7 Steps to Powerful Working Relationships
- Identify Key Stakeholders
Who are the important players in the relationship? Make a list, draw a picture, a mindmap or a balloon diagram. (Find tips from the mind mapping originator, Tony Buzan, at: http://www.tonybuzan.com/about/mind-mapping/).
- Analyse the relative power positions of your stakeholders
Who can help to build or destroy this relationship? There are many tools out there that you can use to structure this analysis. We have found the Power Interest Matrix (Mendelow 1991) tool to be particularly useful in categorising our stakeholders in a clear visual way. You can find out more about this approach at the Open University: http://bit.ly/2E6Rzg0. At a simpler level, you may choose to re structure your list or vary the relative size and position of your visuals to reflect positions. Decide who the priority players are.
- Understand your priority players
Spend time reflecting on what makes them tick, what will they need in order to be ‘on your side’? Depending on how well you know the players, you may need to spend time revisiting relationships and researching needs and expectations.
- What financial or emotional interest do they have in your outcomes?
- What motivates them?
- What information do they want?
- What influences their opinions?
- What will win round the less positive people?
- How will you manage opposition?
- Develop and Tailor Strategies to Gain Support
Even within a priority group, different strategies will be needed. Being a ‘Key Player’ as per the Power Interest Matrix does not mean that generic actions will necessarily be sufficient to ensure support. See what R. Edward Freeman, one of the key researchers in this area has to say about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlK6582g700.
- Prioritise actions and implement
Identify ‘quick wins’. Focus on actions that will require minimal resource input but will lead to clear early results. What investment needs to be planned and sourced for longer term actions? An interesting piece of advice on this comes from the Entrepreneur magazine in which Asha Saxena talks about the value of creating ‘layered projects’ in which each goal is made up of layers that make incremental progress easy to see. She talks about the importance of communicating each ‘layer’ of progress in order to build and sustain collaborative effort and in this case, maintain stakeholder engagement. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248245
- Monitor progress on a regular basis
Establish feedback mechanisms – informal conversations, formal review meetings, observations, information from other related interested parties. Take time for yourself to reflect on what you have seen and experienced and develop your own awareness and internal feedback channel that is tuned in to the world around you.
- Learn and refine
Reflect on processes and outcomes. Refine strategies and processes on an ongoing basis. Monitor the positioning of key stakeholders and groups within steps 2 and 3 – have they shifted? The world is not static and neither are people – so never assume stability! And so the loop continues……