#6 The Challenges of Leadership – Managing Internal Stakeholders

Welcome to the final week of our 6 part series on The Challenges of Leadership, based on a white paper by William A. Gentry, Regina H. Eckert, Sarah A. Stawiski, and Sophia Zhao.  Our final challenge of the 6 is managing internal stakeholders, which is described as the managing of relationships, politics, and image.  This includes gaining managerial support, managing up, and getting buy in from other departments, groups or individuals.

Many businesses tend to primarily consider the stakeholders who have money invested in the business and who require reporting on the state of the business – the board, the shareholders etc.  It’s detrimental to the success of any business not to first consider the relationship with and needs of the internal stakeholders, because this is where the energy and input for success comes from.

If you don’t have a happy, streamlined and growing team, you have little chance of reporting success to the financially invested stakeholders.

If you’ve done the ground work of the previous steps to meet the challenges of Developing Managerial Effectiveness, Inspiring Others, Developing Employees, Leading a Team, and Guiding Change, then the communication, relationships and clarity should be in place to support the management of internal stakeholders.  Both you and they should have full clarity on how the pieces fit, work together and affect each other.

We all know how exhausting it can be to “manage” relationships.  If you leave where you’re aiming at or what others need to guesswork, you’ll be running around like a headless chicken in no time trying to fight the fires of seemingly unrelated issues.  The previous challenges we’ve discussed require focused energy and input to overcome, and yet the product of doing so is exponentially helpful.  Part of that outcome is that the management of relationships eases because conversations are opened up, energy flows free of fear, and clarity is applied.

Not only clarity of direction and intention, but clarity of relationship intent.  When you discuss and LIVE the values of the team, then the same thing happens with the stakeholders as it did when you initially started those conversations within the team.  The open discussion of and actions in line with those values towards the agreed upon vision allow everyone to assess where their own values and needs overlap with that process.  When this is done without compromise and championed by demonstration from the top down, sought after buy-in and trust are achieved.

When you’ve discussed who you want to show up as (values), where you’re aiming for (vision), and how and who you’ll be on that journey (mission), then relationships, politics and image have clear boundaries, and a compass by which to direct themselves.  When there are problems or people and proposals that don’t fit, you’ll easily be able identify why and make decisions accordingly.

When open and distinct discussions are had around value system, direction and responsibility, then gaining managerial support, managing up, and getting buy in from other departments, groups or individuals becomes less of a negotiation and more of a mutual discussion with the same goal in mind.

Many times, leadership under pressure to deliver results focus only on achieving those results by the hard lines – measuring of numbers and results-oriented performance checks etc.  They forget to do the ground work to ensure these results come from an energised and forward moving team because this ground work is hard to do or considered “soft stuff”.  Most leadership challenges are solved by applying “grease” to the cogs of your team.  Grease that allows the wheels to turn smoothly and stops grit clogging up that movement.

This brings us to the end of our 6 Challenges of Leadership and how to overcome them.  These challenges are complex – there’s a reason they’re the 6 most common challenges faced by leaders around the world.  But they’re not insurmountable.  Neither are they unrelated to each other, so when you begin to tackle one, the others follow – if you start at the right end and you start with a plan. 

How can you start a discussion with your team today to clarify direction, intent and responsibility?  Do you have clear values by which you orient yourself and your team?  Are you practising those values as a leadership lighthouse?  Do your internal stakeholders have clarity of roles and responsibility so that they feel safe and empowered in their work?  Do you have a method by which challenges, changes and an updated plan are openly discussed so that everyone is on the same page?  Perspective, awareness and clarity are three vital components of success that we need to ensure all internal stakeholders share.

by Christen Killick

September 30th, 2019

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