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Stakeholder management – the art of getting everyone on the same page!

October 27, 2014

Sketch business seamlessWhile once confined to the world of managing projects, “stakeholder management” is increasingly a core communication skill demanded of everyone keen to succeed in their role. But who are your stakeholders and what can you do to manage them to get the outcomes you need in your job?

What’s a stakeholder?

In simple terms, “stakeholder” means anyone who is affected, either directly or indirectly, as you go about your business and do your job. Typically this means your boss, your immediate work colleagues, your team (if you have one) and all the other people and groups inside and out of your organisation that you interact with as you do your job.  Some are really important, others less so, but to be successful it helps if you’re on the same page with each of them.

Why stakeholders are important

Having your boss think you’re doing a great job is typically central to success in your role. But, to actually do a great job you need to successfully interact with all those individuals and groups that your job affects. They have a “stake” in your success and you need them to think you’re doing a great job too.

Getting on the same page

It all comes down to communication. Three simple questions will get the conversation started:

  • Are you getting what you need from me?
  • Am I delivering in a way that suits you?
  • Am I meeting your expectations for doing this job well?

Let’s use a conversation with your boss as an example.

Are you getting what you need from me? Typically most jobs have a job description that defines the activities or tasks that need to be completed and by when. But it’s still worth asking to get clarity and be clear about priorities and any other activities that you can get involved in to broaden your skill set.

Am I delivering in a way that suits you? We all have preferences for how we like things to be done. If we don’t ask what they are, it’s easy to unintentionally go against these preferences. For example, how does your boss like to be kept informed about what you’re doing and how well it’s going? Do they want a face-to-face catch-up every week, or maybe a short email with a few bullet points or a more formal status report? Putting information into a format that suits your stakeholder is worth its weight in gold.

Am I meeting your expectations for doing this job well? This one is particularly important to avoid any unpleasant surprises at performance review time!  If you don’t know what your boss is expecting from you, it’s impossible to know whether you’re doing a good job. So why not ask what does doing a good job look like? And, take it a step further, what does doing a fantastic job look like. Once you know this, you know exactly what you’re aiming for.

While I’ve used the example of getting on the same page as your boss, the exact same conversation starting questions can be used with any individual (or group) that you deal with in your job to make sure that you’re on the same page as them.

And of course, communication is a two-way process so make sure that your stakeholders are aware of your needs, preferences and expectations too. Then everyone is clear on what needs to happen for a great outcome for all!

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