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What are stakeholders?

Stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by an organisation’s activities.

  • Internal stakeholders are directly involved in the production of services or products, e.g. employees, directors and board members, and union representatives.
  • External stakeholders have an interest in what the organisation creates or how they go about their business, e.g. customers, suppliers, shareholders, regulatory bodies and the wider community.

How to get better at engaging stakeholders.

First up, think about your engagement strategy. Engage with the right stakeholders, at the right time, with a communication channel that suits them.

All stakeholders are different, therefore its important to get to know them and understand their objectives. Flex your approach based upon their individual requirements.

Next, make sure you communicate effectively, as it helps you build relationships, build trust, and increase confidence. Poor communication can quickly lead to problems for all concerned. It’s important to raise any issues, as soon as possible so decisions can be taken and results improved.

Don’t forget communication takes many forms – use as many techniques as necessary:

  • Consulting
  • Listening
  • Understanding
  • Influencing
  • Negotiating
  • Gaining approval and support
  • Minimising opposition or obstruction

However, before you engage a stakeholder:

  1. Plan the engagement.
  2. Have clear objectives and details of the stakeholders you want to engage with.
  3. Develop understanding. Acknowledge their issues and analyse the impact they could have on your organisation.
  4. Take time to identify common ground between your organisation and the stakeholders. Look for a win-win and commit resources to the process.
  5. Recognise that your stakeholders are not homogenous, so adapt what you say and how you say it.
  6. Consult everyone, not just the easy ones. Listen well, communicate in a form which is accessible. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
  7. Respond to what you have learned and compromise if you need to.
  8. Evaluate the engagement process and document the learnings for the next time.

This process is cyclical, iterative and should be changed-up based upon your relationship with the stakeholder and the strength of their influence over the organisation.

Let's recap.

Stakeholders are the network of people who effect an organisation and are affected by an organisation’s activities. They are important to organisations because of the influence they have on its’ success.

Your job is to make sure you can get the most from them and learn from them, using an approach that works for both of you.

So, next time you need to engage a stakeholder, take a few minutes to review these 8 top tips and you’re on your way to better stakeholder management.

Note: we have referenced other people’s work in this post. Please find the details here.


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