There’s a lot of talk about Resilience at the moment, including a CIPD conference later this month focusing on it. It’s something I was musing about earlier in the summer. I announced my musing as is my way on Twitter and then promptly went back to musing and not much else.
The reason it’s flagged up for me at the moment is I am back in a bid team and as is often the way with bids there is a steady build up to the issue of the tender documents post the PQQ where you can research options, develop business cases and gather evidence. And the the bid hits.
We finally know what the client is really thinking (we’ve guessed in meetings, workshops and let lets be honest beers but it’s never exactly as expected). The timescale is usually short and we crack on. All the planning and preparation is matched to questions and delivery plans. We seek to clarify what some of the obtuse language means and try to make sure we really know what they are asking.
For me this usually means reviewing the people, mobilisation and general management sections of the bid. Developing blueprints and storyboards for the answers and then having these reviewed. And this can be where it gets tough. You see more often than not you’ve poured everything you’ve worked on for the last few months into a standard template, that doesn’t always fit, to answer a question that doesn’t quite meet everything you want to tell. So you tweak and redraft and recheck the costs and benefits and understand the risks and submit it for someone else to scrutinise. They haven’t had the focus that you’ve had on this and only this and generally have a wider oversight. Time is short and there are a number of other work streams going through the same process. The review team are rarely trained for this- just like many leaders and managers they’ve learned how to give feedback through practice and not particularly honed these skills
All of there factors lead to one thing – the review only looks at what is missing or wrong. There isn’t time to celebrate or congratulate just to pick apart and challenge. This is the whole point. What needs to be done and what will make the bid better but boy oh boy you need to have thick skin. There’s no time to get defensive or precious over your content. It’s time to pull up your big girl pants and take it.
It can be bruising, deflating and demotivating. It can make you question whether you know what you’re doing and whether you are the right person for the job. You do and you are. You just need to roll with the punches. It’s genuinely isn’t personal. It’s about making your submission better. It’s not that people don’t value the time and effort you’ve put in. They do – they recognise the long hours and careful thought. Honest they do. But they have a job to do. They are the critical friend (emphasis on the friend).
Honestly I’ve been through this quite a few times (I seem to be developing a bit of a niche for myself in the whole bid area) and each time it’s the same. It’s tough but it passes. You can’t dwell because the bid clock is ticking. You have to suck it up and move on to the next stage. Redraft, edit, review and then start writing.
This is where my resilience is tested. The blank page. It can take me days to get started. Not days doing nothing but thinking, drafting in my head, working through the solution and then eventually getting it down on paper.
Tick took the bid clock is still ticking.
The days get longer, you find the times of day that work for you (funnily for me it’s very early morning and early evening – I am least productive during ‘normal’ office hours) and you cope with the fear. The fear that you’ll never find the words, the fear that what you are writing is complete tosh.
And then you submit for review and hold your breath. The process is generally the same – what’s missing, what’s wrong, what doesn’t make sense or isn’t clear. Rarely what’s good.
Bid writing is usually a solo pursuit until review (like most writing I guess) so when you submit it can be quite exposing. You can’t hide behind your drafting process rather have to stand behind you drafts! Sometime you get great comments and insight. Others it’s wordsmithing and missing commas. It can be brutal. It can be positive. But again you have to be up to it.
I’m lucky. I have pretty thick skin but even I find it tough. The product of my last few weeks. My late nights, sleepless thinking, ideas taking shape and filling the page. But again time isn’t on your side. It’s about scoring the points. Telling to story and getting the win. So you need to know what’s missing, what needs clarity, or what needs editing.
So how can this process be made better? Well for start recognise and acknowledge the feeling. It’s ok to invest in your work and want others to like it. You’re not the only one – we each cope in different ways but the rest of the team are going through the same so seek support and give support.
Try to take a step back and objectively review your work, get yourself some trusted advisers and your own cheer leaders and never worry about asking for their help.
Don’t be an ostrich – this is a tough one but if it’s not working you need to admit it. Either walk away for a while or get some help (remember this others going through the same, or your advisers and cheer leaders?).
Laugh – it sounds simple but it’s important to keep perspective and keep smiling. And agin. Gin helps.
Have something to look forward to after the bid is submitted. For me it’s down time with my boys, ideally somewhere with limited internet/phone.
This is what works for me. This is what keeps me going, helps me find the eye in my storm and come out the other side in tact.
I have to thank a few people for being the best during this most recent storm including @FitzieP @fuchsia_blue @brazelnut @ms_organised and @nicky_t all bloody brilliant with or without Pom-poms.