The Winning Mindset

Winning is a mindset. As the leader of a company focused on nothing else but winning competitions it amazes me how much effort teams put into expressing dissatisfaction about the process, the expectations or the ‘stupidity’ of the buyers.

We only have so much energy, creativity and prefrontal cortex processing time available to us every day. Don’t waste it on this negative nonsense. Decide you are going to love submitting a bid. Be as committed to this as you are to anything else that is important in your life, such as your health, your children or your relationship, and no this does not mean you should start chanting – “it’s ours to lose”. You need the bravery to challenge, the wisdom to know when not to and the tenacity to never give up. Don’t whine. Get good and win stuff.

A winning mindset must be accompanied by winning behaviors. I frequently come across bid leaders who have the right mindset, but who are also egotistical lone-rangers who alienate customers and colleagues. Bidding is a people business that feeds on good relationships. But there is no denying it is a high-pressure environment to work in. It is why the industry attracts alpha men and women – people who thrive on competition, have mental toughness, bags of confidence and are calm under pressure. The flip-side of people with alpha characteristics is that they are a real liability in bidding. The need to dominate, to win at all costs, and cocky arrogance are traits that are incompatible with the collaborative working that it takes to win. Winning behaviors come naturally to people who show high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) – these include the qualities of empathy, self-awareness, accountability, humility, self-control and maturity. These are the winning behaviors that we look for, they are fundamental to collaboration, and these are part of our new hire selection process.

  • Empathy
  • Active listening skills
  • Solution-focused
  • Commitment
  • Consistency
  • Supportiveness
  • Respect

The importance of collaborative working has also just dawned on buyers in a big way, particularly on long-term, complex contracts. Buyers are exhausted by adversarial relationships with suppliers, which add insult to injury by ultimately delivering mediocre outcomes. They want to work with people who are interested in mutual benefit, who have a can-do attitude, can handle criticism, offer constructive advice, and work with them as a team. I often hear buyers complain “If only we knew what they were really like to work with before we selected them”. Buyers are doubling down on this, collaboration is increasingly becoming part of award criteria. Across Europe we are now seeing buyers asking bidders to take part in collaborative assessments during the bid period – these can be intensive workshops, one to one interviews or written tests or all of the above. The bid team will be observed by behavioral psychologists, judging every action. Are you ready for this level of scrutiny? My advice is to hire the best people who have high levels of EQ.