When it comes to stakeholders there are two camps. The difficult to please and the easy to get on with that appreciate your effort.
Whilst working with agreeable people is great, it’s worth remembering that challenging situations are an opportunity to grow and develop new skills. Your stakeholders whether they are your seniors, design teams or end users can make or break your career – rightly or wrongly. Their opinion can have a very strong influence on the way you are perceived within your organisation.
If you dislike your stakeholders…guess what? They probably know it. If they know it, they are going to be responding with equal bias rightly or wrongly. Professionalism is a two-way street.
So it will come as no surprise if you don’t get put forward for more high profile, challenging and prestigious projects that look good on your CV and are great for your career. Think about it: if people have the opportunity to choose who to work with they will most often avoid people they think they will clash with. So finding ways to influence your stakeholders so you are mostly on the same page will make your work more enjoyable. It will also create the right career opportunities for you in the long term.
Here are a few ways you can influence stakeholders so they become your strong allies.
1. Meet deadlines
If you are set a task get it done on time, this helps you build credibility. Ahead of time is even better, but not always possible so communicate competing priorities. This can range from internal expectations to deliver your roadmap to customers receiving features when promised. Identifying barriers and challenges to getting things done and getting help early is really key to making sure you have results, not excuses.
2. Catch up on what you are doing
Even if your work is going fantastic, every now and again make time to informally catch up on how things are progressing with teams you work alongside. This is important even when things are going well, in fact, more critical, especially if you find talking about your successes difficult. This helps to build a positive outlook and your stakeholders will remember things that have gone well.
3. Be genuinely thoughtful
It’s the small things that matter when building relationships and making connections. It’s also the reason why employers take time to create a workplace culture. Whether it’s getting someone a drink when you’re getting one, showing up with snacks to long meetings, following up on news people have shared or organising socials outside work. Every situation is different- learn what will make the difference in your case.
4. Help out
Sometimes the challenges surfacing on your products aren’t directly yours but you can be there providing leadership, direction, and support. This, however, doesn’t mean you should neglect your own role to resolve issues in other areas. Lend your support to brainstorming solutions, connecting other teams to people in your network you know can help unblock their challenges. Be someone that brings solutions not just problems.
5. Be positive
Positive people are great to be around and you may have heard the saying, ‘be the attitude you want to be around’. Don’t whine all the time, it brings down team morale. Being the person that always complains about change and new initiatives isn’t good for your reputation. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion. If you don’t agree with something be ready to propose a credible alternative. Be open and supportive of ideas coming from your stakeholders. Toxic cultures have an impact on the products companies put out to their customers and the experiences the customers will have as a result.
6. Be supportive of the common goals
Understand what your common goals are and the role you play in achieving those goals. Stakeholder groups and their teams are made of different characters. This makes it pretty difficult to please everyone. Putting your own agenda aside and being united with them will help you to achieve more and faster. If you can be the facilitator for unity, you become a valued contributor to the success of your product.
7. Propose great ideas
It’s not enough to just come in and do your job and stay in your lane. Find ways of improving what you do and how you do it. It could be doing things quicker and better. Stay on top of industry innovations and trends so you can add value to your products, challenges, and conversations. The more ideas you come up with and receive feedback on the more likely you are to propose ideas that work for your multiple stakeholders.
8. Compliment them
Ok, who doesn’t love a compliment? I’m not talking about your socks are nice type talk. If you observe your stakeholders making a great contribution. Let them know that is what you think, give them the credit that is due to them. In the same way, you feel good when you are praised for your work, your stakeholders will also feel great. Remember that behind the term stakeholder is a real person you are dealing with, so don’t forget to be more human.
You don’t have to do every single thing on the list. Some will be more important and effective than others. What are you currently not doing that you might start doing? What are you already doing that seems to be working quite well?
Meet the Author:
Benedicta Banga is an experienced Product Management leader with a strong background in vendor management and project management. Currently, she works as an IT Product Manager at Jaguar Land Rover in the UK. In 2018, she created www.prodsprint.co.uk where she shares Product Management tips every month! Benedicta is also an events organiser for Product School events happening in Birmingham.
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