Stakeholder Management - a High Performer Skill



High performers have long realized that stakeholder management plays an integral part in a company’s effectiveness. They know that a disgruntled stakeholder can use their influence to derail an entire project. However, they also know that a well-managed stakeholder can be an invaluable asset, clearing organizational roadblocks and perhaps even advocating your project. In fact, high performers possess a multidimensional skill allowing them to see a project or problem in a larger context and through the eyes of the stakeholders. Stakeholders include employees, customers, investors, owners, communities, creditors, suppliers, unions and government and play key roles as sponsors, advocates, interested parties, etcetera.

One of my clients—a global medical device company—has identified stakeholder management as one of the most important and through-going personal competencies crucial to organizational success. At large, it is also our experience, particularly in big, complex and politically driven organizations, that the level of stakeholder management skills of a new recruit is somewhat predictive of his/her level of success in the organization—short-term and long-term.

High performers have a unique ability to create a niche that distinguishes them from the rest and they are able to market this niche as business critical. However, we see many examples of near high performers who are so locked into their niche—typically a technical specialization—that they are forgetting the importance of manoeuvring effectively on a broad stakeholder level in the workplace. In fact, the more complex an organization is the more able a person must be to navigate within competing workplace interests to achieve their goals.

Mastering the stakeholder management skill also better enables the candidate to understand the symbolism of individual organizations and the etiquette of their workplace. Based on strong interpersonal skills, high performers are focused on creating valuable relations that may assist them in learning how to navigate in the organization. High performers employing stakeholder management skills also are consistently more successful in their organizational endeavours than average performers are. For each organization or project, they develop a stakeholder management strategy—typically containing the following five steps:

  1. Dra​wing up a list of people/organizations having the ability to affect the organization positively or negatively.

  2. These stakeholders are then segmented and targeted based on their ability to affect the desired outcomes (prioritized in order of importance).

  3. If working in a project team, point persons are designated to each high value stakeholder based on their level of importance.

  4. An action plan and timeline covering all high value stakeholders are drawn up to make sure regular follow-up takes place with key priority to those stakeholders that are most business critical.

  5. Developing key messages that bridge the interests of the stakeholder(s) and the high performer and his/her team.

Fortunately, stakeholder management is a quickly learnable skill. However, those who have learned this skill are likely to gain the trust and confidence of the organization easier and are more inclined to understand the difference between the formal organization and the informal organization encompassing those key players who are the true power centres of the organization.

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