Business & Innovation- January 25, 2023
Going the distance: Managing multiple stakeholders across borders
One of the best things about working for a local company with a global reach across 70 countries, with over 12 brands is the ability to collaborate and learn from stakeholders across Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, and North Africa as well as countries in the European region. Company wide, our shared mission is to always deliver an amazing experience; from customers to internal stakeholders alike.
I joined in 2020 as an Associate Product Manager. I started off my career in product by owning some smaller products while senior managers would handle the communication and collaboration across multiple borders. But with time I was up for the task of leading it on my own. Working across many time zones has been a challenge but a great opportunity to learn. Here are five tips for working with multiple stakeholders across borders.
The firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something is the main contributor to fulfilling relationships. Initially, trust is built while getting to know each other, while working together for a period of time or when conducting business with one another. It is very much dependent on time. Trust happens if the trust giver has more to lose than to gain. With distributed teams and stakeholders across all borders, it is hard to have that time to build trust by sitting together or looking for visual cues in one another.
We can build trust by using different existing tools and guidelines. For example, using a safe space, a certain call where we introduce ourselves by using playful boards and share some fun facts about ourselves. Having support from SCRUM masters gives the audience a better feeling of that safe space. The SCRUM master acts as a neutral moderator who is able to grasp the group’s mood as well as moderate the session and guide everyone in the right direction of the agenda. Another option that has a high impact is to meet in person before and while kicking off a project with stakeholders. Meeting in person gives everyone a chance to build trust while getting to know and working with each other for some days.
Taking and managing ownership is one of the key soft skills I look for in colleagues and stakeholders. For small and big projects with colleagues from the same entity as well as with stakeholders, it needs to be clear and documented which parts of the project are owned by whom. Finding common ground in the division of tasks and ownership is key before kicking off the project. Ownership leads to higher motivation and a higher likelihood of delivering projects of good quality. It delivers superior business performance as well. It is not about having one person to blame, but rather about having that one person to communicate with, support, and celebrate. Ownership can change over time. This can be the case if for example the strategy, organizational or architectural setup changes. But no one has to be afraid of those changes.
Shareholders have no time to track the changes themselves. We have come up with a weekly email update layout that is being sent by one of the product managers to a certain audience including the senior management level. It helps communicate changes and milestones to all parties involved, shows ownership, and builds trust in diverse and distributed teams. The nicest task for me is to share celebrations and milestones on that weekly mail update followed by being recognized and celebrated by the c-level or senior management level as well. In reality, it does not happen all the time as there are milestones getting delayed or blockers being faced. But in the end, the appreciation of our management levels is very high which gives me a super fulfilling emotion.
Face to Face meetings
I am a huge fan of social interaction when it comes to collaboration and big projects. Nowadays many of our stakeholder offices including us tend to be more flexible around remote work than before COVID-19 hit. While working remotely and without seeing each other every day it is still possible and very productive to have a face-2-face kick-off meeting. It can have a great positive influence on the team. What makes it even better is using that time on the ground, in whichever office you meet, and getting out for some leisure fun activities together. We are not only working better together but we are also broadening our minds and learning about the local culture and lifestyle. Let’s be thankful for traveling every once in a while, broadening our horizons, and getting human social connections with colleagues.
Empathy is one of the few underrated skills that are not really considered in interviews but are vital. Crucial in the success of group projects. The more in tune you are with the needs of your team and your client, and the more effort you put into understanding those needs, the greater chance the project has of being successful. But it means requiring more time to make changes, taking time to have face-to-face meetings to connect with someone who is struggling, and letting them know that you understand.
Being empathetic is the most you can do. It requires a lot of effort but can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of your project. In regards to stakeholder relationships, it means checking in every once in a while and evaluating the relationship you are having. Thanks to empathy and therefore understanding where each other is coming from and struggling with, in the end, we have always come back to a great and successful team mindset to deliver the product in the best quality and on time.
Through all the lessons I learned and tools I shared you see what complexity stakeholder management across borders can bring. Sharing successes and having a great impact cross-regional is the reward that comes with such projects.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working at Delivery Hero for me has been to be part of the huge global product and stakeholder community. Sharing the same great values across all borders means we all have a great focus on delivering solutions, always aiming higher and caring for one another. Infused with local aspects, it means learning a lot of human and technical aspects about and from each other. This creates a great professional setup to keep growing together as a company as well as a team. With the wide range of local brands and such great stakeholder relationships as well as high professionality, we are united behind our shared mission to always deliver an amazing experience.