Managing Up in a Deadline-Driven World by Kellie Brungard, GPC

Collaborations are a growing trend in the grant industry, but how do you successfully lead a project without pulling your hair out? Managing projects with multiple parties involved is sometimes the most prominent barrier experienced in a project. Our calendar has been booked full of new and exciting projects. While this is wonderful, our deadline-driven world means staying on top of proposals, attachments, and signatures to avoid that day-of submission panic. Let’s discuss some tips on how you can manage up to keep your projects on track and your professional relationships intact!

The Art of Managing Up

  • Be clear about expectations – talk early about planned time off, application components and responsibilities, and other conflicting obligations of those involved during the application period. A work plan is a great tool to outline all the components, who is responsible, and when items are needed, but it only works if you share this information with everyone and use it as a living document. When discussing assignments or requesting documents, assign deadlines to these items for yourself and others involved in the project. Keeping these deadlines is as important as establishing them. Sure, they can be flexible if there are unforeseen steps. However, communicating changes in a deadline (based on X, we will deliver this section on Monday now) rather than letting the deadlines float keeps teams accountable.
  • Schedule meetings and milestones – Let’s face it, we, as grant professionals, need access to people with busy schedules, and I’ve never heard of someone having fewer meetings and key tasks the higher they rise in a company. With people bouncing from meeting to meeting, use calendar invites to block important milestones such as draft review, signatures, and planning meetings. Be prepared for these blocks of time with clear agendas and all the items needed to complete the task. Familiarize yourself with the request for proposal (RFP), so you understand the components required and the application timeline.
  • Lead productive meetings – Sometimes, we come prepared with a great list of questions to drive the proposal planning conversations, only to be met with a silent room. Set your meetings up for productive conversation using open-ended questions such as “Tell me more about your intake processes,” instead of “Does the case manager conduct intake?” Help move teams to action with direct language like “It sounds like the timeline could use internal discussion; please discuss together and provide a schedule of activities by Friday.”
  • Listen and build relationships – When you have put in the time and effort to develop an outstanding work plan, schedule meetings with the right people, and become well-acquainted with the RFP, it can be easy to assume you’ve taken all the right steps and eliminated any potential questions. Being prepared is necessary; however, leaving space for others’ opinions, responsibilities, or expectations takes your leadership to the next level. Leave room for asking about others’ involvement, how they see a work plan unfolding, and any limitations or challenges they foresee in the process. Ask if the group can identify any additional people that should be included in the project. Set expectations and deadlines while giving space for people to say, “Actually, that doesn’t work for me. How about this date instead?”

Resources for Managing Up

If you found these tips helpful, AGS has a Managing Up webinar as part of our Grants 301 series that dives deeper into these topics, along with practical examples. As a member of the Grant Professionals Association, the newly categorized Grant School has several useful webinars available on-demand. Specifically, Rachel Werner’s presentation on DIY Project Management Tools for Grant Professionals can help you identify ways to manage teams using Microsoft Excel expertly.

Are you new to the team or grant writing and want additional support through an application process? AGS offers coaching as part of our grant services to guide the process while teaching you skills and strategies to develop a successful project. If you are interested in learning more about AGS services, Julie Assel, CGMS, GPC, President/CEO, will be happy to talk with you about this opportunity and provide you with a quote for grant services.

This BLOG is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill 2.6: Identify strategies and procedures for obtaining internal institutional support and approval of decision-makers for grant-seeking activities

Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development

Skill 3.1: Identify methods of soliciting and incorporating meaningful, substantive input and contributions by stakeholders

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