If you wish to be an influential leader, you need to start thinking seriously about how you influence stakeholders. These are the people who have something to gain, or to lose, from your work as a leader.
When you think about influencing stakeholders, what thoughts come to mind?
Do you think about it as an unwelcome extra task — on top of everything else you need to do? Perhaps you consider it to be something you shouldn’t need to do. After all, you put it all in the documents you circulated before the steering committee meeting — if they’d taken the time to read them there wouldn’t be any doubt about agreeing with your plan.
Another common thought is that it seems to be an overtly political activity — again, it shouldn’t need to be done. This raises a moral challenge, especially to those of high integrity who prefer to transact business at a rational level and with all the facts known.
Alternatively, you may take a more positive attitude towards this activity. In reality, communication is always flawed, and proactively checking the understanding and agreement of those who have a vested interest in what you are doing for the organisation, and as a leader, is eminently sensible. Humans are fallible, and taking a systematic approach to managing your stakeholders will help to make sure that important people are reminded of the benefits of what you are doing, and what they can do to help.
Regardless of your attitude to the task of influencing stakeholders, I can promise you that it will have a major impact on your success as an influential leader. If you have a mainly negative attitude, they will notice. Appearing unenthusiastic may be seen as an indicator of your negative feelings towards your project rather than your feelings about the task of stakeholder management. This could make them less inclined to agree to your plan or proposal. Being positive can have the opposite effect.
To be successful at influencing stakeholders, you’ve got to have a genuinely positive attitude towards the task. Convincing yourself of the merits is the first step in cultivating this. Whatever your attitude work your way through these questions…
- Be specific — what feelings and thoughts do you have (positive and negative) about the work of influencing stakeholders?
- What positive experiences have you had influencing stakeholders?
- What negative experiences?
- What needs to change for you to fully enjoy and embrace this work?
- What could you gain by way of benefits if you influence your stakeholders really well?
I find it helps a great deal if you can write down your answers to these questions in a notebook because it will crystallise your thinking. It will also be useful to refer back to these notes later.