Senior stakeholders: how do you manage yours?
I often see people making the same common errors when working in a senior environment. Here are a few tips (based on first-hand experience), that might give some perspective when dealing with senior colleagues:
Stakeholders don’t need to be convinced that you’re busy and doing a good job – they’ll assume you are.
Looking and sounding busy by walking and talking fast, sharing rapid-fire verbose updates might make you feel important, but it often looks like you’re not in control and don’t have a spare minute in the day – a worrying sign of poor time management.
Sharing relevant information concisely in a controlled and deliberate way will give senior stakeholders much more confidence that you’re on top of things.
Giving too much detail invites trouble
If you share an issue, the recipient will more often than not assume you want them to do something with it. When working on big projects and programmes there will always be risks and issues, but make sure the senior stakeholders stay focussed on the things you need help with, not the many issues already being taken care of by the team.
Too much information will make it impossible for the recipient to sensibly guess where you really need their help. Their immediate response to an issue is likely to be ‘So what do you want me to do about it?’ (Which is usually ‘nothing’.)
NEVER share bad news in response to a passing ‘how are things going?’
“Terrible, you’ll never guess what’s just happened … and another issue…”
Sharing issues off the cuff is the quickest way to lose the confidence of senior stakeholders. It gives the impression that you lack control and is likely to result in the concern of “If I hadn’t asked, would you have told me?”
Instead, respond with authority. If you have bad news or issues you feel they should know about, respond with “I’m just pulling together an update for you – I’ll come and find you with it shortly.” Take time to manage the message in a controlled way; ideally with a recommendation on the way forward. Let them know that you’re in control, or expect a rough ride in the future.
The success of a project or programme can often be judged on a happy stakeholder, so take the time to manage them well.