Why Two Ears And One Mouth Can Lead To Stakeholder Value Creation

Why Two Ears And One Mouth Can Lead To Stakeholder Value Creation

In a previous article I suggested that an effective vision, as much for finance professionals as the organisations we support, starts and ends with value creation for the relevant stakeholders, which is the only reason for any business to exist.

Relevant stakeholders can be found in the 4Cs diagram and can be those customers, company owners, communities and colleagues that we interact with at any point in the organisation’s value chain which drives shareholder margin or value over time.

That’s the who and where, and the what and the how can be achieved by following two bits of advice. The first is an old saying:

There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.

This is a skill Finance have not been seen as good as at as say, Sales, or Human Resources. I imagine it’s all those years we’ve exercised the old command and control approach to telling the business what to do, instead of empathetically listening to them by putting ourselves in their shoes to better appreciate their needs. And also by actively listening out for ways that we can assist them in delivering better outcomes.  Listening is a skill that demonstrates respect and it allows us to understand our relevant stakeholders’ needs first, before having our own views understood.

The second when meeting our stakeholders we should investing the time to do the simple task of asking have and want questions and demonstrate we’ve actively listened to them by following this up and using our skills in double entry bookkeeping to record their haves & wants into a stakeholder analysis template:

These have-want gaps lay out the problems they’d value us solving, and in essence by solving them we are creating value.

For instance we might ask them if our relationship is working successfully how would they describe what this might look like in a couple of sentences?

Isn’t it better to simply ask and engage them, than merely guessing what they might be thinking and risk potentially working off the wrong assumptions?

For instance, Stakeholder One might ask for a sales reporting and metrics package for their managers. Our conversation might continue with us asking a follow up, what do you think should be in this package of metrics? Their response might be win rates, cost per head, sales per head, average selling prices, discounting, . . . .

Okay these two bits of advice are not rocket science but how many of us are proactively doing them?

They are so simple that is why I’d say this template is the one I’ve most often shared and given to others in finance and non-finance roles to help them create value for their organisations. This template is great for:

  • Trapping the value we are offering.
  • Figuring out who are our most demanding stakeholders.
  • Communication tool around conflicting priorities discussion with line management.
  • Forces accountability around what’s left to deliver and commitments.

Okay some of you may still be thinking:

‘What if I’ve already solved the problem in your mind, or the stakeholder is wrong?’

Unless it’s an ethical issue say nothing of what you think, unless you’ve been explicitly asked for your opinion. Even if you think your stakeholder is wrong, or that there’s a better way out there. The aim is to build trust so give your stakeholder something that they want and don’t presently have. Show that you’re listening actively and with empathy. Once they have what they want you can check with them if that’s what they really wanted or for any other ideas. If they’ve no further ideas you may then ask them if they had considered other metrics.

‘What if I’ve a demanding stakeholder?’

Good it shows they’re willing to engage with you, but bear this in mind, you can’t boil the ocean. So you may need to ask the stakeholder to help you prioritize their wants into an order of importance. Some may be more immediate compared to others that could turn out to be longer term desires and so less urgent.

‘What if I’m struggling to get stakeholders to open up?’

Chances are their perceptions, for whatever reason, as to how much Finance can help them are not very positive. So they’ll jump at the chance to open up to you if they if they believe you’ve got a solid Character which I touch on in a previous podcast episode.

And all these ideas are similar to we’ve touched on with our finance guest mentors on the Strength in the Numbers Show, who share with you their stories and hard won lessons they’ve experienced when looking to help create value in their organisations that have worked or not when listening to relevant stakeholder, and they even break their stories down so we can also benefit by putting these into practice and helping their businesses, clients, other departments create more value for their organisations.

So what techniques would you recommend to build trust with others and increase your impact in the business? Or what steps would you take yourself?

The author Andrew Codd is the producer of the Strength in the Numbers Podcast which interviews real finance practitioners to break down their hard won lessons and deconstruct their practical methods that work on the job and which you won’t typically find in textbooks or exams so that we create more influential accounting and finance professionals worldwide who solve meaningful problems for their organisations and in return have fun, rewarding and successful careers in finance.