People tend to focus on stakeholders who are nearest, best known, or most liked, rather than the ones they should be engaging with. Remember, a stakeholder is someone who has a stake in your success, either positive or negative.
Because of this, in Advocates & Enemies I ask people to become familiar with how power works in their organisation, so they can identify the right stakeholders. In addition, to stimulate the hunt for the right people, I also outline a range of groups where people can look for them — such as customers, suppliers, etc. It is the final two categories where the surprises and opportunities can come from. People who you never realised could help or hinder and may not be connected to your work at all. Such as…
- Those who will be embarrassed by your success, perhaps because it highlights their weaknesses.
- Colleagues who will find it easier to get their projects approved, funded, etc. once you have set the precedent.
- On the other hand, those who will find life easier once you succeed.
- Old opponents, whom you’ve beaten before and could be harbouring a grudge.
- Those running other projects facing similar challenges. Combining forces offers great opportunities for progress.
- People you don’t like or respect. We are naturally reluctant to engage because it is uncomfortable.
- High potentials and rising stars who could gain valuable visibility by supporting your work.
- New starters seeking to establish themselves.
Use the list above to challenge yourself — whom have you missed? Who else could be a valuable person to get on side, or make sure is not going to cause you a problem? You cannot manage everyone, so make sure, once you’ve got some more names you keep asking, that they are powerful/influential enough to engage. Troublesome but impotent stakeholders can usually be ignored with simple safeguards in place.
But what about the ninth? Because I know that you will benefit from engaging with this topic, take another look at the list and try to figure out the missing one. This type of stakeholder is regularly not given the priority warranted, and they can have a massive impact, positive or negative, on your success. Can you identify the missing 9th? Please email me your ideas.