Stakeholder Management Skills (Ultimate Guide)

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Having a network of supportive stakeholders can make or break your initiatives. No matter how sound the strategy, projects can fail without their buy-in.

So, if you want to lead successful changes, you need the stakeholder management skills to inspire and bring them along with you.

In this article, we’ll share some common techniques to gain stakeholder commitment. You’ll learn the key principles and how to take your stakeholder management to the next level!

In the meantime, you can also check out our specialised training course on improving customer service, which is your most vital stakeholder!

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What Are Stakeholder Management Skills?

Stakeholder management skills are the abilities you need to manage the “people involved in a project” (stakeholders) successfully.

This includes being able to:

  • Find out who your stakeholders are.
  • Understand what they want and need.
  • Communicate with them clearly.
  • Influence them to support the project.
  • Keep track of their involvement and feedback.

These skills help you engage stakeholders in a way that leads to project success.

Key skills for effective stakeholder management include:

  • Communication Skills: Clearly conveying goals, timelines, roles, and constraints while actively listening to feedback and addressing concerns. This involves written, verbal, and non-verbal techniques.
  • Analytical Skills: Able to map stakeholders based on influence, interest, needs, and objectives to devise targeted engagement strategies.
  • Leadership Skills: Guiding diverse groups toward common goals by connecting interests, priorities, and motivations.
  • Relationship-building skills: Establishing rapport, trust, and long-term partnerships with stakeholders. Requires emotional intelligence, empathy, and conflict-resolution capabilities.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Anticipating, mitigating, and overcoming disagreements through compromise, arbitration, and objective data analysis.
  • Expectations Management: Setting realistic objectives for stakeholder involvement and project outcomes while adjusting for evolving needs on both sides.
  • Organisation Skills: Able to plan stakeholder coordination, track progress, and document interactions to ensure smooth stakeholder management.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing your emotions and those of stakeholders can lead to more constructive interactions and outcomes.

Beyond these broad capabilities, effective stakeholder managers tailor engagement strategies to individual stakeholders.

They analyse what the stakeholder expects, how interested they are, their influence, and how they could impact the project.

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Stakeholder Management Skills Examples

Here are some examples of applying core stakeholder management skills:

Skill Example What Could Go Wrong
Communication

Provide regular email updates to executives focused on budget/timeline details they care about. Give product teams/engineers technical specifics that are relevant to them.

Lack of transparency around goals, schedules, roles, and constraints can undermine trust and cause delays.
Relationship Building Meeting one-on-one with clients to understand their business priorities and service expectations to strengthen the partnership. Failure to develop rapport and learn stakeholder needs can reduce shared vision and lead to conflicts.
Conflict Resolution Using objective data around realistic timelines and costs to ease tensions between project and client stakeholders regarding scoping issues. Unaddressed disagreements can intensify, spur negative reactions from other groups, and severely impact budgets/timelines.
Expectations Management Revising project plans and resource allocations based on client feedback on shifting business conditions and constraints. Sticking to outdated plans or metrics can disappoint stakeholders and threaten the project’s success.
Leadership Connecting project outcomes to larger company goals like improved customer retention valued by leadership stakeholders to maintain buy-in. The inability to highlight shared interests between the project and company leaders can reduce funding and priority.
Organisation Creating centralised stakeholder database profiles with contact info, priorities, and influence levels for streamlined communications. Scattered stakeholder data obstructs swift information sharing and cohesive messaging, losing engagement.
Emotional Intelligence Listen empathetically to understand hidden concerns influencing stakeholder resistance. Failure to address unspoken stakeholder needs can result in poor team morale, increased stress, and higher turnover.
Analysis Researching stakeholder backgrounds to detect potential areas of alignment or friction to address proactively. Failure to anticipate stakeholder pain points or conflicts can catch teams unexpectedly off-guard.

At TSW Training, our learning advisors are ready to listen to your organisation’s needs and help you customise the perfect training solutions.

Inquire today, and one of our learning advisors will connect with you to start planning impactful training tailored to your priorities.

Principles of Stakeholder Management

Effective stakeholder management aligns with several core principles:

  • Early Identification: Discover all individuals/groups impacted as early as possible. Unexpected stakeholders can derail initiatives.
  • Proactive Engagement: Openly communicate and invite stakeholder contributions well before decisions or issues arise.
  • Ongoing Involvement: Provide frequent updates, gather regular feedback, and address concerns throughout initiatives.
  • Mutual Understanding: Identify stakeholder priorities/challenges to find shared goals and value.
  • Proactive Issue Resolution: Addressing concerns early prevents escalation into major conflicts.
  • Fluid Strategies: Adjust engagement approaches as expectations and project realities shift. Be ready to problem-solve.

Adhering to these principles allows you to get stakeholders on board, manage expectations, address issues early, and create shared ownership over outcomes – required for success.

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What is a Good Stakeholder Management Approach?

An effective stakeholder management approach involves six key steps:

1. Identify All Your Main Stakeholders

First, you need to identify who your main stakeholders are for the project. These will vary depending on your organization and project type.

For example, say your company is upgrading its CRM system to improve customer service. The IT department would clearly be involved as they manage the technology implementation.

However, you also need to consider other groups impacted, like the customer service department manager and the agents who will actually use the new system day to day.

Some common stakeholder examples include your boss, analysts, shareholders, government agencies, suppliers, your team, and of course – customers.

You can separate stakeholders into three main categories:

  1. Primary Stakeholders: Those directly affected, like customers who are the project beneficiaries.
  2. Secondary Stakeholders: Those indirectly affected, like teams supporting the project.
  3. Key Stakeholders: Those with strong influence and vested interest, like executives.

Use a template to map out all your potential stakeholders, where they fit into the organizational structure, and what their interests might be. This helps prevent the list from becoming overwhelming.

2. Assess Stakeholder Power and Influence

Next, assess each stakeholder’s power, influence, and likely support level.

You can further classify them using a simple matrix:

  • High-Power, Highly Interested People: Manage closely, as they have great interest and ability to help you succeed.
  • High-Power, Less Interested People: Keep satisfied, as they are powerful but not very involved.
  • Low-Power, Highly Interested People: Keep informed, as they are passionate supporters who voice that to others.
  • Low-Power, Less Interested People: Monitor, as they are apathetic and unaffected.

For example, the head of operations at a company could fall into the “high-power, less interested” category. While they have significant influence over resource allocation, initial conversations indicate some concerns about operational impacts.

In this case, you would want to schedule in-depth meetings to address their issues, demonstrate how you plan to mitigate disruption, and hopefully gain their full support. 

You can use a relationship map like the one developed by Glenn Hughes to visualise influence levels. To boost your project’s success odds, you want supportive, influential people enthusiastically backing it.

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3. Figure Out How Much Support You Need

Now, examine how much support you need from each stakeholder. Also, look at who else they can impact.

For example, if a manager is popular, keep them updated so they understand how you’re meeting their staff’s needs. This retains positive word-of-mouth and backing.

The key is building strategic alliances with those who have the most influence in their domains.

An active champion could become a roadblock overnight, so constantly monitor stakeholder status and keep communication open to avoid any growing negativity.

4. Craft Engagement Tactics for Each Stakeholder

You likely need tactics at both the business-wide and individual levels. To get their buy-in, show leadership stakeholders how the project benefits company financials or competitiveness.

Then, put yourself in each stakeholder’s shoes, using empathy to shape how you communicate value to them in their specific role.

A developer may care about how a new system impacts their daily work. Explain it makes coding easier and faster. For the marketing team, focus on how it helps reach customers.

Matching messaging to each stakeholder’s interests is key. Use real examples to show the value they will get.

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5. Choose a Communication Approach

Regular communication is vital to keep stakeholders engaged and supportive.

Develop a detailed stakeholder communication plan, including:

  • Identify how often to connect with each stakeholder group based on their involvement. For example, provide weekly progress reports via email or calls to core team members guiding the project. Give monthly updates to peripheral groups via newsletters detailing relevant milestones.
  • Determine the best communication mode for each stakeholder or group – email, video calls, in-person meetings, project management software, etc. Consider their preferences and responsibilities.

Frequent, tailored, two-way communication provides transparency, reassurance, and the input needed to retain stakeholder interest and alignment.

6. Regularly Conduct Toll Gate Reviews

According to a Geneca survey, only around 23% of stakeholders and project managers agree that a project was successful when completed.

This misalignment highlights the need for regular check-ins and open communication throughout a project. Tollgate reviews provide an avenue for this.

Tollgate reviews are meetings to evaluate progress at the end of each project phase.

To run them effectively:

  • Give a quick recap of the initial goals, timeline, and key phases.
  • Share updates on milestones met so far.
  • Explain any problems or delays you faced.
  • Discuss the next steps planned for the upcoming phase.
  • Identify potential future risks.
  • Allow stakeholders to ask questions and give feedback.
  • Review any suggested changes as a group.

These interactive reviews validate achievements made in the last phase and get stakeholder input to improve upcoming phases.

Conducting regular tollgate reviews is an impactful way to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.

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Dealing with Challenging Stakeholders – A Real Example

It can be tricky picturing how complex stakeholder situations play out in real life.

Here’s an example of managing a difficult stakeholder:

Scenario

You’re a project manager at a digital marketing agency leading a major website redesign project. A key stakeholder is an executive at the client company who frequently requests last-minute changes, many of which contradict previous instructions.

This causes confusion for your team and project delays. Without proper stakeholder management, you risk missing deadlines.

How to Overcome?

To overcome these challenges, first, meet directly with the stakeholder to understand their perspective and clarify any misunderstandings about the project scope. Explain how late changes impact your resources and timelines so they understand the tradeoffs.

Also, you can implement a formal change process where the stakeholder submits requests with ample justification and time to implement. Counterintuitively, giving them more planning responsibility could make them more invested.

It may take some work, but when everyone is onboard, projects are more successful!

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How to Improve Stakeholder Management Skills

Here are some tips for developing stronger stakeholder management skills:

  • Improve Communication Modes: Master written, verbal, visual, and non-verbal communication tailored to different preferences and needs.
  • Reflect on Listening Habits: Assess and address filters like biases, assumptions, and tendencies to interrupt.
  • Understand Motivations: Put yourself in stakeholders’ shoes – understand their goals and the value they expect from a project.
  • Ask Probing Questions: An open-ended inquiry can help you understand stakeholders’ expectations, concerns, and priorities.
  • Establish Shared Vision: Identify mutual goals between stakeholders and connect desired project outcomes to shared values and interests.
  • Role Play: Set up scenarios to practice resolving conflicts, negotiating tradeoffs, and aligning expectations between imaginary stakeholders.
  • Expand Networks: Seek opportunities to engage diverse stakeholders, teams, and organisations to grow experience.
  • Embrace Failure: Reflect on projects that missed the mark to improve your ability to identify blind spots and refine stakeholder strategies.

Besides good strategies, strong stakeholder management also requires emotional intelligence and critical thinking. These skills help you understand complicated relationships and encourage productive teamwork.

Do you need help improving these skills? At TSW Training, we provide immersive customer service courses that help your team master the skills needed to create a lasting impression with your customers (both internal and external).

Our engaging 1-day in-house training service empowers learners to deliver wow moments and lasting positive impressions. Check out TSW’s top-rated customer service training course today.

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How to Demonstrate Stakeholder Management Skills

When looking to demonstrate stakeholder management skills in the workplace, focus on providing visibility into your strategies and outcomes through:

Documented Stakeholder Analysis

Share documented profiles of all stakeholders, noting priorities, expectations, and spheres of influence.

Here is an example stakeholder analysis matrix documenting profiles:

Stakeholder Analysis – Part 1

Stakeholder Name Contact Info Impact Influence What’s Important to Them
IT Director [Email]
[Contact No.]
High High Keeping systems secure and high-performing
Sales Team [Email]
[Contact No.]
Medium Medium Meeting revenue targets
Customer Service [Email]
[Contact No.]
High Low Reducing case resolution time

Stakeholder Analysis – Part 2

Stakeholder Name How They Could Help How They Could Hinder Strategy for Engaging
IT Director Provide technical guidance on integration Deny access to APIs if unconvinced of the value Monthly project reviews to demonstrate value
Sales Team Sell new capabilities to customers Undermine adoption if not bought into benefits Demo new features bi-weekly at team meetings
Customer Service Provide input on enhancements to optimise workflows Complain to management if added responsibilities Gather feedback regularly via surveys and focus groups

Communication Plans and Content

Provide examples of tailored messaging, such as project briefings for senior executives vs. technical specifications sent to product engineers.

Status Reports and Change Logs

Circulate regular status reports that note stakeholder sentiments and document how their feedback led to project adjustments.

Post-Mortems

Spotlight lessons learned for improving future stakeholder planning and engagement.

Stakeholder Success Stories

Quantify hard metrics stakeholders helped deliver, such as cost savings, increased customer satisfaction scores, or hours saved via efficient approvals.

Shared Recognition

Advocate for stakeholders to receive public recognition from organisational leaders when project outcomes align with larger company goals.

Developing and exhibiting these stakeholder management practices demonstrates this critical capability to your team and organisation.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to common stakeholder management questions:

What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholder engagement refers to purposefully communicating, exchanging information, and nurturing shared understanding with stakeholders throughout a project or initiative’s lifecycle.

This allows their priorities and feedback to influence outcomes appropriately.

What is a Stakeholder Management Model?

A stakeholder management model is a framework to help manage stakeholders. 

It helps you:

  • Identify who the stakeholders are
  • Understand their goals and influence
  • Come up with plans for engaging with them
  • Keep track of how they are involved

Some common models are the Power/Interest Grids, Power/Influence Matrices, and the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) Model.

What are Some of the Good Examples of Stakeholder Management?

Prime examples of excellent stakeholder management include:

  • Assigning specialised relationship managers to collaborate closely with major clients during an IT systems overhaul initiative.
  • Meeting individually with project engineers to understand obstacles and ideas before making product design changes.
  • Inviting executives and client leaders early in planning processes to incorporate strategic priorities.
  • Circulating a feedback survey across all departments impacted by an upcoming office restructure.

Reaching out early to different groups, learning their needs, and adapting your work to get everyone on board shows excellent stakeholder management skills.

Conclusion

Effective stakeholder management eventually comes down to strong communication, relationship building, and leadership abilities to get everyone working toward the same goals.

With over 50 years of experience boosting organisational performance, TSW Training offers cutting-edge training in leadership, health and safety, and customer service excellence.

In fact, our top-rated customer service course teaches professionals the skills needed to become superior stakeholder managers.

This is crucial since customer service teams frequently interact with stakeholders like clients, vendors, and internal departments. 

Enrol today and gain skills to stand out in any collaborative environment.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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