When it comes to managing meetings with multiple senior stakeholders, one of the biggest challenges can be getting them to align their decisions. Just as the bulk of an athlete’s work is done before the actual race, I’ve found that front loading and putting in work before the meeting makes a huge difference for you, as well as the senior stakeholders at the table. If you’re getting ready for a meeting with stakeholders that don’t quite see eye to eye, give the suggestions below a go – you may just get the buy-in you seek.
A quick note that when I mention ‘meeting’ going forward, I’m referring to meetings where you anticipate opposing views from senior management that need to come into alignment. The framework below helps all stakeholders to focus on the tasks at hand, and not the person raising objections. This said, the points below would actually help with most meetings, and would be good habits to adopt if you don’t already.
Define what you want to get out of the meeting. Then, break down the steps or what needs to be discussed and agreed on so that you may achieve your overall objective.
Once this is clear to you, create an agenda that covers these key points and share it with the meeting attendees. If you’re dealing with complex issues, it’s easy for discussions to spiral. The agenda works as a road map of sorts, to help you steer the meeting back to key points that need to be addressed, to achieve your goal in the designated window of time.
Take some time to anticipate potential conflicts. Going into the meeting knowing that this is inevitable isn’t enough. As deep seated conflicts arise from divergent views and interests, identify stakeholders who have strong divisive or opposing views to certain issues. From my experience, they tend to be pretty public with their opinions and if you aren’t sure, have a short conversation with people who work more closely with them.
Review your agenda and consider how the points you’re raising impact the stakeholders. What would achieving the overall objective mean for their team, for their KPIs?
I once led two departments, Performance Marketing and Advertising, that had very different objectives. The former’s goal was to create growth while optimising costs of various marketing channels. The latter developed each channel by offering better incentives to partners. When we had a meeting to align on the strategy for one of our channel’s payment models, I made it a point to set a clear agenda. Without one, the discussion could have veered to one of the many conflicting points, including whether or not the channel should even exist, rather than the issue at hand.
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Former Global Performance Marketing & Website Lead
Lindt & Sprüngli