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21 May 2024

In conversation with Professor Dr. Guido Gianasso, teaching “Managing Stakeholders”

How does the course “Managing Stakeholders” address the challenges of working with teams comprising different cultural backgrounds?
The course includes a specific module on cross-cultural leadership to help participants understand the concept of culture. They also use the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) framework and develop their own CQ skills. Participants also complete a psychometric test, the CultureCompass. This is very important as it allows them to measure their own cultural dimensions and compare them with the average of their home country as well as the countries of their key stakeholders. We then move from self-awareness to understanding how different cultural dimensions influence behaviours and decisions at work. This allows participants to ‘put themselves into their stakeholders’ shoes’ and better understand their stakeholders’ feelings, emotions, and perceptions.

What are some common misconceptions students have about stakeholder management, and how do you address them in your teaching?
Students come to class with several misconceptions about stakeholder management. One is the tendency to only focus on stakeholders who are visible or officially ‘in charge’ and ignore those who influence decision-making behind the scenes, such as those in junior roles or without formal authority.
Another common misconception is that stakeholders’ decisions are driven by rational analysis of facts and numbers! I explain that stakeholders’ decisions are often built on the first few minutes of interaction with us; decisions are primarily emotional and influenced by various unconscious biases. I teach participants to recognize biases, prepare emotionally and culturally intelligent interactions, and touch their stakeholders’ ‘hearts and minds’.

Can you discuss the importance of identifying different types of stakeholders in project management and how students can effectively manage them in various situations?
Identifying different types of stakeholders is critically important. We work on stakeholder mapping to visualize their relationships and influence levels. An important part of this module is about understanding the needs and concerns of each stakeholder and adapting our communication style and frequency to suit the preferences, personality, and culture of each stakeholder. Finally, students are taught the importance of managing expectations, addressing concerns proactively, and regularly soliciting feedback from stakeholders on project progress and performance.

What are some key strategies for fostering collaboration and engagement among stakeholders with differing habits and customs?
There are various strategies and techniques available; we often use a strategy called Mapping, Bridging, and Integrating (MBI). Mapping, bridging, and integrating are strategies used in various contexts to connect different elements, whether they are ideas, processes, or stakeholders.

Could you provide examples of real-world scenarios or case studies that you incorporate into the course to illustrate effective stakeholder management practices?
We use ‘situational intelligence workshops’. The students present complex real life stakeholder management challenges they face at work before receiving feedback and advice from their peers. The professor guides the discussion and helps to translate outcomes into actionable learning. The students leave the class with a clearer understanding of the multiple dimensions of their challenge – including some perspectives that they may have previously missed – and concrete ideas on how to tackle it successfully.

What do students take away from the course in terms of their ability to lead projects with a stakeholder-oriented approach?
My first objective is to provide students with a higher level of self-awareness regarding their own personality, culture, and leadership style. Second, I offer them frameworks and models to better understand their stakeholders’ feelings and emotions. Thirdly, I provide them with a toolbox of solutions to better manage interactions and influence stakeholder decision-making at work.

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