Better RFP Responses & Management
Signs of Overload

Signs of Overload

One of my book’s tips for the person managing the proposal team is to watch for signs of stress in the team: signs of overload.  It seems obvious enough, right?  If they’re working too hard they’ll get cranky.

Well, maybe.  Again and again in Proposal Land I’ve seen entire teams bypass the cranky stage altogether and go straight to  giddiness.  Executives passing through think everyone is having  a good time, that everyone is OK.  It’s an easy mistake to make.  Easy enough to miss the slightly desperate nature of the interactions, to not see the underlying exhaustion. 

I mention this now because it’s a state I find myself in, after more than three months on my current proposal effort.  Working mostly from home I have less opportunity to feed off the team’s giddiness,  so my symptoms are different than when I’m on-site with a team of equally tired puppies.  My symptoms are less aural, but equally verbal, if you like: they appear in my writing.

Not my proposal writing: that’s still pretty straight-laced.  But my personal blog writing is getting just a shade wackier, a hair more verbose, a tad more tangential, a bit less disciplined.  I have to concentrate hard to stay on point, and work to excise content extraneous to it.  I get, well, silly.

I don’t know why I get silly as I tire, but I do know that I’m not alone in this.  Is it something to do with lacking the mental energy to maintain a constructed persona; that is, would we always be like this if we didn’t censor ourselves?  Is it just a reaction to the drudgery: a way to escape for a few minutes?  It beats me.  But my threshold for amusement is way down: it doesn’t take much these days to make me laugh.

I expect it’s a good general management tip, rather than just being true in Proposal Land.  If your staff are getting sort of silly, it’s time to throttle back.


  1. If you’re staff are getting sort of silly, it’s time to throttle back.

    “you’re” ??? Yes, it is time, Isabel. Even I caught that one! and in my last book I didn’t catch “tits” for “its” which John says I needn’t apologize for.

  2. Jim Taylor

    Silliness is not always negative. During the days when I was a co-owner of Wood Lake Books, I lived in Toronto while the other managers lived in BC. I flew out a couple of times a year for management meetings. One time, we had a labyrinth of decisions to work through. Every item we discussed had implications for some other item. We argued furiously for three days, without seeming to get anywhere. And then the computer guru, whom we’d invited in to assist us, commented, “You’re starting to kid each other again. That means you’ve reached a decision. Would you mind telling me what it is?” And indeed, we had reached a decision — even though we weren’t aware of it consciously. One little piece had fallen into place, and with it, all the other pieces began fitting.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Fascinating! And you’re entirely right – “playing” can be a sign of many things, not only fatigue. Trust. Affection. Consensus. Shared adversity (oops, trending negatively again). Undoubtedly some of the silliness I’ve seen on proposal teams over the years is a good thing, Martha.

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