Managing Stakeholders

The Islander – July 2018

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Balance your stakeholder's needs!

Whether in the yard, getting ready for the season or in the full throes of a busy charter, managing your many stakeholders is a key component of being a Captain. Much like the conductor of an orchestra, a Captain must direct and synchronise these stakeholders. It can mean the difference between a smooth season and a tough few months – or more.  

What do we mean by stakeholder? In essence a stakeholder is anyone (or groups) with the power to impact on your current situation or project. They can be internal or external; most obviously is your owner and owner’s representative, your management company, guests, however, there are others such as ship yards, suppliers and brokers.

1. Identify your stake holders – all of them! Ascertain their levels of influence and interest, as they are not all equal.  Map your stakeholders according to the amount of support towards you, and their potential levels of impact on your project or situation. They will fall into one of four categories:- Your "Champions" who are supportive and can have high impact on your stakeholders. Your "Friends" who are supportive,but have low impact. Thene there are you "Irritants" who have both low levels of support and influence, and finally your "Stoppers" who have high impact, but are not supportive of you.Once you have them grouped you will then be able to identify how much time and energy to give to them and how best to interact with them.

2. What are their expectations? Find out by listening to them, as Stephen Covey says, ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’. Through effective questioning you can learn what your stakeholder needs enabling you to present your case in a compelling way that talks to their motivators and drivers. By listening you will also be able to determine how best to match their style of communication in order to put them at ease and get them “on side”. For instance, do they need a lot of detail? Should you be speaking more slowly or more quickly?”

3. Set and manage their expectations. Communications are vital and need to be delivered in a way that the message is actually received. Problems often arise when there is a mis-match between the reality of the situation and the expectations of the stakeholder.  A somewhat simplistic example is where management expects all the financials to be in by the 1st, but you don’t receive the visa statements until the 3rd. Your delivery of the accounts on the 4th is therefore deemed late in their eyes. These gaps between expectations and reality are where challenges often arise, and they must be addressed to prevent conflict. What can you do? Change the stakeholder’s expectation (change the expected date to the 4th), change the way you operate (change the visa statement date), or a combination of the two.

4. Get smart about influencing upwards. Networking is key to this part of the process. Networking can be a nightmare for people who hate the apparent triviality of small talk.  Fortunately there is a simple suggested solution which is described by Dale Carnegie in his book ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’. He describes sitting next to a distinguished botanist at a dinner party.  He had never met the man before.  At the end of the evening, the botanist thanked Carnegie and praised him for a stimulating conversation – this despite the fact that Carnegie had hardly said a word all evening, as he knew nothing about botany.  In reality, he had been a good listener and had encouraged the botanist to talk.Listen carefully, ask the occasional question and summarise what you have heard. Most of us love talking about our interests and are only too delighted to chat away to someone who will listen! Building rapport and a relationship through being a good listener means that you will have the information and tools you need to influence – whether through bargaining, compromise or collaboration.

There’s an expression, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’! Build relationships with those who can impact on your world and put yourself in a position where you can in turn influence them. Who said being a Captain or conductor of the orchestra was easy?! Impact Crew is here to support you in your role, whether managing owners, reps, management or crew. We have a team of highly experienced coaches who can work with you over the phone or Skype, in confidence, to bridge the gap from stakeholders’ expectations to reality.