What to do with your stakeholders? A new perspective

Stakeholders, we hear a lot about the term. But what actually are they? A search on the internet overloads you with information about stakeholders. Not very helpful. So let me try to put it in perspective.

Wikipedia provides a description that I like most: “A corporate stakeholder can affect or be affected by the actions of a business as a whole.”

It specifically defines a corporate stakeholder. When playing with the words a bit, you can put it in the perspective of your situation:

  • “Your stakeholders can affect or be affected by your actions”
  • “An alliance stakeholder can affect or be affected by the actions of the alliance as a whole”

In other words, stakeholders are the people who have a stake in your performance. Or in the performance of your alliance.

 

What to do with stakeholders?

Stakeholders have influence. So you’d better know who they are and influence them as well. It might sound manipulative, but do realize that perception is reality. When you forget to provide your stakeholders with proper information (influence), they will use their own sources in creating their opinions.

Before you can influence stakeholders, you need to identify and assess them. Mapping relationships helps to get a full picture. Only then will you know all relationships and can you structure your stakeholder communications.

  • Step 1: Identify your stakeholders
  • Step 2: Assess their support
  • Step 3: Identify peer to peer stakeholder relationships
  • Step 4: Communicate and engage with your stakeholders

This is an ongoing process. Organizations change, people move on to new positions, and new people come in. People also change their perceptions and opinions over time.

 

Identify your stakeholders.

The simplest way to identify your stakeholders is by making a list. Think of every person that can affect, or will be affected by your actions or your alliance.

The list of personal stakeholders includes your boss, your peers, and your direct reports. And think for instance of the people in different departments that you often connect to. When identifying stakeholders in your alliance, the list includes stakeholders from the partner’s organization as well. The executive sponsors on both sides also need to be included in the stakeholder list.

When you create lists like these in a mindmap, it brings a little more structure. And you can create connections where relevant. Also, a stakeholder mindmap provides you with a visual overview.

To ensure that your stakeholder map is complete, talk to your alliance counterpart or to one of your close colleagues. They might see additions to the map that you have overlooked. In case of an alliance stakeholder map, I would recommend to always create the map together with your counterpart.

Do you have a clear overview of your stakeholders? Make a stakeholder map and see who you might be missing. Share your map with me in an email if you want, and I will respond to it. In a next article I will come back on the next steps in stakeholder engagement.


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