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How do you ensure alignment when you have two senior executive stakeholders who disagree with each other on the proposed strategy and you are stuck in the middle?

3 Answers
Michael Maday
Michael Maday
Gainsight Senior Director, Customer SuccessFebruary 16

This is a tough one!

In this situation, I would do my best to flex my diplomatic skills. Draft up communication that includes both Execs 

(with some other relevant stakeholders if possible) and do your best to lay out the pros and cons of both options, doing your best to appear as neutral as possible and then push these execs to make a decision one way or the other. If you feel very strongly that one option is the correct one, and you have facts to back this up, do not walk away from an opportunity to appear decisive and in control. I would much prefer to be fast and wrong (and then course correct) than taking too long to make a decision, or even worse never making one at all!

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Jeff Beaumont
Jeff Beaumont
Customer Success ConsultantMay 31

My first career was in public accounting. I theoretically had 9 different partners that could give me work at any time. Those 7 years taught me how to navigate disagreements, especially in the middle of tax season when everyone was at their wits' end.

A few suggestions come to mind:

  1. It's not binary. Don't get stuck thinking it's either A or B. Is there a third way? Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive talk about "narrow framing". We often get ourselves riled up because we only see two forks in the road. Sometimes that means you need to reverse course and look for another way.

  2. Understand the needs, desires, and fears of the execs. Sometimes we just need to be heard. When someone "knows" me and can speak up on my behalf, I will feel better and relax a bit. Know your execs and ask, "What is that you're wanting out of this?" They may still not get it, but so often we just want to be heard.

  3. Give it time. While that's happening, ask yourself if there's a chance it can get resolved within days, weeks, or months. If weeks, ask yourself "what does this make possible?" and see if you can work on another project that got pushed to the back burner. NOTE: this is sometimes wishful thinking because if two execs are locked in disagreement, it's often a critical project and you cannot afford to "waste" time.

  4. Phone a friend. Talk to a friend or someone outside your company. Try to explain what's going on. Because you have to translate it out of your company's speak, it causes you to tell the situation in a different way. It helps you better understand the situation and also your friend can ask you basic and probing questions.

  5. BATNA. BATNA is a negotiation technique which stands for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. What would be the best alternative? While you don't want to compromise your values, who you or, or build an ugly product that has a little bit of everything for everyone (pleasing no one!), what are the alternatives that you can consider?

  6. Go on a run or walk. Psychologists have helped us understand that when we're stuck, we need to do the unintuitive thing: get up and go do something fun, go on a walk, call up an old friend. While you're away, your subconscious can process the information.

  7. Look for a mediator. While I wouldn't jump to this, but if you're really stuck, consider if there's a third or fourth person to break a tie or help mediate. Don't make this your first choice because it could get worse.

  8. Look for a new job. If it's really really bad, you may need to move on — either for a new project or job. Hopefully not!

446 Views
Meenal Shukla
Meenal Shukla
Gainsight Senior Director of Customer SuccessSeptember 1

Ensuring alignment between senior executive stakeholders who disagree on a proposed strategy can be challenging but is crucial for the success of the project and the organization. Here are some strategies to help navigate this situation:

  1. Understand the Perspectives: First and foremost, make sure you fully understand the perspectives of both stakeholders. What are their concerns? What are their objectives? What are the reasons behind their viewpoints?

  2. Find Common Ground: Identify the common goals or objectives of both stakeholders. Even if they disagree on the strategy, there is likely some common ground in terms of what they are trying to achieve.

  3. Facilitate Dialogue: If possible, facilitate a dialogue between the two stakeholders. This may involve setting up a meeting, moderating a discussion, or helping to clarify misunderstandings.

  4. Present Data: Use data and facts to present your case. This can help to remove emotions from the discussion and focus on what the data is indicating as the best course of action.

  5. Consider Alternatives: Explore and present alternative strategies. There may be a third option that addresses the concerns of both stakeholders.

  6. Highlight the Risks and Benefits: Clearly articulate the risks and benefits of each strategy. This can help the stakeholders to weigh the pros and cons of each option and come to a more informed decision.

  7. Seek Input from Others: Sometimes it can be helpful to seek input from other senior members of the organization or external experts. This can provide a fresh perspective and may help to resolve the disagreement.

  8. Be Neutral: As much as possible, try to remain neutral and not take sides in the disagreement. Your role is to facilitate a resolution, not to advocate for one side or the other.

  9. Focus on the Goal: Keep the focus on the overall goal or objective of the project or organization. This can help to shift the discussion away from individual preferences and towards what is best for the organization as a whole.

  10. Be Prepared to Compromise: Sometimes a compromise may be necessary to move forward. Make sure both parties understand what are the non-negotiables.

  11. Document Discussions: Document the discussions, decisions, and rationales. This can help clarify misunderstandings and provide a record of the decision-making process.

  12. Follow Up: After a decision has been made, make sure to follow up with both stakeholders to ensure that they are aligned with the decision and understand the next steps.

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