Any individual, group, or firm that can influence, be influenced by, or perceive itself to be influenced by a certain project or program is known as stakeholder. The ability of an individual to form and maintain positive relationships with these stakeholders by managing their expectations as well as the desired outcome appropriately is known as his stakeholder management skills.

An extremely important part of stakeholder management skill is the ability to appropriately influence the expectations of these stakeholders regarding the outcome of their investment. This, along with various other approaches, may be used to manage stakeholders and keep them satisfied in order to get relentless support from them in the journey towards a successful project or business.

Why is stakeholder management important

Following are some of the benefits of stakeholder management that can explain why it is given so much importance:

  • Uncovers risks beforehand. The more you engage with your stakeholders and communicate with them in an effort to manage them, the greater are the chances that you uncover some potential risks, which may otherwise go unnoticed. It provides you greater exposure to whatever else is going on that has the potential to impact the success of your project. The sooner these risks are identified, the better opportunity you have to reduce them by taking effective measures.
  • Helps in creating a perception of success. Irrespective of what your project’s actual output turns out to be, the feeling your stakeholders have at the end of the project is what really matters. Since a project rarely delivers what it is initially set out to, engaging with stakeholders and managing their expectations makes it possible to influence the way they feel at the end of the project.

How to improve stakeholder management skills

Here is a list of things you need to know in order to improve your stakeholder management skills:

  • Ensure sufficient communication. Communication is the key to a good relationship with your stakeholders. The best approach is to gather communication requirements first and then communicate efficiently with each stakeholder, using the medium they prefer and as often as they expect. Be open and honest with them regarding your progress. However, this does not mean it has to be a one sided communication. You must listen to them as well.
  • Keep track of their changing attitudes. You may often encounter stakeholders that are difficult to manage. The reason for their negative attitude could be their alternate agenda or that they are negatively impacted by some of your decisions. Good stakeholder management skills means being able to successfully handle such stakeholders. However, better stakeholder management skills require understanding that their attitudes will change consistently. You may have successfully dealt with one difficult stakeholder at the project initiation phase but this does not mean you will not encounter any other difficult stakeholder along the way. Therefore, you must re-assess their attitudes from time to time and communicate accordingly in order to deal with any changes.
  • Provide a sense of ownership. All of us like to feel important. Therefore, implanting a sense of ownership in the stakeholders is the best thing you could do to improve your relationship with them. You could do this by giving them a role in the project, asking for their opinions or approval, or even by something as simple as keeping them informed. Building their self-esteem this way will prove to be a great help.
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