Keeping Your Stakeholders Happy Is The Holy Grail

Keeping Your Stakeholders Happy Is The Holy Grail

It seems counterintuitive when you say it, but if you introduce more communicating into your day, then you’ll actually get more done.


How can doing more chatting allow you to really get more work done?

The answer is all about control.

If you’re the one who is instigating the communications, rather than reacting to them, then you gain some serious advantages:

  • You do it on your time frame — no interruptions when you’re in the middle of something
  • You get across what you want to say — controlling the message and the conversation
  • You can pre-empt the response — knowing what to say to get the best reaction

If you leave stakeholder communications to chance, you become reactive and in need of responding to every query whenever it arises. This puts you on the backfoot and means you need to directly respond to whatever you’re asked.

So get out there and control the comms!

How should you communicate

When it comes to keeping folk up to date on what’s going on with the work that they care about, there are a few simple rules:

Do it regularly

The ideal is informing your stakeholders when you’ll be updating them and then sticking to that schedule. If the stakeholder trusts you to update them when you say you will, then they might leave you alone the rest of the time to get on with doing the job.

Do it in the way they expect

If your stakeholder loves the phone, then you call them. If they love an email, then head to Outlook to provide your update. If they share the news with others, then give it in a way they can share, such as a PowerPoint slide deck.

If they get it how they want it, then they’ll consume it more effectively. Ask them what they expect.

Do it honestly

If there’s good news and everything’s going great, then just say you’re on track. You don’t need to go overboard with a song and a dance.

If there’s bad news, tell it how it is. Don’t hide delays or gloss over issues. It is always better to get these out of the way sooner rather than later. And if it’s bad news, you are nearly always better delivering this news in person or on the phone so that you can address the guaranteed feedback that you’ll receive.

Do it clearly

Make sure there is no ambiguity. If your release is going to miss a couple minor features, then be clear about it. It works the other way too and you can highlight any extras that you have managed to throw in.

If what the stakeholder cares about is progress can you show them a progress % to make this clear? If what the stakeholder cares about is dates, can you show them a calendar / roadmap / gantt chart with the expected dates on it?

If the update requires action on the part of the stakeholder, make those actions clear, along with your expectations for them. “Here’s the latest design for feature X. To meet the release, we require your feedback by 4pm today so please let me know what time would suit for me to go over this with you.”

Do it to the right people

Make sure you’re communicating with all the right stakeholders. It might have been the Head of Sales who asked for the feature, but is the CEO also waiting for news of its release, or does the support team need to know of its imminent release?

Don’t highlight problems, update on solutions

No-one wants to receive an update that says “We’re running late” or “Feature X isn’t working”.

A valuable update to the stakeholder expands on this to explain what’s being done in order to not be late or mitigate the risk.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

Ways you can communicate

If you really wanted to you could hire a plane to pull a banner across the sky with the latest update, so the world is your oyster when it comes to updates, but the following tend to work just as well:

  • Slack channel notifications — daily updates provide a check-in opportunity and early opportunities to share news
  • Update summary emails — On whatever schedule you need (daily, weekly, monthly), bringing everything together in one place, delivered at the same time every time
  • Scheduled calls or meetings — avoiding the written word allows you to address any questions that may arise
  • Status documents — A slide with a nice chart, an Excel sheet with a table of progress, something that brings together the messages you need to get across
  • Dashboards — the ideal dashboard is one that is updated in real-time based on work done by the team, saving you time and providing insight for the stakeholder even when you’re not there*

* there are risks to this, in that if they can check it at any time there is the possibility that they identify an issue before you do!