The Development Source
As I see it, there are two critically important elements in effective proposal development: good processes and good communications skills. It is easier to develop good processes because good communications are a function of our personalities and our social skills as proposal professionals.
According to Adam Grant in his bestseller – Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success (2014) – our interactions with others hold the key to our success. Although there are no substitutes for energy, commitment, skills, and a dose of luck, success in the business world is heavily dependent on the ways we communicate with others.
In his book, he recommends that we pose questions rather than answers, admit our shortcomings by asking for advice and support, and use tentative rather than assertive speech. All of these approaches put people at ease, demonstrate that you are interested in them, and promote cooperation. Grant recommends the following techniques:
• Be humble, but humorous.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
• Combine your competence with openness. If you are doing your job well, people expect you to be human.
• When you communicate with people, ask three questions: (1) what do I have to learn from them?; (2) How might I help them?; and (3) how can I act professionally while letting my personality show?
• Frame your recommendations as suggestions. For example, “this is a good approach” is more effective with people than “let’s do it my way.”
• Demonstrate that you are open to recommendations and alternative approaches to doing things better. People resent arrogance and puffery. They respond more positively, even if they disagree, when your communications are respectful and relatable.
As Grant points out in his first chapter, on the reciprocity spectrum there are takers and givers. Takers like to get more than they give because they see the world as a highly competitive zero-sum game of winners and losers. In contrast, givers strive to be generous in sharing their time, energy, and skills with other people who can benefit from them. Paradoxically, they realize that the best way to get ahead is to focus on others and not themselves.
Guess which one is admired more in the workplace and is more likely to achieve their goals?