Category: Definitions

Understanding & Analysing Stakeholder Positions


justdoitI am often asked what the difference is between a stakeholder interest and a stakeholder position.

Here is a distinction that might help you next time when doing stakeholder or issue management analysis.

Positions versus Interests


  • What they say
  • Where they stand
  • How they feel


  • Why they say it
  • How they got there
  • Why they care

It is important to make this distinction in decision- making and stakeholder prioritisation in an issue. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) competency would come in handy here, so you could carefully analyse the language being used.

The Perceptual Position is another technique that I have found particularly useful. It comes from the brilliant book – NLP at Work by Sue Knight. NLP at Work is frequently described as one of the classics in NLP. It was the book that pioneered the application of NLP into business and made what had been previously a ‘dark art’ into an accessible practical concept that translated totally into the everyday world of influence, OD & Stakeholder Management.

She describes Perceptual positions are a way of appreciating situations from different standpoints.

Perceptual positions provide a balanced approach to thinking, not only about outcomes but about any other situation. In situations where you feel there is little or no understanding or progress, perceptual positions can provide a way of developing understanding and creating new choices.

This is a very powerful technique for finding congruent solutions especially during engagement periods.

There are many different ways of thinking about situations.

To begin with it is useful to consider the three primary positions.

1st Position

The 1st Position is seeing, hearing and feeling the situation through your own eyes, ears and emotions. You think in terms of what is important to you, what you want to achieve. Your language contains words such as ‘I feel”, “I want”, ‘I hear”, “I see”. The ‘I’ refers to your own way of perceiving the situation. Essentially you are experiencing the situation as you in your own shoes.

2nd Position

The 2nd Position is like stepping into the shoes of the other person and experiencing the situation as if you are them. When you are really in the other person’s shoes and not just intellectualising about them, then what you (the other person) are doing and saying makes sense. No matter how bizarre someone’s behaviour may seem, in their shoes it is normal. It is the best choice they have. When you are really in 2nd position you use ‘I’ meaning the other person because for this moment you are them. The ‘walk a mile in another man’s moccasins’ position.

3rd Position

The 3rd Position is the ability to stand back from a situation and experience it as if you are a detached observer. In your mind, you are able to see and hear yourself and the other person as if you are a third person. It is rather like being a fly on the wall. You are unlikely to have emotions in this position.

Imbalanced positions occur when the above method is not followed and it is often followed by resistance to change and stalling.

Skilful Stakeholder Managers instinctively use all three positions as a way of taking a balanced approach to a situation.

The definition of the word – Stake

j0402541What is a Stakeholder?

Most course delegates say that it is someone who has an interest in you. But, that is only partially correct. Yes, they might be interested, but what are they going to do with that “interest”?

Many definitions exist with probably the one that says it best – A Stakeholder is an individual or group that can impact the organization or be impacted upon by the organization.

However, few people ever stop to define the word – stake.

Maslow said if the only thing you have is a hammer you tend to treat everything as a nail. This is why definitions to me is a vital tool in ensuring common understanding.

The word stake refers to a rational or emotional stake. Thus a stake can be financial/economic in nature(ownership), it could be an interest stake, a legal one, a moral stake, an emotional one or in the case of the media – a public interest stake i.e. the public has the right to know..

Understanding a stakeholder’s stake or positioning on an issue is vital. Just because an issue is financial in nature does not mean that it does not have emotional issues attached.

For instance when companies offer stakeholders like the community money to move away from an area where they want to mine or build a dam, they often find the resistance by the community – frustrating.

The reason – Land has memories attached to it. I was sitting on my lawn the other day, when in my mind’s eye I saw my 2 kids who are now both in their late 20’s running and playing on the lawn.

Then I realised why this lawn means so much to me. It’s the memories, the emotional connection that counts.

My advice. Think carefully about what stakes are involved in an issue. If you do not know and understand your stakeholders needs, wants, desires and expectations, you could err in making value judgements about their positioning.

Or to say it succinctly – Think twice who you are going to get into bed with.

Who – or What is right? Just a Random Thought


Who – or What is right?

Just because you are right, does not mean that you need to exercise that point or view.

We are not fish who have to take a bait. What is more important- Winning the War or winning a battle?

We have choice, and I think that a lot of people have lost that ability to think about the decisions they make. As Postman & Weingartner said in Teaching as a Subversive Activity….we need to become crap detectors.

Even Anthony Robbins indicated that it is useful to sometimes check your own values and beliefs, to see if they are still relevant.

But anyway, I just thought I would share this story.

An old man and a young boy were travelling through their village with their donkey. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked.

As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding.

The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people that remarked, “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.”

They then decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.

Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying “how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey”.

The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story?

If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass good-bye!

Have you adequately defined Reputation Risk in your Business?

1257879_26114212 Definitions create the lenses through which we look at the world. The renowned psychologist, Abraham Maslow said that if the only thing you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as a nail.

I start every seminar and presentation with definitions, so that I can establish a common framework through which I can work with my audience. In particular there are a number of definitions to describe reputation and reputation risk, each serving a slightly different purpose. These need to be further explored so that you can decide on how you will manage reputation.

The classic definition is that Reputation is all that is generally believed about your character, respectability, credit, integrity or notoriety. (Latin: reputatio – reckoning). But it is not enough to guide us.

I also use these definitions that give it more meaning:

Reputation is a state of mind – A Set of memories, perceptions and opinions that sits in your stakeholders’ consciousness.

Reputation is the net result of the interactions of all the experiences, impressions, beliefs, feelings and knowledge all stakeholders have about a company.

So what then is Reputation Management?

It is essentially a consulting discipline that realizes that Reputation is both an asset and a risk. The definition that I therefore like to work with says that Reputation Management is the building, sustaining, and protection of an organization’s good name, generating positive feedback from stakeholders and resulting in the attainment of strategic and financial objectives. It implies that there is a definite financial link between the work we do in reputation management and the bottom line.

However reputation is also the greatest risk that an organization can face.(Think of a run on a bank). As Warren Buffet have said: ” It can take twenty years to build a good reputation, and only five minutes to destroy it”.

WE therefore have to consider the following definitions as part of our approach to building and protecting reputation.

  1. Definition 1: (Stakeholder Perspective) – Reputational Risk emerges when the reasonable expectations of stakeholders about an organization‘s performance and behaviour are not met. This has been listed in some surveys as the most dangerous reputation risk of all. It essentially involves taking a look at each stakeholders needs and expectations, matching the drivers of an organization reputation and minimizing the gaps that exist.
  2. Definition 2: (Asset Perspective) – Some studies show that Reputation makes up between 55 – 73% of a company’s asset value. In this instance, Reputational Risk is defined as the loss of earnings that occur in a situation of negative public opinion. It normally results in loss of sales, share value decreases and breakdown of relationships. Many a crises have led to stock price decreases and impact in other areas of the business.
  3. Definition 3: (Incident Perspective) – Reputational Risk is the exposure incurred from unexpected incidents, or from unanticipated response to the institution’s initiatives, actions or day-to-day activities. This definition implies that Reputation Risk is the risk that an activity, action or stance performed or taken by a company or its officials will impair its image in the community and/or the long-term trust placed in the organization by its stakeholders, resulting in the loss of business and/or legal action, and is closely linked with the asset perspective.
  4. Definition 4: (Compliance Perspective) – Reputational Risk can also be defined and viewed as the loss or negative publicity that can arise from failure to meet regulatory or legal obligations.

From the above definitions it must be clear that essentially all risks and all related components of an organization potentially impact on reputation. This implies that reputation needs to be systemically managed if an organization wants to extract maximum value from it. Tip – It is essential that you define Reputation Risk in these four ways in your business, as each definition implies a different mitigation strategy and potential danger.

My question to you – Have you adequately defined Reputation Risk in your Business? Do you have a Reputation Risk framework that spells out how you will mitigate, treat and respond to Reputation Risk? If you don’t, you have some work to do.

Understanding your Company’s Vision


Three men were working. Each one was busy with a trowel, cement and bricks.

A passer-by went up to the first one, who looked very bored, and asked him what he was doing.

" I’m laying bricks", he said sullenly. The passer-by then asked the second man, who looked somewhat more enthusiastic, the same question: "I’m building a church", he replied. Asking the same question to the third man who was whistling while he was working, the passer-by was astounded when he replied: " I am building a cathedral".

What are you building? Why do you work for your company? What is the underlying reason your firm is operational?

We all need a purpose, a vision, a mission – call it what you like – to motivate us to action.

A vision is a rallying cry. It is a short, powerful statement. It empowers people and makes them believe that they can do.

Think about the following:

– We will overcome!

– Workers of the world unite!

– Viva! Amandla!

What is your company’s vision? Is it a rallying cry?

Or is it like one of those typical long-winded corporate statements on the walls in reception areas.

Are you living that vision?

What type of Reputation Management Consultant are you?

j0382674So, Sir! You are a Reputation Management Consultant.

Yes, but then asks a clued up client “’Which type?’’

How do you respond? What do you say? What is your elevator speech handle? (An Elevator speech handle is what you should say to someone about what it is you do for a living, between two floors in a high rise building – Short, sweet and succinct)

Which type are you, and what is your focus?

The same misconceptions arises in the Crisis Management industry. As a customer with a need, who do you consult?

A Crisis Management consultant or a Crisis Communication consultant? This distinction is important as it will influence your decision on which consultant to use.

This is a vital decision, because PR consultancies tend to deal with the communication challenges only, whilst Crisis Management consultants tend to deal with the whole Siamese twin. (I call a Crisis a Siamese twin because I do not believe that you can separate a crisis into its reality and perceptual parts) and ultimately offers more comprehensive services.

In the same vein, it is important for companies to decide what type of Reputation Management consultant, they want to deal with.

The proliferation of online or internet reputation consultants have created this misconception about reputation management consultants, i.e that they are either Social media experts or are just another PR consultancy.

I am here to set the matter straight.

There are three types of reputation management consultants available today. They are:

1. Online reputation management consultants;

2. Business reputation management consultants;

3. Personal reputation management consultants.

Online Reputation Management consultants focus on internet reputation and predominantly social media tools and usage. The 3rd one – Personal Reputation is often taken care of by PR consultancies, Image specialists, Coaches and counsellors that can assist a person to not only change their behavior but for instance, act out a plan to improve their personal position or standing in a community or workplace.

The 2nd one, Business reputation management consultants provides far more comprehensive services, including management consulting, advice, strategic planning and capacity building in the organization. The skills needed by these types of consultants I wrote about in my blog post – The Skills needed by a Chief Reputation Officer –

Traditional PR consultancies tend to gravitate between Nr 1 and Nr. 2 – however their focus is different, and deals more with communication, marketing & perceptual challenges.

Thus, it becomes an important decision of whom you want to work with. Do you need only a communication solution? Do you need help with a blog attack or a bad presence on the Net, or do you want to change your position on the World’s Most Admired Company survey rankings?

When you want to put a skylight into your home, do you obtain the services of a General Handyman or do you enlist the services of someone who specialises in installing skylights?

Because reputation is a very complex asset and risk, and can be affected by so many issues and peculiarities, the use of a business reputation management consultant should be preferred, because not only do they understand the nature and value of reputation and communication, they also understand people and organisations as complex systems.

So, just like going to restaurant, choose your service provider and dish with care!