Productivity (Efficiency) versus Resilience (Sustainability)

Productivity (Efficiency) versus Resilience (Sustainability)

I understand the drive to do more with less. In business, we should eliminate waste, reduce distractions, and maintain a core focus, dedicating all our resources to achieving our goals. I often say it’s better to do one thing at 100% than 100 things at 1%. The former is likely to result in success, while the latter is likely to lead to failure.

As a former athlete and now coach, I fully understand the need to be efficient and effective in terms of technique and application, whether in swimming, running, cycling, or rowing. You want all your energy directed toward your goals, which means being super efficient in performance, diet, sleep, flexibility, and all aspects of your lifestyle. Multi-sport disciplines are more of a lifestyle choice than a pastime.

However, I’m cautious about being overly efficient to the point of burnout, with no contingency, slack, rest, or recovery.

In offshore kayaking, it may not be efficient to carry flares, VHF radio, spare clothes, and extra food in terms of paddling speed. However, I prefer the added weight and safety margin. Even if unused, these items contribute to resilience and sustainability.

In work, you might get the work of five people done by two, but this creates key person dependency and risk. If one person is ill and the other is on holiday, your entire business can come to a halt. We recently saw many worldwide businesses halt due to their lack of resilience and dependence on a few elements. In their pursuit of efficiency and productivity, they didn’t test things before implementation, didn’t have backups, Plan B, or contingencies, all considered extra time or cost.

We must be careful with productivity. There’s no point in being productive on something that doesn’t matter or efficient about a task that shouldn’t be done. If you look at master craftspeople, the time they invest in their craft may seem unproductive. Their investment in teaching and training the next generation might not seem productive in the short term, but we need a longer-term view.

The British economy, pre-Brexit, suffered from relying on imported skills, particularly in trades, rather than fostering its own apprenticeships. It was seen as more efficient to hire someone ready to work than to train someone. Post-Brexit, we face a skills shortage, showing we’re no longer efficient or productive because we didn’t invest in our own capabilities, relying instead on comparatively cheap labor.

I see the point in being efficient and effective. I certainly don’t want to work harder than necessary, whether at my desk or in my kayak. However, it’s crucial to consider quality, resilience, and sustainability. Time spent on practicing contingencies, apprenticeships, and deep learning should not be eliminated from our schedules. Otherwise, we risk becoming fragile, brittle, exposed, vulnerable, and potentially extinct.


Collaborative Visioning and Planning

Marvin Weisbord’s Future Search Conferences: Collaborative Visioning and Planning

Marvin Weisbord’s Future Search Conferences offer an innovative and collaborative method for envisioning and planning the future of organizations and communities. This approach involves bringing together a large and diverse group of stakeholders to engage in collective dialogue and strategic planning. The goal is to harness the collective intelligence and commitment of all participants to create a shared vision and actionable plans for the future.

Inclusive Participation

One of the key features of Future Search Conferences is the emphasis on inclusive participation. This method ensures that stakeholders from various sectors and backgrounds are involved in the process. By including a wide range of perspectives, the conference aims to capture the diverse experiences and insights of all relevant parties. This inclusivity not only enriches the dialogue but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among participants. When people feel that their voices are heard and valued, they are more likely to support and actively contribute to the implementation of the shared vision.

Shared Vision

At the heart of Future Search Conferences is the creation of a collective vision for the future. Participants work together to identify common ground and articulate a vision that reflects their shared aspirations and values. This shared vision serves as a guiding star for the organization or community, providing direction and motivation. The process of creating this vision involves open dialogue and active listening, allowing participants to build a mutual understanding of each other’s perspectives and priorities. As Weisbord and Janoff (1995) emphasize, a shared vision is crucial for aligning efforts and resources towards common goals.

Collaborative Planning

Future Search Conferences encourage joint planning and problem-solving. Once the shared vision is established, participants collaborate to develop actionable plans to achieve their goals. This involves identifying specific strategies, resources, and timelines. The collaborative nature of this planning process ensures that all participants have a stake in the outcomes and are committed to the implementation. By working together to design the future, participants can leverage their collective knowledge and creativity to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Whole-System Perspective

A distinguishing feature of Future Search Conferences is the whole-system perspective. This approach considers the entire system in which the organization or community operates, recognizing the interconnectedness of various elements. By examining the system as a whole, participants can identify and address root causes of issues rather than just symptoms. This holistic perspective helps to ensure that solutions are comprehensive and sustainable. It also promotes a deeper understanding of how different parts of the system interact and influence each other.

Practical Implementation

Implementing a Future Search Conference involves careful planning and facilitation. The process typically spans several days and includes multiple phases such as exploring the past, discussing the present, and envisioning the future. Facilitators play a crucial role in guiding the discussions, ensuring that all voices are heard, and helping participants to stay focused on the collective goals. The physical and psychological environment also plays a significant role in the success of the conference. A comfortable, well-lit space that encourages open communication and collaboration is essential.


Marvin Weisbord’s Future Search Conferences offer a powerful method for collective visioning and planning. By involving a diverse group of stakeholders, creating a shared vision, fostering collaborative planning, and adopting a whole-system perspective, this approach helps organizations and communities to navigate complex change effectively. The inclusive and participatory nature of Future Search Conferences ensures that all relevant voices are heard and that the resulting plans are robust and broadly supported. As Weisbord and Janoff (1995) illustrate, this method not only facilitates strategic planning but also builds a strong sense of community and shared purpose, laying the foundation for sustainable success.


Weisbord, M., & Janoff, S. (1995). “Future Search: An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground in Organizations and Communities”.


The Multifaceted Roles of Managers

Henry Mintzberg’s seminal work in 1973 revolutionized our understanding of what managers do, breaking down the manager’s job into ten distinct roles. These roles, grouped into three categories—interpersonal, informational, and decisional—offer a comprehensive view of the diverse and dynamic nature of managerial work. Mintzberg’s framework not only illuminates the multifaceted aspects of management but also assists current and aspiring managers in shaping their approaches to the role.

The Multifaceted Roles of Managers

Mintzberg’s model categorizes the ten roles of managers into three primary clusters that capture the essence of managerial work. The first cluster, interpersonal roles, highlights the leadership and communication responsibilities of a manager, crucial for maintaining workplace cohesion and nurturing the professional development of staff. These roles include the figurehead, leader, and liaison, each emphasizing different aspects of the managerial presence and network.

Informational roles come next, where managers act as the nerve center of their teams. They monitor, disseminate, and act as spokespersons; these roles are critical for keeping the flow of information healthy and robust within the organization. Managers collect and relay information necessary to make informed decisions and keep their teams aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Lastly, decisional roles encapsulate the core of managerial impact on business operations. These roles—entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator—require a manager to make decisions that can shape the organization’s future. Here, Mintzberg highlights the importance of adaptability and foresight in steering the team and organization towards growth and efficiency.

Implementing Mintzberg’s Managerial Framework

To effectively implement Mintzberg’s managerial roles in daily operations, managers should first assess which roles they naturally gravitate towards and which they might neglect. Self-awareness in management practice is crucial—it allows managers to develop underutilized areas that could enhance their effectiveness.

Training and development programs tailored to Mintzberg’s framework can help managers balance these roles more effectively. For instance, workshops on conflict resolution and negotiation skills can enhance a manager’s competence in decisional roles, while leadership training can deepen their abilities in interpersonal roles.

Why Mintzberg’s Model Matters

Mintzberg’s identification of these roles addresses the real-world complexity of managerial work, which goes far beyond traditional notions of task delegation and performance monitoring. Understanding and embracing this complexity can help managers become more effective leaders—capable of motivating their teams, managing a myriad of information, and making decisions that navigate the organization through both calm and turbulent times.

The framework also aids organizations in structuring their management development programs to cover areas that are critical to their specific operational needs. By focusing on developing skills across all three categories, organizations can ensure that their managers are well-rounded, capable of handling diverse challenges that come their way.


In conclusion, Henry Mintzberg’s framework of managerial roles offers a dynamic view of the breadth of activities a manager performs. By understanding these roles, managers can better navigate their responsibilities and improve their effectiveness. Organizations that cultivate these competencies can enjoy more robust leadership that drives them towards sustained success. Embracing the full spectrum of Mintzberg’s managerial roles is not just about personal or professional growth—it’s about transforming managerial practice in ways that enhance the entire organization.



I’m eagerly anticipating a discussion with Ali McDonald on branding and marketing. My podcasts typically feature unscripted conversations, making them dynamic, honest, and spontaneous. There are no scripts, no rehearsals—it’s not an interview. Instead, there are no set questions or stock replies, just a genuine exploration of ideas as they arise. Our conversations often take interesting turns, are always enlightening, sometimes provocative, occasionally challenging, and invariably useful.

For this upcoming podcast, I’ve spent time reflecting on branding and marketing, partly because I met Ali informally over coffee. We discussed how brands like Nike evoke emotion without directly mentioning their products. For instance, Nike doesn’t advertise by saying, “We sell great shoes.” Instead, they champion the message “Just Do It.” Similarly, Apple doesn’t emphasize, “We sell great computers and phones.” They appeal to the mavericks, the underdogs, the creatives, focusing on emotional resonance rather than product specifics.

These examples are well-known, but I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of emotional connection over factual substance. This approach, while powerful in marketing, parallels the manipulative tactics of a psychopath—someone who emotionally manipulates to achieve their goals. I find the relationship between marketing and psychopathy fascinating, as it often involves bypassing critical thinking with reassurances like, “Trust me, I’m an expert,” or, “Trust me, everyone else is doing this.” or even “Look at this lovely puppy, now go with your instinct!”

While I acknowledge the value of persuasion, education, and information—and even manipulation in certain contexts, such as a chiropractor relieving pain through manipulation—I believe there’s a deeper, more interesting aspect to brand marketing and communication. It’s about the psychology of human connection, and that’s what I’m really eager to explore in my conversation with Ali.


The concept of brand and marketing often diverging from the actual product quality or company practices is a well-documented phenomenon. Below are some case studies and examples where brands have either successfully created a strong identity separate from their products, or where the brand’s reputation has been inconsistent with the company’s practices.

1. Nike: Just Do It
Brand vs. Product: Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign is about inspiration, motivation, and the athletic spirit, rather than just selling shoes or apparel.
Controversies: Nike has faced criticism for labor practices, particularly regarding sweatshops and low wages in developing countries.

2. Apple: Innovation and Design
Brand vs. Product: Apple’s brand focuses on innovation, sleek design, and user-friendly technology.
Controversies: Reports have highlighted poor working conditions in factories like Foxconn, where many Apple products are assembled.

3. Louis Vuitton: Luxury and Exclusivity
Brand vs. Product: Louis Vuitton markets its products as luxury items, emphasizing exclusivity and high fashion.
Controversies: Investigations have suggested that some products are manufactured in conditions far from the luxurious image portrayed, with some reports of sweatshop labor.

4. Enron: Innovation and Integrity
Brand vs. Reality: Enron marketed itself as an innovative energy company, pioneering new markets and technologies.
Reality: The company’s fraudulent accounting practices and deceitful business operations led to one of the biggest scandals in corporate history.

5. Volkswagen: Environmental Responsibility
Brand vs. Reality: Volkswagen positioned itself as a leader in environmentally friendly automotive technology.
Controversies: The Dieselgate scandal revealed that the company had installed software to cheat on emissions tests, significantly polluting more than advertised.

6. H&M: Affordable Fashion
Brand vs. Reality: H&M promotes fast fashion, emphasizing trendy, affordable clothing.
Controversies: The company has faced allegations of poor labor practices, including low wages and unsafe working conditions in supplier factories.

7. BP: Beyond Petroleum
Brand vs. Reality: BP rebranded itself as an environmentally friendly energy company with its “Beyond Petroleum” campaign.
Controversies: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill highlighted severe environmental negligence, contradicting the company’s green image.

8. McDonald’s: Quality and Service
Brand vs. Reality: McDonald’s focuses on family-friendly marketing and quality food.
Controversies: The brand has been criticized for promoting unhealthy eating habits, poor nutritional content, and labor issues in its supply chain.

Research and Further Reading

1. Books and Articles:
“No Logo” by Naomi Klein: Explores how brands have come to represent more than just products and the implications of this phenomenon.
“Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time” by Matt Haig: Details various instances where branding has failed due to various reasons.

2. Case Studies:
Nike’s Labor Practices: Detailed reports and studies by organizations like the Clean Clothes Campaign and Oxfam.
Apple and Foxconn: Numerous journalistic investigations and reports, including those by The New York Times and BBC.
Volkswagen Dieselgate: In-depth analysis and reports by automotive and environmental watchdogs.

3. Documentaries:
“The True Cost”: A documentary exploring the impact of fast fashion on workers and the environment.
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”: A detailed look into the rise and fall of Enron.


Brands often build identities that resonate emotionally with consumers, sometimes masking underlying issues with their products or practices. Understanding these discrepancies can help consumers make more informed decisions and hold companies accountable.


The idea that a brand acts as a proxy for trust is a compelling perspective on consumer behavior and marketing. Brands often cultivate emotional connections that can override logical assessments of product quality and value. Here’s an exploration of this concept:

Emotional Connection and Trust

1. Emotional Appeal:
Creation of Identity: Brands often use storytelling and emotional appeals to create a sense of identity and community around their products. For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign inspires and connects with people on an emotional level, making them feel part of a larger movement.
Perceived Reliability: When consumers repeatedly see positive messages and experiences associated with a brand, they start to trust that brand implicitly. This trust is built on emotional experiences rather than logical evaluation.

2. Blind Spots in Consumer Behavior:
Cognitive Biases: Psychological principles like the halo effect, where the perception of one positive trait (like a trusted brand) influences overall judgment, play a significant role. Consumers may overlook negative aspects because the positive brand image is so strong.
Suspension of Critical Thinking: The emotional trust in a brand can lead to a suspension of critical thinking, where consumers do not scrutinize the product as they would with a lesser-known brand. This is particularly evident in premium pricing for branded goods that may not be superior to unbranded alternatives.

The Mechanics of Trust Creation

1. Consistency and Reliability:
Brand Consistency: Consistent messaging, quality, and customer service reinforce trust. When a brand consistently meets consumer expectations, it builds a reliable reputation.
Perception of Expertise: Brands often position themselves as experts in their field, which fosters trust. For instance, Apple is seen as a leader in innovation and design, creating an expert aura around its products.

2. Marketing and Perception Management:
Influence of Advertising: Effective advertising can create an emotional bond that goes beyond the logical evaluation of the product. Emotional ads can evoke feelings of happiness, nostalgia, or inspiration, linking those emotions to the brand.
Social Proof and Endorsements: Endorsements from celebrities, influencers, and positive reviews can enhance trust in a brand, as people tend to follow the choices of those they admire or perceive as knowledgeable.

Consequences of Trust in Branding

1. Premium Pricing:
Paying for Perceived Value: Consumers are often willing to pay a premium for branded products because they equate the brand with higher quality and reliability. However, this perceived value is based more on emotional trust than actual product superiority.

2. Potential for Misalignment:
Brand Facade: The trust and emotional connection can mask underlying issues, such as poor labor practices or inferior product quality. For example, a brand may market itself as environmentally friendly while engaging in environmentally harmful practices.
Consumer Deception: In cases like Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, the strong brand trust was exploited, leading to consumer deception and significant backlash when the truth was revealed.

Case Studies and Examples

1. Coca-Cola:
Brand Image: Coca-Cola is associated with happiness and fun, largely due to its long-standing advertising campaigns.
Reality Check: Despite its positive brand image, Coca-Cola products are high in sugar and have been linked to health issues.

2. Samsung:
Brand Reliability: Samsung is trusted for its cutting-edge technology and quality electronics.
Product Issues: The Galaxy Note 7 battery crisis highlighted a significant flaw that temporarily damaged the brand’s reputation, showcasing how trust can be quickly eroded by product issues.

3. McDonald’s:
Family-Friendly Image: McDonald’s markets itself as a family-friendly, fun place to eat.
Nutritional Concerns: Despite this image, its products are often criticized for being unhealthy, raising questions about the gap between brand image and product reality.


Brands leverage emotional connections to build trust, often bypassing consumers’ logical evaluations of product quality. This emotional trust can lead to premium pricing and consumer loyalty, even in the absence of superior product attributes. However, when discrepancies between brand image and reality are exposed, the resulting damage to trust can be significant. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for both marketers aiming to build strong brands and consumers seeking to make informed choices.


Stakeholders Series

Stakeholders Series

Stakeholders Series: Super Connectors

Stakeholders Series: Communication Preferences

Stakeholders Series: Hot And Cold Buttons

Stakeholders Series: Circles Of Influence

Stakeholders Series: Maps Of Influence

Stakeholders Series: Power Influence Movement

Stakeholders Series: Power Influence Matrix


Stakeholders Series: Super Connectors

Stakeholders Series: Super Connectors – Leveraging Network Power

In the realm of stakeholder management, understanding and leveraging the power of super connectors can be a game-changer. Super connectors are individuals who, despite the typical limitations of social connections (such as the Dunbar number), maintain extensive and influential networks. Here’s how to identify and engage with these pivotal figures.

Who Are Super Connectors?

Super connectors are individuals with vast and varied networks, often spanning different industries, communities, and social circles. They might not be friends with everyone in their network, but their connections are numerous and influential. These individuals can range from politicians and celebrities to community leaders and industry experts. Politicians frequently interact with diverse groups, while celebrities have a broad and varied audience. Community leaders act as hubs within their localities, and industry experts are known and respected across their field. Identifying these super connectors within your network can open doors to vast opportunities.

Why Super Connectors Matter

Engaging with super connectors offers several key advantages:

Extended Reach: Super connectors have access to large and diverse networks. By leveraging their connections, you can exponentially increase your reach, spreading your message far and wide.

Efficient Communication: Super connectors can disseminate information quickly and effectively. They can communicate your message to a broad audience more efficiently than reaching out to individuals one by one.

Increased Influence: The endorsement or support of a super connector can significantly boost your credibility and influence. Their backing can lend weight to your initiatives and open doors that might otherwise remain closed.

Identifying Super Connectors

To effectively engage with super connectors, you first need to identify them. This can be done through a combination of observation, research, network analysis, and engagement.

Observation and Research: Attend industry events, conferences, and community gatherings to observe who interacts with the most people. Follow social media interactions to see who is consistently mentioned or tagged in conversations. This will help you identify individuals who are central to many networks.

Network Analysis: Use tools like LinkedIn to see connections and common contacts. Analyze organizational charts to identify central figures in communication flows. This will help you pinpoint key individuals who hold influence within their networks.

Engagement and Inquiry: Ask trusted contacts and colleagues about key figures in their networks. Engage in conversations to learn about who people turn to for advice or connections. This will provide insights into who holds sway within your network.

Engaging with Super Connectors

Once you have identified super connectors, the next step is to engage with them effectively. Here are some strategies to consider:

Build Genuine Relationships: Approach super connectors with authenticity and offer value. Rather than immediately seeking favors, engage in their interests and participate in their initiatives. This builds a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

Leverage Mutual Connections: Use introductions from mutual acquaintances to build rapport. Reference shared contacts or experiences to establish common ground. This helps to create a sense of familiarity and trust.

Offer Collaboration Opportunities: Propose mutually beneficial projects or initiatives. Involve them in high-visibility activities that align with their interests. This provides value to them while also advancing your goals.

Maintain Regular Contact: Keep in touch through regular updates, event invitations, and casual check-ins. Show appreciation for their contributions and acknowledge their influence. This helps to maintain a strong and positive relationship.

Benefits of Mapping Super Connectors

Mapping super connectors within your network offers several benefits:

Strategic Networking: Focus your efforts on building relationships that can yield the highest returns. This ensures that your networking efforts are both efficient and effective.

Enhanced Communication: Tailor your messaging to resonate with key influencers and their networks. This increases the likelihood that your message will be well received and acted upon.

Increased Efficiency: Achieve wider reach and impact with less effort by leveraging the connectors’ networks. This allows you to maximize your influence while minimizing the time and effort required.

Practical Steps to Map Super Connectors

To effectively map super connectors, follow these practical steps:

Create a Database: List potential super connectors, noting their industries, networks, and influence levels. Include information on their interests, preferred communication methods, and common contacts. This provides a centralized repository of key information.

Regularly Update: Keep the database current with new contacts and any changes in their influence or networks. Document interactions and engagement efforts to track progress. This ensures that your information remains accurate and up-to-date.

Prepare for Meetings: Review your super connector map before important meetings to tailor your approach and maximize engagement. This helps you to be well-prepared and strategic in your interactions.

By strategically identifying and engaging with super connectors, you can amplify your influence, broaden your reach, and achieve your goals more effectively.

#StakeholderManagement #SuperConnectors #Networking #BusinessStrategy #Leadership

Who are the super connectors in your network, and how have they impacted your projects? Share your stories and strategies below!


Stakeholders Series: Communication Preferences

Stakeholders Series: DISC and Communication Preferences

Effective communication is key to successful stakeholder management. Understanding the DISC model and aligning communication preferences with different personality types can significantly enhance your interactions. Here’s a quick guide to leveraging DISC for improved stakeholder engagement:

Understanding the DISC Model:

The DISC model categorizes individuals into four primary personality types based on their behavioral traits. Each type has distinct communication preferences and ways of interacting with others:

1. Dominance (D):
Traits: Results-oriented, assertive, direct, competitive.
Communication Preferences:
Be direct and concise: Get to the point quickly.
Focus on results: Highlight achievements and outcomes.
Be confident: Show decisiveness and assertiveness.

2. Influence (I):
Traits: Enthusiastic, sociable, persuasive, optimistic.
Communication Preferences:
Be enthusiastic and energetic: Match their positive energy.
Focus on relationships: Build rapport and connect personally.
Involve them in discussions: Encourage participation and idea-sharing.

3. Steadiness (S):
Traits: Patient, reliable, supportive, team-oriented.
Communication Preferences:
Be patient and friendly: Create a comfortable and supportive atmosphere.
Focus on collaboration: Emphasize teamwork and cooperation.
Provide reassurance: Offer stability and predictability in your messages.

4. Conscientiousness (C):
Traits: Analytical, detail-oriented, methodical, cautious.
Communication Preferences:
Be detailed and precise: Provide clear, accurate information.
Focus on facts and logic: Use data and evidence to support your points.
Allow time for analysis: Give them space to process and evaluate information.

Application of DISC in Stakeholder Communication:

1. Identify Personality Types:
Observation: Pay attention to how stakeholders behave and communicate in different settings.
Assessment Tools: Use DISC assessments to gain deeper insights.

2. Tailor Communication Strategies:
Approach: Direct and to the point.
Content: Highlight goals, challenges, and results.
Tone: Confident and assertive.

Approach: Friendly and engaging.
Content: Share stories, experiences, and opportunities for collaboration.
Tone: Energetic and enthusiastic.

Approach: Warm and supportive.
Content: Emphasize teamwork, stability, and consistency.
Tone: Calm and reassuring.

Approach: Methodical and thorough.
Content: Provide detailed analysis, data, and structured information.
Tone: Precise and logical.

Benefits of Using DISC for Communication:

Improved Engagement: Tailoring your approach fosters stronger connections and engagement.
Enhanced Clarity: Clear and appropriate communication reduces misunderstandings.
Better Relationships: Understanding personality types builds trust and rapport.
Effective Influence: Aligning messages with preferences increases influence and impact.

Practical Steps to Implement DISC:

1. Learn and Observe:
Study the DISC model: Familiarize yourself with the traits and preferences of each type.
Observe Stakeholders: Pay attention to their communication styles and behaviors.

2. Use DISC Assessments:
Assess Stakeholders: Conduct DISC assessments where possible to gain formal insights.
Share Results: Discuss findings with stakeholders to foster mutual understanding.

3. Adapt Your Approach:
Prepare Accordingly: Before meetings, review stakeholders’ DISC profiles and tailor your communication.
Practice Flexibility: Be ready to adjust your style as you learn more about each stakeholder’s preferences.

By integrating the DISC model into your stakeholder management strategy, you can communicate more effectively, build stronger relationships, and drive better outcomes.

#StakeholderManagement #DISCModel #Communication #BusinessStrategy #Leadership

How do you adapt your communication style to different stakeholders? Share your tips and experiences below!


Stakeholders Series: Hot and Cold Buttons

Stakeholders Series: Hot and Cold Buttons – Lighting and Putting Out Fires

Effective stakeholder management involves understanding what excites your stakeholders (hot buttons) and what dampens their enthusiasm (cold buttons). Knowing these can help you engage them more effectively and manage concerns proactively. Here’s how to navigate these dynamics:

Hot Buttons – Lighting the Fires of Engagement

Hot buttons are the topics or issues that your stakeholders care deeply about. When addressed, these topics will draw stakeholders to you, eager to engage because they see a direct or indirect impact on something they value.

Identifying Hot Buttons

To identify hot buttons, you can use several approaches. Conducting surveys and interviews is an excellent starting point. By asking stakeholders about their priorities and interests, you can gather valuable insights. For instance, surveying key clients to understand what product features they value the most can reveal crucial information.

Another effective method is analyzing past interactions. Review previous meetings and communications to identify recurring themes. Notice which topics generate the most questions or feedback during meetings. This pattern can indicate what matters most to your stakeholders.

Monitoring public statements and publications is also useful. Keep an eye on what stakeholders are publicly supporting or criticizing. For example, track social media posts or press releases from influential partners. This can help you stay informed about their hot buttons.

Using Hot Buttons to Engage

Once you have identified the hot buttons, tailor your communication to highlight how your projects or decisions align with their priorities. Emphasize sustainability efforts to stakeholders passionate about environmental impact. By aligning your initiatives with their interests, you increase their engagement and support.

Seeking their input on relevant topics is another effective strategy. Involve them in discussions and decisions related to their interests. For instance, invite key clients to beta test new features they’ve shown interest in. This not only engages them but also makes them feel valued and heard.

Showcasing mutual benefits is crucial. Demonstrate how collaboration can lead to shared success. Present case studies showing how similar stakeholders have benefited from your initiatives. This creates a win-win scenario and fosters strong relationships.

Cold Buttons – Putting Out Fires of Concern

Cold buttons are topics that turn stakeholders off or cause concern. Knowing these can help you manage and mitigate potential conflicts.

Identifying Cold Buttons

Listening to feedback and complaints is essential for identifying cold buttons. Pay attention to negative feedback or concerns raised by stakeholders. Note recurring complaints from employees about workload during project rollouts. This can highlight areas that need addressing.

Observing body language and tone during interactions can provide insights. Non-verbal cues can indicate discomfort or disinterest in certain topics. Notice if stakeholders become disengaged or defensive during specific discussions. These reactions can signal cold buttons.

Reviewing past conflicts is another valuable approach. Analyze previous conflicts to understand what triggered them. Identify which topics caused disagreements in past board meetings. This can help you anticipate and address potential issues.

Using Cold Buttons to De-escalate

To manage cold buttons, downplay less relevant issues. Minimize the focus on topics that don’t align with stakeholders’ interests. For example, shift the focus from budget cuts to efficiency improvements when addressing staff. This reframing can reduce resistance and concerns.

Providing reassurances is critical. Address concerns directly and provide clear, calming information. Reassure stakeholders about the stability of a project despite external market changes. This helps alleviate fears and build trust.

Use appropriate strategies tailored to the specific issue. Different issues require different approaches, much like different fires need various extinguishing methods. For example, use factual data to dispel rumors or provide detailed plans to address uncertainty. This ensures you are addressing concerns effectively.

Mapping Hot and Cold Buttons

Creating a spreadsheet or database to track stakeholders’ hot and cold buttons can streamline your engagement strategy. Here’s how:

Stakeholder Database: Create a table with columns for stakeholder names, hot buttons, cold buttons, and preferred communication methods. This organized approach ensures you have all the necessary information at your fingertips.

Regular Updates: Continuously update the database with new information from meetings, surveys, and interactions. This keeps your information current and relevant, allowing you to adjust your strategies accordingly.

Preparation for Meetings: Before meetings, review the database to tailor your approach to each stakeholder’s interests and concerns. This preparation ensures you are well-informed and can engage effectively.

By understanding and leveraging hot and cold buttons, you can enhance your stakeholder relationships, ensuring that engagement is meaningful and concerns are effectively managed.

#StakeholderManagement #BusinessStrategy #Leadership #Engagement #OrganizationalDynamics

How do you identify and manage the hot and cold buttons of your stakeholders? Share your strategies and experiences below!


Stakeholders Series: Circles of Influence

Stakeholders Series: Circles of Influence – Navigating Stakeholder Dynamics

Effective stakeholder management involves understanding what excites your stakeholders (hot buttons) and what dampens their enthusiasm (cold buttons). Knowing these can help you engage them more effectively and manage concerns proactively. Here’s how to navigate these dynamics:

Understanding Circles of Influence

The Circles of Influence concept is a strategic tool used to identify and manage stakeholders based on their level of influence. This approach helps in focusing efforts on the most impactful relationships, ensuring efficient and effective engagement.

The Circles of Influence model is based on categorizing stakeholders into concentric circles around a central point (often the organization or project leader). Each circle represents a different level of influence:

1. Inner Circle

Definition: Stakeholders with the highest level of influence and direct impact on the project or organization.
Examples: Executives, major investors, key clients.
Engagement Strategy: Maintain close and constant communication, involve them in major decisions, and prioritize their needs and concerns.

2. Middle Circle

Definition: Stakeholders with moderate influence who can affect the project indirectly.
Examples: Senior managers, important suppliers, strategic partners.
Engagement Strategy: Keep them informed and involved, seek their input on important matters, and ensure their support and alignment.

3. Outer Circle

Definition: Stakeholders with low influence but potential to impact the project or organization in minor ways.
Examples: General employees, community members, minor customers.
Engagement Strategy: Monitor their opinions and concerns, provide regular updates, and ensure they feel valued.

Application of Circles of Influence

1. Identification

The first step is to identify all stakeholders related to the project or organization. This can be done using various tools such as stakeholder analysis, surveys, and interviews. Understanding who your stakeholders are and what role they play is crucial for effective management.

2. Categorization

Once you have identified your stakeholders, the next step is to categorize them into the appropriate circle based on their level of influence. Criteria for categorization include power, interest, impact potential, and relationship strength. This helps in prioritizing stakeholders and tailoring your engagement strategies accordingly.

3. Strategy Development

Developing tailored engagement strategies for each circle ensures that your efforts are effective and efficient. For the inner circle, personal meetings, strategic involvement, and continuous updates are essential. For the middle circle, regular briefings, collaborative projects, and feedback sessions are key. For the outer circle, newsletters, occasional surveys, and community events help keep them informed and engaged.

Benefits of Using Circles of Influence

The Circles of Influence model offers several benefits:

Focused Efforts: By concentrating resources and attention on the most influential stakeholders, you can maximize the impact of your engagement efforts.

Improved Relationships: Tailored strategies help in strengthening connections with key influencers, fostering trust and cooperation.

Enhanced Communication: Ensuring relevant stakeholders are appropriately informed and engaged leads to better decision-making and project outcomes.


1. Freeman, R. E. (1984). *Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach*. Boston: Pitman.
Freeman’s work emphasizes the importance of identifying and managing stakeholders based on their influence and interest.

2. Mitchell, R. K., Agle, B. R., & Wood, D. J. (1997). “Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts”. *Academy of Management Review*, 22(4), 853-886.
This paper discusses the principles of stakeholder identification and salience, which are foundational to understanding and applying the Circles of Influence.

3. Eden, C., & Ackermann, F. (1998). *Making Strategy: The Journey of Strategic Management*. London: Sage Publications.
Eden and Ackermann explore strategic management tools, including stakeholder analysis and engagement strategies.

By applying the Circles of Influence model, organizations can effectively manage their stakeholder relationships, ensuring that efforts are directed towards those who can most significantly impact their success.

#StakeholderManagement #CirclesOfInfluence #BusinessStrategy #Leadership #OrganizationalDynamics

How have you utilized the Circles of Influence in your stakeholder management practices? Share your insights and experiences below!


Stakeholders Series: Maps of Influence

Stakeholders Series: Maps of Influence – Navigating Informal Networks for Strategic Engagement

In the intricate world of business and beyond, understanding who influences whom is crucial. Unlike a hierarchical chart, an influence map captures the diverse and often informal networks that shape decisions and opinions. Here’s how to leverage this tool for more effective stakeholder engagement:

Creating an Influence Map

Identifying Key Influencers

The first step in creating an influence map is to identify key influencers. Look beyond official titles and roles, considering friends, family, hobby groups, and community leaders. These informal connections can be incredibly influential. For example, if you want to influence 50 boat owners, it is more strategic to engage key figures in local sailing clubs rather than meeting each owner individually. These influencers have the power to sway the opinions of many through their established networks.

Understanding Communication Channels

Next, map out how and where interactions occur. This could be through coffee chats, weekly meetings, board meetings, or social media. For instance, if local sailing clubs meet bi-weekly, attending these meetings can be a strategic move to engage with multiple stakeholders simultaneously. Understanding the preferred communication channels of these groups ensures that your messages are delivered effectively.

Analyzing Relationships

It’s essential to identify who talks to whom, how frequently, and through what mediums. Understanding the dynamics of friendships, alliances, and conflicts can significantly enhance your engagement strategy. For example, knowing that a key committee member is friends with many boat owners helps target your efforts more effectively. This knowledge allows you to approach stakeholders through trusted intermediaries, making your engagement efforts more impactful.

Engagement Strategies Based on Influence Maps

For Key Influencers

Personal Meetings: Arrange one-on-one discussions to build rapport and share your vision. Personal interaction helps in building trust and a deeper connection.
Involvement in Decisions: Include key influencers in planning sessions and strategy meetings. Their input not only validates their importance but also brings valuable insights to the table.
Public Recognition: Acknowledge their contributions publicly to enhance their standing and your relationship. This can be done through awards, mentions in newsletters, or public acknowledgments in meetings.

For Informal Networks

Leverage Group Meetings: Attend and contribute to group discussions where these influencers are active. Your presence in these gatherings can build trust and demonstrate commitment.
Tailored Communication: Use the preferred communication channels of these groups, whether it’s newsletters, emails, or social media. Tailoring your communication to their preferences increases the likelihood of your message being received positively.
Common Interests: Engage through shared interests, such as sponsoring events or activities relevant to their hobbies or community roles. This creates a natural and positive association with your organization.

Practical Steps to Create Your Influence Map

Research and Observe

Spend time understanding the informal networks within and outside your organization. Take note of frequent interactions and recurring group gatherings. Observing these patterns will help you identify key influencers and their networks.

Document Connections

Create a visual representation of these relationships using tools like flowcharts or specialized software. Mark key influencers, the nature of their influence, and their primary communication methods. This visual map serves as a valuable reference for your engagement strategies.

Regular Updates

Keep your influence map current, as relationships and influence can change over time. Periodically review and adjust your strategies based on new insights. This ensures that your engagement efforts remain relevant and effective.

Why Influence Maps Matter

Efficiency: Targeting key influencers saves time and resources, allowing you to focus your efforts where they will have the most impact.

Effectiveness: Engaging through trusted figures increases message acceptance, as people are more likely to listen to and be influenced by individuals they trust.

Insight: Understanding informal networks provides a deeper grasp of organizational dynamics, helping you navigate the complex web of connections with precision.

By mapping out influence, you can navigate the complex web of connections with precision, ensuring your messages reach the right ears through the most trusted voices. This strategic approach not only enhances engagement but also drives more meaningful and lasting impact.

#StakeholderManagement #InfluenceMapping #BusinessStrategy #Leadership #OrganizationalDynamics

How have you leveraged informal networks in your organization? Share your experiences and tips on creating effective influence maps!