If you want to reduce your stress when managing stakeholders, realise that you do not necessarily have to go into battle with your enemies and adversaries. Many diligent and capable people spend an unnecessary amount of time and energy engaging with these people, which can be soul destroying. They are hard work because they are opposed to you, and your relationship with them is poor.
Rather than automatically focus your stakeholder management effort on engaging with these troublesome characters, step back and first understand them. Gain a measure of what they are about, what they are capable of ― and then make clear decisions about your strategy. Ignoring them is not an option.
To challenge your understanding, use these questions and find the gaps in your knowledge which need to be filled before you take action. So, with a particular adversary in mind…
- Sticking to the facts, what exactly is their objection to what you are doing?
- What is the emotional base of their resistance?
- What do they stand to gain if you fail?
- What will they lose if you win?
- Are you the only one who is having difficulty with them? If not, what are the patterns?
- Can you figure out their political motivations? What is their real agenda?
- How will your proposal affect their power base?
- Are they really as influential as you think they are? Where is the evidence to this?
- What is the worst they could do to you?
- Who else could be influencing them against you? Who are their stakeholders?
- To what extent have they misunderstood what you are trying to do?
- Why don’t you trust them? Stick to the evidence please.
- Is your relationship with them really as bad as you think it is?
- What options do they have to stop your progress?
- What is their strategy? Their plans?
- How are they going to defeat you?
- What would happen if you simply left them alone?
- What is the common ground between you? Where do you agree?
- How could you adapt your plans or proposals to create more agreement?
- Could you change the way you are presenting it? Are there better words and phrases you could be using?
- How can you flex your objectives to create a win for them?
- If they are losing one source of power, can you replace their lost power in some way?
- What would need to change for them to become an advocate of what you are trying to do?
- Is there something you can add to sweeten the deal?
- On your stakeholder map, who has the most influence with them?
- How strong is their relationship?
- Who else could you engage with to get more influence with your troublesome stakeholder?
- Should influencing this enemy become the focus of a fresh stakeholder map?
- Okay, so what are you going to do to ensure you are able to complete your objective?
Yes, there are a lot of questions here. If appropriate, why not roll them into your next team meeting? Working together will help you to share your collective knowledge and insight, while also building shared ownership and responsibility.
In the world of work, enemies and adversaries are often created through misunderstanding, poor communication and unhelpful attitudes. If you go into a meeting expecting a battle, you will probably get one. Most enemies are really misunderstood or neglected future friends.
And finally, if — after diligent consideration of all of the above — you decide not to engage with your enemy, brilliant! You are now able to focus on the positive and rise above the problem. Indeed, you will be empowering yourself to find positive ways to make things happen without being troubled by the enemy. In fact, your enemy will likely start to wonder what you know that they don’t. Why are you no longer fussing around them trying to win them over? Have they lost their touch? Don’t be surprised if they knock on your door with a different attitude!
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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Other articles by Colin:
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Sometimes, from the very beginning of a workshop, it is evident that the delegates have a common problem with a big powerful stakeholder. As we start to delve into their influencing objectives, “his” name keeps being mentioned. Round the table with the power cards ― there he is again. Who is this guy to be such a problem for everyone around the table? Why is he being so difficult and making everyone’s life a misery?
On a recent occasion when this happened, one thing I noticed was that his name was being used as a code for “don’t even try to influence”. It was also apparent that there was a great deal of bad feeling in the room towards this character ― even the mere mention of his name. Well actually, for a long time, they…