with greg layton

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G’day Chiefs,

Today we are going to talk about the three questions you must be able to answer about your critical internal customers that will supercharge your stakeholder relationships.

If you can't answer these questions, it's likely that at some point you're going to come up against resistance or even find that they might turn into detractors.

Three kinds of stakeholders

At Chief Maker, our frameworks split stakeholders into three different types:

  • Detractors, who are people that are when you're not in the room, they're not supporting you. In fact, they're actively stopping you from getting opportunities. They might be talking foul of you when you're not in the room. Remember, your reputation is what people say about you when you're not in the room and in that case, a detractor is not on your side.
  • Advocates, who generally are a bit neutral. They don't do much in your favour or much against you.
  • Ambassadors, who are people that promote you when you're not in the room. They go in to bat for you. When you ask them to do something, they will get back to you as quick as they can with good quality work. These people want you to succeed and they're the ones who are trying to offer you opportunities and jobs down the track.

Stakeholders who support you are crucial in getting any kind of track record; they can be the difference that brings your purpose to life and can help you leave your legacy. It is probably the number one reason why projects fail and can be a point of enormous stress where people simply come up against a brick wall and they don't know what to do. They get stuck and they're frustrated and it really annoys them. And a lot of the time it means they give up and they just try and find work somewhere else.

Three questions about stakeholders you need to know

One of our core beliefs at Chief Maker is that ownership precedes victory, always. You must own these key relationships 100% because very often both parties have absolved themselves of ownership.
So you have to be able to answer three questions about your key stakeholders if you want to be really good at influencing them.

1. How are they incentivised?

What are their bonus-linked targets or the targets or KPIs they have that are linked to their personal performance? As an example, I was recently working with a client and their sales team is incentivised by both revenue and the margin of the deals they do. Now, that can be a problem when they are doing deals simply to increase the margin. What we found was that the incentives were leading to a range of behaviours that were self-serving, all done within people's heads, sometimes outside of their conscious awareness even. Those incentives are critical because if that person has an incentive to do something or to act in a certain way that isn't really necessarily in support of your projects, then they might well do it. They might do it passively or they might even do it aggressively.

2. What kind of pressure are they under from their boss?

At Chief Maker, we say our boss is our number one customer. So when others are in one-on-ones with their boss or they're presenting to their boss's team, what's going on for them? Are they getting heat on a whole range of other things you're not quite aware of? You have to dial into that because then you can really get an understanding of what's going on for that individual. Your project or your initiative that you're trying to do with your team right now is going to be under pressure and this is where we can see some really interesting dynamics play out in teams. We simply won't support each other because they're not aware of the kinds of pressure their bosses are putting on them.

3. What is their personality type?

There are various personality models out there, whether it be Myers-Briggs, Enneagram or DISC. But if you have an understanding of this individual's decision-making patterns, their preferences or the way they interact with people, the kinds of styles they use in order to work and relate to others and make decisions, then you are going to be far better placed to customise your communications to them and get a better result.

Why it’s important to know the answers to these questions

When someone comes to you and they speak your language, so to speak, you automatically have a deeper level of trust for them. If they show that they understand what's going on for you, you automatically have a deeper level of trust for them.

So if you reciprocate, it will give you a deeper insight into what you can do to customise your language, your communications, and create something that is a ‘what's in it for them’ situation.

Take the mindset of just building trust 1% at a time through every interaction, consistently, and you'll eventually find that these stakeholders come over to your side and become ambassadors for you. And this is just the ultimate in the organisational context; a whole range of people who just think you are doing a brilliant job.

Stay epic,