Leadership lessons from the Boov

Dreamworks’ new animation feature Home stars Jim Parsons from Big Bang Theory as Oh, an accident-prone alien who believes “Oh” must be his name, as it’s what his fellow Boov say every time he enters the room.

The Boov are a tribe of intergalactic scaredy-cats who turn yellow when they’re afraid (often) and are experts in running away from their problems. After invading Earth and relocating all the humans to Australia – the most remote place the Hollywood scriptwriters could probably think of – their leader, Captain Smek (Steve Martin) is stumped as to what to do next.

Smek is a textbook example of every bad boss you’ve ever had. Bereft of ideas himself, he straps his fellow Boov to machines and orders them to come up with some. The ideas he likes, he takes as his own. Those he doesn't like, earn the thinker a clunk on the head with his prize possession, a scepter called the “shusher”, which Smek stole from the Boov's greatest enemies the Gorg (the scary-looking dudes the Boov are running away from, and also the reason why they’re chasing him).

Steve Martin plays Captain Smek for laughs, but we can empathise with him. Smek has a lot on his plate, and we all grab for the “shusher” when we are under pressure.

For a leader responsible for a big project like a major bid or pursuit, the pressure to win or retain millions of dollars worth of revenue and hundreds of jobs is daunting, unrelenting and sometimes toxic. Under this kind of stress, we sometimes shut down a team member who has something important to say. We might inadvertently hijack an idea that actually came from someone else. It’s easy to rush in with our own ideas at the expense of someone else’s.

None of us can control what customers decide to buy. We can’t control what competitors do. It’s hard to let go of the little control we DO have over a competitive process. But trying to do it all ourselves can cost us – big time.

In an important bid, the energy and enthusiasm of your team is your most precious asset.

Preserve it by engaging an external facilitator to help you develop your bid strategy. You’ll get to contribute your valuable knowledge, support your team’s energy, nurture their great ideas, and have a sounding board to develop your own. And you get to retire the shusher.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.