10 Ways A Positive Attitude Can Help You Become a Better Proposal Manager

Aug 17, 2014

Like it or not, as a Proposal Manager your attitude is infectious. For better or worse, you set the tone that others see and internalize. 

Your attitude as Proposal Manager determines whether you lead or detract, motivate or dissipate, build up or tear down, energize or deaden your team and its efforts.

Make your attitude work for you, not against you, by modeling the following:

1. Anticipate a Positive Outcome. You cannot guarantee a win. But you can believe that a win is possible, even likely. Spread that belief widely and often. Back up your optimism with solid rationale.

2. Believe in Your Team. There is awesome power when a group unites to pursue an important objective. Let them know that is why you are confident in them. Make them believe that you simply will not let them fail. 

3. Display a Commitment to Serve. Let them see that you are there to serve and support your team--not the reverse. Lead by serving and by example. Sacrifice for them in meaningful ways.

4. Take Care of Your People. Defend them. Support them. Watch their backs. Those in the business know how tough proposals can be. Be the shock absorber to cushion criticisms hurled in their direction. Do this and they will love you for it.

5. Listen Before You Speak. Seek counsel before rendering decisions. Be open to new ideas. Accept challenges to conventional wisdom. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.

6. Exercise an Attitude of Humility. Be approachable. Don't pretend you know everything. When you are wrong admit it, apologize if necessary, change course, learn from your mistake, and then move forward.

7. Promote an Attitude of Teamwork. Banish backbiting and gossip. Root out discord. Name the elephant in the room. Protect the least powerful on your team. Guard your own tongue.

8. Believe In Work-Life Balance. Do not preside over a sweat shop. Value R&R for the fresh perspective it affords. Make it clear that the proposal is a top priority, but so are family, friends, health, personal and professional development, and relaxation.

9. Establish an Attitude of Excellence. Set high standards. Communicate and demand the highest standards of work quality and professionalism from everyone on the team...but only after you have set your personal bar even higher.

10. Demonstrate Strength Tempered with Compassion. Show a strong determination. But remember it is more important to win the war than the battle. When a teammate lets you down, don't stew and brood. Forgive and repair.


Having the right attitude in these ten areas may not guarantee a contract award. But over the long term, having the wrong ones will cause your colleagues to run in the opposite direction if your company is ever foolish enough to entrust you with the responsibility of managing another proposal.

Do you have your own tips for how proposal managers can make a positive attitude work for their team? Comment below! 

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Jim McCarthy

Written by Jim McCarthy

Jim McCarthy is the Founder of AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI). He has almost forty years of GovCon experience and leadership—first on Capitol Hill, then as founder of KSI. KSI is a leading consulting firm that has helped clients win over $200 billion dollars in government contracts. He also hosted the CBS/ WUSA9 television show Government Contracting Weekly from 2012-2014.

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