Better RFP Responses & Management
To Hell with Happiness

To Hell with Happiness

Well, not really.  But this article in Harvard Business Review argues (convincingly, I think) that happiness–a fleeting emotion, but I repeat myself–is not a reasonable target for our work lives.

So what would be better? Meaning and purpose, that’s what.

Living with meaning and purpose may not make you happy — at least in the short term. It requires self-reflection, effort, and wrestling with issues that initially can be frustrating. But when you approach work situations mindfully, with an eye toward contributing to others while honoring your personal identity, you’ll find opportunities to practice the skills that help you find the intrinsic value in your work.

The whole article is worth reading and certainly doesn’t need me to summarize it here. I’ll just add three Proposal Land points.

First, supervision is mostly MIA in Proposal Land. With ad hoc teams, staffed with people who don’t report to you on an ongoing basis, the apparent benefits of supervision don’t come close to matching the costs thereof (the effort required to supervise at all, never mind the effort required to supervise well). However, this article gives anyone in a transient supervisory role (e.g. proposal managers, volume/technical leads, chief editors, production leads) some ideas for providing useful feedback to team members. It allows leaders to go beyond the “We won, so thank you” approach, to address the specific effort someone made.  The difference they made. Who knows? It might even come as a surprise to them.

Second, supervision is mostly MIA in Proposal Land. (“Hey!” you say, “That’s the same point.” And so it is. Would you like to work as a proposal editor?) Given that transient supervisors have no compelling business reason to invest their time and their selves in you, consider supervising yourself. That is, use the ideas outlined here to think about what part of proposal work adds to your sense of meaning and purpose. To think about how you could change how you work to add more meaning/purpose.

Third, supervision is mostly MIA in Proposal Land. (“Hey!” I know.) But here’s the thing: Teams can be self-supervising, especially with respect to “sharing best-self narratives.” That’s called “work culture” and we all hold it in our hands to a greater degree than we think.



  1. Jim Taylor

    You cite three points, which are all the same and not all the same. Novelist Henry James — he of the convoluted sentences — may have reduced all his wisdom to three points: Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. I too choose to summarize in three points: Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. That is, if you can foster an environment in which people collaborate, willingly, you make supervision unnecessary. The wisdom to carry on comes from the group collectively, not from any one individual. Indeed, given that no two jobs (or proposals) are ever the same, counting on the wisdom of a single individual who’s been through this before (another way of describing experience) may be a handicap.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Ideally, supervision doesn’t put one person’s experience and judgement over everyone else’s. Ideally, it sets the framework/process by which each person can make their unique contribution. To the extent that there is one overriding constraint — like a hard deadline — that requires one person to be responsible, as well as everyone else to get on board. In theory, good supervision shows all team members how to do that.

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