In response to one of my recent articles about identifying your stakeholders, I received an email from fellow coach Laura Neil. In it, Laura shared a story from a recent training course she facilitated:
At the start of a 2 day sales negotiation training course held in Europe, but with an international audience, I asked the delegates to write on a “post-it note” who all their stakeholders might be. We talked about thinking much more laterally than just the business. What was very interesting, was that a delegate from a small town in the USA put “my town” down as one of his stakeholders. He said the company employed many residents and if everyone considered the impact of their actions with the town as it’s stakeholder in mind, then they could protect the livelihoods and maintain a prosperous town.
The story resonated with me for two reasons and thus I asked Laura’s permission to share it with you.
Away from a paper tiger
Firstly, the story shows the power of the simple post-it exercise. When you start identifying your stakeholders, it is a smart decision to do it in collaboration with some colleagues. Using the post-it exercise as described by Laura, will help you to make it interactive. It turns the identification process away from a paper tiger into a fun and interactive exercise.
When approaching the stakeholder exercise with a group, some attendees might feel uncomfortable. It might be new ground for them. As such they might be somewhat reserved in bringing stakeholder suggestions forward. Particularly when you bring together people from different companies. For instance to identify alliance stakeholders. The post-it exercise then also serves as an icebreaker in the group.
Do not limit yourselves
Secondly, the story from Laura shows us that we should not limit ourselves to our immediate company colleagues. As the delegate from the USA indicated in the story, the business affects many more people than one, at first sight, would realize. Keep in mind that there is probably a broader group of stakeholders out there.
Purpose and focus
The purpose of identifying stakeholders in business is to see how we can engage with them. From that perspective, keep it in a manageable size and connected to the purpose of your process.
When you are identifying stakeholders for your personal development, focus on stakeholders that you can affect or that are affected by your immediate actions. That is the narrow scope of stakeholder identification. Depending on your role, it can be useful to involve clients or community members as well in your stakeholder definition: that is the broader scope. The answer to what your ideal stakeholder group is, will always be somewhere in the middle.