Multilevel Stakeholder Mastery


Read time: 5 minutes  


It’s a pleasure to reconnect, it's been a while since my last issue of this Newsletter. Over the past six months, I’ve been collating from my 1:1 executive coaching or group coaching with managers a plethora of insights on significant management subjects, relevant to personal development in management regardless of your managerial level.

Management revolves around achieving outcomes through others. Be it clients, representatives, authorities, fellow managers, team members, or your superior, they are all integral stakeholders in your journey.

As a manager, your role necessitates that 60% to 95% of your time is spent in scenarios involving or requiring the presence of your stakeholders.

Unsurprisingly, a prevalent theme in executive coaching, alongside desires for enhanced organization and time management, is the aspiration to refine communication and stakeholder management skills.
Consider Carl, a Lead Digital Product Designer, who co-manages an R&D team of engineers. While he enjoys substantial support from his team and superior, he often finds himself in direct dialogues with a senior commercial executive overseeing client relations. Initially, Carl was content with making necessary product corrections, but he now feels relegated to executing every request from the senior commercial manager. His frustration stems from the belief that R&D should spearhead product development, with the client’s needs following, not dictating, the process. Carl’s diminishing motivation and growing sarcasm reflect his perceived inability to effect change in a company he once loved.
Stakeholder management is intricate, compounded by the increasing complexity of technical and ethical issues and the diverse personalities, roles, responsibilities, expectations, perceptions, and communication styles of the individuals involved.

I’ve observed several commonalities in instances where managers feel their stakeholders overlook them:

• Ambiguity surrounds the manager’s objectives in interactions with stakeholders.

• There’s a conspicuous absence of genuine receptiveness to the stakeholder’s viewpoints or data.

• Managers tend to reiterate the same information, hoping for eventual acknowledgement from stakeholders.

• Managers often anticipate that their efforts will be futile or maintain the unsatisfactory status quo.

• Sometimes, a prevalent inclination exists among managers to avoid directness or assertiveness to prevent discord with stakeholders.

Regrettably, such communication often deteriorates, widening the rift instead of fostering collaborative problem-solving. These issues are seldom technical; they usually pertain to managing technical achievements within specific constraints: time, budget, organizational politics, and multi-cultural players.

Managers must acquire the skills to navigate conflicting demands while preserving positive relations with stakeholders and addressing challenges and contentious situations effectively.

In this edition, I encourage you to explore the following four levels at which every interaction with any stakeholder can be positioned:


Business Level

At this juncture, it’s imperative for managers to comprehend how the problem they are addressing aligns with the business’s vision, requirements, expectations, or objectives.

Viewing through this lens, Carl would have promptly discerned that his company was contractually bound to a client, a reality unfolding in real-time, with the client keen on prototype customizations. The company had invested substantial time in nurturing this client relationship, aligning with the vision to develop such a prototype by the close of 2023.

From this standpoint, accommodating the client’s specifications is a standard expectation. The client, having engaged a specialist to develop a prototype, anticipates delivery in alignment with their detailed needs. It’s a common trajectory for clients to realize and request new modifications once the prototype reaches advanced stages of development. The conveyance of these requests by the senior commercial manager and their subsequent incorporation by the lead R&D and their team is a standard procedure, given the client’s existing investment, unless technical risks are involved.

Managers are solution seekers. It’s imperative for them to perceive these solutions as trade-offs rather than unilateral optimizations.


Functional/Operational Level

At this tier, it’s crucial for managers to discern what falls within the regular operational scope of their team or department and what necessitates extraordinary support. Additionally, managers must evaluate how their existing operational methodologies are accommodating the request, distinguishing between standard scope and customization.

Moreover, while orchestrating conditions for the integration of customizations within the existing contract, managers also need to educate their peers and other executives. This involves initiating dialogues about what they consider to be the core features of a prototype that can be developed and offered to a broader client base beyond the existing one.

Naturally, this secondary dialogue will diverge from the immediate task of integrating customizations for the current client. It’s a more protracted conversation, necessitating swift, bidirectional communication between R&D and senior decision-makers. There will be instances where each party needs to take the driver’s seat: R&D to illustrate technical possibilities and potential risks, and business and operational leaders to articulate commercial feasibilities and the associated operational, legal, and market-related risks and constraints. In this discourse, it’s pivotal for managers to discern when to lead and when to follow.

Managers are solution seekers. It’s imperative for them to perceive these solutions as trade-offs rather than unilateral optimizations.


Interpersonal Level

From this perspective, it’s pivotal for managers to recognize that, fundamentally, progress hinges on interpersonal dialogues. No advancement is feasible without reciprocal listening.

Every manager brings a unique, albeit partial, perspective to the table. A single manager cannot grasp all legal nuances, comprehend every rationale behind a client’s request, be aware of all existing budgetary and operational constraints, or understand all commitments made by various parties. It’s through active listening and asking questions that one can perceive the entire puzzle and its interconnected pieces and understand the broader picture in relation to business and operations. It is only this way managers can elucidate their roles in interactions.

Managers should also introspectively ask: “What type of partner do I need to be to ensure the success of this collaboration?” Relationships are bidirectional, and managers can only control their contributions. If the current input isn’t yielding results, it’s imperative to exhibit adaptive leadership to alter the dynamics. This might involve enhancing managing-up skills, modifying communication styles, or re-strategizing the presentation of initiatives to upper management and alliance-building within the organization.

To maintain clarity, managers should constantly assess their intentions during interactions with stakeholders, questioning whether they are listening with genuine curiosity, seeking flaws, feeling trapped, or waiting for an opportunity to interject.


Mindset Level

Here, the ability to manage one’s internal dialogue is crucial. This dialogue often harbours a relentless inner critic, leading managers to be excessively stringent with themselves and others. Managers often entertain very high expectations of their problem-solving capabilities, usually based on successes achieved in less complex scenarios.

In multi-stakeholder environments, acceptance of the necessity for continual negotiation is essential. For the unacquainted manager, this translates to repeatedly eliciting their facts and their relevance to business and operations to diverse stakeholders. This can be daunting, time-intensive, and draining, often leading to feelings of loss of control and a compensatory mindset: “External factors (usually other stakeholders) are impeding my job performance.” The subsequent inner pressure leads to managers’s tendency to see things in black, often repeating in their mind that it will be a failure which will make them lose credibility and organisational support.

• What do you need to accept to move forward?

• What do you need to let go to ensure you exit the gridlock?

• What is it useful for you to believe?

Managing stress, fostering resilience, and adopting a growth mindset are foundational to effective stakeholder management and begin with taming the inner critic. Leadership is more about ‘being’ than ‘doing.’


Closing Thoughts

Embarking one-on-one executive coaching is a pivotal step for any manager aiming to navigate the multifaceted layers of stakeholder management. A coach, enriched with prior executive experience, serves as a robust thinking partner, aiding managers in deciphering these intricate levels and attaining clarity and focus. This partnership is instrumental in unravelling complexities and fostering a deeper understanding, enabling managers to operate with enhanced insight and precision in their roles. If you want to find out more about what you can obtain through executive coaching, check my blog where I have 10 posts on this topic. I suggest you start here.

For managers striving to refine their internal dialogues and transform them into productive narratives, I recommend you participate in my group coaching program called Master Your Resilience with Positive Intelligence. This program is meticulously designed to assist managers in reshaping their inner dialogues, leading to heightened clarity, focus, and a relentless pursuit of opportunities. It’s a journey of self-discovery and development, allowing managers to harness their inner strength and resilience to navigate the ever-evolving managerial landscape effectively.

The journey of mastering multilevel stakeholder management is intricate yet immensely rewarding. I encourage you to share this newsletter with colleagues and fellow managers who might find value in these insights. Let’s spread the knowledge and empower more managers to untangle the complexities of stakeholder management, fostering a collaborative and resilient managerial community.

Whether it’s through executive coaching or resilience programs, let’s embrace the journey of continuous learning and growth together.

Alina Florea

Your Management Performance Coach



This newsletter delves into the multifaceted nature of stakeholder management, emphasizing the importance of understanding and navigating relationships at various levels: Business, Functional/Operational, Interpersonal, and Mindset. It illustrates these concepts using the example of Carl, a Lead Digital Product Designer, highlighting the complexities and challenges managers face in balancing client needs, operational constraints, and internal dialogues. The newsletter underscores the necessity of one-on-one executive coaching as a means to untangle these layers and gain clarity, advocating for Coach Alina Florea's group coaching program “Master Your Resilience with Positive Intelligence” to help managers reshape their internal dialogues and narratives.

Main Ideas:
Understanding and managing relationships at four different levels is crucial for effective management.

Business level: Aligning problems with business vision, requirements, and goals is essential.

Functional / Operations level: Distinguishing between standard operations and extraordinary support is vital.

Interpersonal Level Dynamics: Effective communication and mutual understanding are key in stakeholder interactions.

Mindset Level Mastery: Managing internal dialogues and criticisms is fundamental for personal growth and effective management.







Inspiration is around the corner!

Let yourself inspired and learn with " The Thriving Mindset "