Picture of Stephan van Rooden

Stephan van Rooden

The 5 and a half types of stakeholders


Stakeholders tend to behave like children right before the holiday season. They all believe they have been the nicest kid and have the right to the most presents. They do not consider factors like budget. So effectively managing them will consume a large part of your time in creating great products and being aware of these 5 and a half types of stakeholders will increase your stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder as a partner

Good stakeholder management satisfies both business and personal needs. Where the personal needs stem from the preferred stance as a person. And the business need is closely related to the role the person fulfils within the organization. As the graph below shows, fulfilling both needs, brings you in the category of a partnership. You both have skin in the game and have a shared interest of creating a successful product.

Fulfilling the business needs is about the type of information you share and the problem you fix for them. To your CFO, you will probably share different reasons to accept or deny a request then to the marketing manager. This post will primarily focus on the personal needs.

The special type

Let’s get the half type of stakeholder out of the way first since that also sound a bit strange. It is a need for ‘recognition’. Everyone wants to be recognized for their contributions, achievements or whatever might be relevant at that moment. You can never give a stakeholder too much recognition. People have the need to be respected, admired, or appreciated. Be careful, what you attribute to a person needs to be sincere. If you think the office the person works in is awful, don’t say you like the office. People will pick up on that! Some examples:

“It’s impressive how you have built up this organization from scratch”
“You must have a lot of responsibilities; it is impressive how you navigate that!”

You think that is hard to do? It might take some practice. In hindsight, you can determine if you missed an opportunity for recognition.

It’s when you say “Ok”.

Let me give you an example:

Client: “I broke my leg last week”

Consultant: “Ok”

Client: “….”

Consultant: “…. So about the proposal I sent you last week”

This insane example I saw unfold right before me resulted in an assignment cut short. Not entirely because of this failed opportunity to recognize the unfortunate incident this client had, but it sure contributed to the decision.

When looking at the other 5 types of stakeholders the amount of recognition they need varies quite a bit. But I would recommend overdoing it instead of missing out on changes for recognition.

The ‘Power’ type

Perhaps this is the type of stakeholders that is most challenging to deal with. Unless you know what drives them and how to fulfil their needs. This type usually has some leadership position in your organization. They think in terms of: “What’s in it for me? How can your product or features contribute to my goals, impact, or status?

Second, interesting element is that Power types will test you during your first meeting! Are you able to contribute to my goals?

Within the first five minutes they will throw some sort of test to you. A simple question like: “Aren’t you a little bit young to do this job?”,

“How can I help you? (While in fact you are there to help them)” or

“Why are we actually in this meeting?”.

Passing this test is something you can prepare. Be able to explain your added value to their goals.

“Yes, I am young compared to other, but I was hired because I have the skills required to achieve ‘goal x’ that others in this organization do not have.” Or

“I am here to provide you with the data you need to move this company in the direction you want’

Passed the test? Now you have acknowledged their status and they will see you as a useful person to work with (not just another pair of hands).

The ‘Certainty’ type

Another challenging type of stakeholder to work with, are people who have truly in-depth knowledge about in your domain. These types are especially difficult if you are in a rush to deliver and move forward. Their primary need is to minimize risk. Since they worked for many years at your organization, and they have seen it all. They can punch a hole in every initiative you want to take. Although you can perceive them as being negative. In fact, they will prevent you from making mistakes!

How to bring them on board? Involve them in your incremental and iterative approach. This will give them the opportunity to build trust, to process and reduce the ‘first time right’ pressure many companies seem to have implicitly adopted. For example, say: “Since you know so much about how this can go wrong, can you help me navigate to the solution that does work?” make them a partner in crime.

The ‘Realization’ type

These types of stakeholders are easy to manage. There are driven by progress, results, and actions! Forward movement with their sleeves rolled up! Ask them what the desired outcome is and how your product can contribute to achieving that outcome. Frequent moments of inspection and forecasts towards achieving the goal works best for these stakeholders!

The ‘Social’ type

Although this seems to be an easy type of stakeholder to manage. If you are in a business setting these types can feel like they might slow you down. They think in commonalities. Building a good relationship is important to them. You need to invest time! A lot of time. To paint the picture: imagine you have scheduled a 1-hour meeting. Approximately 55 minutes will be about everything but the topic you scheduled the meeting for! The conversation can be about yesterday’s football game or holiday destinations. Just go along and participate in the conversation since this is an important element to building a good relationship. Once the relationship is established, managing this stakeholder is relatively easy, straightforward and you can achieve great things together(!).

The ‘Order’ type

Managing this type of stakeholders is easy! Just add structure! Before every meeting draft an agenda and share it upfront. They will be prepared, and you will need to be as well! Follow the agenda during the meeting. Most importantly, bring up any surprises or unforeseen aspects as soon as possible! This type of stakeholder (or in fact all stakeholders) dislike surprises! By sharing this as soon as possible they can decide whether they want to discuss it in this meeting, or you need to schedule a separate meeting.

What should I do?

How to recognize which type you are dealing with and how to properly manage these types of stakeholders? And how to prepare yourself to cope with some challenging situations? Or be able to explain what value you can add.

In future posts we will explore each type. How to recognize these types, how to fulfil their needs, how you should act, which words to use and how these types of stakeholders can help you achieving your goals!

More to explore

Leven Lang Leren

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