Monday 27 June 2016

How do you deal with a tricky stakeholder?

We were discussing Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict on last week's supplier management workshop. It suggests that there's 5 different reactions to conflict based on your level of assertiveness and level of cooperativeness:
  • Avoiding
  • Accommodating
  • Competing
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating 
In my post yesterday I shared some of the insights from the discussion we had during the session about the scale of assertiveness from passivity to aggression.

During our conversation we also explored what strategies procurement has to influence tricky senior stakeholders that we're in conflict with. How do we know which of the above strategies would be most appropriate? 

That is rather than fall back on our own preferences we may need to adapt our style in order to effectively influence the other person. 

The first steps are: 
  1. Knowing what outcome we want (desired outcome)
  2. Knowing where we are in relation to that outcome (current situation)
  3. Exploring the beliefs we have about achieving the outcome and/or the other person (e,g helpful, unhelpful, self fulfilling, supportive, harmful, resisting and so on), and amending these beliefs as appropriate (ie in order to get a different outcome)
  4. Understanding the change you're asking of the stakeholders, and considering effective change management 
  5. Identifying a plan to get from 1 to 2 
  6. Taking action towards 2 
  7. Adapting the plan and our behaviours based on feedback from actions taken 
  8. Being prepared to change the desired outcome we're aiming for (which may fit into the strategy of compromising)
  9. Perseverance
To develop the plan also requires that we understand more about the stakeholder ie:
  • Their values (ie what motivates and inspires them)
  • Their beliefs
  • Their objectives and interests - short and long term
  • Their influence within the organisation
  • Their interest in procurement, the category, supplier or project 
  • Their support for procurement, the category, supplier or project 
  • Their allegiances with other stakeholders 
  • Those they listen to - other stakeholders and from within procurement 
  • Who they will accept advice from 
  • Their preferred communication styles, learning styles, preferred conflict style, operating metaphors and the like 
  • Understanding their perspective by standing in their shoes 
  • (And as I've just heard on Star Trek Deep Space Nine tonight (it's Star Trek's 50th anniversary this year) remembering the Ferengi's 98th rule of acquisition 'everyone has their price', or something they value enough to change their current viewpoint).
It's also useful to understand the above for ourselves too, and also, if the conflict has been going on for some time and we've perhaps tried the strategies above, understanding:
  • What of our behaviours might be pushing the other persons buttons? 
  • In what way lack of rapport is contributing to the outcome 
  • Is it really our responsibility to change their viewpoint?
  • What of our buttons are being pressed in the conflict ? Ie why are we persevering? 
  • The impact on our well-being of holding on to the outcome (ie knowing when enough is enough and we've tried everything we can) 
  • Understanding our options if they don't agree - I do, however think there's a 6th to be added to the five listed above, and that's to walk away. Which I see as different to 'avoiding' because it's only done after you've been very active in trying to resolve the conflict.
Additional suggestions most welcome in comments below.

This discussion is likely to continue this week at a number of stakeholder engagement clinics I'm facilitating. I'll add any other strategies identified in those sessions to this post later in the week.

Alison Smith
Inspiring Change - inside and out 

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