One of my favourite phrases relating to Stakeholder Management is, “if you don’t have any opposition, you aren’t trying hard enough” (refer to Chapter 7 of Influential Leadership). While I am not suggesting that you should go looking for opposition, if you are ambitious, it is important that your plans and ideas are strong enough to provoke disagreement, or at least vigorous debate.
When disagreement arrives, it is often veiled in a cloak of assumptions and faulty communications. So, it is important when deciding how to respond to pause for a moment to check out what could be going on. Even if you cannot figure out the root cause, going through the process will highlight the gaps in your information.
If someone is opposing you, it could be due to one or more of the following…
- At a rational level, they think you are wrong.
- They have an even better idea (believe it or not, this is a possibility!).
- It interferes with their personal agenda.
- It hinders their professional agenda.
- It damages the agenda of someone who has power over them (a career stakeholder perhaps?).
- They are being swayed by others’ opinions (including bosses and friends).
- There is a technical reason why it won’t work (e.g. no budget, legal problems or even you lack the competence to pull it off!).
- They just don’t like you or have an old score to settle.
- At an emotional level it feels wrong.
This is just my list; what you can do is create your own list using this as a starting point? If you think about the person who is opposing you, what are the most likely reasons for their disagreement? It strikes me that this could be a moment for a probability tree, but that is probably taking it a little too far! When you are thinking about these, for each one consider…
- What evidence would there be if this were true?
- To what extent have you seen these clues?
- Could you be imagining it, or maybe filtering a different meaning or significance to the evidence?
- If this is true, how does successfully opposing you help the individual?
- Who else does their opposition help?
- What action can you take to increase your confidence in the probability this is true?
Once you have clarified the probabilities, you might want to just check in with a friend before you decide what action to take. Although we are only talking about diagnosis here, your choice of action will depend on your assessment. Action will vary dramatically if you think their opposition is caused by logical/rational objections or emotional/political motivations. In Advocates & Enemies, I talk about how to engage with Critics — this is a great bolt-on analysis, especially for the Incidental or Accidental Critics explored in Chapter Eight.
I’ll leave you now to start making decisions about what actions to take, with one final thought. If you sit there thinking that you are trying hard enough, but still don’t see any opposition — beware, you could be deluded instead!
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.
To get a feel for his practical approach, take a look at his 23 Actions That Will Increase Your Influence.
Other articles by Colin:
Raising Your Game — Influencing Groups
Most people we meet tend to be focusing on influencing individuals — the stakeholder matters most. That is great, however it’s only a start. Once you have begun to make good progress individually, you can start to turn more of your attention towards groups. There are a number of reasons why this presents a great opportunity to raise your game.
- Efficiency. Every minute counts in a busy day. Why spend your time influencing one person when you could spend the same amount of time influencing 10 or 50 or more?
- Complexity. The bewildering array of…
Seven Things Your Opposition Hopes You’ll Never Learn
It is entirely natural to have opposition. In fact, I would encourage it. Unless you have opposition the game is too easy ― isn’t it? Well I hope you think that because otherwise you might be wasting your talent, ambition and energy. Opponents stretch thinking, pressure test proposals and balance the corporate agenda. Without opposition you may end up with an organisation being dominated by a powerful few; and this can wreak havoc on the strategy, results and morale ― at least in the medium term.
Yet, desirable though it is, the fact remains that the opposition will still want to win. They may be mature and tell you that it is all about making the right decision for the business, but don’t be fooled. Underneath the rhetoric is a real person. They, like you, much prefer…
With simple frameworks and processes, this is about taking a careful approach to your work as an influencer, and making sure you achieve economy of effort and create maximum movement towards your goals. Once you know what your strategy needs to be, the actions become straightforward and easier to execute.
Engaging and Influencing Stakeholders
Stakeholders are important people who share an interest in your success. You need to engage with them at the right time so that you can influence them as easily as possible. Stakeholder influence doesn’t just happen; you have to make it happen.
By engaging with your stakeholders early, you stand a much better chance of being able to help them to understand what you want to achieve. Critically, you need to develop a clear appreciation for their stance in order that you can pitch your goals in the most favourable light.