Tips on How to Avoid Spooking your Stakeholders
How well do you know the people you work with? Your boss, your team members and peers, your boss's boss...What makes them tick, what makes them uncomfortable, and what are their triggers?
What are they scared of?
Do you know their primary concerns when it comes to projects? Do you know what they care about most from where they're sitting? If you know what "spooks" your stakeholders--what makes them fidget and squirm in their seats--you can communicate with them and protect them from what they don't like, while still getting the critical stuff done. Here's are some tips to help with the how...
1. What's Important to Them?
And how important is it? From where they're sitting, what do they care about the most? How much "skin" do they have in the game--what's at stake if something doesn't go well? For example, do they care about how much gets done, how much you spend, or how long something takes? Do they care about the functionality of technology more than they care about the price tag? Knowing what's important to people will help you prioritize and communicate with them. If you need a stakeholder's input or action, position the conversation or action in the context of something you know they care about. For example, if you're an employee asking your boss for a technology upgrade, and you know your boss values customer service, how will that initial technology spend improve how you serve your customers? That way you've outlined a clear benefit that will justify your desired next step.
2. What Don't they Like?
On the flip side, what's painful for the people you work with? What don't they like that you can help them avoid? What can you protect them from, or what can you dress up to make it more palatable for them to talk about? For example, maybe you know a team member really doesn't like being put on the spot during team meetings, but you need her direct input for a decision that the team must make together. Meet with her privately before the meeting to get her thoughts in a 1:1 setting, and share them with the group later. Or maybe you have a client who hates change, but you need them to learn and follow a new ordering system. Help them understand why the new way will be better, and how it will solve problems or streamline the process from their side of the table.
3. How Do They Process Information?
What do you know about how they communicate, and their general preferences and learning styles? Are they visual, do they need to be hands-on and interactive, or can they listen to information and absorb it? How quickly do they process information? Do they prefer short, concise bullet points, or a detailed explanation or story? Tactically, how can you tailor your mode and message to accommodation their natural communication style and preferences?
Maybe there's no way around broaching a subject or decision that you know makes the other person uncomfortable. If you can't change or disguise the topic, change your approach! Let's say you know your sales rep doesn't like long trainings, but you need them to be able to demo a new product for a client, which means they have to attending a 3-hour training on the product. Be sure to give them breaks, make the training interactive, and have snacks! At the very least, find a way to make it stink less for them!
How do you keep your stakeholders unspooked? Let us know on social media!