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There are huge advantages to building strong alliances, or relationships with your project supporters. But it’s just as important to build alliances with people who might be interested in sabotaging your project. Alliances can build strength, while divisiveness can create weakness. How are you going about building alliances with key stakeholders? Here are a few ideas.


Alliances can build strength, while divisiveness can create weakness. Click To Tweet

Get to know people well.

Knowing people well will help you predict how they will behave in various situations, and particularly when they are under stress.

This can range from personally getting to know your key stakeholders through lunches, meetings, and recreational activities. Personal conversations lead to better understanding. If you are working on a project that will impact large groups of people, you may need to hire a consulting group to help you profile that group. Or, you can initiate neighborhood sharing sessions. That may seem like a lot of work, but it can pay off in the end.

And don’t stop with your project supporters. It is even more important to build alliances with the people who can disrupt your project. This may be more challenging, so I’d encourage you to read on for suggestions that might help.

Listen attentively.

How many times have you been sharing something important with someone and he or she took their phone out to respond to something else? Have you ever been meeting with someone and they started taking notes on what you were saying? How did those two scenarios feel to you?

It feels amazing to be talking with someone who is 100% focused on what you are talking about. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like to see. And if you think I’m wrong, take a look at the number of cell phones at the tables when you go out for dinner the next time.

Opt for persuasion over coercion.

We see evidence of bullying every time we turn on the television. And bullies can get a lot of attention. But, it’s rarely effective in the long-term and certainly creates unhappiness and discomfort. Opt for persuasion instead. People are emotionally motivated by the desire for importance, not the logical explanation. Be kind, cheerful and encouraging. Smile. Make people happy.

Seek compromise when warranted.

Project work, by its nature, is filled with times when compromise is needed. No one can expect everything to go their way all the time. Look for solutions that allow both sides to win something.

Avoid unnecessary or excessive criticism.

Criticism can be dangerous. The recipient becomes defensive, resentful, and/or demoralized. It’s more effective to try to understand people and their behaviors, rather than criticizing them. If you must give constructive criticism, talk about your own mistakes to make them feel better. Allow them to save face.

Be quick to forgive.

We live in a divided world where people can be quick to throw stones, criticize, point fingers, or suspect ulterior motives. Some of this can spill over into business relationships and project work.

Trust takes time to form. We can start by being quick to forgive. Try to understand people and their actions by looking at the situation from their perspective. Work on forgiving people, rather than criticizing them. Take the high road. Avoid pettiness, vengeance, and maliciousness. Show the “better angels of [y]our nature,” as Lincoln said. If you’re angry, write a letter and don’t send it.

You might find that people are more willing to forgive you when you screw up.

Do you have any suggestions? Offer them in the comments.