How to manage requests from your stakeholders

Very often finely laid plans go awry once an avalanche of requests lands from clients and other stakeholders. Moira Dunne presents a way forward.

It is hard to be productive in a busy business.

You make your plans but too often the day is taken over by requests from clients or other stakeholders.

“Here are some tips on how to achieve a balance so you can manage requests from stakeholders and still protect time for your planned work too”

As a result, work gets dropped. And the stress builds up.

The problem

Our stakeholders are those key people you interact with day to day. Your business relies on them whether they be clients, employees, suppliers or contractors. Your response time is key to maintain good relationships. But being too responsive can be bad for business in the long term because it can lead to:

  • Missing important deadlines
  • Not focusing on business development
  • Working long hours to do everything
  • Missing commitments outside work

Overall, it can feel like your time is out of control. And this can lead to stress and anxiety, which affects wellbeing too.

So here are some tips on how to achieve a balance so you can manage requests from stakeholders and still protect time for your planned work too.

Tip 1 – Take Control

Be clear about what you need to get done each week within your business. Then block time in your diary for this priority work. As new requests crop up, assess which is the higher priority. A lot of times need to do both but you are less likely to drop the planned work without rescheduling it.

A baseline plan allows you assess your response in terms of the work that needs to be done. Having no plan makes it harder to do that.

Tip 2 – Manage Your Response Time

When responding to stakeholders, the key thing is to still ‘Say Yes’ but on your own terms. For example:

  • Ask “when do you need it”?
  • Say when you can do it
  • Negotiate a time that suits you both – be as flexible as you can

As a result, you don’t automatically drop your planned work.

Tip 3 – Review Urgent Requests

Urgent requests generally fall into two categories: 1) things that couldn’t be anticipated and 2) things that were not done in time and became urgent.

Many people don’t plan ahead. You can’t change other people. But you can change your interaction with them. Especially if these “last minute” requests occur regularly.

Can you anticipate the requests? Could you check-in with this stakeholder and say: “what do you need this week? We want to make sure we put time in the diary for your requirements”.

This can prompt people to think ahead instead of waiting until the last minute. Of course, use your judgement on what is appropriate, depending on each client relationship.

Tip 4 – Agree Expectations up Front

Discussing how you will work together at the outset of a relationship is a smart way to manage your business. This relates to clients but also anyone you rely on to provide information or supplies. By agreeing the expectations at the outset of the engagement, you can manage your interactions day to day.

What is the Service Level Agreement? What will work best for them? What can you commit to? Agree your standard response time, with the proviso that genuinely urgent situations will be treated differently.

Once agreed, it is easier to stick to these response times in the cut and thrust of a busy day.

Tip 5 – Drop the Guilt

And finally, drop the guilt! If you can’t do something, there will be a good business reason. It is not because you don’t want to do it! If you explain in business terms, most people will understand.

Remember if you drop current work to respond to a stakeholders’ request, are you telling them that you will do the same thing when the next request arrives? Consider the overall messaging and how it reflects on your company ethos and culture.

Be Productive, Make Changes

To help you implement these tips, you can access the Stakeholder Management template on the resource page.

  • Moira will be sharing Productivity and Wellbeing tips on the last Friday of each month at 10am. Tune in here for the next one
Moira Dunne
Productivity consultant Moira Dunne is founder and director of