
If you’re in a management role, it’s very easy to take work away from a direct report (a.k.a. Dirty Delegation) or redo someone’s work if it’s not meeting your or others’ expectations. But guess what, not only did you just insult your team member, you just built a wall of distrust between you as well. This team member is now going to have more anxiety about working on a project and it’s going to slow them down. If you have a new team member, you must give him or her time to learn how to work with your team. Otherwise, you’ll have turnover and you’ll have the “why can’t we find good people” problem.
4. Create a Positive Proposal Team Environment
It’s a common complaint in the A/E/C industry that marketing people can’t get their project teams to write narratives on time or produce slide content. Why? Your project teams are terrified to write content that’s going to be critiqued and ridiculed. Many times, your best engineers, architects, contractors, and project managers are not your best writers. They have the most knowledge but getting that information from their brains to paper is going to take positive persistence on repeat.
5. Make Internal Debriefing a Rewarding Experience for Each Proposal Team Member Involved
Most people hate the annual review process so you can imagine how an internal debriefing feels. Make this a positive experience by incentivizing team members to disclose lessons learned. Mark Zukerburg coined the phrase “fail faster so you can find a solution faster.” The idea that you can find the perfect proposal and presentation process for your team doesn’t exist, rather, you should consider a Kaizen philosophy or “continual improvement.” This type of environment creates a trust centered environment that results in great work and winning processes.
Whether you work on proposal teams within a large organization or a smaller one, building an approach that helps each team member function productively is critical to helping your firm win work. Whether you are a marketing coordinator, manager, or design professional, you can ensure your team creates the best proposal or presentation possible by delegating to and supporting new team members, communicating daily, delegating responsibly, being positive, and conducting internal debriefs. By creating a supportive, and learning-focused environment, you can build proposal and presentation teams that love pursuing new opportunities without the stress and fear.
If you are pulling a team together for an RFP pursuit, it’s a good idea to have a kickoff meeting to outline expectations and deliverables. This will ensure a great proposal in less time and hopefully less pain. The best way to avoid a mad dash to the deadline is to have a kickoff meeting immediately after the pre-bid meeting.
Only invite key staff members to the kickoff meeting. Usually the project manager, marketing coordinator, and business development manager are involved in these meetings. When setting up the meeting with your team, make sure you tell everyone in your calendar invite to read the RFP first before showing up to the meeting. It doesn’t hurt to attach a copy of the RFQ or RFP so there are no excuses for not reading it.
The best way to prepare for a kick-off meeting is to prepare a Proposal Plan.
1. Pick your favorite tool (Word or Excel).
2. Create a proposal outline in a table format based on the structure the RFP provides. For example:
- Section 1: Understanding of Services and Approach
- Section 2: Qualifications
3. Add two columns, one for “Who’s Responsible” and “Deadline,” respectively.
4. Create space for the team.
5. Create space for relevant project experience.
6. Proposed Schedule: Draft 1 will be completed on this date, Draft 2 will be created on this date.
7. List general proposal requirements (12 point font, double-sided, 50-page limit, number of copies, etc.)
8. List proposal delivery requirements (time, place, etc.)
9. Additional Questions to ask the procurement specialist.
Don’t Leave Until You Have the Answers
Do not leave the kickoff meeting until you have every item on your proposal plan taken care of, someone responsible for giving you the information, and a date and time when the task will be completed. In some cases, this may be you for most of the items, but the main point of this exercise is accountability.
When the deadlines approach, start following up with team members and remind them, “This is what we agreed to at the kickoff meeting, do you have item 2 ready?”
Stick with the process! Your team will get used to the overall process and it will make getting your content together easier. If you have any questions about proposal plans and kickoff meetings, please contact us.