An elastic band can stretch to a point and always returns to its original shape. You can repeatedly take this action and it will remain fully functional. However, over time it will lose elasticity, or if you stretch it too far, it will break. Now, some elastic bands are more resilient than others and it will take more for them to snap. However, they all have a breaking point. I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Wellbeing is a very personal emotion. Everyone has their own threshold for stress (and indeed different kinds of stress) and everyone has their own coping mechanisms. It’s often a common interview question, ‘how do you cope with stress?’ which is an odd one to ask because there is no real ‘right’ answer. It’s so personal.
Thankfully in our office we have an environment that promotes personal wellbeing and actively discourages running yourself into the ground. Working tirelessly to close a deal can have short term benefits, however it can be seriously damaging in the long term. Our work is never-ending, so we are encouraged to manage our own wellbeing and work efficiently, not endlessly.
Within the highly competitive and deadline driven world of bidding, it’s no surprise that personal wellbeing can be put at risk.
How often do we hear the term ‘must-win’ when referring to key bids? This, by its very nature, suggests that you must do whatever it takes to win; give everything you have to get the deal over the line; and be better than your competitors. If you aren’t working, they are – and they’re winning. The phrase ‘must-win’ itself feels passive aggressive. It begs the question, ‘will I lose my job if I don’t win this deal?’ So you stretch yourself a little further and sacrifice yourself to win.
But what happens when you give too much? Once you’ve worked yourself into the ground to submit your winning proposal, how do you pick yourself up and go again?
Bidding is relentless, so regularly evaluating your wellbeing is important. Does the word ‘deadline’ make you anxious? Do you feel annoyed when an unexpected RFP lands? Do you constantly feel exhausted? If so, bidding might not be for you. At the very least, it sounds like your current working conditions need changing.
When taking on a new recruitment opportunity, if I’m told there is a culture of leaving the office on time, it’s a huge benefit and a great selling point. It’s because unfortunately within bidding, this is unusual rather than the norm. The desire for a greater work / life balance is frequently cited as a reason why people look to move on from their current role. It’s also why we are inundated with applications whenever we have a home-based opportunity advertised on our website. People want to work in an environment that is good for their own wellbeing.
No one wants to reach breaking point. So how do you add slack to your rubber band?
Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. In this issue of Bidding Quarterly, our Experts have provided a great selection of stories and suggestions, some of which are breathtakingly honest. It is our hope that as we become more comfortable with talking about these issues, there will be a greater emphasis placed on personal wellbeing. While we certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, we hope to generate discussion on such an important topic.
In the meantime take stock of your own happiness, enjoy what you are doing and whenever possible, leave early!
Ben Hannon CF APMP
In this issue
I’ve been managing teams of people, directly and indirectly, for about 25 years, most of those in the stress-fuelled bid & proposal environment. I’ve seen a gamut of personal, mental and physical health issues that affect work performance and motivation: anxiety and full-on depression, various physical conditions that are worsened by stress, cancer, heart attacks, major and minor surgery, miscarriages and the menopause, financial worries, children and / or ageing parents, personal relationship strains and divorce, and, ultimately, death – including the sad but expected, the sudden and unexpected, and the downright tragic.
A few years ago, APMP’s global conference took place at the Sheraton Walt Disney World resort. I flew to the States; presented; we sponsored the event. It really was a great week, packed full each day from the early breakfasts to the late nights in the bar.
I consider myself very lucky, I have a high performing team. They regularly receive praise from our global partners that they have once again raised the bar; they are an integral and invaluable part of the sales force.
Over my bidding and tendering career, I have been involved with some disasters. Some of them I have been able to recover from and a few have even resulted in the loss of the bid. It does not matter if the fault is not yours; as the bid manager you are responsible.
“Fancy writing a bid, Nige?” said the Sales Manager. “It’s a high pressure, high adrenaline role that favours those who love ‘pure challenge’. I think you’d enjoy it.” I gave ‘it’ a go, losing my first bid but learning from my mistakes until I won virtually everything I submitted.
Bidding by its nature can feel intense for those co-opted to the bid team. We must see bid leadership as an activity that safeguards people. Peter McPartland, Bids Manager at national law firm Weightmans LLP offers ideas to ensure the experience and wellbeing of all involved remains positive throughout.
I’d like to focus on the person “running the numbers” to generate a price to the customer. Let’s call them the “Pricer”. For me, the most significant hidden costs in this role is in the need to reconcile the resultant price for Sales (needing sufficiently low prices to win) and Finance (needing sufficiently high prices to make money).
More people are now working from home for a variety of reasons, including a flexibility not found in a 9 to 5 office job. Unfortunately, even in this ideal work scenario, health (as well as productivity) can be negatively affected. When considering working from home, all challenges should be explored carefully, with a strategy put in place to mitigate the negative impacts.