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« 6. Do Stakeholder's emotions matter? »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of "How to develop emotional resilience and manage your emotions".

Emotional intelligence for leaders covers many different skill sets and can be applied in varying situations. Stakeholder engagement is a key one. What's driving your stakeholders?

The more you are aware of and understand stakeholder emotions, the greater influence you can have. Of course, your ability to do this will be influenced by your own levels of emotional intelligence, and how capable you are of managing their emotions once you are aware of them.

This is the first in a three part series on the applications of emotional intelligence or EQ in engaging stakeholders.

  1. This article will address the importance of stakeholder emotions and why it is worth attending to them.
  2. The second article examines how to prepare emotional profiles on stakeholders prior to meeting them so that you can predict how they may respond and be ready to handle any objections from the beginning.
  3. The third explains how to use this data to successfully convince a stakeholder of your position.

Which EI skills do leaders need for stakeholder engagement?

Two emotional intelligence skills of specific value in stakeholder engagement are the leader's ability to:

  • Accurately read the stakeholders' emotions in advance of meetings with them. This is part of the emotional intelligence competency: "Emotional awareness of others".
  • Effectively manage the stakeholders' emotions in their meetings with them. TThis is part of the emotional intelligence competency: "Managing others' emotions".

Each of these skills have been found to be associated with emotionally intelligent leaders.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader so you create a healthy emotional climate in your organisation? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

EI in leaders: Do stakeholder emotions matter?

Do stakeholders' emotions matter? Yes. But why?

The easiest way to answer this question is to consider what happens when emotions are not considered.

My experience in working with project managers, senior business managers and executive teams is that they approach their stakeholders with information, sometimes documents and cases full of it. And information only.

Then when the stakeholders disagree or argue about some of the facts, figures or proposals they counter this with further facts, figures or theories.

There seems to be a belief that information on its own will convince people that their plans, proposals or information should be adopted.

There is a fundamental flaw in the logic here. The flaw is that people, including key stakeholders, do not make decisions on facts alone.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

EI in leaders: What influences stakeholders?

Instead, their behaviour and discussions are also influenced by how they:

  1. Feel about the facts.
  2. Feel about the organisation and their history with the organisation.
  3. Feel about the person or team making the proposal.
  4. Feel about the project.
  5. Feel about the costs involved.
  6. Feel about the pressures and demands being placed upon them by their own senior people and stakeholders.
  7. Feel within themselves that day.
  8. Feel about themselves and their level of influence and competency, (e.g. may feel insecure, undervalued, threatened, anxious, important, secure or confident).
  9. Feel about other people's reactions to the proposal.
  10. Feel about the results that they perceive will occur from agreeing or disagreeing.
  11. Feel about the likely success of the project.
  12. Feel about their present workload.

and so on. 

This is why emotional intelligence also matters.

Emotional intelligence in leaders: Is it all connected?

Many emotions and sometimes conflicting emotions are involved. These are not necessarily on the surface or owned, but they are present nevertheless.

Research by Professor Joseph Forgas, and his colleagues, at the University of New South Wales, clearly demonstrates that:

  • Affect and cognition are not separate - thought and emotion are intertwined.
  • Feelings have a multifaceted influence on everything that we think or do.
  • Mood affects memory and critical thinking.

Emotional intelligence in leaders: Why waste time?

When a stakeholder meeting results in disagreements and emotions are ignored, then much time can be wasted on loading up discussions with more and more information without any headway being gained. This is neither emotionally intelligent nor a valuable application of IQ.

  • Conflicts can become protracted,
  • Situations can become hostile,
  • Frustration can develop,
  • Projects can be delayed,
  • Approvals can be refused.

Why then would you not also factor this kind of emotional information into the decisions you make about how to approach, discuss and convince your stakeholders to adopt your plans, proposals or ideas?

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

Low emotional intelligence impacts stakeholder relationships

When you have low emotional intelligence you are likely to fail to pay attention to the emotional data that is influencing your stakeholders.

If you ignore this kind of emotional information about your stakeholders when you are negotiating with them, you may:

  1. Fail to deliver projects on time, within budget or to specification.
  2. Get embroiled in unnecessary conflicts and arguments that leave a nasty after-taste and have a negative impact on long-term relationships.
  3. Fail to convince stakeholders of a good idea, with the result that other less appropriate ideas are adopted. This can result in a loss of income, a failure to win contracts, or a poorer outcome for the recipients of the final project.
  4. Misunderstand the reasons behind a stakeholder's non-compliance or attitude.

I have heard stakeholders who disagree being described in a dismissive way as "difficult" "obstructionist" or "stupid". This is not a display of high emotional intelligence.

These kind of judgements can be made at times of exasperation or frustration when a stakeholder refuses to agree with your plans.

However, it doesn't mean such judgements are true, it's just that when you are frustrated and feel as though you are banging your head against a brick wall you resort to this response: blaming and name calling.

Instead of doing this, if you looked beneath the surface to the underlying emotions, you might find the real cause of the behaviour. This is the value of emotional intelligence.

If you then worked with these emotions then you may also find that your priorities move along more easily and smoothly.

This is why emotional intelligence in leaders can affect the outcomes of stakeholder meetings and relationships.

Are you making the most of emotional intelligence skills in engaging stakeholders?

If you don't use high level emotional intelligence skills in your stakeholder meetings and negotiations, you could find stakeholder engagement far harder, more frustrating and less productive than it needs to be.

Be a high EI leader and develop your emotional intelligence now.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package now and win your stakeholders over.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.

Develop your emotional intelligence now.