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7 Tips to Transform Difficult Stakeholders into Project Partners

Good projects are a virtual treasure trove of innovative improvements that can make life easier and boost productivity. But according to Moira Alexander for, they also inspire fear and loathing for their stakeholders. Therefore, a key skill of the effective PM is the power to win the hearts and minds of project stakeholders. We’ll take a look at seven tips to turn cowering cronies into committed collaborators.

7 Metamorphic Maxims

  1. Timing is everything.
  2. Establish trust.
  3. Clarify upfront.
  4. Decide how to address troublesome stakeholders.
  5. Determine the root cause.
  6. Engage directly.
  7. Involve the stakeholder in resolution.

The correlation between disengaged stakeholders and increased project risk is scarily high, and it all starts at the project’s onset. Cull the favor of stakeholders by helping them identify their interests in the project. How will their contributions add value to the project? A “heart and mind” is best won through trust, as you might expect, and gaining trust usually boils down to respectful engagement (not the micromanagy kind).

Another factor to consider upfront is expectations. This should not come as a surprise, since the essence of a project is its deliverables and final outcomes. Clarify at every necessary juncture exactly what those outcomes will be. And remember that stakeholders do not exist in a “happiness vacuum.” You’ll likely encounter a troublesome type from time to time. Alexander identifies victims, saboteurs, antagonists, and passive aggressive behaviors that need to be handled with care.

Some of these behaviors are subtle, and curbing them involves some root cause analysis. Gain information through garnering feedback and resolve issues only to the benefit of all. Remember that there is little time to be indirect. That “little string” of discontent might be attached to a lot of stakeholder “baggage” under the mud, so start tugging early.

Finally, it is necessary to follow through with any stakeholder issue, to bring the issue to a state of closure. Without resolution, the issue will continue to fester at the expense of team cohesion, and ultimately may compromise the integrity of the project. Tears and fears aside, it’s time to turn those stakeholder frowns upside down.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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