The Top 7 Steps to Better Manage Stakeholders to Increase Influence

The Top 7 Steps to Better Manage Stakeholders to Increase Influence
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The Top 7 Steps to Better Manage Stakeholders to Increase Influence
If you need to work with others to achieve goals, effective stakeholder management matters. We know from project postmortem data that, done right, effective stakeholder management creates alignment, secures resources, and achieves shared goals across functions. At its core, the ability to better manage stakeholders to increase influence involves deeply understanding stakeholder needs, building relationships, and consistently communicating where things stand.

This is especially true when the stakes are high.

The Definition of Key Stakeholders
We define key stakeholders as those internal or external constituents who have (1) Influence or power over your work or (2) A personal stake in the successful or unsuccessful conclusion of your work.  Stakeholders can include employees, customers, suppliers, investors, regulators, and the community.

In general, stakeholders with the most influence, power, and interest in your work should be treated differently from those with the less influence, power, and interest.

7 Steps to Better Manage Stakeholders to Increase Influence
Here are seven key strategies for managing stakeholders to maximize your influence.

  1. Identify and Prioritize Stakeholders
    You cannot engage your stakeholders if you do not know who they are and what they care most about. To better manage stakeholders to increase influence, map the influence and interest of each stakeholder. Use this information to customize your approach to manage each group’s specific needs and concerns.
  2. Deeply Understand Stakeholder Needs and Expectations
    It is difficult to meet and exceed stakeholder expectations unless you fully understand their most pressing personal and professional needs and motivations. Get to know your key stakeholders by conducting surveys, 1×1 interviews, and focus groups. Your objective should be to clearly understand what matters what matters most to them and their teams.
  3. Invest in Building Strong Stakeholder Relationships
    Strengthening stakeholder relationships is about “what you do” and “how you act” in every interaction. Focus on building success together through active listening, clear expectations, consistent following through, and open collaboration. Establishing meaningful personal connections can help turn skeptical stakeholders into powerful advocates.
  4. Communicate Effectively
    Change management consulting experts know that consistent and effective two-way communication is essential to managing stakeholder expectations. Co-create a comprehensive stakeholder communication plan that outlines what information will be shared, how often, and through which channels. Provide transparent and regular updates on progress, challenges, and successes to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.
  5. Make Your Value Visible
    Whenever possible, provide tangible evidence of how your initiatives contribute to agreed-upon stakeholder goals and strategic priorities. Use strategy success metrics, case studies, and testimonials to illustrate your impact. We know from change management simulation data that when stakeholders see the value you are providing, they are more likely to get on board.
  6. Actively Involve Stakeholders
    Actively involving stakeholders early and often in the decision-making process can significantly enhance your influence. Seek and incorporate their input to increase their sense of ownership and commitment. Involvement tactics include establishing advisory boards, holding regular stakeholder meetings, and creating easy two-way feedback mechanisms to ensure stakeholders have a voice in key decisions.
  7. Manage Conflicts Proactively
    How you manage the inevitable conflicts with your key stakeholders can greatly impact your ability to succeed. Address stakeholder conflicts promptly and fairly. Focus on finding mutually beneficial solutions wherever possible. Early on, develop agreed upon conflict resolution protocols and train your team in decision making, negotiation, and critical thinking skills.

The Bottom Line
Effectively managing stakeholders to increase your influence involves investing the time and effort to identify and prioritize what matters most to the key players in your environment.  The better you set and manage the expectations of individuals or groups who have a stake in your work, the better your chances of collective success. When it comes to stakeholder management, everyone is more successful when everyone is on the same page.

To learn more about how to better manage stakeholders to increase influence, download 3 Proven Steps to Better Manage Project Stakeholder Risks

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