Before working on and submitting my first bid, I gained experience in various roles, sectors, and countries. As a senior manager, I established and managed diverse teams, often leading them through change and introducing new processes. Now you might wonder why this experience is important as a bid writer. It turns out that bids (RFP / RFI / ROI) can expose a writer to a variety of firsts, like working on a response for a sector you haven’t been supporting before and/or collaborating with a team you haven’t engaged with previously. Normally, when someone starts in a new sector or team, they have the benefit of an introduction period, giving them time to get to know the structures, workflows, and people. In the bid environment, we often work to very tight deadlines and therefore need to get into the habits of good collaboration very quickly.
How to teamwork
Following a well-structured bid process, including a strategy and kick-off meeting, obviously helps with how we work together. A detailed bid programme determines our approach to the bid response, tracks timelines, and identifies roles and responsibilities within the team.
In my experience, great team spirit can be supported by open and honest communication paired with a positive attitude. We all (should) know that communication is important and, when done right, can be transformative for individuals and teams. There are several guidelines for good/effective communication available, including simple rules like being clear and concise, empathetic, and listening to what others have to say. I think that adapting your communication style to your audience is essential, especially when under immense time pressure. In a bid environment, this means adjusting your approach when talking to the entire bid team or one subject matter expert (SME) to clearly bring your message across but also provide a platform that promotes innovative thinking and knowledge sharing.
Build a connection
Being friendly and showing kindness, e.g., when someone missed a deadline because of an unforeseen workload, helps to build rapport. People will be more inclined to work with you and provide the content you need when you demonstrate that a supportive team environment is important to you. You can do this by keeping a positive attitude and taking the time to ask how someone is doing. Listen to their response, smile, say thank you, and offer praise when something was well done and/or delivered in time. I understand that some might think this is common sense, but in my experience, these basic manners can get forgotten as soon as stress levels increase. So, the next time an SME doesn’t deliver the input as promised, take a moment to ask how their day/week has been and show some empathy before agreeing on a way forward.
Bring back some fun
In my opinion, it is a misconception that you can’t have fun at work if you want to be taken seriously and perceived as a professional. If appropriate and you feel comfortable, build common ground by taking a minute to talk about something non-work related and share a laugh. I always aim for meetings to end with a smile and believe that great results can be achieved when creating positive and joyful collaborations. Especially when working together for the first time and in a potentially stressful environment, others will appreciate that you make the effort to focus on the person and not only on the task at hand. They will want to work with you, which will positively impact putting together a great bid response and, as a little bonus, will go a long way to remembering how enjoyable the team experience was.
Stefanie Bender, MA International Business Administration, APMP-Foundation, Bid Writer who lives in Nelson, New Zealand.