Forming Effective Stakeholder Leadership Groups

This article explores how and why to successfully launch and sustain stakeholder leadership groups. The principles and practices shared can be applied in a variety of contexts, including when different teams work together on a shared initiative or need to work together more effectively.

Developmental dynamics are too complex and cut across too many organizational lines to be handled by a single entity. A stakeholder leadership group (SLG) responds to this reality by bringing together representatives across the planning, producing, managing, and supporting functions of a specific activity or system.

The recommended actions described here will help you to create the inclusive alliances and networks needed to form an SLG that functions well, has a positive impact, and addresses typical difficulties.

Benefits of Stakeholder Leadership Groups

  • Increase likelihood of successful implementation of new initiatives that individual stakeholders might not be able to do on their own.
  • Facilitate information and knowledge-sharing.
  • Enhance a single stakeholder’s resource base.
  • Gain access to complementary areas of expertise, knowledge, skills, technology, and resources.
  • Avoid duplication of investments.
  • Accelerate momentum and mobilization of funding and resources by building a shared approach that gains credibility and support.

Key Step to Getting Started

  • Identify and engage strategic partners
  • Develop initial goals, membership, and possible funding
  • Generate an inclusive list of members
  • Take actions that will develop a partnership mentality

Key Operating Procedures for Developing and Maintaining your SLG

Finalize the group membership/composition

  • Groups that have diverse membership with varied experiences can increase the overall success and sustainability, however groups with too many members can be cumbersome.

Develop a mandate(terms of reference)

  •  Include the purpose/mission, goals, vision of what the SLG will accomplish, and membership and general responsibilities.

Make linkages to appropriate governing bodies

  • SLGs often gather information and advise on the activities and needs of a governing body.

Create a structure

  • Depending on the size of the SLG, leadership may include a chair, co-chair, and executive committee.
  • Portions of the SLG work may be carried out by smaller work groups (e.g., committees, task forces, etc.).  
  • An administrator role may be necessary to ensure the SLG can operate effectively and efficiently (e.g., manage the calendar for meetings and work plan deliverables, plan and support meetings, take and distribute notes, etc.).

Select leaders

  • Discuss and adopt the leader selection process. If the SLG mandate is narrow, the initial champion may stay on as the leader. Other groups rotate leadership periodically.
  • SLG leaders need to: demonstrate their commitment to participatory and shared leadership, see the potential of the SLG and communicate this vision in inspiring ways, understand and address the differing interests of each stakeholder, and facilitate communication and interaction.  

Establish a process for decision-making

  • While needing to be efficient, the decision-making process must allow for active participation, consensus-building, and transparency.

Run productive meetings

  • Develop predictable schedules with reminders, share agendas well in advance, facilitate the discussion in a timely way, and take notes.
  • In the initial SLG meeting, review and refine the SLG goals, membership, and key operating procedures to share and follow.  

Use effective communication practices

  • Good communication practices and open information sharing are integral to building trust among members.

Monitor progress

  • Build a monitoring and performance process to include a work plan, benchmarks, indicators, and set times when monitoring should be conducted and shared.
  • Celebrate the areas where progress is being made and adjust for performance gaps.

Avoid these common reasons for underperformance

  •  Lack of transparency and agreement on the goals, objectives, decision-making process, and roles and responsibilities.
  • Absence of tracking and monitoring progress.
  • Unresolved conflict or unhealthy competition.
  • Leaders lack the skills or time to guide the collaboration.
  • Lack of accountability and trust among partners.

This article is drawn from Guidelines for Forming and Sustaining Human Resources for Health Stakeholder Leadership Groups by Wilma J. Gormley and Jim McCaffery.