You are assigned to manage a major proposal. Before springing into frenetic action, withdraw to your quiet place. Ground yourself. Anticipate. Preview in your mind the choreographed production about to unfold. Have a “vision” for how you will lead your team to win.
1. Understand the “Fit” and the Higher Purpose. Besides generating revenues and profits, how does pursuit of this opportunity align to your company’s goals, strengths, and reasons for existence? Understand this connection and be ready to articulate it to your team. Once awarded the contract, what important needs will your company help meet? Your ability to express the importance of the mission will inspire the proposal team and help them through the tough times ahead.
2. Have a Simple Answer to “Why Us?” Crystallize 3-5 easy-to-understand reasons why awarding the contract to your company is warranted. Then ward off attempts to water them down, complicate them with superfluous technical bloviation, or to turn them into a “dog’s breakfast” of every conceivable justification.
3. Make Heroes of Each Team Member. Position each member of the proposal team to succeed. Play to strengths. Forgive and then compensate for shortcomings. Accept responsibility for all bumps in the road. Deflect credit their way. Praise them often. Mentor each. As their stature increases, position them front and center throughout the proposal effort.
4. Determine In Advance How You Will Comport Yourself. Anyone can lead during the good times. Anticipate how you will turn and face the ill-winds that blow often through the proposal center: criticism, second-guessing, sniping from the sidelines, stress, late hours, sleep deprivation, missed assignments, cold pizza, blowhard consultants, impending deadlines, divisive red teams, endless edits, and decisions reversed from above before you announce them the first time. How these are handled is the real measure of your leadership.
5. Model the Behavior You Expect. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Sacrifice for your team. Meet your commitments. Stay positive. Listen. Always listen. Neither gossip nor give quarter to those who do. Serve others. Forgive and move on. Do these things and your team will follow you anywhere.
When you transport yourself to your quiet place, drink in these five tips. When you emerge with your “Proposal Vision” acutely focused, you will be better equipped to deliver that important win.
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