Advantage You – Lessons to learn about stakeholder management from Wimbledon.

Posted on July 1st, 2013 by

Wimbledon is now into the second week and everyone has their opinion on every aspect of it; Will it rain? Who will win? Will Andy Murray be British or Scottish by the end of it?

While watching the highlights this weekend it got me thinking that business and tennis are very similar. There are stakeholders invested in every move, official rules (serving, score, faults) and unofficial rules (if the ball hits the top of the net and falls over with you getting the point you give an apologetic wave to your opponent).

In business there are many unofficial rules and subconscious actions we make: – one of those is the power to influence others and persuade them to take appropriate actions.

Like many other areas of life (especially becoming a Wimbledon Champion), learning to influence others takes planning, preparation and training for the months prior to the big meeting/match to get the best outcome from the experience.

Six Principles of Influence

There are 6 principles of influence (identified by Cialdini in 1984) that, if used correctly, can be very powerful tool in negotiations:

1. Reciprocation:

In nature people feel obliged to provide something if they received something.

For example, in tennis the crowd will give their applause and admiration if there is edge of your seat action and players are making great shots.

This can be applied to stakeholders: Buyers often find that internal stakeholders are reluctant to freely give information but when information is provided to a stakeholder without them asking for it, they gain a sense of trust and in time return information.

2. Social Proof:

Providing credible information to stakeholders about the environment in the area that you’re working in.

There is nothing more powerful than feeling validated based on what others are doing. Stakeholders need to know that you are credible in your line of expertise; if you can demonstrate this you are gaining the stakeholders trust in your ability.

3. Commitment and Consistency:

A positive relationship is built on commitment and if agreements are made for meetings and information, stick to them.

There is an unspoken agreement that after winning a match a player will sign some autographs for the public. If this doesn’t happen, a dislike for the player may emerge, and they will receive less support from the crowd in the next game.

Credibility needs to be sought on all levels and by simply keeping arrangements, schedules and deliverables when you agreed you will been seen as reliable but you should also expect the same from your stakeholder too.

4. Liking:

The more that a stakeholder ‘likes’ you the more they will allow themselves to be influenced by you.

In Cialdini’s experiments it showed positive results if the person you are trying to influence likes you. By humanising yourself with stakeholders this will have a more positive outcome on all meetings, discussions and ways of working. This could be a simple as having a common interest for example owning a dog or love of the same sport.

Andy Murray gained a lot of support after his defeat in the 2012 Wimbledon final, when he had to fight off tears in his post-match interview – before this people thought of him as robotic.

5. Authority:

Appear authoritative and knowledgeable but with credibility.

When people are uncertain they look for outside inspiration to guide their decision making, usually from an expert in the particular field as we see them as an authority on the subject.

If John McEnroe says Murray is likely to win the match or that Serena Williams has a great serve you are much more likely to believe him than the average Joe on the street.

If during your stakeholder management process you require a technical expert you should bring them on board. This will give more credibility and therefore make anything you say more believable.

6. Scarcity:

The less of something there is the more valuable it is.

Putting this into practice with a stakeholder and going back to Wimbledon, your time could be the scarce item. The likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have limited time, balancing other commitments around Wimbledon.

If you have successful working projects and a proven track record your time could be scarce. If you have developed the first five principles with your stakeholder, they are likely to want more of your time.

Game, Set and Match

If these principles are applied and practiced with stakeholder conversations it will boost the influence that you can utilise and you can achieve great results.

These principles will have even impact when you fully plan and prepare for your stakeholder meetings. So remember ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’- Benjamin Franklin

Have you used these principles in the past or used a similar technique to improve your powers of persuasion? Let us know below!