5. Engaging your stakeholders


Staff affected by change: The more you engage with the process, the more you are likely to influence the outcomes.

Identifying and engaging people affected by the change:

If you are leading change, it's essential to firstly identify, then engage all of your stakeholders appropriately. It may be helpful to think of a stakeholder as anyone who is affected by, or can affect, the change that will take place. Let's now consider these two stages in more detail.

Stage one - Identifying your stakeholders:

You may find this worksheet helpful in identifying who your stakeholders are. It helps to spend some time on this to ensure that you capture everyone, and don't miss anyone out. Start by brainstorming a long list, which you can always reduce later on. It may help to define your particular boxes (we have used the following, but make your own up or add others if necessary):

  • Those people more senior than you.
  • Those people more junior than you (your team).
  • Peers (colleagues at your level who work in other areas).
  • External relationships (including suppliers, central functions, customers, students, unions).

You may not initially realise the impact that your change may have elsewhere, so follow the process through fully. Start by talking to your team about it as a group exercise, which may be a way of ensuring active involvement and buy-in early, and then talk to other people who you and your team identify as significant. To determine if you think someone/a group of people are relevant, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will be directly affected, and how?
  • Who will be indirectly affected, and how?
  • Who wants us to succeed, and who doesn't?
  • Who else needs to know, and by when?
  • Whose permission do we need?

Stage two – Engaging different stakeholders:

Once you have identified who your stakeholders are, you can begin to put them into different groups – and consider how to engage these groups appropriately. Click on the following model to see how you could engage these stakeholder groups based on levels of interest and power.

Stakeholder mapping is a simple enough activity, and is certainly time well spent. It will increase the chance of success by ensuring that you communicate with/involve people in the right way – in particular those people with high levels of interest and power who can really make a difference to your change project.

Increasing your influence when leading change:

There is usually some level of dynamism experienced with change, therefore there may be times when you need to assert your influence to drive change. To do this it is helpful to distinguish between three related but different concepts.

Influence is when you have the power to affect people or situations without needing to use coercion.

Persuasion is similar to influence, but you may have more of an agenda to push or more of a stake in the outcome. Most change will require some level of persuasion.

Negotiation is more of a process by which we search for terms to obtain what we want from someone who wants something from us. It is a two-way process, and there is often a requirement to find the win-win.

It is primarily influence, with an element of persuasion, that we are concerned with when attempting to encourage our stakeholders (such as teams or other groups of people) to behave differently – which is the goal in any change. Robert Cialdini has written perhaps the seminal work on the psychology of influence- and offers short-cuts on how you can improve your skills in this area.

Influencing yourself:

There is one more consideration; you may have to influence yourself. What if you don't fully support the changes that you have been asked to implement? As a manager leading a team/process through change, it is important that you remain positive and act as an advocate for the change, while acknowledging and recognising your concerns. You will need to manage your feelings and make the change as positive as it can be. Remember, emotions 'leak', and when you are leading a team, you can multiply that effect many times over. You should not convey your personal negativity, but instead ask how you can influence the change itself. This may be difficult, but is an important activity. You should always use the appropriate channels and ways for dealing with any concerns that you may have.

See the Dreadnought personas for a good example of stakeholder consultation and communication.

Change Management resources