Achieving big goals, whether in life or in business, requires help from others. In the business realm, these are called stakeholders – others that are somehow involved in the successful implementation of your strategic plans. But how can you develop and maintain positive stakeholder relationships? It’s not rocket science, but it does require taking steps to get them to be more accepting of your decisions. Here are four tips for getting and keeping the support of stakeholders.
Let the numbers speak
The best way to convince someone to support an idea without appealing to emotion is to present statistics, facts and data. This works especially well in data-driven cultures and on stakeholders with analytical mindsets.
The numbers may speak for themselves, but don’t just present raw data. Take time to learn about what matters to your stakeholders and how they prefer to receive information. Consider whether certain aspects of the numbers can be communicated visually and ensure the major takeaways you want them to pick up on are up front and center.
Show the impact
Transparency is central to earning trust with stakeholders, so it’s important to share the impact of the moves you make and how they help the bottom line. Plan for and create short-term wins and share them on a regular basis. Focus on reaching your milestones to demonstrate that you have a credible plan. You’ll begin to leverage those successes to build acceptance and momentum.
Open up communication
Gaining and keeping the support of your stakeholders includes listening to their views and seeking their feedback. Providing ongoing and meaningful opportunities for your stakeholders to offer input. It will give them the chance to contribute expertise, voice their concerns and take part in the decision-making process.
If you don’t already have established methods for communicating with shareholders, create them. These communications can take the form of one-on-one or group meetings, video conferences or calls and even hallway conversations. Whether formal or informal, seek to understand your stakeholders’ expectations and work to manage them from beginning to end. Err on the side of overcommunicating. There will always be people who don’t hear, understand or make the connection the first time they hear information.
Handle their concerns
Receiving the feedback of stakeholders is not enough – you must also act on it. If they are concerned about an aspect of your project, even if you are not concerned about the issue, it needs to be reviewed. Explain to your stakeholder why you are not worried and why they shouldn’t be, either. While some of their concerns might be based on unfamiliarity with the plan or process, keep in mind that your stakeholders have likely been in the business for a while and may know some things that you do not. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of their concerns will be valid, but you should take the time to make use of their knowledge and provide education where appropriate.
Being good at your job isn’t just about handling all of the tasks that need to be completed. It’s also about balancing stakeholder needs and interests and ensuring that all parties pull together to deliver valuable outcomes. Make a genuine effort to gain and maintain the support of your stakeholders by being open and honest in your communications and treating them like a valued client. And don’t forget to give them public credit for supporting your success. This will help you build a broader support network for future initiatives.