Harnessing the Power of People


How many times have you heard someone say it? “This would work perfectly if people weren’t involved.”

It’s a favorite adage of engineers, but the sentiment is certainly not unique to our technically-minded friends. And they are not completely wrong either. People often ruin great ideas. But people are also the driver, implementer and beneficiary of the vast majority of ideas - it’s tough to leave them out.

So, is the problem simply that people mess up good ideas or is it that we make assumptions about people that aren’t entirely true? Yes, people are often forgetful, messy, inconsistent and tend to have a lot of opinions that don’t align. But they also have passion and energy that, when effectively engaged around a common goal, can change the world.

Today I want to share a few of my favorite tips for harnessing the energy and passion of people to ensure the success of your project, product or initiative. After years of helping organizations in multiple industries engage, align and utilize the power of diverse and often opposing points of view, here are my five tips for effective stakeholder engagement:

  1. Align Core Team: If the leading team for your project or initiative isn’t completely aligned around goals and objectives, engaging stakeholders will be even harder. You want your team all moving in the same direction around vision, desired outcomes and timeline before engaging stakeholders.
  2. Map Your Stakeholders: Understanding who your stakeholders are and their potential relationship to your project is key to engaging the right group. Leaving a key player out by accident can put a hold on your entire project. Take the time to consider how each stakeholder or group might be affected by your project and you will be ahead of the game.
  3. Develop a Communications Plan: While this seems like a given, many organizations don’t create a formal plan for communicating with stakeholders. Developing messaging and a plan that spells out who and how often people need to be informed will reduce misunderstandings and strengthen trust. It’s also good to include the list of internal leaders who need to sign off on the communication to assure your outreach meets organizational standards and stays on schedule.
  4. Create a Consistent Feedback Loop: People need to know they have been heard and that their opinions matter. Providing a forum for stakeholders to give feedback and share ideas supports this need and can lead to a deeper understanding of what success looks like. Surveys, interviews, working groups and webinars help people feel that their contribution is important and supports a dialogue for effective decision making.
  5. Celebrate Wins: Everyone likes to be recognized for good work. As milestones are met and individuals make important contributions in time and energy, recognize them in front of the group, their peers and leadership. This will help keep them engaged in the project and aligned around the shared vision of success.
Rebecca Nelson
Rebecca Nelson