Liza Agresta is the Director of Consumer Credit Product at Visa, an industry expert who has worked with product, CX and technology teams to develop customer focused solutions that deliver commercial outcomes, and one of our speakers at Product Lab 2019! Liza believes in the power of consumer insights throughout the product design process to ensure delivery of viable solutions – with experience across marketing, product management and customer strategy.
Liza believes that the approach to influencing internal stakeholders is critical to gaining the right level of support to deliver business solutions – good ideas aren’t enough; how you present the information can often be the main driver of the outcome. We spoke to Liza in the lead-up to Product Lab 2019, keen to get to know her a little better as well as her thoughts on stakeholder management in the world of Product!
Parity Consulting: At what point during your career did you realise the importance of influencing your stakeholders to achieve the best outcome?
Liza: I don’t know if there was a specific point in my career however my first career, as a hairdresser many years ago, was all about influencing stakeholders – building trust and understanding people by listening, being curious and showing empathy was key to ensuring any advice I provided clients was well received.
Parity Consulting: How did you master the art of stakeholder management? Did it come from your career, personal life or a bit of both?
Liza: To be honest, I’m not sure you can ever be a master in stakeholder management. I still fail often, but where I have had success it has been by ensuring I follow a discipline of inclusiveness and knowing my audience.
I’ve learnt (and I’m still learning) my stakeholder management skills through a combination of career and life experiences. One of the most important learnings I’ve had is realising that my priorities are not always as important to those I’m trying to influence as they may be to me.
Often when you are asking for an outcome, the approach can be very internally focused. For example, you might say “I need to get agreement on this initiative because I have …….” a very one-sided approach. However, by thinking about your audience and what is important to THEM, you’re more likely to achieve your objective. So, using this example, it’d be better to change your language and approach to: “This initiative is important because……… and I need your support so we can.….’.
Put yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes by thinking about:
What am I asking of you?
What do you need to know before making this decision?
What might your objections be?
Why, what and how will I need your support and how will it benefit you?
These are the questions I ask myself when determining how I might influence an outcome.
Personally, I have a beautiful 5-year-old who has some behavioural disabilities, one in particular called oppositional defiance disorder. Some things in his life are difficult to process, and he responds by throwing up resistance immediately. The key to helping him manage such situations is preparation. Preparation is key – I ask myself:
What do we need to do?
What might he object to and why?
How can I create a story to prepare him for what’s about to happen?
What do I want him to think or feel?
Then before we do what we need to do, I spend time explaining the situation based on the above. This could be the day before, or at the time, but it immediately disarms him and he feels empowered to own the next step. I often find this to be basic fundamentals to stakeholder management – if you prepare yourself to prepare your stakeholders and overcome their objections before they occur, the outcome becomes more positive.
Parity Consulting: What type of stakeholders are hardest to influence? Is it possible to influence all stakeholders positively?
Liza: I think the hardest stakeholders to influence are those you haven’t built rapport with. It’s important in these situations to establish at least a basic level of rapport. Active listening and asking questions of the person you are interacting with and genuinely showing interest in their point of view, whether it’s personal or professional in nature.
Of course, not all stakeholders can be influenced immediately, at the end of the day we are all humans and some of us just aren’t open to change. However, with patience, persistence and a genuine approach to creating a mutual benefit, over time even the most challenging stakeholders can become allies.
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