Influencing stakeholders is a vital part of any middle to senior role in large organisations.
It is challenging for many because of the sheer volume of people to influence, and also the fact that most of them, the important ones at least, are far too busy to have a meeting with someone who is going to try to influence them about something.
Consequently, the task of influencing stakeholders is deprioritised and given insufficient attention. However, most projects or initiative which don’t deliver have poor stakeholder engagement and influence as the root cause. Sure, things will get blamed on technical obstacles, or incompetent individuals. Often that is a political smoke screen.
Stakeholder management is not as difficult as it may seem. A little like project management, there are a number of simple principles which, if borne in mind, can make this vital task easy and, dare I say, enjoyable.
1. Identification: A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in what you are doing. That means people who are going to gain and people who are going to lose. They may or may not realise that they can win or lose if you are successful.
2. Focus: Make sure and focus on those stakeholders who could have the biggest contribution to your purpose or, pose the greatest threat. You cannot focus on everyone, so make sure you influence those who matter most.
3. Clarity: Make sure you are clear, at least in your own mind, exactly what you want each stakeholder to do, say or think as a result of being influenced by you. What outcomes are you seeking?
4. Agenda: If you want to influence a stakeholder, make sure to connect your purpose to their agenda, preferably their most important priorities. Conversely, try to disconnect with parts of their agenda which don’t fit.
5. Priorities: When negotiating with a stakeholder, keep in mind that all you are really aiming to do is raise your request high enough on their agenda that they cannot do anything other than say yes.
6. Indirect: Sometimes you will be unable to directly talk to key stakeholders. In these cases, find the people do influence them more closely, and get them on your side and doing your influencing for you.
7. Weight: You don’t need to get everyone to agree with you, just those with sufficient power to make it happen. That is why you need to be focusing on the most important people rather than trying to please all of them all of the time.
A final point to bear in mind is that you don’t have to do it on your own. Getting your team involved in this process adds so many benefits – including team building and the sharing of concerns, intelligence and good humour.
Colin Gautrey specialises in the practical use of power and influence. His tools and materials have been used in over 30% of Fortune 500 Corporations. He is a prolific author on his subject with four books and hundreds of articles published. He is also author of the Influence Blog at https://www.learntoinfluence.com
Find out more about his advice on Stakeholder Management.
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