There are four types of time in our household.
First, there’s the time on the numerous clocks – one in every room. More or less accurate, they set the baseline to make sure we keep in tune with the rest of the world.
Second, there’s Hinchliffe-time. Planned, structured, disciplined. Every day has objectives with scheduled tasks and activities. If Saturday or Sunday dawns without a plan, that’s soon fixed by the end of breakfast. It’s pretty frenetic. The stuff of a ‘finisher-completer’. My days end blissfully as long as I’ve achieved something. Does that make me a nightmare to live with? If my husband wasn’t so laid back, he might think so.
Which brings us nicely to Chellingworth-time – Mr Chellingworth (Ray) being said husband. His time and my time are complete opposites. He leads a kind of “que sera, sera”, whenever, whatever, existence. He hastens to point out that, before retirement, he was a fully paid-up member of the proposal community and regularly met his deadlines. My riposte is, “Of course, darling, but never here, never at home.” Does that make him a nightmare to live with? If I wasn’t actually quite patient, maybe.
Finally, there’s Copper-time. He’s the dog. Fortunately, being a lurcher, he’s not that demanding but he still expects to be catered for in the walking and feeding department when the mood takes him.
Hopefully you’ve got my drift by now, so pause for a ponder.
As bid professionals, we need an acute awareness of time.
We are driven by an immovable bid submission deadline. The customer sets the clock.
We do this job because we have an inherent respect for time. And a natural ability to plan, schedule and monitor, to keep things on track and get them back on the rails if they veer off.
We are focused, driven, obsessed with time.
Yet many people we rely on see time in their way and not ours. Let’s think of a few stereotypes:
- The subject matter expert (SME) who has a high utilisation target and no spare time. For them, writing bid content is just a nuisance to be dashed off in between the all-important day job of earning real money for the company.
- The senior manager, whose time is so precious. They can only just manage to issue a ‘must win’ instruction, then disappear before popping back up at final document review to lob in some cryptic feedback.
- The lawyer who sucks through teeth like a builder and says, “I’ll schedule to read the 173 pages of terms and conditions the week after next and let you know if there are any show-stoppers.”
Our gut reaction is to get frustrated and annoyed with people like this – how dare they not take bidding seriously and jeopardise such a critical business-winning activity? But negative responses are not helpful.
Rather than stereotyping, the important thing is to take each person as an individual and consider whether they are deliberately trying to de-rail your schedule. Probably, like Ray, they just have a different agenda, different priorities and a different perspective on time.
Let’s make a working assumption that most people are not actually out to get you. Then we can happily use our soft skills to get the outcome we want, leaving them feeling good and us feeling satisfied. To achieve this, we need to use a few of the many traits of a true grit bid professional:
- Patience: holding our breath and counting to ten rather than exploding with outrage
- Tenacity: not getting despondent but hanging on in there
- Empathy: asking questions and listening to answers to understand the other person’s view
- Communication: keeping everyone briefed and engaged
- Pragmatism: being agile and adaptive, finding a different way
- Persuasion: using logic, charm, and a pinch of guile to get what we need, on time
Is this how I have learnt to live with Chellingworth-time? Well, yes. We’re in our 27th year and so far, so good. And it’s served me well professionally too.
The moral of the tale is…learn to live with difference. Handle the emotion in slow time and stay upbeat in real time.
Oh, and if you want to know where the dog fits in – he just does – life revolves around him – think of him as the daily checkpoint, the housekeeping and the hygiene factors!
And you may be asking: “What about those truly nefarious people?” I can think of a handful in my life. If all soft skills fail, I’ve used head-on confrontation, peer pressure, escalation and walking away – not lightly and not always successfully, but thankfully I’ve survived. A subject for another day perhaps, if I have time.
“What’s your version of time? Is it the same as or different from those around you? Does it complement, dovetail or clash?”
This article was written by Sarah Hinchliffe.
Sarah has over 35 years’ selling and bidding experience, which she loves to share through her freelance work, articles and presentations. A constant champion of creative storytelling and professional rigour, she never tires of encouraging sales and bid teams to join up, work as a team and win more business together