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Webinar Report: Putting key stakeholders centre stage

Our 2024 webinar series with Joanna Gaudoin is underway.

This year, the theme for the programme is 'The Four Vital Skills Needed for in-House' and Joanna kicked it off with a deep dive into techniques for putting key stakeholders centre stage.

Joanna’s background in marketing and consultancy with large corporates has given her a deep understanding of the importance of people skills in business.

Having founded Inside Out Image in 2011, Joanna now helps organisations and individuals build great workplace relationships through skills rarely taught in formal settings. Her nameable clients include HSBC, RPC, Mastercard, Irwin Mitchell, Ashurst and Willis Towers Watson.

A great place to start when mapping your stakeholder relationships is to set out exactly who they are. You may find it helpful to divide them into internal and external stakeholders as this can inform how you characterise and develop your relationships with them.

Internal stakeholders could include:

  • Decision makers – people looking to you for insights, data and your legal opinion before making a decision;
  • Information providers – colleagues you need information from, possibly to support your decisions or as part of an information gathering exercise to pass onto a decision maker;
  • Other people across the business, such as those in marketing, HR, data security, finance or those involved in the technical aspects or your organisation’s business activity; and, of course, 
  • Your boss.

Externally, your stakeholders are likely to include:

  • Law firms you work with to provide specialist advice;
  • Regulators; and possibly even,
  • External clients of your organisation.

What a good stakeholder relationship looks like

Good relationships are based on trust. And trust grows through credibility, reliability and intimacy. Working against these upsides is the undermining effect of self-orientation.

Let’s unpack that:

Credibility – do you sound like you know what you’re talking about? Are you talking in a language your stakeholder understands? Remember, most internal clients are trained in subjects other than law, so your ability to give them actionable advice in plain English will enhance your credibility. Bamboozling them with legalese will have the opposite effect. Similarly, being honest if you don’t know the answer to a question, but coming back later having found it, goes a lot further to building credibility than pretending you know the answer – and getting it wrong.

Reliability – when, over time, you do the things you say you will, you’ll build reliability. This applies as much to getting back to a colleague by the close of play about a legal query as it does to completing big projects and reports by agreed deadlines. If people are assured that once a job is in your hands it’s as good as done, you’ve built reliability – and therefore trust.

Intimacy – the magic human connection that transforms an adequate relationship into an excellent one. Sometimes this happens naturally – because we click – but at others we need to put a bit of work in. Looking for areas of commonality with these people - perhaps though non-work conversations, can help you get to know someone beyond the parameters of their immediate work-related goals.

Self-orientation – we all have our own agenda, pressures and challenges at work and it’s natural that these drive us to operate as we do. Sometimes, however, it pays to find out what’s driving other people in their roles. What are they being asked to do? By when? And with what resources? As well as widening our understanding of those we work with, this prevents us from appearing too self-oriented.

When credibility, trust, intimacy and self-orientation are all in balance, healthy stakeholder relationships will surely follow. People can show vulnerability and humility in a safe environment - and voice and challenge viewpoints without falling out. An understanding that allows for frank – and sometimes difficult - conversations has been established.

And you can finesse your relationship-building skills even further by asking yourself these questions about your stakeholders:

  • What is their work situation, for example, are they new to the organisation?
  • What are their motivations (both short- and long-term)?
  • Are they introverts or extroverts?
  • Are they predominantly task-focused or relational-focused?
  • What is their preferred communication style (email, phone calls or video calls? Are they happy to field questions as they arise or grouped together in a single bundle?)

Putting stakeholder engagement into action

Once you’ve had a chance to get to know your stakeholders, it’s time to put your knowledge and impressions into action. Joanna presented a great tool for this. Comprising a six-column spreadsheet, the stakeholder action plan enables you to plot:

  • In column 1 – the stakeholder type, such as an internal department or an external organisation ;
  • In column 2 – a named individual;
  • In column 3 – the current relationship status in which:
    • green means good;
    • amber mean OK but could be improved; and
    • red means the relationship needs work.
  • In column 4 – the opportunity you have to develop the relationship;
  • In column 5 – the priority (high or medium – no stakeholder relationship is of low priority); and 
  • In column 6 - the next action you’ll take.

This visual representation of your current state of your relationships will show you where to start in your quest to boost your stakeholder engagement. Never stop updating your action plan and be sure to review your progress at least every three months.

You’ll find more relationship-building tips and insights from Joanna in her book, Getting On: Making work work  , which is currently discounted to £12.50 for CLL delegates (usual price £14.99) using code CLL241 until Tuesday 5 March.

Join us again in the second in the series of The Four Vital Skills Needed for in-House, in which Joanna will discuss the inseparable arts of listening and communicating. It’s at 10.00am on 7 May 2024 and you can register here.


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