Power and interest: 2 Steps To Manage Stakeholders Successfully

Are you able to pick up your bags tomorrow a.m and fly away to Timbuktu, for a full month? Not to worry, it’s all expense paid!

If your answer is ‘Why not?’, Congratulations! You are in the minority (way less than 5% of any population). For the rest of us, the answer will sound more like:

“Weeelll….my husband/ wife/ boyfriend/girlfriend…. my children….. my boss…….my customers…….my business partners….my parents…..”

All of these people will need to be considered, maybe even consulted before we can reach a final decision. Sometimes they can in fact stop us from flying away, even if we really wanted to. That’s power. That’s influence. Did you also equate power to big biceps when you were growing up? I sure did! Lol….’Show me your power’ was always met with an attempt to make your biceps swell, chest heaved high! Lol…

biceps

The truth is, whether you are conscious of it or not, there are always people in your life who tend to control what you can or cannot do at every point in time. Overtly or covertly. They technically have ‘stakes’ in whatever you do. And many times they have no biceps! In fact the most powerful people in a given situation are most times inconspicuous. They are the silent influencers, but powerful nonetheless.

All these people (the ones we mentioned earlier + anyone else you like to add) are your stakeholders on this ‘Timbuktu Project’. Timbuktu is in Mali by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

Stakeholder management is an essential life skill, and can surely make or mar any endeavor and in fact anyone. I really don’t want to go the Mom-In-Law/ Marriage route, but you get my drift.

So, what are we to do with these stakeholders? Here are two key things you should do:

  1. Identify them.

Step number one. Identify them. Two things are important here: identify ALL of them, identify them early. Imagine that an employee fails to identify the HR Department as a stakeholder in the earlier Timbuktu Project. And then she goes ahead to announce on Facebook: ‘Timbuktu Loading….’ Lol. Just then, she waltzes in to get approval from HR, only to be informed that she has just been drafted unto a high-power project ready to kick-off tomorrow. How great will be her disappointment? Compared to if she had recognized the power of HR to thwart her plans and gotten their approval first before proceeding to make other plans.

Although, it’s never too late to identify new stakeholders. Earlier is always better for maximum benefit.

How do you identify them? By probing. Ask people who have done something similar before. Do some simple research (hello google!). Consult the first few to help you identify more. Just probe. Make a very long list. When in doubt, add in. At this identification stage it doesn’t matter. We’ll prune later.

  1. Manage their influence.

Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. Kapeesh?!. Before we start to manage, we need to categorize our long list of stakeholders based on a number of things: How interested? Good interest or bad interest (what kind of interest do you think PDP has in APC’s candidate?), How powerful? What can they do/undo? And so on. In this way, you can then manage them as small groups.  Of course your aim is to maximize positive influence and/or minimizing negative influence. Sometimes you may also be able to turn around negative influence through subtle inclusion and negotiation. Think mom-in-law again, that’s what they’re clamoring for really…most times it’s about the inclusion. What matters is the success of this project, right? Right! Based on the grouping, you need to pen down how you want to communicate with and engage each stakeholder to get maximum benefit.

You can practice right away by making a list of all the stakeholders in your life right now. Remember, we already said your life is a project? So, make that list! Don’t forget to include the recognized ‘haters’, if you have any…Lol… I really mean people/ organizations who may not want you to succeed in one endeavor or the other. That still sounds like haters. *sigh*….

Of course, you want to be careful with this kind of documentation. No one wants to find their name on a list, classified as a ‘hater’. Ehn!! Emi? Hater?….and the rest is history….Lol.

Need a template for documenting stakeholders and their power/interests? You can download one here: Stakeholder Register

Do send your thoughts my way (in the comments below) and don’t forget to share!

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