February 23

Managing Stakeholders — Who They are, Building Trust & Communicating Effectively

Stakeholder management. The best place to start on this topic is figuring out what a stakeholder is and then identifying who in your organization fits the definition. Marty Cagan explains that anyone who has veto power to stop the launch of your product is likely a stakeholder. So this can go from the CEO all the way to the head of legal compliance. It’s your responsibility to get true, authentic input and clearance from these people so you can build trust. Once you have built trust you can achieve success with tactics like not sharing your product too soon, having regular 1-on-1s with each stakeholder and, as always, using data to back up decisions you are making.

How to get internal stakeholders to trust product management. A theme we should return to is trust. Without this, your position and ability to make decisions are drastically reduced. Other than using data, building trust largely comes from you being able to communicate effectively — listening and talking. Sara Aboulafia reminds us that you should make your stakeholders feel heard. And not rely too heavily on your own instincts or masterplan. Another outcome of communicating better is that expectations can be managed better. Regular and accurate reporting of where a project is will instill trust in you and your process.

3 mistakes all project managers make with their stakeholders. Sometimes it’s useful looking at worst case scenarios to guide us. The first mistake Rachel Burger lists is identifying the wrong stakeholders. To avoid being perennially frustrated by lack of movement by an individual stakeholder, it’s wise to group each one in a low-to-high power and interest matrix. Once this is done, look at yourself and question if you’re being too optimistic when promising milestones and delivery dates. Thirdly, we return to communication. Along with being a better communicator, you must also have a plan for communicating. How often will you speak with your stakeholders and when, to discuss updates, environmental impacts, and roadblocks?

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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