How to Work with Stakeholders as a PM
Apart from the day-to-day responsibilities, PMs must learn the skill of partnering with stakeholders. Stakeholder management is a highly underrated skill that's often overlooked in favor of the immediate things, but truly great product managers are masters at communicating well to stakeholders and making sure that stakeholders are on board with the product vision and delivery plan.
What are stakeholders and why is it so important to make sure they're on your side? Let's break it down.
What is a Stakeholder?
A project stakeholder is any person in the who has the influence to impact your product. An easy way to identify stakeholders is figuring out whether they have veto power - these interested parties have the potential to make or break your plans for release.
Check out some of examples of stakeholders below:
- The executive team
- Other project teams (product managers, project managers, development teams)
PMHQ's community consists of all kinds of product professionals and stakeholders that you can learn from.
Also keep in mind that there are external stakeholders, such as customers, but for this post, we'll be focusing on internal stakeholders.
Stakeholder management is inherently difficult because different people and groups have competing objectives, priorities, and visions. Add in politics and distinct communication styles and it's pretty clear that the PM has to walk a thin line and do it well.
In the next section, we'll briefly cover responsibilities that will help the PM successfully work with stakeholders.
How to Work With Stakeholders
- Identify your stakeholders and establish trust with them. This is potentially the most important responsibility - if PMs don't know who has a stake in the project, then they won't be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders. Without communication, stakeholders can lose trust very early on.
- Engage your stakeholders continuously. Once you identify all your stakeholders, make it your priority to be constantly in contact with them. This doesn't mean every hour of every day - the most effective way is to prioritize your communication based on how involved each stakeholder is for your project.
- Understand the vision and constraints of your stakeholders. Figure out where your stakeholders are coming from. Taking the time to understand each stakeholder's challenges and then communicating in a way that that person will understand is a surefire way to prevent misunderstandings and get buy-in.
The key thing to remember here is that successful stakeholder management involves lots of communication, which establishes trust. Without trust that you will be able to address their concerns or implement their vision, stakeholders may stop listening to what you have to say and escalate - potentially blocking your project from on-time or successful completion.
If stakeholders know that you understand their concerns, are informed of important changes, and are given a voice to contribute to the product vision, then they are much more likely to be in support of your project.
Interesting in learning more about working effectively with stakeholders? Chat with other product leaders around the world in our PMHQ Community!