Stakeholders are pivotal to the success of a project or business. Whether your stakeholders are internal or external, every good leader knows the importance of keeping them engaged and satisfied. But where do you start?
To help you, we asked the members of Forbes Coaches Council how they recommend keeping your stakeholders happy. Below, they share 14 specific and concrete strategies you can take back to your leadership team.
1. Conduct Mutually Beneficial Conversations
Stakeholders are important partners in all organizations. Working together toward a shared vision with more cooperation makes our efforts more rewarding. To make stakeholders happy, it's all about meeting their needs while keeping our own needs in mind as well. Have honest, authentic and direct discussions with clear asks and reasons, and encourage stakeholders to do the same. - Chuen Chuen Yeo, ACEsence
2. Communicate Often, Freely And Consistently
Communication is one of the topmost skills in business and the vehicle for informing, confirming, inquiring and engaging. Stakeholders' satisfaction in my line of business is vital because it leads to great things such as free advertising and repeat business. So my advice is to ensure your stakeholders' communication is thorough, often and consistent to eliminate ambiguities or surprises. - Dr. Flo Falayi, Hybrid Leaders, Inc
3. Authentically Care With Transparency
Stakeholders are people first. This means that before we think business, we must see what is behind the business, and this always leads to the humanity of people. Keeping people happy is almost impossible. What is possible is keeping people in the loop and informed with information that may impact them. This is the right thing to do and something that will always be appreciated by any stakeholder. - Adriana Rosales, Adriana & Company™ LLC
4. Develop A Service-Level Agreement
Aligning on the problem or challenge, the deliverables and how both parties will communicate and follow up is critical. However, it's important to be open and flexible as business needs change. Understanding that the best-laid plans don't always turn out as expected, for me, my personal experience has shown that being proactive, listening and renegotiating work well. - Gwendolyn Miller-Jones, Synergy Unlimited LLC
5. Be Transparent And Proactive
Balancing the needs of diverse stakeholders is always a challenge. I have found that frequent communication and transparency are key. I have to proactively look for opportunities to update key stakeholders on project progress and impacts, and I have learned that I can't assume that key decision-makers understand what my team is doing. - Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC
6. Ask Clarifying Questions
Stakeholders want to see the value and return on investment. Get clear on what they see as value. What's valuable for one person may not be of value for another. Ask questions like, "What are you looking for within this arena?" "What would get you excited if we could achieve it?" "If we waved a magic wand, what would you wish for?" Ask questions to get clarity, insight and happy stakeholders. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
7. Customize Your Interactions Using AI And Data
Companies that customize stakeholder engagement using AI and data know what "happy" means to the type of employees they hire. The same data that allows marketing firms and brand loyalty programs to gain customers is available for keeping stakeholders happy. Employers who use AI and data to customize employee engagement increase retention, attract top talent and decrease ghosting. - Tracy Levine, Advantage Talent, Inc.
8. Share The Good And Bad, As Soon As Possible
Stakeholders get anxious when they don't know what's happening. They crave certainty—the ability to prepare for the future. When this is missing, they will micromanage, fill in their need for information by imagining the worst will happen and be skeptical of your abilities. To address this, you need to proactively communicate with stakeholders on a regular basis both the good and bad news. - Lee Eisenstaedt, Leading with Courage Academy
9. Lead With Excellence
Leaders with integrity, discipline, humility and courage are often highly effective communicators and have quality stakeholder relations. These leaders uphold the vision, values and mission with pride and credibility. They do not fear the work, accountability or the dialogue needed to accelerate value, or optimize and maximize their talent and teams for company success. They lead with excellence. - Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting
10. Never Surprise A Stakeholder
When dealing with stakeholders, one key principle to always keep in mind is "never ever let them be surprised!" Bad news may occur sometimes, but not keeping stakeholders in the loop will only exacerbate the situation. Having been a CFO, CEO and now an executive coach, I can certainly personally attest to the value of keeping them fully informed, and I coach my candidates to do so as well. - Ash Varma, Varma & Associates
11. Keep Stakeholders Close
Stakeholders want to know you're just as committed to their success as they are, if not more. They want to trust you're leveraging all available resources to deliver on their interests. In an ever-changing market, keeping them happy means keeping them close, informed and updated—as though they have a "subscription" to your business partnership and leadership. - Corey Castillo, Truth & Spears
12. Implement A Consistent, Strategic Communication Strategy
One specific and concrete way to keep stakeholders happy is consistent strategic communication. Continuous engagement via a newsletter is what I have personally seen to be effective. Whether it's a daily, weekly or monthly newsletter, keeping stakeholders apprised of the latest news is a concrete way to keep them happy. Communicate content properly to your stakeholders via print and/or digitally. - Elizabeth Ruiz, EAR Enterprises
13. Manage Stakeholder Expectations
To keep stakeholders happy, you have to know what their needs and wants are. What are they expecting from their relationship? How do they measure success? Then, either meet their expectations, or manage them such that they know why their needs and wants won't be met now, and when they might be in the future. This way, you build trust and show your commitment to understanding their goals. - Jennifer Wilson, ConvergenceCoaching, LLC
14. Listen Carefully
Instead of focusing on your priorities, start listening for what's important to them. Go beyond surface-level facts and uncover the feelings and values behind their views by asking probing questions. Equipped with these insights, center on the intersection of what you have learned and what's important to you. Anything else risks being perceived as waste and noise to stakeholders. - Chuck Ainsworth, Center for Creative Leadership
Source: This article was initially published on March 30, 2020, on Forbes here.