How do you influence your stakeholders?
Influencing others is indispensable to effective leadership and successful HR Business Partnering. From world presidents to parents dealing with recalcitrant kids, influencing can go a long way in gaining the right outcome, and it is a key competency for Senior HR Professionals to gain buy-in and success for the change programs you are leading.
Sometimes getting the buy-in from stakeholders for major projects is easier said than done and therefore requires a structure and strategic approach. In most cases, Senior HR Professionals are influencing leaders that they have no direct control over and the rise of geographically dispersed teams is an added complication.
Persuading leaders to support an initiative that could radically affect the way they operate is also much harder when you have to build a relationship that is virtual with remote leaders and teams you may never meet in person.
Similarly, many Senior HR Professionals and Leaders now work in a matrix organisational structure, where boundaries between roles are fluid dual and reporting relationships is the norm.
All of these working situations add to the complexity of navigating who the key stakeholders are and what their perspective on the initiatives and changes you want to bring, might be.
What is certain is that without stakeholder buy-in your change initiative will fail!
From my experience of working in both complex matrix management structures to supporting leaders and teams in International, a structured strategy is required for succus, and below is my approach for ensuring you gain stakeholders to support you in all your initiatives.
Identify Your Stakeholders
For you to develop a stakeholder’s influence strategy, a constructive approach is needed to determine who are the critical stakeholders who will support or block your initiatives. If you’re working on an initiative that is critical to the success of the business going forward, stakeholder strategy isn’t something that can be left to chance.
Determining the stakeholders that have an interest in your project or initiative, and who will be affected by its key deliverables and outputs is vital. At this point, ensure that you profile the needs, motivators, interests, and concerns of the stakeholders. Getting the stakeholders to buy-in is a combination of different factors, such as understanding your audience, their primary needs, and how best to present information to ensure their support.
Think about who will be supportive, who will fall into the ‘neutral’ camp, and who is likely to meet you with resistance. Don’t forget to also include the influencers who can open doors or give you access to the data you need to support your case.
Map Your Influence
Assess where you already have relationships and where you will need to invest time in building them. A good suggestion is to list your key stakeholders and try to prioritize them in terms of their importance to the success of your project. You could rate them on a scale of 1–10 so that you can see at a glance who the key players are and how much work you need to do to get the right people on your side. List down your top priorities in their order of significance and the likelihood of support or being turned down.
Once you have a clear picture of the stakeholder situation, you need to start planning how you will communicate and build relationships. Draw up a timeline for ongoing communication with all the stakeholders, thinking carefully about what level of communication different people will need, how frequently you need to engage with them to maintain momentum and what approaches or channels you will use.
Demonstrate the Business Impact
Stakeholders are mostly concerned with the organisation’s needs and how your project will impact their Business Unit. Heads of Business Units are usually pragmatic and results-oriented. You, therefore, need to provide enough evidence to convince the stakeholders that your project will have a tangible impact on the business. This essentially means that your project or proposals should lead to increased efficiency, increased business revenues, or other forms of benefits. The project’s purpose and direction should be clearly elaborated.
Constantly share the benefits of your change project with your stakeholders. People who understand what’s in it for them are more likely to be cooperative than those who don’t.
Develop Plans in Partnership
Once the objectives have been understood and there is a clear means to communicate with stakeholders, you can go ahead and plan your internal operations. Instead of strategising alone and presenting your project and initiatives to stakeholders in a solitary form, you should consider involving key stakeholders in the process. Consult the key stakeholders in the process so that they feel that their thoughts have been factored in. This way, it will be quite easy for you to create notable influences.
Understand Your Stakeholder Perspective
To really understand how another person may feel about your change program put yourself in their shoes. You may 100% believe that your planned initiative is going to make a positive difference to the business, but not everyone may see it like that.
Think about how the planned change or new initiative will affect the Leaders and their teams that you support. What impact will it have on the way they go about their work? What concerns are they likely to have, for their own role, and for the way their teams operate and are structured?
Be mindful to ask lots of questions and really listen to the feedback, being mindful to hear what is not being said as well.
Honest conversations and creating a space where people can be honest in their thinking will allow you to build trust and buy-in, and more likely generate insights and ideas that will lead to a better outcome in the end.
Create and Build A Trusting Environment
To influence stakeholders you need trust and one of the key ways to build trust is to be transparent with your thinking and decisions you make. Once others can see that you have their best interests at heart and you are honest with them about what the outcome might be, no matter how difficult or ugly that might they will listen to you. I believe for success to happen you need to be honest, open, and straightforward in your actions with stakeholders.
Know your Influencing Preference
As you probably know at this stage I am a strong believer in understanding your preference type and how this can help you achieve success. We all have a preferred influencing preference. Maybe you are someone who likes to focus on presenting the facts and figures, or perhaps you like to gain attracting by whipping up energy and enthusiasm by creating a vision of what the future will look like. There is no right or wrong way, but what you need to remember is that your stakeholders also have a preference of how they like to receive and process information. I like details and love a goof formal presentation that I can take away to reflect on. But most of the stakeholders I have worked with don’t need the details they just need to understand the final outcome. I had to learn for me to get their attention I needed to communicate in a way that they recognised. Look for the subtle signs about understanding how best to deliver — adapt your style and deliver to meet the preferences of your audience and culture.
I would love to hear what has worked for you in influencing your stakeholders, please email me back and I look forward to hearing from you.
Wishing you a day full of Clarity and Confidence.