Why Bother Going it Alone?
Competition. It's embedded in the nature of all aspects of business development. We're all in it to win it and our organization has just the secret sauce that makes that happen.
We need to guard those secrets tightly, otherwise someone else might win. We can't possibly share our practices with others.
That would be working against ourselves, right?
When we founded the Bid Boss Clubhouse with just a handful of members in 2020, we weren't sure exactly what would come of it. The dynamic that forms when you get different business development friends together was not one we'd really experienced. Sure, there were the roundtables and the pre-teaming meetings and the one-on-one catch-ups at happy hours, but we hadn't really experienced bringing people who didn't know each other together informally to just chat.
Something a little weird. A little different. A little awesome, tbh.
The more that we talked about how competitive this industry is, the more people shared about how their organizations were struggling. The more we talked about how difficult it is to set boundaries, the more people shared about how they managed demanding expectations.
We knew we were on to something the first time someone called the community we built a lifeline.
It shouldn't have been surprising. One of the biggest contributors to burnout is a sense that you're alone in your struggle. Cracking open the door for business development professionals to speak openly and honestly about the difficulties they were facing was the opportunity everyone was looking for. It became a constant chorus of "oh, absolutely" and "I've been there" and "I'm dealing with the same issue."
Originally, with our group of ten members, we were able to do monthly chats with the whole Clubhouse community. Those "first Thursday" chats have since dropped by the wayside, as we realized the community was growing too quickly to sustain a monthly discussion in which participants could share and support one and other. On one hand, that's great! 260 members and counting is no small feat and it was incredible to see everyone posting and sharing and contributing to the conversation.
On the other hand, no one wants to be on a zoom call with more than 15 people. (p.s. does anyone else remember that early pandemic webinar USDA gave on which there appeared to be multiple farm animals? or is that only seared into my memory?)
As the community changed, our model for peer support needed to change too.
In 2021 we re-tooled our previous monthly chat as a dedicated group, specifically designed for individuals who are on a small business development team. These were the folks who shared most often that the loneliness of figuring out your own strategy and being "the only BD voice in the room" was most frustrating.
The Boss-to-Boss Solo & Small Teams Network has been going strong for over a year now, with members from five organizations supporting each other in developing skills, navigating sticky situations, and achieving big picture goals.
As we continued to test and refine how the group worked, we started doing more research on peer support groups.
What we found was incredible. We are far from the only ones working to create safe spaces for professionals to engage around meaningful, complex topics. When I stumbled across an article in the Harvard Business Review about the power of peer coaching, I was shocked. They were shouting to the rooftops about the value of bringing together leaders who aren't on the same team, but are roughly equal in experience and position. Telling me what I already knew about the value of the powerful learning interactions participants could have in small peer-based cohorts. Things like...
Insights into diverse perspectives, experiences, and goals which can challenge your own thinking and help you gain insights
Opportunities to practice new skills, both in how you interact within the group and in live-testing specific language to use or tools to apply
Robust accountability from your peers, both to show-up and to develop the skills that are most important to you
Building trust and support through authentic engagement and a spirit of collaboration
That was exactly what we were trying to do with Boss-to-Boss.
With some heavy influence from HRB's guidance on best practice for peer support groups, we continued to improve and refine the model. This will probably be a never ending process, especially as each group has its own unique needs and priorities.
Boss-to-Boss Solo & Small Teams is thriving. The cohort is so supportive and continually welcoming new members into their community. But why stop there? That's part of why we're recruiting for our next cohort.
The Boss-to-Boss Leaders Network is launching in February 2023.
SJ and I are excited to share that we'll be joined by Jeff Whisenant as a co-moderator for the Boss-to-Boss Leaders Network. Jeff's experience building BD teams from the ground up and seeing the bird's eye view from multiple positions in the C-suite means that he knows exactly how challenging it can be to have so many competing demands and expectations from so many different directions.
We're inviting folks who are in business development leadership roles and international humanitarian and development organizations. We want to work with anyone who is working to build cohesive teams and sustainable strategies and gets that this isn't an easy balancing act. If you get that while the threat of burnout is real and staff turnover is still high, you also know that it's increasingly difficult to carve out the time to tackle the big issues. And you probably know that the existing networks for BD leaders are not the space to bring your everyday problems; they're the spaces for teaming and high-level engagement.
You'll find more information about how the Boss-to-Boss Leaders Network functions in this two-pager, which is a great resource to share while asking for your organization to sponsor your membership.
If you've got questions, that's cool. We're happy to chat.