Stakeholder Management Starts with Effective Communication
I've recently signed up for Toastmasters to brush up my public speaking skills and during which, discovered that what I could learn was way beyond just the delivery of a message. Through the first few sessions that I've attended, I gathered 5 reflective points that I believe would be useful and essential for fellow HR professionals to consider when dealing with our various stakeholders.
Who are you?
Self-definition is critical in setting the parameters of our influence and the perception of what HR can and will deliver. Clear expectations and boundaries needs to be set to help our stakeholders understand how we can add value to the business. Of course, reputation and branding takes time to build up. What's key here would be the ability to deliver as promised and be consistent in our approach. It's always better to have fewer promises and deliver all effectively, rather than promising many things but not making them happen. All these will shape who we are and in turn, how stakeholders work with us.
Having the end in mind
Before approaching stakeholders for a discussion, it's important to first know what are the objectives and end goals that we want to achieve. By having clear visibility of the finishing line, we can then tailor our message and approach to ensure greater effectiveness in getting the buy in. In addition, it will also help us decide on the most appropriate tools that are required to complement the process. Provide clarity, narrow the focus and ensure a more productive discussion.
A powerful tool to connect with stakeholders would be the use of stories. Very often, it's difficult to send across messages, especially with the varying interest involved. To get people to feel the importance of the proposed initiatives and be on the same page, illustrating the concerns and impact through actual stories will be an effective way to get the message through. What's more, it will be even better if they are part of it. Stories will evoke greater emotions and potentially shape their beliefs in the way you want. Logic is necessary when convincing, but complementing it with emotions through stories will enhance the perceived viability and connection with the stakeholders.
Getting people involved
A common mistake made by fellow practitioners would be delivering their message through one-way communication. By doing so, is it even possible to get people interested? Will stakeholders even buy what you are saying? Two-way communication is thus important. This means getting the inputs of the stakeholders, putting yourself in their shoes and also, knowing what value they are seeking. This comes with regular engagement and through that, develops mutual understanding and a strong rapport. Only when people feel engaged and part of the journey will they truly support your initiatives wholeheartedly.
Start and end with an impact
To get stakeholders interested in what you have to sell, the context and tone of the discussion needs to be set correctly right from the start. This also means providing clarity on the agenda and what the expected key outcomes are by the time the discussion ends. It shapes their mindset during discussion and helps to keep everyone on the same page. In addition, it helps us ring fence the minds of the stakeholders which reduces the size of the battlefield we have to navigate through.
The closing is as important as the start. HR needs to create joint accountability by determining what the deliverables are and who the project owners will be at the end of each discussion. Such clarity will prevent unnecessary finger pointing which often results in time loss and resources wasted.
The 5 key points highlighted are ways to enhance the effectiveness of HR through the way we communicate. In the process, it will also help us establish greater credibility because of the value we can bring on the table through productive discussions and understanding of the stakeholders' perspectives.