Q for the Product Managers: What do you do if you feel a stakeholder relationship slipping?

Hello there! I'm hoping to crowdsource some advice for saving a stakeholder relationship if you feel like their trust in you is slipping (or your trust in them for that matter). This can be tricky to navigate remotely since you can't always bring a coworker out for coffee or have lunch together to clear the air. Some coworkers might even refuse to turn on their camera *period*.

Specifically, imagine a business stakeholder makes multiple, significant demands that you cannot 100% accomodate and doesn't let up. What would you do before the stakeholder escalates to your manager and theirs?

Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!

iynna's profile thumbnail
Curious if @tanmayisai who is a PM has ideas?
annamiller's profile thumbnail
I would advise getting to know their priorities and values. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding between what you are delivering and what they expected you to deliver. It’s normal not to deliver 100% of stakeholder needs right away, but it’s essential to communicate how you can potentially work to meet their needs in the long run.
If I were you, the first thing I would do is to share this with your manager re: a stakeholder making unrealistic demands and how you cannot accommodate without compromising your existing priorities. It’s important to align on your priorities with your manager and s/he can provide an air cover for you.
kellygebo's profile thumbnail
My advice would be to try to have an honest conversation with your stakeholder. Ask a lot of questions and listen - don't jump into trying to come up with an action plan. It can feel awkward at first but the most they talk, and feel heard, the better. In the scenario you listed I would use questions like...I can tell you have a lot on your plate. How can we best work together to move things forward? How do you like to receive information? What about our project is concerning you? What do you feel is going really well? How is this project tied to your goals? Have you had projects like this before? If so what did you enjoy / what didn't you like? How is our success being measured? If they do make a unrealistic demand, something like ..."I know you want XYZ, and it's important to me that I set realistic expectations on our delivery so you aren't feeling surprised in the future. Your ask is substantial, so what will be really helpful is if we could do a gut check on things in potion to make sure I have clarity on your priorities. I want to ensure we are working on the right things, that you deem most important and less important items are deprioritized so we aren't wasting any time or investment" A nice visual way to do this is in something like trello, physically watch the cards move showing you added XYZ, so ABC goes out.Even if they don't have their camera on, I would have yours on to show you are there, trying, and it's important to you.
@annamiller @jene177 and @kellygebo Thank you ladies for your comments! Your perspective is much appreciated :)