Nancy H. Cummings
Marilyn needed something substantial to happen with her upcoming project launch.
Being new to the team, she needed to meet the movers and shakers; her
stakeholders. The people who could make all the right things happen. However, she
didn’t know who they were. Along with that, the project outcomes were huge with
Does any of this sound familiar? It certainly does to me. 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 your 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. It was non-stop. Sometimes it was deep and relevant. Other times it felt random;
like emotional vents or sharing past failures. Trying to decipher the myriad of
messages into a cogent plan had become fatiguing. Something had to change.
After becoming aware of her stakeholders, Marilyn was able to draft a strategic plan.
With their support, the project rolled out on time and exceeded expectations. It even
finished ahead of schedule; which allowed a test phase that resulted in several cost
saving initiatives - all within the original timeline.
Marilyn identified a few important tenets that guided the successful completion of the
project. These same tenets apply to most organizations and initiatives: 1) Innovation
requires action; 2) Action requires people; and 3) People deserve appropriate support
The most efficient way to live out these three tenets is to start by identifying your
people (your stakeholders) as quickly as you can. You will find them inside and outside
your organization. Knowing who your people are is critical. Not just for the outright
success of your company and the project. The overall well-being of your people and
your company culture depends on this, also.
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.
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.
Once you identify who your stakeholders are, consider implementing the following 7
steps. These steps will facilitate deeper relationships and connections. You’ll likely
find that your people become highly engaged and supportive while also becoming
‘Champions’ of your company.
1 - Invite your stakeholders into the important conversations.
2 - Learn what motivates them to be a part of your Team. Empower conversations that
align day-to-day actions with the mission, vision and core values of your company.
3 - Listen to their voices. Demonstrate ways that their voices are treasured and how
they can make significant contributions. Explore everything you hear; from praises to
4 - Create a culture that embraces both thinking and action. Inspire people. Establish
attainable boundaries that are documented and clear.
5 - Encourage the testing of ideas and concepts. Design processes that show what was
previously effective and what was not. Provide clarity for why things worked (or
6 - Designate appropriate resources. Provide enough to unleash creativity,
development and implementation. Determine actionable best next steps so great
ideas become realities.
7 - Finally, model transparent, effective communication. Show your Team how to
share your company’s story by being balanced, excited and timely in your own
Since your stakeholders are the people who make things happen and influence every
aspect of your business, be intentional. Encourage them to contribute their best so
you can be your best. Truly engage them. Facilitate Champions.
In the next 5-7 days, identify your stakeholders (internal and external). Facilitate a
session that allows your team to begin implementing the 7 incremental steps above.
Listen. Inspire. Provide. Communicate with clarity. Then, step back and watch as your
people become your company Champions.
Nancy H. Cummings, EdD