Influencing Stakeholders: Persuade, Trade, or Compel

Executives are usually hired to drive business improvement and not just maintain the status quo. But change can be uncomfortable for existing stakeholders, and incoming executives will likely have to build the capacity to influence other stakeholders to drive change and improve performance.

This essay in our Executive Transitions series focuses on how incoming executives can build the capacity to influence and effectively exercise influence to deliver on their initiatives.

Often, stakeholders may not act with the intention to block your initiative. They may simply be busy attending to their own priorities or they may not have a clear idea of the urgency of your project

Begin by mapping influence needs

The starting point to developing an influence strategy is mapping out where you will need to spend time and effort convincing others to support your initiatives. A useful way to do this is to determine who among your critical stakeholders is likely to be a supporter, a neutral party, or blockers of your priority initiatives.

One way of mapping this is to create a table like the one below where you list your top five priority initiatives by row and each critical stakeholder (beginning with the most influential individual) by column.

Next fill out the resulting grid with a color indicating stakeholder support for a priority if they are relevant to the priority. For example, you may use green if they are supportive, yellow if they are neutral, and red if they are likely to block.

Mapping influence needs

Source: Deloitte analysis

There are many ways to interpret the table.

  • The more stakeholders there are relevant to a priority, the more time you will likely spend informing and communicating to them about the initiative.
  • The more yellow and red spots in a row, the more effort it will take to persuade and influence stakeholders to support the initiative and successfully deliver it.
  • The more red and yellow spots in a column, the greater the effort and focus needed to convince the particular stakeholder to support and not stand in the way of your collective initiatives.

Understanding the influence map can help you prioritize attention to the stakeholders and initiatives that drive the design of your influence strategy. 

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