Stakeholder Management: Stakeholders’ hierarchy and engagement

Managing your stakeholder relationships

The stakeholder management  or management of stakeholder relationships is a guarantee towards the achievement of results and it must follow an accurate strategic stakeholder engagement (SSE) analysis.

Stakeholders’ hierarchy and engagement

Produce a stakeholder engagement matrix and identify the role and relevance of each stakeholder in helping you achieve a set of goals. Stakeholders can be classified as those you will inform, and those you will consult, engage and partner with.

Assess the problem you are facing and plan carefully what you want to achieve. Draft a provisional strategy and only then meet up with stakeholders. A strategy will provide direction for the meeting  and avoid endless debates with no clear outcomes.

Learn your stakeholders’ organisational approaches and working styles. Brainstorm with them to enrich your strategy, and identify and coordinate synergies and working style.

Acknowledge and adapt to different communication styles

Ensure that your objectives are clearly presented and that your strategy is outlined to other stakeholders.

When working with different stakeholders, communication asymmetries and miscommunications can arise, ultimately leading to impatience and frustration. Acknowledge that each stakeholder brings along specific styles of working, thinking and decision-making. Some might need to talk out loud to reach conclusions; others may draw a chart to guide their thoughts; some may require a practical example to understand a concept, and others may need to think silently to process information or come to a conclusion.

Make sure you identify and acknowledge different communication styles to guarantee messages are delivered clearly and that misunderstandings are avoided.

Assess your work with stakeholders and compare!

Evaluate your results annually and compare them to your expected results, and last but not least to the expectations of public opinion and to the work of other similar companies. You want to know your mistakes and be aware of bad perceptions from the outside.

Pilot and drive new approaches

Be brave! Pilot and drive new approaches and experiment with new strategies. At first sight conventional approaches can seem to fit the needs of a company, but look out for other innovators who have benefitted from original approaches and are inspired by them.

Acknowledge mistakes and drive the change

Regularly consult those stakeholders that are engaged in other partnerships. Meet them and learn about their mistakes. This might be achieved through informal rather than formal meetings. Admitting failures to a third party is more difficult during a formal meeting in the workplace as compared to during an informal chat in a relaxed atmosphere. Learning about others’ failures and mistakes can help you choose better paths.