Have you ever wondered why some teams magically ‘click’ while others - full of equally talented individuals - struggle to make headway and become dysfunctional when the pressure’s on?
This dysfunctionality not only affects the quality of your pitches - it’s also something that potential clients are increasingly attuned to. As more clients make behavioural analysis part of procurement it makes sense to understand and improve team dynamics before you get into the teeth of the process.
In the world of commercial tenders it’s usually the case that every team member wants to perform as well as possible. To do that each person must understand their own behavioural traits as well as those of their colleagues. This state of affairs is surprisingly difficult to achieve.
At the Bid Coach we use a framework called Core Strengths®️ to assess and improve team behaviours. This assessment tool is based on Relationship Awareness Theory and explores each person’s motivational factors both in ‘normal’ and stressful situations.
The objective is twofold. First, understanding our own personal motivation helps us to achieve self awareness about why we behave in certain ways. Second, it helps us to understand how our behaviour is perceived by others - particularly when our behaviours and preferences are accentuated by stressful situations.
People, Process and Performance
Broadly, our core strengths can be plotted somewhere within a triangle whose points represent performance, process and people.
I’ll deal with extremes for a minute to illustrate the significance of these biases for team dynamics and performance.
Everyone in these scenarios is behaving in the way that comes naturally and which they believe will lead to success. They are also seeking to achieve personal fulfilment. Nobody is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’
Through systematic assessment it’s possible for everyone to be given a picture of their natural behavioural motivations and how these are likely to change in stressful situations. It’s also possible to understand how our behaviours and underlying motivations can be perceived by other people and how, when taken to extremes, they can become weaknesses.
Enhanced Team Performance
So far, so good. That type of self awareness is helpful for all of us.
When the team is able to share those insights with each other the benefits increase exponentially. Everyone understands how they might need to moderate their own behaviours and how to relate to other individuals in the team to maximise performance.
Anyone with a Core Strengths®️ profile can instantly view on-line anyone else’s profile who is within their ‘team.’ In addition, whenever a ‘team’ is created an overall team profile is generated that is available to all. Individuals within the team can assess their strengths and motivations versus the team overall. If people are added or removed from a team (for whatever reason) the team profile updates automatically.
All of this information can be viewed instantly and on-line without the need to download and read lengthy text-heavy profile reports.
The Core Strengths®️ assessment tool has proved powerful in helping bid teams we’ve worked with understand their own motivations. It’s also helped individuals to adapt their approach to other people to improve their influencing skills.
Its uses go way beyond bid teams. Our clients are increasingly using Core Strengths®️ to help improve the efficiency of their overall communications – within their core and wider teams.
Remember too: achieving greater awareness of the traits you can identify in your own team can help you make sense of the behaviours of members of your client’s team.
Some people are a little sceptical about the value of psychological profiling tools (sometimes with justification) but Core Strengths®️ seems different. For one thing, the results are easy to understand, remember and apply.
Having seen how the insights it offers can be quickly employed to improve the performance of a bid team - and show marked improvements - it’s something we’ll be using a lot more.
I read an interesting article recently that explored the relationship between technical competence, effectiveness and success. The article was specifically about the skills needed by Chief Risk Officers but the conclusions apply to all of us.
Technical competence and qualifications get you through the door. They give you instant credibility and a voice. After that, it’s a question of what personal and softer skills you can deploy. Then it comes down to your ability to communicate and influence; your curiosity and strategic thinking abilities.
A CRO can have all the technical understanding of corporate risk in the world. But if they can’t apply that knowledge to their own business, imagine how risks might evolve or, most importantly, communicate that information to colleagues and influence how they react, then they are not being effective.
There are immediate parallels to be drawn with our own careers. Our qualifications allowed us to be considered for the job. Once you’re hired it’s all down to what else you can bring to the organisation.
This is all highly relevant to the work we do with bid teams. Technical competence allows your business to be considered for a particular contract - and probably allowed you to be considered for your current role. Potential suppliers are pre-selected and deemed competent to deliver the project. So the tender process is about something else.
Business and career success are driven by more than technical knowledge.
Every discipline has become more competitive. Senior staff are expected to be effective communicators, good influencers and have the strategic vision to see how their specialist knowledge can best be deployed to support the business and its clients.
The practical difficulty comes when executives must develop these broader skills when they face unrelenting pressure to stay ahead in their profession and keep on top of other managerial and commercial responsibilities.
High Pressure Business Opportunities
The ‘must win’ business opportunity invariably has to be attacked alongside existing day job responsibilities. Finding space to recognise and develop broader communication and influencing skills is hard.
At the Bid Coach we add value by coaching individuals and their teams on how to recognise and understand their communication strengths. We help match these strengths to what their client is seeking from a potential business partner. Typically, there are too many assumptions made about the client’s perception of a potential contractor’s strengths and how those relate to their own needs. It often helps to spell everything out clearly from an independent viewpoint.
Clarity comes from a series of realistic, thought-provoking and increasingly challenging workshops. People have the opportunity to practice and refine their communication skills and behaviours in a safe, structured environment.
Individuals gain a better understanding of themselves; how they communicate, and how their communication and behaviours may be perceived by others. They can more easily recognise particular communication and behavioural styles and can adapt and respond to these in ways that are both natural, genuine and sustainable.
The environment is usually related to a specific business opportunity. But the skills delegates acquire are useful in every aspect of their professional and private lives. Feedback tells us that delegates find they become more confident in themselves, which makes them more influential, impactful and respected within their business and wider industry circles.
One of the biggest challenges we deal with at the Bid Coach is when a new JV is formed to pitch for a major contract. Individuals from different companies, often with different cultures and behavioural expectations, are expected to quickly form a coherent team in a pressurised and time-critical environment.
The fact that the procurement process for significant tenders is increasingly likely to feature behavioural assessment turns up the intensity and pressure a few more notches. The clock is always ticking. Meanwhile, this initially disparate team has to build mutual trust, develop self-awareness and prepare to perform as well as possible during a pressured assessment process.
Even where companies have worked together before (as is often the case) the individuals involved might well be new to each other. Behavioural assessment can be unforgiving when it comes to highlighting any potential inconsistencies and weaknesses.
And, since last year, we also have to do all of this remotely. To pull all of this together - without actually getting together - the process has to be highly structured, rigorous and supported with real commitment by the participants.
We recently worked through this process with a client that had formed a JV to pitch for a major facilities management contract.
How was Bid Coach involved?
Throughout the process we were careful to engender a one-team approach. Our only concern about managing the behavioural assessment coaching remotely was how lack of physical presence together during the workshops would affect team cohesion.
As it turned out, the team worked incredibly well together. I guess we’re all getting more comfortable interacting with each other remotely. The delegates’ feedback was very positive – they particularly commented on the fact that they enjoyed being challenged and stretched throughout the process to come up with ever more persuasive responses that were backed by appropriate evidence.
This summarises our approach, namely to use constructive challenge in a safe and supportive environment to build their knowledge and confidence so that they are prepared for any curve balls the procurement team might throw their way.
“Just generally the positivity and confidence you instilled in us as individuals and as a team – not sure exactly what you did to achieve this but it worked.”
“We all came a long way together - creating a proper team and not leaving anyone lagging.”
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.