In this exclusive Prioritised member session, our panellists had an in-depth conversation on how to manage your stakeholders when building products.
The panel, moderated by Emily Tate, Managing Director of Mind the Product, welcomed:
- Randy Silver, Consultant, Coach, Speaker, and Author
- Cris Valerio, Head of Product at All Dau Kitchens
- Nichole Mace, VP Product Growth at Pendo
Approaching difficult situations
The conversation opened up by discussing how to build a good foundation with your stakeholders before getting started, Randy explains how product managers can benefit from using the CREDIT framework
created by Julia Whitney to establish trust. These keys are Commonality, Reciprocity, Empathy, Difference, and Trust. Nichole adds that the commonality is a good place to start to set the scene. Ask what is the higher level and find that agreement that you’re working together to make that higher goal happen, she says.
Asked how to deal with direct conflict where your views clash, Cris explains how acknowledging it is the most important starting place. After doing this, you are then able to bring higher-level executives to make that final decision. Once that decision is made whether it favours you or not, that is the new direction, Randy adds. Being stuck in this conflicting position isn’t good for any party.
Keeping stakeholder relationships on fire
Asked how to keep stakeholder relationships consistent and engaging, Nicole mentions how it’s never been easier to do so. Sending a simple message via Slack or Teams can go a long way. What you don’t want to have is radio silence and no touchpoints. “Just keep up in small makes really makes a difference,” she says. Emily adds how important it is to replicate that in-office setting whilst remote, set aside 5 minutes before a meeting to have a personal chat and catch up on how your stakeholders are doing in general before talking purely about work.
Randy explains how a key to creating effective relationships is to ensure that everyone involved in the journey is putting in the same amount of work to achieve the ultimate goal. He references Emily Webber’s Team Onion framework
which helps teams have shared ownership over a product and company goal. Cris adds that she uses a pre-mortem to predict issues that may lie ahead. “Go through all of those scenarios and figure out how you would solve that. It really engages the whole team to understand every possible worst-case scenario,” she says. Doing this ultimately makes you feel comfortable with where your product is going after you complete that stage.
Stakeholders focused on the short-term
Asked how to deal with stakeholders who are constantly focused on the short-term over the bigger picture, Randy says to find out why. Sometimes there is a reason why stakeholders are so focused on the short-term which is sometimes validated. Nicole reinforces that finding the why is so critical. “Then you can figure out what your path to influence and craft a new plan,” she says.
Finally, Cris adds that it’s important to take a step back and look at what kind of company you are at, who is focusing on the short term, and where your product is in its lifecycle. The why is important but the ‘where’ also frames how you should think to address this.
Identifying new stakeholders
When looking at who you should bring on your journey as a stakeholder, Randy says how you just start by asking, while Emily explains how the more you develop in your product and goal, the more you understand who would fit. Nicole adds that it’s useful to create a sense of an open meeting. “You can post this invitation to different places. That way you’re using others who are involved in your process to think about inviting a second group of people who might be involved in the project” she says. It’s harder for you as a product leader to identify people to bring on board all the time, so let people do some of that work for you.
Over time, people will phase in and phase out depending on whether it’s interesting to them. Additionally, positing an agenda helps to shape things out specifically.
Once you begin a new role and you’re looking for new stakeholders, and users to interview, Cris explains that nothing replaces making time for new relationships to flourish by regularly interacting with new people. She reiterates making time for conversations that aren’t work-related. “When I come out of those meetings, my engagement from them and their engagement from me, is so much better for those first few weeks after, because we have those personal touchpoints,” she says. People have different personalities and working styles, which shouldn’t limit your success at a company, Cris explains. “Users and stakeholders aren’t the same. We all communicate in different ways,” Recognising that people are different can have a long-lasting effect.
What to read next
For more insights browse our library of content on Stakeholder Management or access further resources bpriorielow: