When you think of doing a stakeholder analysis, doesn’t it seem a little mid-20th century? When you look at it, after all is said and done, isn’t it really just names? Scrawled black and white names hanging there on the page in front of you with no depth whatsoever. However, there is something much, much more going on behind each and every name on that page. Every one of those colleagues, every one of those team members, has an emotional makeup that pushes them to make all sorts of decisions, both logical and illogical. Those humans, every individual named on that page, are flesh, blood, and bones so why not take that fact into consideration the next time you perform a stakeholder analysis?
I understand, it might seem a little challenging to project your EQ onto something as two-dimensional as a stakeholder map. “I mean” you might be thinking “isn’t the stakeholder analysis supposed to simply be a strategic planning tool? Don't make this more difficult than it needs to be!”
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Sure, there is a place for the sterile stakeholder analysis that we’re all familiar with. It’s really second nature to just think of as many people related to a project or problem as possible and focus only their role and responsibility. But as 3 dimensional people – why not also so consider the who, what, and where they are emotionally to gain additional insight in to motivations, potential issues or alliances, and ways to better work together to meet your goals.
The next time you do a stakeholder analysis, mentally add a little life to those names and try to dig deep into the people that are represented by those lifeless names. It’s really just a practice, a mental experiment, to help you align your feelings and strategies with the emotional responses of those you work with. Where do they fit into the general scheme of things? If you look at it while stepping into their shoes, how does it change the strategic landscape? Remember, proper relationship management should involve using the understanding of your own emotional makeup to navigate the entire spectrum of emotional reactions that surround you. This is the map with which to navigate those choppy seas.
Now, let’s think of how we might accomplish this. First, write each stakeholder down using the standard format that we’re all used to. After you’ve done that, use your social awareness skills to imagine the last time you encountered each particular stakeholder or information you’ve heard from others in your organization. Visualize how you interacted with them, how you know them, what they were working on and how they felt about it. How did they sound? Move? How did their words, tone, and movements and other cues “speak” to you?
After you’ve gathered all that information to discern their motivations, doubts, and concerns visualize that information in verbal terms. How might your observations help you predict their future reactions to the project? How might you use that information to make the relationship more fruitful for the both of you? With this added perspective, I’m quite sure you are much more prepared than you would’ve been with that crumpled collection of names in your portfolio.
Think of it like this: what is the room you just entered but a microcosm of your larger stakeholder ecosystem. If you train your mind hard enough to work through this lens of empathy, it might be possible to more accurately get the pulse of the situation and position yourself accordingly. Isn’t each person in that room a stakeholder to the task at hand? Be it a group project, dinner party or breakaway workshop we are all stakeholders in every social setting we encounter. After you sculpt your mind to work in this way, you will realize that each person in that room has a story and each story can be a clear pathway, rather than an obstacle, to mutual growth.