Home Blog What is your stakeholder engagement style and is it serving you?

What is your stakeholder engagement style and is it serving you?

By Aidan Parsons | Blog, Leadership, Finance Business Partner | 27 Oct 2021 |

The Axis of the chart above are based on opposite aspects of a couple of attributes:  

  • Communication: from direct and transactional to empathetic and contextualised 
  • Behaviour: from reactive to proactive 


So, what are those 5 styles about: 

  • The Servant would apply to an individual who delivers a service but is simply reactive to the direction provided by their stakeholder. Conversations are typically less exploratory, and in some cases don’t provide the ideal outcome for the stakeholder or the person in service. A common symptom: working on something that isn’t used, needed or valued by the stakeholder due to changing priorities. 


  • The Consultant or Co-Pilot will proactively explore what needs to be achieved based on the context of the project or circumstances. They are good at synthesising what is happening in the scenario, what the objectives are for the future, and often design the best path forward WITH the stakeholder. You know when a co-pilot is doing good work because they have willing and ongoing investment in a solution from the other parties involved. 


  • The Driver is not far from the Consultant, just a bit more prescriptive. Once outcomes are agreed they can take the lead on the execution and adjust depending on results. The driver puts clarify into scenarios that are clear or should be clear to all involved. There can be downsides to this communication style if there is misalignment or inability to move to consultant in the face of complexity or changes. 


  • The Know it All just gives the solution. They present as if they understand the situation and what everyone else is experiencing, and ‘shoot from the hip’ in their recommendations. Sometimes they are correct in their recommendation, but it doesn’t mean they have the buy-in of the team members or stakeholders involved. In fact, a key symptom of this communication style is a lack of influence and frustration from all parties. 


  • The Question Mark. We don’t label this communicator as there could be many reasons for someone reacting directly, without empathy or understanding. Perhaps there is a bias to completing tasks and just getting stuff done, or perhaps empathy is not seen as important. In any case, it is seldom useful in working with stakeholders but possibly useful if there is a predictable, structured job with little change in it for stakeholders or the person in question. 


It is reasonable to expect that we may move to different communication styles in working with others depending on the nature of the scenario. Simple and easy to understand situations, where you are attempting to be a team play, may simply require a ‘servant’ style of positioning; taking in data, direction and responding accordingly to get the best outcome. Equally, a more proactive style may be necessary to take stronger leadership and conscious care for the outcome being sought. 

How conscious are you of your communication style for the desired partnering outcomes you seek with the teams and stakeholders you work with? 

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