Engage Your Stakeholders -- They Expect So Much More

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Marilyn needed something substantial to happen with her upcoming project launch. Being new to the team, it was obvious that an immediate goal of hers should have been to get out and get to know key people. People who could make all the right things happen. She knew she needed to meet the movers and shakers. But, she didn’t know who they were. On top of that, the anticipated project outcomes were huge with deadlines fast-approaching.

Does this sound familiar? Most of us have experienced something similar to this at some point in our careers.

Whether you are new to an organization, a team, a project, or have been in your position for years, intentionally engaging stakeholders is a life-line to success.

Several times a day, people stopped by Marilyn’s office and offered unsolicited advice. During meetings, in between meetings and at events. The “friendly advice” kept pouring in. Sometimes it was deep and relevant. Other times, it felt random; like emotional vents or sharing of past failures. Trying to decipher the myriad of messages into a cogent plan had become fatiguing. Something had to change.

After developing a keen understanding of her stakeholders, Marilyn was able to develop a strategic plan. Eventually, with the support and sponsorship of her stakeholders, the project rolled out and exceeded expectations. They even finished ahead of schedule; which allowed a test phase that resulted in a few cost saving initiatives - all within the original timeline.

Marilyn identified a few important tenets that guided the project. These same tenets apply to most organizations and initiatives: a) Innovation requires action; b) Action requires people; and c) People need to be properly identified and deserve appropriate support and resources.

The best way to align these three tenets into tangible outcomes is to identify your people (your stakeholders). You will find them inside and outside of your organization. Knowing your key stakeholders is critical. And, knowing their circles of influence is equally important. Not just for the outright success of your company; but, for the vitality of your people and culture, as well.

Generally speaking, internal stakeholders are engaged in the day-to-day operations of your organization. This group is committed to serving the organization and fulfilling its mission. They could be employees, students, managers, administrators, owners, board or council members, independent contractors, faculty, volunteers or investors. Internal stakeholders are also referred to as primary stakeholders.

External stakeholders influence your organizations’ outcomes and are indirectly impacted by your performance, meaning the daily processes and methods. The work you do impacts them, yet they do not work for you. They are affected by the organization and in turn can affect the organization. Customers, society, government, clients, suppliers, and community partners can be external stakeholders. They are often called secondary stakeholders, as well.

Once you identify your stakeholders, consider addressing these 7 incremental steps. You’ll find that your stakeholders become highly engaged and supportive while they also become champions seeking future-forward ways that will allow the organization to thrive.

1 - Invite your stakeholders into the important conversations.

2 - Learn what motivates them to be a part of your group. Help them align to the mission, vision and values of the organization.

3 - Once they are at the table, listen to their voices. Demonstrate ways that their voices are treasured and how they can make significant contributions. Explore everything from praises to complaints.

4 - Provide a culture that embraces both thinking and action. Inspire them. Establish boundaries that are documented and clear.

5 - Encourage the testing of ideas and concepts. Create processes that show what was effective at the time and what was not; give them clarity for why things worked (or didn’t).

6 - Designate appropriate resources to support development and implementation. With these resources, create actionable next steps so their ideas become realities.

7 - Finally, model transparent, effective communication. Show your stakeholders how to share your story by being balanced and timely in your messages.

Since your stakeholders influence every aspect of your business, you want them to contribute their best so you can be at your best. Truly engage them, they deserve more.

In the next 5-7 days, identify your stakeholders (internal and external). Create a session that allows you to begin the process of implementing the 7 incremental steps above. Listen. Inspire. Provide. Communicate with clarity. Then step back and see how they champion your future.

Comment below and share an initiative that your stakeholders developed. Feel free to join our community so we can share great ideas with each other and walk alongside one another as we strive to empower greatness.


That’s all for now. Thank you for reading, sharing your ideas, and walking with us on this journey.

Please connect and let us know how you're doing. We’d love to hear what is most pressing for your organization and what you'd like us to explore in future blogs.


Nancy H. Cummings

Learn more about Nancy H. Cummings, Founder & President of Cummings Collaborative

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