Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Who are your key stakeholders?

You’d probably take a moment to think of your most valued customers, your senior management teams or the client that you’re currently trying to convince to come on-board.  And of course, you’d be right. 

However, our true key stakeholders are the people that perform within your organisation on a daily basis without whom you’d have nothing.

It’s all too easy to take people for granted.  Especially those with whom we have no daily direct contact with.  After all, they should be happy to have a job in the first place right?


If you take your workforce for granted then you’ll lose them.  Just like in any tired relationship which becomes mundane and routine.  There’s no spark, no meaningful level of interest, no passion.  You’ll soon be sleeping in separate rooms leading separate lives and begin to view each other as more of a hindrance than a help.  Without action, the relationship fizzles out to nothing other than the embers that were once the source of energy that fed the fire and kept the relationship alive.   But it might be dying and you may not have noticed.

We’re all busy.  We’re busy running the business, the departments, the workflows and schedules.  We’re busy securing deals or making new things to sell or promote.  We’re busy attending meetings that waste hours and only ever produce minutes; minutes that no one reads because they’re all too busy.  Busy being busy!

I’m no time-management specialist.  In truth, I was once embarrassingly late for a time management course!  But we should all make time for our people; for those that are working hard on our behalf.  It doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process.
One of the most effective people I once had the valuable opportunity to shadow was a Colonel in the French Air Force.  I followed him around each morning as he personally met every member of his team and shook their hand.  He knew all of them on a personal level.  He knew where they lived, if they were married, the names of their children and the football teams that they supported.  And their reaction to him was the same.  They were visibly lifted at the start of their day.  The atmosphere was warm and reciprocal.  You just knew that their bond with their Boss was on a far deeper level than the usual leader/follower relationship.  And you knew that they’d all go that extra mile for him if he ever had to ask them to.  It was an enlightening experience and one that has stuck with me – despite me being a mere bystander very much on the periphery at the time.  I spoke with him before I left the Air Base.  I told him that was hugely impressed by the way he operated.  He told me that he had once been in the command of an officer that used to act the same way; and that it had left him with an impression of how to act whenever he reached a level in the military where he would command large groups of people.  He said that he only had a few weeks left to serve in the Air Force and that he was retiring.  This revelation impressed me further as it told me that there was no hidden agenda in his MO. 

There was nothing that any of his people could do for him now that he was leaving yet he still afforded each one of them the time to ask how they were and was genuinely interested in their wellbeing.

“I’m far too busy to walk around shaking hands with everyone that works for me” you might say.  If that’s the case, then why not select a few key influencers who may learn from your example and start doing the same?  It’s well known that good behaviour can breed good behaviour.

We can all make time for important clients, meetings and calls.  We’re all very busy being very busy.  But if the outcome from one of your meetings requires your people to work extra hard for you; then they’re more likely to accept the situation if they know you’re on-side.

Never be too busy to engage on a regular and meaningful basis with your true key stakeholders.

Wishing you the very best in all that you do,



  1. A well written blog - makes good sense and many can take a real lesson on how to bring the best out of team members!

  2. When i think i don't have time, I am likely out of touch and have abandoned my core values.
    Dr. jim sellner, PhD.,DipC.

  3. Hi Ian,

    Thank you. The quickest and often best way to engage employees is by merely acknowledging their existence.

  4. Hi Jim,

    Admittedly, we can all become too task focused from time to time and forget that its the teams and individuals that complete the task on our behalf. Thanks for your input.

  5. Hi Keith,

    This was a fantastic post. Not just that it was well written but the message is so important. I particularly love the analogy of business to a "tired relationship". I had never thought of it that way.

    I used to oversee a staff of 125...and I made every effort to personally engage with all of them as often as possible. I used to say good morning every day to each person...It never occurred to me that it made such an impact until one particularly bad morning, I walked right to my office...and I had a few people come to me afterwards to call me out on it....they were exceptionally understanding...but I was amazed that they even called me out on it. That "good morning" every day opened up lines of communication that might otherwise have never existed.

  6. Keith,

    Your anecdote and your perspective is refreshing. I've grown accustomed to distant managers/bosses. Currently I am not in a management role but aspire to someday get there. When it happens I want to make sure i set high expectations and build unbreakable bonds that extend beyond 8 hours on a weekday. The line I couldn't let go of is what I felt was the heart of this post:

    "Never be too busy to engage on a regular and meaningful basis with your true key stakeholders."

  7. Great article Keith. I believe that having good relationship with your stakeholders is a must. It is where commitment, and loyalty will come into action.

  8. Well said, Keith. I think creating a network and constantly watching over that network -- those who you work directly and indirectly with -- is critical to your career's success. Some may be current stakeholders and others may become stakeholders. I know as a previous project manager, my team members fluctuated based on the job and project. Keeping those relationships sharp was important regardless of whether they were current stakeholders. It takes a little bit of effort that pays off richly in the long-run.

  9. Thank you all for your very positive feedback.

    With best wishes,


  10. Busy Being Busy is a great title. In our current business environs we all act this way and need reminding to allocate our time to keep connected. What has been said here is not "new" but it has been said well with relevant everyday experience. Good reminder to connect with our 101 skill sets. Thanks for the shout out.