Pressing commitments – how to be “fair” as proposal manager?

Dear Proposal Doctor,

I am running a big proposal. Several people on the team are critical to the effort because of how much they know. Each seems to have some kind of personal commitment that cuts into their day several times a week. It’s either kids, medical appointments, other professional commitments, a sick relative, a household repair, or something else.

I don’t want to have one standard for most of the team (you need to be in the office) and another standard for a select minority (you can set your own schedule because I can’t live without you).

I am at a loss as to how to manage this and still maintain the morale of the team. Please help.

-Trying To Be Fair

Dear Trying,

You are correct. It is very difficult to have two standards and maintain your integrity as a leader.

So, I would suggest just one standard, which is the one I use on all the proposals I manage. Everyone on the team should be able to deal with pressing personal commitments. Proposals can go on for a long time, and we can’t turn off the outside world.

On the proposals I have worked, people have died, people have been born, companies have merged, people have had their homes destroyed by floods, kids have graduated from college, relatives have gotten married (and divorced), and on and on and on. Stuff is going to happen.

Notice I said pressing personal commitments. For the system to work, everyone has to agree on what constitutes a pressing commitment. Playing golf on Thursday afternoon is not a pressing commitment. Anything connected to health is a pressing commitment in my book. No proposal is worth getting sick or injured. Anything connected to family is pressing. No proposal is worth a divorce, a separation, or an estranged relative.

At the same time, if someone has so many pressing commitments that he or she cannot attend required meetings or keep up with the proposal deadlines, you will need to think about how to redefine and realign roles. Proposals are about teamwork, and sometimes work can be split among several people, or it can be done in shifts—assuming you have a way to do a clean hand-off at the end of a shift.

Instead of changing the standard for one person, change the nature of that person’s involvement. That way you can maintain a single standard, and you don’t have to feel responsible for keeping someone from a personal commitment.

All Best,

Wendy Frieman, The Proposal Doctor


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Lohfeld Consulting