Whether you’re a project manager or business analyst, stakeholder management and influence is one of those big-ticket items that can make or break your project.
A stakeholder is defined as a person with an interest or concern in something. In the project world, this can mean anyone who’s directly or even indirectly impacted by the project. Senior stakeholders typically hold quite a lot of power within the organisation and are usually the key decision makers on a project. This is exactly why it’s important to foster strong relationships with your senior stakeholders.
Influence is unfortunately not something that’s achieved overnight. Your background and expertise might help you in this regard, but at the end of the day, it’s the softer approach that will reap the most rewards.
We recommend the following:
Always try to sell the bigger picture
Ask yourself: Why are we doing this project? What’s in it for the greater organisation? Being able to “sell” a project effectively means it’ll be much easier to get people on your side. And when people are on your side, it makes relationship building a whole lot easier.
Choose your communication style carefully
Chat to people who know your senior stakeholders well and find out what their preferred communication style is. Some people prefer that you book a face to face meeting, others are on the run a lot and find it easier to have a quick call or respond on email once they have a quieter moment. Work within their preference boundaries to ensure that you’re able to get your message across.
Practice the art of listening
How do you really get to know someone? You listen. Some stakeholders will be quite open and you’ll be able to learn quite a lot about how they operate in a short period of time, while others may be a bit more guarded at first. Take notes, analyse what they say (and what they don’t say), and use the information you’re able to gather to help shape your future interactions.
Work on being confident, even in difficult situations
Senior stakeholders are like predatory animals, they can smell fear. Combat any feeling of uncertainty and lack of confidence by knowing your facts and knowing them well. By being well prepared, you’ll always have something solid to back up a recommendation or idea.
Manage expectations and potential conflicts
In an ideal world, all of your senior stakeholders will have the exact same expectations and everyone will get along perfectly. But in reality, you’ll need to put a lot of effort into understanding the differing expectations of each stakeholder, identify areas of potential conflict and then define a strategy for getting to some form of common ground which is acceptable to all.
Deliver on your promises
Influence relies heavily on trust, and your stakeholders will only trust you if you deliver (and do so consistently) on the promises that you have made.
At Analyze, our team of Project Managers and Analysts understand the importance of building strong relationships and using their influence towards achieving project success Get in touch to find out more.