See, everything we do, good or bad, serves us in some way. This list includes a few bad habits and downright naughty things we do as capture and proposal managers, even when we know better. Here is my list of confessions:
- Biting off more than I can chew, and chewing it anyway, often by cutting down on sleep: There may be realistic planners with a good work-life balance out there, but I am not one of them. When it comes to expectations I usually cut some slack for others, but not myself. On any normal day, I feel half drunk on ambition, the desire to help clients, and a feeling of limitlessness. This cocktail clouds my judgment at any given time. “Sure, I can write missing proposal sections, and edit and format the whole thing while I am at it. When is it due? Oh, wow. No problem, we have an entire 24 hours till the deadline.” Somewhere around five am, exhausted, but still, unwilling to cancel my seven am workout I question my judgment yet again.
- Underestimating how long things should take: If you are a born optimist, the glass is always half-full and the work is never too scary. Whenever faced with a large workload, I always think it will take half as long as any other reasonable person would estimate. Over time, I have mastered speed reading and even speed writing that I teach in our Writing Persuasive Government Proposals class. I indeed can do things freakishly fast, and I have a methodology to back it up. But it only means that I can now commit to ten things when it may have been five before. I should say “no” to more things, but I don’t.
- Letting the client dictate where we can cut corners even when I know better: This is a hard one. Sometimes I listen to a client dictate what they want us to take care of and I know in my heart of hearts that it will take a lot more than that to get them there. In my desire to please, and an axiom that the client is always right, I sometimes neglect to push back harder. “Yes, it is really that cumbersome to go through all the opportunities in the pipeline on a regular basis and plan strategic actions. No, you cannot write a technical proposal first and then do the slide deck – you have to do both simultaneously. Yes, you have to actually stay up all night and get this to me by this deadline, since it hasn’t been done yet. Yes, knowledge of the customer is necessary to make your proposal sing, so you have to do your research and get your operations people involved.” This type of client pleasing is the bad habit I want to shed for sure.
- Being inspired by the deadline that’s way too close for comfort: When a deadline is looming or when there is danger, time slows down for me. My mind becomes clear and I act fast, becoming super-resourceful, and I make good decisions. It’s a gift, I guess, but it is also a curse. I am often late to meetings because I write and think faster when I know I have to leave in five minutes. When something is imminent I am right there, with bells on, saving the day. Oh, how I would like to be that person that doesn’t thrive on the cheap thrill of a deadline, but a scary deadline is my ultimate inspiration.
- Gabbing with other brilliant people longer than I should: Perhaps for procrastination purposes, but perhaps for pure joy, I really enjoy talking to intelligent people with a great sense of humor. Face it, there are many boring and conventional fields, but ours is not it. We get to meet people on every new pursuit who are the best in the world in their subject matter. I get to meet fellow entrepreneurs with big visions, warfighters, scientists, technologists, doctors, and people from every walk of life then concentrate on winning business. Some of our conversations are worth all the sleepless nights – and sometimes I get caught up in a wonderful conversation knowing that I will have to play catch up after everyone is asleep. This is a bad habit I wouldn’t give up on anything.
We all have bad things we do – some of them serve us and others don’t. Which of your bad habits make you feel more alive so you want to embrace them as the cherished part of you, and which ones would you want to shed?
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