This article is about protecting your communications to, or about, stakeholders from being infused with their anxiety.
Any solution to a problem worth solving will involve dealing with the emotions in reaction to that problem’s existence. To those tasked with solving issues at hand, the lesson of refraining from being emotional in communications about that problem is learned quickly. Controlling for the emotional response of all human resources floating around the issue at hand enables good ideas to be judged based on their merit rather than their presentation.
Ideas, thoughts, concerns, comments, issues, and risks are going to be communicated to you from all sides of any one particular issue if you’re tasked with managing it. Such communications will not be controlled for emotion, anxiety, or effectiveness. As a coordinator / manager / decision maker, it is your responsibility to interpret what has been presented to you and filter for the necessary information to supplement your plan of action.
The heat of the moment can encourage you to forget about the fact that you have no obligation to adopt others’ anxiety in your attempts to solve or communicate the problem at hand.
Evaluation of Risk
Those who hold stake in an ongoing issue or problem being solved are seldom privy to variables that fall outside their own perception of the issue. When solving issues, a collection of stakeholders typically educate those who are tasked to provide solutions to that same stakeholder group. After being initially educated on an issue, those tasked with developing solutions go on to utilize stakeholders as supplements to the greater solution as a whole.
The more primary stakeholders there are to any one issue, the more each one of their recitals of the issue needs to be placed in the context of all other recitals. Issues that one stakeholder presents as urgent and requiring immediate attention can be overshadowed by the subtle mentioning of another factor by a second stakeholder.
The second stakeholder in the situation above may present their observations with less emotion and urgency. However, the nature of what they tell you may indeed warrant more attention than what the loud and emotional first stakeholder presents.
Each stakeholder will perceive the issues and risks they present as being important, as they should. The importance of those issues does not diminish when it comes across the ears of an experienced manager or problem solver. However, the variables presented to a seasoned problem-solver are nestled within an educated context of the whole.
Allowing your methods of solving problems to be influenced by the presentation of variables / factors that comprise it will lead to a suboptimal solution. The loud, panicky stakeholder should not influence your communications to other stakeholders to be loud and panicky. The emotions such stakeholders express along with the issues they report will neither be necessary to include in the solution to that problem, or in the communications about that problem.
Your evaluation of overall risk shouldn’t be unproportionately influenced by the parts which comprise it. Your evaluation should be made from a vantage-point that no single stakeholder involved in presenting issues and concerns to you can access due to not being able to view the picture in full.
Cheap Attention Blurs the Order of a Prioritized List
The danger that vocal and unsatisfied stakeholders pose to discovering and implementing a solution to a problem is more serious than you may anticipate. A vocal and unsatisfied individual has the capacity to divert attention onto elements of an overall problem that aren’t worthy of that attention. Such an instance serves to blur the logic of prioritization – which is a necessary task in finding adequate solutions to issues.
Artificial pressures on the prioritization of issues / tasks surrounding any one problem serve to blur logical pathways toward needed solutions. Allowing your communications, strategies, and plans surrounding any issues you’re managing the solutions for to be influenced disproportionately will be a step in the wrong direction. In being influenced by loud stakeholders on any one issue, you’ll be encouraged to take your focus off established processes to chase what others’ opinionated judgements deem to be important.
A risk in allowing others’ emotions to bleed into your own communications about an issue is blurring the order of priorities for others involved in said issue’s solution.
Ensure that you collect concrete evidence for the prioritization of issues, and the resulting steps toward their solutions. When faced with accounts of risks which are colorful, loud, and intense, take extra caution to not allow your own communications outwards to be influenced by those incoming emotions.
Account for the points you hear from emotional stakeholders in your plans and processes but take extra caution to not encourage others managing solutions to issues to divert their attention from pre-planned tasks to chase what a select few deem as important.