I remember when I just started working as a product owner and heard the term stakeholders. It sounded significant to me.
My initial thought was that they knew everything, and it’s critical for me to listen carefully to them. This was of course my pre-assumptions about stakeholders.
After working a while with them, I then thought, I don’t like them that much, and they occur to me as not organized. They might come up with unrealistic expectations and demand things that do not really add any value to the product and especially to the customers/users.
I sound really judgmental, but this was the older version of me. I judge less now 🙂
However, after working for a while, I realized that I was having a love/hate relationship with them. Like any other relationship, it’s not them but me who should take the leadership and responsibility.
To understand my relationship with stakeholders. I started discovering what they are not:
Stakeholders are not the end user of the product (most of the time)
Stakeholders are not my enemies
After working for a while, I notice that stakeholders are people like you and me with a mission, vision and daily business. They are trying to achieve a goal which they believe in. How I see stakeholders now:
Stakeholders are my partners
Like every partner, they have good and bad sides. It’s up to you on how to behave and deal with them. After all, we are all human and have emotions and needs. Like any other relationship, it’s important to have trust in each other, have integrity and act from a place of love.
Stakeholders are experts
They have knowledge and have done different projects before, they might be busy but know many people within the organization and have special powers. Don’t ignore that.
Stakeholders are enablers
So now you know what stakeholders are and are not, the question arises to how your relationship should be with them. I, personally, don’t like the term stakeholder management, after all we are talking about people, so I would use stakeholder relationships instead.
My relationship with stakeholders
1. Take the time to understand stakeholders
So, it’s crucial to connect with them and understand their needs. When you take the time to connect and understand them, it will make it easier for you to know what you should do when they come to you.
2. Understand their why before implementing their what or how
As a product owner you know, none of us is super man and bringing that problem to the team allows the team to come up with the best way to solve it.
3. Watch out for your ego and the ego of stakeholders
It’s not about who is right or wrong or which way to go, it’s about doing the right thing for the product within the restrictions, possibilities, and considerations.
Be aware of your ego in these cases and try to be open to create new possibilities together.
4. Say no if you think their requests are not adding value to the product
If you believe that their requests are not well put together or is not adding any value to the product, it’s your responsibility to say no.
5. Enable collaboration between the team and stakeholders
6. Lead meeting with stakeholders
Watch out for the stakeholders that are good to create noise without adding any value, focus on your goal and lead them toward what is possible.
7. Lead with courage
As a product owner, you should take responsibility for any part and enable the team to move forward. If some stakeholders are struggling or brining the product in danger, be there and stand for those colleges, so you can move forward.
You are not only a product owner, you are a leader, and leaders make things happen.
I’m really curious to your take on relationships with stakeholders? Please share your thoughts in the comments. If you liked this pieces, please let me know and let’s connect on medium and LinkedIn.
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