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The Power of Stake(W)holding: Leveling up your Partnership on Projects

Have you ever worked on or visited a project, one with many collaborating partners, contractors and vendors, with sky-high budgets, long timelines and unending complexity? If so, have you ever encountered one where:

  • People look each other in the eyes and greet each other as they pass.
  • Employees, regardless of their company or their “rank,” approach visitors with some heads-up about safety on the jobsite.
  • The site is clean and organized.
  • Work conversations are efficient and open, with people comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas.
  • In everyday conversations, people regularly bring in considerations that demonstrate how they are thinking about the implications of the decisions at hand while still working at pace.
  • When someone talks about something that recently went off the rails, they use the pronoun “we” instead of “they,” demonstrating ownership for why the failure happened and ownership for solving it.
  • Nearly everyone you meet on the project can give some description of the project’s vision and the positive potential impact for people and planet.

If you have never been on a site that feels like this, and if this sounds like some utopian ideal, it’s not. These are indicators of a holistic approach to how leaders are executing critical projects today.

We call this leadership approach StakeWholding.

Why the funny “W” in the middle? It points to a key shift in the paradigm of collaboration traditionally used on many projects. The “W” points to a constant orientation to Whole-Life:

  • The whole lifecycle of the project.
  • The whole system of employees, organizations, communities engaged in the project.
  • The safety and well-being of all the people and webs of life involved in and impacted by the project for generations to come.
  • The whole picture of leadership, culture and systems required to successfully pull the project and all its subcomponents across the line.

Having this Whole-Life orientation changes everything.

The traditional notion of stakeholder management is about managing the expectations, participation and support of connected and concerned parties to a project. The “owner,” in this traditional view, is at the center of this hub of management, and the managed parties are “out there” at various proximities to the heart of the action on a project.

When leaders evolve to StakeWholding, they build on this traditional view by orchestrating the participants in a project as an inter-dependent whole system. They see their jobs as giving rise to a whole system that produces the desired outcome with integrity.

Doing this requires that, from the first handshake, individual participants in the whole system are welcomed as partners and invited to be a part of, and co-responsible for, the realization of the Whole-Life vision of the project.

Decisions are made with an awareness of this whole system. And when things go wrong, whether it’s a safety incident or a major delay in a supplies delivery, leaders look to respond and learn based on a Whole-Life view.  They look for the interaction of factors that gave rise to the failure and foster learning across the whole system.

When our clients achieve this upgrade in their leadership and practices from traditional stakeholding to StakeWholding, they experience remarkable impacts on nearly every aspect of the project.

If you are a project leader, are you set up to engage with new project partners in this way from the first handshake? If so, the rewards will be substantial when the complexity and intensity are at their height.  And the positive impacts on people, planet and profit will be seen many years down the road.

To learn more about Genii Earth’s StakeWholding approach and our Project Alignment services, contact hello@geniiearth.com.

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