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Stakeholder Engagement During a Crisis

Stakeholder Engagement During a Crisis
If you understand that a business ultimately exists to create value for its stakeholders. It becomes a relatively simple exercise to determine the value proposition of each. With this in mind it becomes an even simpler exercise to predict how these value propositions would be or are being threatened during a crisis. This simple logic tree extends further to engaging stakeholders as they want and need to be engaged based on the threat to their distinct and unique value proposition. Hopefully the activities you’ve already completed of helped you establish a solid foundation for you to build upon in this regard. As you would expect however, there is much more to it than what we have seen so far.
This is why there’s an entire module in this course dedicated to stakeholder reactions to crises. You should find a deep dive into this topic both interesting and useful as it will inform your ability to predict how your stakeholders will react to certain crisis types. Good information to know when building crisis response plans. For now, however, with an understanding and some examples of stakeholder interest fresh in our minds, let’s craft some hypotheses about how we believe at this point we should be engaging stakeholders during a crisis. When we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis here are some questions that we need to be asking ourselves, and a few recommendations for engaging your stakeholders.
First, we should be determining which stakeholders have been impacted most by the situation. Then we should consider how each of these stakeholder groups should be engaged. If we think that we have time to engage all of them, which is unlikely in the early stages of a crisis, but certainly possible, then we should really try to engage all of them in some way at least at a high level. Why because when we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis, we typically want our stakeholders to know that we know, that we are aware of the situation and that we recognize the need for action.
From this point while there’s much we need to be doing to manage the situation, from a stakeholder perspective we must be thinking about the messages our stakeholders need to hear. How, when and through what medium do they want to hear them? From what source, at what frequency, and if we can’t immediately engage all of our stakeholders, when will we be able to do so in a meaningful way? These are all challenging questions and to answer them you’ll need to draw upon the limited time and resources at your disposal during a crisis. They’ll all require a great deal of thought and effort and unfortunately direct exposure to stakeholder reactions and emotions.
In a crisis we know what our stakeholders will be looking for, tangible evidence of leadership, leaders that they can believe in. So this is when we need to step up and lead, to put ourselves in front of our stakeholders, to make sure they see that someone is in charge and that action is being taken. In the early stages of a crisis leaders tend to step back, to take the time to get a clear picture of the situation, a clear sense of the facts. But you simply won’t have the time to do that, to gain enough clarity to feel good about your understanding of the situation or at least good enough to confidently face your stakeholders.
But you’ll still have to face them. They want and need to hear from you and you need to be able to engage them, as uncomfortable and disconcerting as this may feel. Developing the confidence, character and capacity to do this in the midst of a crisis requires a set of capabilities that you will need to develop over time and with practice and experience. None of which I’ll be able to give you in sufficient quantity during this course. I will however provide a foundational set of tools that will accelerate your development of these capabilities and I’ll do so during the coming modules. Ultimately stakeholder engagement during a crisis is about preserving and re-establishing stakeholder trust.
As we continue to explore high-stakes leadership in this course, I’ll do my best to share the knowledge and tools to help you do so.
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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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