In most organizations, leaders must take into account the needs and preferences of multiple stakeholders, that is, the people or groups that have a direct interest in the decisions and operations that the leader is responsible for. For example, a leader in charge of a bank’s IT organization must balance customer stakeholder concerns, such as privacy protection, the ability to opt out of sharing personal data, ease of use, and customization options, with investor stakeholder demands of cost efficiency and transparency.

Some leaders may think it’s enough to perform their stated duties to the best of their abilities without regard to what stakeholders care about. But often that’s not good enough. The ability to manage the various and at times competing interests of stakeholders is critical to a leader’s—and an organization’s—success.

Effective stakeholder management involves a handful of best practices, and many of them are rooted in maintaining strong relationships and robust communication strategies.Align goals across all stakeholder groups.

To gain agreement on the direction of a project or a department, many organizations use a goal-setting methodology that defines Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Objectives are what the group wants to achieve and Key Results are measurable outcomes that indicate progress toward those objectives.Stakeholder ManagementCreate a process road map.

Especially when work involves several different groups, a process road map helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. The various tasks are specified along with sequencing, responsibilities, metrics, priorities, and timelines. Having a visual map available to all stakeholders allows everyone to see how work is proceeding at any point in time and identify their role in its success.

Maintain effective communication.

Keeping everyone informed helps assure stakeholders that their needs are being considered. Regular communication is important when things are going well and even more so when they aren’t. Being transparent about issues and setbacks builds trust and strengthens everyone’s commitment to achieving shared goals. An effective communication plan is one that’s tailored to the style, channel, and frequency that stakeholders prefer.Stakeholder ManagementBuild strong relationships among stakeholders.

Relationships, like plants, need to be nurtured. A leader who spends time with stakeholders will better understand not only what issues they care about but why they care about them, allowing more effective collaboration. Just like the sense of trust that comes from maintaining lines of communication, a strong relationship with stakeholders can help overcome problems and keep people engaged.

Deploy the appropriate style of influence.

Some stakeholders want to see the data before weighing in on a decision; others may only want to understand the big picture. Knowing and using stakeholders’ preferred style of influence improves decision-making and can reduce conflict. Stakeholders who like to dive deep into the data will appreciate seeing the details of project approach and results. The big-picture stakeholders will welcome a more high-level rundown.

Ensure access to data and analysis.

Stakeholders involved in making critical decisions require access to relevant data and logical analysis. Providing this access ensures that the decisions are based on evidence and are more likely to lead to successful outcomes.Stakeholder ManagementWhen leaders focus on these aspects of stakeholder management they will be able to effectively manage teams, drive progress toward goals, and create a positive and productive work environment.