As a project manager, you prioritize building and strengthening stakeholder relationships for good reason. Every supplier, investor, employee, and project sponsor involved shares a vested interest in the success of the project and, on a larger scale, the entire company.
Author Simon Simek notes in his book that a business’s success is measured by longevity — and, specifically, how well the business adapts, strategizes, and plays the “infinite game.” This game isn’t defined by winning or losing, but rather the ability to chart a course for long-term, sustainable growth.
To ensure that your current and future projects are successful, you really have to be intentional about developing relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
This guide outlines five tips for forging and maintaining these relationships year-after-year.
Let’s Get Specific: How To Start & Sustain Stakeholder Relationships
1. Don’t Undervalue the Stakeholders on Your Team
Some stakeholders will have more hands-on involvement with your project than others. And the way you communicate with an investor or supplier will look different than an employee or company executive.
This is because each relationship is different. An investor’s questions and requests tend to focus on big-picture progress whereas an employee’s questions and requests tend to center on day-to-day operation.
Though your relationships with financiers and investors are important, make sure that you aren’t prioritizing these stakeholders at the expense of your fellow employees. It’s important to instill value in your team and acknowledge their contributions.
Boosting morale leads to increased productivity which leads to company-wide success. In turn, this success attracts new investors and affirms to current investors that they made the right decision to bet on your project.
2. It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s Who You Get to Know
Initiating a new stakeholder relationship has little to do with luck and everything to do with positioning yourself at the right place and the right time.
By actively seeking opportunities to network with prospective stakeholders, you regularly put yourself in the position to make more connections. While there’s no guarantee that a prospect will immediately join in on your project, the odds are stacked in your favor if you are consistent.
Reaching out to current stakeholders and making new connections through them is another smart strategy. These prospective stakeholders that you connect with are more likely to get involved since you’ve already earned the trust of their industry friends.
To modify a well-known phrase, “It’s not just who you know, it’s who you get to know.”
3. Avoid Gray Areas & Keep Your Stakeholders in The Loop
Managing communications with various stakeholders at the same time is no easy feat. The more channels of communication that you have, the harder it is to keep everyone in the loop on the project’s progress.
If your team is confused about what they are expected to do, this can slow productivity. If an investor isn’t given access to important information, they may decide to pull out of the project altogether.
To avoid mass miscommunication and worst-case scenarios, it’s important to establish a system of communication early on.
From scheduling interviews with stakeholders to emailing updated status reports, there are many ways to share important information.
When you prioritize communication, your stakeholders will be more inclined to invest in future projects because they are informed, supported, and involved in this current project.
4. Establish A Review & Approval Process for Stakeholder Requests
Along these same lines of stakeholder communications, we recommend establishing a formal review and approval process for any minor or major requests.
As you make progress on a project, your stakeholders need an outlet to voice their thoughts, concerns, and requests. It’s important that — even if your team decides that the request isn’t feasible — the stakeholders see that their responses are being logged and carefully reviewed.
This review and approval process gives stakeholders the opportunity to share new ideas and see that these ideas are not being accepted or dismissed without any consideration.
5. Celebrate Stakeholder Involvement After Finalizing the Project
When working day-in-and-day-out to meet project deadlines and produce optimal results, we often forget to acknowledge stakeholders for their contributions in the moment.
Scheduled interviews serve as a great opportunity to share positive and constructive feedback, but it’s easy to let other opportunities pass us by.
Once your team concludes work on a project, you should celebrate this achievement. Reach out to internal and external stakeholders and take the opportunity to recognize the role they had in this success.
Make sure that your stakeholders know that their investment had a direct impact in shaping the end result. The time, money, and resources they provided were put to good use.
A job well done should be acknowledged and celebrated. Taking the time to thank your stakeholders can go a long way in strengthening these relationships.
Forge Long-Term Stakeholder Relationships
Whether internal or external, new or existing, stakeholders are critical players in the “infinite game.”
As you take on new projects, it’s important to keep a wide view and focus your efforts on developing long-term stakeholder relationships. By going the extra mile to prioritize these relationships, you give stakeholders every reason to invest their time in future projects as well.
- Mackenzie Scott is a copywriter with Soundstripe, a royalty-free music and stock media company that provides creators with the resources they need for video and podcast production. In her current position, she writes SEO-driven content for the company blog. Before joining the Soundstripe team, she graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s degree in English and Communication.