The definition of stakeholder is broad: Everyone who is involved or affected by a project is a stakeholder. Employees, customers, providers and stockholders are stakeholders, and so are, for example, the residents of the community where the project takes place. A project can fail because the manager does not know who the real stakeholders are, or did not get them on board. Given the diversity in backgrounds and interests among stakeholders, their management requires a broad and flexible set of skills.
Identifying the stakeholders is a prerequisite for their management. This will involve analysis of the impacts of the project, the affected actors, and the magnitude of the impact for each individual. Once the stakeholders have been identified, it is necessary to assess their potential reaction to change, their level of power and influence, and the degree of buy-in or support required from each to ensure the project's success.
As stakeholders are likely to have conflicting interests, the ability to influence and persuade others is often required. Consensus-building, management of expectations and negotiation are crucial to gain commitment from others and foster collaboration. People skills are also required to identify and recruit potential change agents, champions and sponsors.
Sometimes, managers have one-to-one meetings with stakeholders, but large meetings are also required so everybody is on the same page. This is unlikely to be the case, at least initially. Thus, stakeholder management requires skill in creating a targeted agenda that makes meetings productive, as well as the ability to resolve disagreements and build consensus.
Stakeholder management requires empathy, or the ability to get in other people's shoes. Empathy does not mean sympathy, and it does not require emotional and sensitive persons, but managers that can take multiple perspectives and see all sides of the issue. Sometimes this will be useful for locating the knowledge gaps behind a misunderstanding, or for identification of unstated interests weighing on the negotiations.