Ever get impenetrable text from the supposed experts in your business – the sort of folks who are far too senior, or far too technically able, to feel that you have the right to critique, challenge or (worst of all) edit their words of wisdom?
I was reminded of some of these by Malcolm Gladwell’s article on the credit crunch in the New Yorker of 27 July. He quoted a passage from “Bear Trap: The Fall of Bearn Stearns and the Panic of 2008”, co-written by Bill Bamber (a former senior managing director at the company concerned) and Andrew Spencer. Bamber observed:
“When we finally got more capital to replace the capital we’d lost, people took that as a bad sign and pointed to the fact that we’d had no capital and had to get a loan to cover it, even when we did have the capital they said we didn’t have.”
So, how to handle said difficult colleagues? As ever, prevention is better than a cure. Picture the difference. Scenario A – “Expert” writes content; thinks it’s perfect; sends it to proposal manager; thinks job is done; is shocked when they (a) comment on it, and (b) suggest changes. Or scenario B – clear definition up-front of the respective roles and expertise of the contributors and proposal manager; the iterative review and editing process clearly explained.
And if you can’t get your retaliation in early? That’s where your influencing skills really come to the fore. “Your content’s impenetrable and atrociously written” rarely works; try honouring the good stuff, showing you’re impressed with their insights, acknowledging that they’re the expert and have final approval, but explaining that it the proposal needs to tell a consistent story and “read with one voice” for a group of evaluators who might not grasp more advanced concepts.