Much has been said about how to do stakeholder management. But it is easy to miss opportunities to accelerate the level of engagement with your stakeholders and make sure they are the right ones too. To help keep you focused on deciding how to engage and whom to engage with, here are seven stakeholder management principles which, if followed, will move you faster towards your goal(s).
- A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in what you are trying to achieve. This interest could be positive or negative. Anyone who is going to win when you win, or lose when you win, is a stakeholder. Even if their loss is simply having to do their job a different way, they could be a very important stakeholder. This makes for a very large group of people.
- Focus on the stakeholders who have the most power to help or hinder your goal. This narrows the field down so that you can focus your engagement on the ones who are most important. Remember that it is also a good idea to check out those stakeholders who have the greatest interest in your result. Even if they don’t have the power, they might work quite hard on your behalf to make it happen, or not, as the case may be.
- Be very clear about what you want from each stakeholder. You may not necessarily communicate this directly with them, but at least you need to know what you are shooting for.
- To engage with stakeholders, you need to connect their agenda with your goal for positive stakeholders, and disconnect for negative ones. Those with a positive interest in your success will work harder for you if they can see how it serves their purpose and helps them achieve their goals. Conversely, with negative interest, you really need to get yourself off their radar.
- To achieve higher engagement, you need to increase your goal’s priority in the mind of positive stakeholders and lessen it in negative stakeholders. Yes, this is a selling job. Curiously, you might gain quite a bit from proactively engaging those who have a negative interest. Rather than leave them guessing, show them how it doesn’t affect them.
- You don’t have to deal directly. Ofttimes the most powerful people will be inaccessible, or at least not readily available, as they stride around the corridors of power. That doesn’t mean they are not a stakeholder; it’s just that you have to be more creative in your approach. Start to look for those who influence them and engage with them instead ― then these intermediaries can go and influence on your behalf.
- You don’t have to get them all agreeing, just enough to secure your goal. How you define your goal is a nuance to consider. If you want to get a long-term sustainable result, you will need to get more stakeholders agreeing than if your result is a simple one-off piece of work never to be repeated.
There is one other principle to stakeholder engagement which seems a little too obvious to be mentioned in the list, but makes a fine point to end on. Stakeholder engagement is not a spectator sport — you have to get out there and do it. Don’t overthink. Instead, take the risk of overacting.
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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