Developing a proposal mindset©

Developing a proposal mindset, the concept of presenting a proposal when seeking a decision, can be key to getting to yes more often, more collaboratively and more efficiently. Using a proposal simplifies and speeds up decision-making, and reduces time spent by others analyzing and assessing the implications and potential solutions of an issue.

Early in my career, my boss at the time taught me a great lesson in how to be more effective and get decisions made more efficiently without wasting time. So began the development of my proposal mindset©.

To explain. In my role as Public Relations Officer at the Natal Parks, Game & Fish Preservation Board, it was easier for me to simply knock on John Vincent’s office door and ask him the background to something or how to do something. It made sense because in my mind it was highly likely that he knew the answer. It didn’t occur to me that every time I knocked on his door, I was interrupting whatever he was trying to get done, quite aside from no doubt irritating him. This went on for a while until one day John stopped me in my tracks. He said words to this effect: “Jane, what do you think is the answer? If you don’t know, research it, prepare an outline and a suggested solution, then bring it to me for approval or input. Figure it out for yourself.”

Since then, throughout my career, I have used the concept of presenting a proposal for most situations, whether for my work or in my volunteer leadership positions. If I want to get people to agree on something or to approve a change or expansion, or practically anything where more than one person is involved, I develop a proposal. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the better. It can be an e-mail or a one-page document. The key is to make it easier and quicker for others involved to evaluate, input to and approve actions or make decisions.

For me a typical proposal includes some or all of these:

  • What’s the situation today/what’s the challenge/what’s the need?
  • What questions need to be addressed?
  • What are the possible solution/s or benefits of adopting your proposed solutions?
  • What potential resources will be needed – financial, people, equipment?
  • By when does ‘it’ need to be done and who is responsible for making it happen?

What are the benefits of a proposal mindset?

There are many benefits to adopting a proposal mindset in addition to those I mentioned above: increased efficiency; simplified and faster decision-making, and reduced time spent by executive leadership on analyzing and assessing the implications and potential solutions of an issue.

Even though the proposal itself may not be accepted, what it does is provide background for a discussion and a framework to use. Proposals present ideas or solutions more clearly, reduce misunderstandings that often happen when suggestions are made verbally, and ensure that you have thought things through thoroughly before taking them to others.

Encouraging a proposal mindset is also a great way to help your team to grow their leadership capacity. This practice allows them to step back and ask more strategic questions, sharpen their critical thinking ability, and instill a sense of ownership when they are directly contributing to designing and implementing solutions. As one of my current clients said: “Without my leadership team taking ownership, I can’t take a step back from the day-to-day running of our organization and focus on more strategic issues.”

Another subtle yet important nuance is that a proposal approach potentially helps create a more collaborative workplace. In other words, the organization will nurture and grow more “co-creators” than operating in a traditional hierarchal set-up. Furthermore, it can support a culture where everyone has something to teach and something to learn.

My takeaway for you is that intentionally developing a proposal mindset so that it becomes a normal approach both for you and for your team, if you have one, will be both rewarding and effective. If you’d like to know more or sign up for coaching on this topic, please contact me at

© Proposal Mindset by JBL Strategies 2022
Posted in Behavior change, Discussion, Leadership, Nonprofit Leadership, proposal mindset, strategic thinking.