Unlock the power of stakeholder management

We’ve all experienced lousy customer service at some point: inattentive waitstaff, long wait times, unexpected fees, misleading advertising, subpar service… The list goes on. We also know what happens next. We share our negative perceptions with others, hesitate before interacting with the organisation again, and actively search for better alternatives. 

Isn’t it frustrating when your expectations aren’t met? That disconnect is a result of poor stakeholder experience – a principle that also holds true in the workplace. 

Who are your stakeholders?

Delivery is a very valuable skill, but true effectiveness also requires stakeholder management. We often talk about stakeholders in the context of a project or large piece of work, but we have key relationships at all times. It’s important to take the time to nurture these relationships to maximise their potential and communicate the value we bring to the table.

In our Wellington Powrsession, we discussed the role of informal channels in gaining support for initiatives. It’s easy to get so laser-focused on delivery that we fail to spot the influencing, storytelling and networking going on around us. If you’ve ever walked into a meeting only to discover that the landscape has dramatically shifted, it’s a clear sign you’re not effectively managing your stakeholders. So, let’s start by identifying who they are. Here’s a sample list of all the people who might care about (or be impacted by) your work:

  1. Your team
  2. Colleagues
  3. Direct manager
  4. Other departments
  5. Consultants
  6. Customers
  7. Family
  8. Senior executives
  9. Shareholders
  10. Board members
  11. Suppliers
  12. Subject Matter Experts
  13. Government
  14. Journalists
  15. Potential customers
  16. Future recruits

Action: Think about your role right now; who’s impacted by your actions? Make a list of individual people, because each is its own relationship.

How much effort do you need to put in?

We’re fans of this powerful matrix for prioritising your stakeholders (download your own copy here):

What do those quadrants mean?


High interest, high power

These people are highly interested in your work and hold the power to substantially speed it up, or shut it down. Your direct manager is an obvious candidate, but this group can also include team members, executives, your personal board of directors, or even your partner! You want to engage them and ensure they’re informed, satisfied and have actively bought into your success. This is where your woo (winning others over) skills kick in. 

High interest, low power

People in this group are impacted by your work but have little power to influence it. They might be direct reports, community groups, and colleagues from other departments. While they classify as ‘low power’, these people can supercharge the delivery of your work. Your job is to motivate and inspire them behind your vision and to keep across any issues and blockers they may have. Have you been practising your storytelling?

Low interest, high power

These people have considerable sway over your work but generally little involvement in it. They could include the CEO, finance and compliance managers, journalists, and public officials. The label ‘low interest’ is a hint. Be careful not to bombard them with information; instead, consider the amount and style of communication required to keep them across crucial updates. 

Low interest, low power

It’s helpful to stay aware of people in this group, but they have little interest in your work, or the power to influence outcomes. They could be people in the broader organisation, like external consultants or suppliers. It’s generally safe to put minimal effort into keeping them informed, think ‘nice to stay in touch with, but not across the detail’. 

Action: We’ve created a matrix for you, download it and list your current stakeholders.

30 second action:

Ask a high interest, high power stakeholder for feedback on your communication. How do they prefer to receive updates? What would they like more of, and what do they want less of?

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