In previous blogs, we talked about knowing your purpose, envisioning the future, and clarifying your challenges. To lead effectively, you need to engage others around the results that will move you closer to this vision. Only in this way can you get the buy-in you need to achieve results.
Only by aligning stakeholders will you get the resources – the interest, time, money, material goods and approvals – you will need to accomplish your results.
There are different kinds of stakeholders. Some will benefit from the results you are working towards. Others may not perceive that these results are in their interests. You need to know and work effectively with all kinds of stakeholders – those who can help you and those who can hinder you.
In the beginning of a project, identify the people who can support you and also those who can oppose you. What are their concerns? What are their interests? What are their priorities — are they worried that your work might detract from them? Are they concerned about the amount of time and money that your project would require?
Take the time to ask these people questions to find out what they think about the intended outcomes of your work. These outcomes will need to match their agenda in some way in order to get their support.
Example of Aligning Stakeholders in Kenya
I worked in Kenya teaching leadership to district health teams. One health team decided to take on the challenge of improving access to emergency health services to people in their community. One of their major obstacles was that they didn’t have an ambulance in the district. They also didn’t have the funds to purchase one.
They looked around at the stakeholders in their community and realized that local municipal politicians could be a source of funding. They analyzed what the politicians were concerned with and what they cared about. They learned that politicians want to be part of public activities that are seen as supporting community interests.
They went to the politicians and offered the following: “If you can help us with funds to purchase an ambulance, we will hold an event and invite the press to come to a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will give you publicity for providing this ambulance to the community.” These health workers understood what their stakeholders wanted: public recognition for good deeds. The district health team didn’t need to take credit for themselves, as their interest was in providing access to emergency health care.
You will know when your stakeholders are aligned if they give you one or more of the following:
- Resources: Material, financial, equipment and supplies
- Time: They are willing to spend time in meetings with you
- Approval and agreement…or at least the withholding of disapproval
Enrolling Personal Stakeholders
When I was planning to attend graduate school to obtain my doctorate in education, I went to my father (one of my key personal stakeholders) and asked him if he thought this degree would be a good use of my time and efforts. I wanted his emotional support for taking on what would become a five-year course of studies.
My father was concerned that I have a broad enough vision for my future, and not limit the scope of my career. I reassured him that I saw myself working across many types of organizations. I wanted to study how to enhance adult learning so that people could increase their capacities to work on the results they cared about in businesses, non-profit organizations and governments. He was enrolled in this vision and became one of my most important personal champions until he died, movingly, eight weeks after I received my doctorate.
What results are you working towards?
Who are your stakeholders – those who can help, and those who can hinder you?
– Do you know what they care about?
– Do you know what they are concerned about?
How can you find out?
For more on this subject, read the chapter, “Aligning Your Stakeholders” in my book, Leading for Results.
In the next blog, we’ll look at enrolling people in your vision to achieve results you care about.
Stay in touch.
Let me know what you are thinking!