This month we’ve been talking about what it means for a leader to articulate a mission and vision for the organization. This has two parts. To be effective, a leader not only sets a mission and vision, but also makes sure that the right people know about it.
One of our leadership competencies at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is “Communicates and explains the changing institutional vision and mission effectively to constituencies.” For me, that means making sure stakeholders know what direction the organization is going and understand their role in helping us get there.
Over time, I’ve developed three questions that help me to be sure I’m communicating with the right stakeholders.
- Who cares a lot? Listening to the passionate voices can help me quickly identify some of my key stakeholders. These are the people who can become allies and help move things forward. They have a lot of energy, positive or negative, that can be channeled into the mission and vision. But I also need to remind myself that this is not the same question as “who is at the table?” Often it takes effort to seek out stakeholders who may be impacted but are not in power positions or clearly visible.
- Who doesn’t know, but I wish they did? Another group of stakeholders consists of people who could be potential allies, but who are not aware of the mission and vision, or don’t particularly care. This can include a range of people, from leaders who are busy with other things to peers who don’t yet realize that the new vision will include them. Strategic communication plans identify these people and include strategies for reaching out.
- Who shouldn’t be surprised? Some people are stakeholders by nature of their organizational role or work responsibilities. They should never be blindsided by lack of information. If your activities will require activities or responses from others, make sure they are kept in the loop.
In addition to these informal questions, it is also helpful to use formal stakeholder analysis tools. If you aren’t yet familiar with the MindTools website, I encourage you to visit http://www.mindtools.com. This site contains a wealth of information on leadership and management, including a set of stakeholder analysis resources. These include descriptions of how to do a more structured analysis of key stakeholders based on their level of interest and ability to influence the outcomes.
Communicating a mission and vision can be one of the most challenging parts of the process. For me, it’s also where the energy and resources exist that can lead to success.
Dee Anne Bonebright