Stakeholder Management: How To Manage Stakeholders More Effectively

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When you’re managing a project, working with multiple stakeholders can end up being your biggest challenge.

With lots of personalities to handle, and plenty of demands to juggle, it can be difficult to stay focused and manage everyone’s expectations effectively.

Key Points:

  • 50% of people say that stakeholder engagement is the most important factor in project success. Develop your relationships with stakeholders can get the best results for your project.
  • Be clear with your communication to stakeholders in terms of managing expectations. Over-promising is setting your team up for a fall, just to appease senior stakeholders.
  • Discover top tips on how to manage stakeholders better, ensuring your team delivers on time and with high quality. 

What are stakeholders?

Stakeholders are people from around the business who have an interest in the project you’re working on. When you’re involved in stakeholder management, you need to set clear expectations and communicate openly with the people around the table, so everyone is on the same page.

What roles do stakeholders usually have?

Internal stakeholders could have all sorts of different roles across many departments within the business. They may be from varying levels of seniority and include anyone from heads of departments to junior designers, or account executives.

If they have an interest in the project or are working on it, they’ll be a stakeholder.

There could even be external stakeholders too, who have an interest in a company project and are focused on its success, such as investors, agencies, or other companies you might be working with.

How can leaders be better at managing expectations and delivering results for stakeholders?

#1. Be organised

When you’re leading a team, you’ll need to be juggling lots of priorities and expectations from plenty of stakeholders. To start with, you’ll need to be extremely clear about what’s expected from each individual.

You’ll need to use your project management skills to map out how long certain tasks are going to take, and the expected outcome at the end. You could do this using a management tool, such as Trello, that all of your team have access to, so you can report on progress quickly and easily.

For instance, instead of telling a software engineer that they’ll need to make a new tool for the website, you’ll need to brief them on what the tool needs to do, who it’s for, and the results you’re hoping to get from it.

#2. Communicate clearly

Be clear with your communication to stakeholders in terms of managing expectations. Over-promising is setting your team up for a fall, just to appease senior stakeholders.

Managing stakeholders isn’t always easy, especially when you may have people with different opinions in the room. For that reason, you’ll need to be focused on stakeholder engagement, identifying each person’s communication style, and how they prefer to hear about any updates.

For example, weekly meetings might suit one person, another might like a short email summary, and another might require a daily stand-up. It’ll be up to you to find a way that works for everyone and doesn’t take up too much of your time as well.

#3. Be understanding

Empathy can really help you to work closely with key stakeholders and direct reports too. Understanding what’s important to each one and what’s frustrating them can make it easier for you to deliver the results they’re hoping for.

Taking the opportunity to have regular check-ins with your team can help you understand any blockers that might be holding them back, and can also give you the opportunity to identify any areas where processes can be streamlined.

10 tips to help you manage stakeholders effectively:

If you’re looking for ways to earn more respect while managing stakeholders, we’ve rounded up ten tips to help you get on the right track:

#1. Get a good idea of what your stakeholders’ communication style is

As we’ve already mentioned, knowing your stakeholders’ communication style is key. Once you know whether they prefer face to face meetings with a lot of discussion about the project, or a direct, succinct update via email, lean in to what they’re all about.

Many managers won’t always make this clear straightaway, so asking them outright can help steer you in the right direction.

#2. Use their language

When you develop empathy with your stakeholders, you understand their motivations and the reasoning behind their decision making. You also start to get a clear idea of the language they use when they’re talking about the project.

If you can, try to use this when you’re speaking to them, rather than sticking to acronyms your team uses that might not make sense to someone else. This is especially true for external stakeholders who may use different terminology, and who might become confused if you continue to use words that mean nothing to them.

#3. Set expectations

It’s vital you establish clear expectations from the get-go, and don’t promise something that you can’t deliver. If there are hold-ups, keep everyone updated so it’s not a shock when the work isn’t delivered.

#4. Know what goals the team is aiming for

If you’re not aligned with the goals of the entire team, you can’t guarantee project success. The aims they have in mind may be completely different, so it’s always good to get on board with this straight away.

Your stakeholder analysis should cover this too, when you’re considering who should be notified about the project you’re working on.

#5. Be proactive

If you’re managing stakeholders, being proactive will get you noticed and set everything in motion. Instead of waiting for your colleagues to come to you, be proactive in setting up meetings, and getting the right people in the room.

#6. Shout about your contributions

We don’t seem to shout about our contributions very much, but if we don’t let people know the work we’ve put in, how will they find out?

Let people know the work you’re doing, and the effort that’s gone into it, so others are aware of the value you’re adding to the business.

#7. Take things off other people’s plates

Got some spare time? Ask your manager if you can take anything off their plate, and add it to your to-do list. Sometimes, people won’t ask for help, or delegate tasks they think they must do themselves.

However, if you’re willing and able to help, you might have the opportunity to expand your skillset, and work on new projects. It may well be that you’re more suited to the task, than your manager.

#8. Come with solutions, not problems

Although it’s tempting to flag a problem as soon as it arises, a senior leadership team will hold more value in someone who can approach them with a solution instead.

Before you bring the problem up, have a quick brainstorming session to see if there are ways around it, so you can show that you’ve really thought things through.

#9. Limit surprises

As much as you can, limit unwanted surprises and give regular updates so everyone is aware of any potential issues before they become bigger problems.

#10. Disagree with good reason

Disagreeing with your colleagues can always be a little daunting, but when you have good reasoning to back yourself up, it can be worth doing it for the good of the business. Lots of people are grateful for constructive feedback, rather than criticism.

Picture of Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew is TSW's Head of Leadership & Management. He’s coached and mentored leaders and the senior management teams at international brands.
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