Stakeholder interviews

Speaking to your stakeholders help to identify barriers, uncover opportunities and understand for how to bring people on side.

Copy Of Cs001 Final Brand Illo Clock Blank
Time 30-60 min/ interview
Difficulty Moderate
Materials Questions, pen, notebook
Participants You and your stakeholder

Stakeholder interviews allow you to step into the shoes of your interviewees and see the organisation, the challenge, the bigger picture, and even your role through their eyes.

Interviews will help to understand the relationships, influence, hopes, behaviours, and frustrations of your stakeholders. They can help to identify barriers and roadblocks that need to be removed for better engagement. The process can also help build a better, deeper and more personal relationships with key stakeholders, which can provide new opportunities to get them on board, on side, more engaged and bring others with them.

Steps

1

Based on your Stakeholder mapping exercise, identify a range of stakeholders that you want to speak to. Ensure that you are speaking to a diverse range of stakeholders that will provide an inside and out, 360 degree view of your organisation, challenge or system. Try to involve both internal and external stakeholders, and stakeholders with interest and influence, as well as those without.

2

Reach out to them and schedule your interviews. It’s important to be transparent to build trust when inviting people to be part of the stakeholder interview process. Be clear and honest about purpose and the process of the interview and why it’s important to the future of the organisation or the challenge you are facing.

3

Define and revise a set of questions to use as a discussion guide. You will need to adjust and tweak for each individual you speak to. Here are some starters for ten.

Consider asking staff members or volunteers about:

  • The organisation’s personality from their view
  • The challenges the organisation faces in their opinion
  • Their personal objectives
  • What can be done to help them realise their objectives
  • What changes could take place to add value to the organisation / benefit them

Consider asking clients/service users/beneficiaries about:

  • Describe their lifestyle
  • Their personal needs
  • How they engage with the industry / sector
  • What they love / find frustrating about engaging with the organisation
  • What is missing from their experience of the organisation / service
4

Things to think about:

  • Location. Where can you hold the interview? Face to face is often better than over the phone. Will you be in the office? A local cafe? Can you interview them in their own space? Somewhere comfortable for the stakeholder where they will be most relaxed will offer the deepest insight.
  • Body language. Adopting open body language and maintaining good eye contact will invite
  • Active listening. Nodding and smiling as a way to reinforce what a person is saying, non-verbal cues to validate what you’re hearing. If you can only arrange to interview over the phone.
  • Smile. You can hear a smile in someone’s voice, it’s a powerful way to make people feel comfortable and open up further.
  • Silence. Silence is a powerful tool as an interviewer. It’s important not to interrupt a brief moment of silence as much as we might perceive it as a moment to ask something new. Be courageous and wait, the interviewee will continue to think and most likely want to fill the silence themselves, often offering a deeper, and more reflective answer.
  • Suspend ego and judgment. The purpose is to see the situation through the eyes of your interviewee, removing your own assumptions and judgement will invite insights that truthful and honest.
  • Open questions. Avoid asking leading questions and questions with yes/no answers.Start questions with Why, Where, What, Who, When, How… and keep asking ‘Why?’.
  • Clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask simple questions or questions you think may reveal a lack of some basic knowledge on your part. It’s important to be clear for your own understanding.
  • Enjoy the process. Appreciate and enjoy the conversations you are having and the stories that you hear unfolding, it will show through in your presence and put the interviewee at ease.
5

Take 5 minutes before your interview to settle yourself. Make sure you have some water with you.

6

In the interview, start by reminding the interviewee of the purpose of the interview again, and reassure them there are no wrong answers. Don’t feel like you need to stick to the guide. The questions are there to act as a prompt, but if other important things come up, trust your instinct and ask them.

Enjoy your conversation!

7

After the interview spend some time reflecting and capturing any immediate thoughts and insights that came to mind.

8

Make sure to send a note to the interviewee to thank them for their time within 24 hours.

Facilitator notes

Stakeholder interviews can be tiring and draining. If you feel there is tension in the organisation it can create a source of worry and anxiety before conducting the interview.

Relax and go in with an open mind and open heart, you are both human beings. The interview is a time for the stakeholder to be heard, it might provide a space for someone to voice something they’ve not been able to speak about before.

It’s important to remind yourself that the purpose of the conversation is to listen, not to be defensive or to solve the problems immediately.

Sources

This exercise has been put together by Ellie Osborne, drawing from her experience as a researcher and consultant at The Future Laboratory, as well as upon the guide from Theory U at the Presencing Institute at MIT.

This Medium piece by Dan Brown, co-founder of Eightshapes might give you some extra things to think about.The Delicate art of interviewing stakeholders.

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