Stakeholders – those I need to influence or whose influence I rely on for my success. How can I influence and manage their expectations if I don’t know or care about who and what they are?
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I have been working recently with numerous very senior leaders providing (b)leading edge technology solutions and services. Across many different countries of their global organisation. Their ability to leverage the credibility and support – as allies – of influential leaders of the different global business units is paramount to the organisations success. And hence of course also to their own success.
Just as much as knowing who their foes are and what might be driving their opposition. And then just as much as knowing who the external players are and which camp they fit into.
I was surprised how few responded to my question that they actually had a written or drawn stakeholder map, let alone an up to date one.
Managing Stakeholders? Why Bother?
So what’s the big deal? Well, as I said in my opening question – how can I influence and manage the expectations of those I need to influence or whose influence I rely on for my success, if I don’t know or care about who they are and what they are?
In business today relentless pressure prevails to constantly improve, and fast. Not only how and what partner support we need to leverage to provide for our customers, industry and market, but also how we internally compete for funding of scarce resources required by often conflicting initiatives across the company.
This often includes customers, clients, vendors, partners, brokers, governments to name just a few.
This is the typical corporate business playing field in which the inherent politics play out, where competing turf, KPI’s, ego’s and personal agenda’s rule the game. Seasoned performers have learned that we ignore or avoid “playing” our allies and foes across the organisation and market at our peril. Success in corporate life can never be achieved alone. Building supportive and collaborative communities with like minded interests is just part of the game. And the same “unsavoury” rules we often see playing out in the public political arena are alive and well across corporate business. The larger the company, the bigger the political games.
Cliches like “know and respect your enemies and their agenda’s” or “choose your battles carefully, for you don’t need to win every battle to win the war” etc are very real. I know, because of how many such senior or budding leaders I have to coach through these inherent politics. Where I help them protect their turf (as in Gossip – Friend or Foe?) or politically drive and influence initiatives through approaches like Drip Feeding.
However, strategized, planned and executed carefully, this “playing field” can also create many very successful approaches and opportunities.
This is where an external and unemotionally connected coach can help “road test” your approaches, and add perspectives on how to best navigate this playing field successfully.
Stakeholders Map – What’s That and How Do I Do It?
So, after having identified who our key stakeholders are for each initiative and within and outside our organisation, to manage their expectations, we need to verify our understanding of what they want. And why that might support or oppose our initiative. Financially, technologically, profitably and politically so as to serve their purposes and ours.
I strongly recommend to capture all these people and needs in a stakeholders map, so we can see where they sit and fit. That allows us to prioritize and manage our relationships (and friendships) and hence our outcomes with them.
It’s (hopefully) a one page diagram that shows all these relationships simply and clearly.
Preferably using a big whiteboard over which you can map out all your key stakeholders:
- depict each name in a circle, the size of which reflects the degree of influence they have over you (and you needing over them).
- depict them in geographic clusters to emphasize the vagaries of distance in communications
- write the number of times you currently interact with each (daily, weekly or monthly etc) and whether face to face, by email, phone, Webex etc
This reality may surprise you and the gaps or missed prioritisation will probably stare you in the face.
- now revisit your prioritisation to best serve your and their expectations for your success
- and then draw up a plan with the right goals that will guide you to develop and maintain the right, prioritized contacts and exposure and hence successful outcomes.
Managing Stakeholders – So What
Can you see what you might be missing out on if you aren’t availing yourself of such a simple but powerful tool and process? What might this buy you if you did, and what might the abscence of this have lost or cost you?