Ask a Boss: Making Your Voice Heard
Dear Bid Boss,
As a proposal manager, how do you deal with people who don't understand the importance of that role being the "hub" for the project? For example, I’ve had M&E staff reach out to partners for information I’ve already asked the partners for and even had my own boss negotiate SOWs with partners that don't match our technical design.
Especially as a young woman, how do I get my colleagues to coordinate closely with me during major and minor bids?!
--Managing Up, Across, and Every Direction
You have hit on one of the core struggles of every proposal manager, and every person who’s ever been stuck in the “accountability without authority” camp.
There are definitely solutions that can help you where you are right now. The first key is around clear roles: communicate them from the kickoff if not before, communicate them often, and communicate them to a nauseating level of detail. One of my favorite solutions is a roles matrix, with the responsibility/task down the y axis and the proposal team members across the x axis. This helps you quickly see, for example, if roles for supporting partner teaming agreements and scopes of work are complimentary or redundant/conflicting, whereas just listing bullet points for each person’s role on a slide deck at kickoff is more likely to result in confusion and duplication.
”Herding cats” skill sets get stronger over time, but IMHO, it really comes down to effective communication: how (through multiple channels, including finding the ones your team actually monitors), how often (three times as much as seems necessary), and how specific (call out action requests, make it clear why it’s needed, and assign a timeline).
This will help in the short-term, but it doesn’t solve the proposal manager’s long-term problem of being in this situation in the first place. It’s likely a bit outside your sphere of decision-making, but to get to the core of the problem I recommend you advocate for solutions that either fundamentally reduce your accountability (unlikely) or increase your authority (possible). One way I have seen this effectively done is to integrate business development in the job description of anyone who frequents proposal teams. If it’s something people are reviewed on as part of their performance evaluations – and it’s not just seen as an “add-on” that they are helping with out of the kindness of their heart – the corporate value of the role of business development is elevated.
Good luck in addressing both your long- and short-term solutions!
To your better bids,
AskABoss is a regular series on the Bid Boss Clubhouse! Members will see posts regularly, with occasional posts re-shared here on the blog. Membership in the Clubhouse is free, so sign up today at club.bidboss.org if you want to see these as they're released!
Do you have a question about business development and navigating your tricky workplace scenarios that you'd like to see answered in a future column? Submit via our anonymous form or email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may lightly edit your submissions whether to remove identifying information or for clarity.