Beyond Stakeholder Management

My mentor in this field — Julio Matus Nakamura, a project manager — once told me, “In any organization, there aren’t just processes, projects, strategies or tools. What really matters is people.”

That lesson, learned long ago, taught me that no matter a person’s position, he or she is a human being first. It’s very important to build trust among human beings in order to believe in each other. When I realized that, I vowed to establish that type of relationship with my stakeholders — to build that trust and try to create a more personal relationship with them.

In my opinion, in some cases it’s more important to have a good relationship with the sponsor or customer than the results of the project.

I’m not suggesting you forget about your project’s results or even the contract. Just that you should put the same emphasis in building a deeper relationship with your key stakeholders as you put in delivering good results and caring about contract issues.

Here are some simple tips that I have used for a while. I hope it may help you when building a relationship with your stakeholders:

1. Use basic manners: Always say hello, goodbye, thanks, please, well done, good job and I’m sorry. These are powerful little words that can make a big difference.

2. Show respect: Often when we are in a conversation with someone, we are not 100 percent in the conversation. You must be present. No excuses. When talking with someone, pay all of your attention to what the person is saying. Avoid thinking about your response when the other party talks; just listen carefully to what’s being said.

3. Learn to read body language: We communicate more with our body than with our words. Learn to “listen” to the body of your counterpart and learn to speak with your body. For example, don’t cross your arms during a conversation, as this can seem standoffish. Make eye contact during conversation and always face the person to whom you’re talking.

4. Share something personal: Find affinities with your stakeholder wherever possible. This could be the university where you studied, the town where you grew up, vacations you’ve taken, books you’ve read, or your favorite team and sport. Make sure to find the appropriate moment to share these commonalities.

5. Break the ice: Read the environment around your stakeholder and discover his or her interests. At the first opportunity, bring those interests into the conversation.

What about you? What tools or techniques do you use to build trust with your stakeholders?

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