Consulting Stakeholders

I am taking a year-long leadership course that includes negotiation training. Our required reading for this month is Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro.

The authors recommend that a negotiator consult her or his stakeholders before making a decision, and give the best rationale I have seen for why we recommend creating Communities of Practice (CoP’s) when leading change:

Without their “buy in,” constituents may speak poorly of an organization, exert little effort to implement their small part of an agreement, or even try to sabotage it…

Although a decision may not have an immediate impact on someone’s position, it can affect that person’s life in important ways… The anxiety and resentment of enough employees can produce an unmotivated workforce and, perhaps, a failed company.

The practical advice Dr. Shapiro and Mr. Fisher give negotiators is the same advice we give to clients:

You might create a system where stakeholders can e-mail their suggestions to a central location, place recommendations in a suggestion box, or call in their ideas to a designated person. Or you might organize a consultation committee of stakeholders….  The CEO instructs the committee members to solicit from their colleagues input on key issues being negotiated, and then to report their findings to the consultation committee. Several of these committees could be formed across the country…

With any system, it is unlikely that everyone will offer input. Yet you can create an atmosphere that promotes inclusion in decision making. People can feel that they have a voice in the matter, even if they do not have the final choice.

It is that voice and feeling of inclusion that we have found to break through some of the resistance to change, and to foster an environment where employees are willing to give change a try. Only by trying something new can we truly find out if it makes our jobs easier and improves outcomes for our customers!

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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