Become an IDOL 03: Stakeholders--Who They Are and How to Work With Them

Published: April 15, 2019

Episode: 03

Stakeholders: Who They Are and How to Work With Them

Guest: Melanie Eakin

VP of Performance Effective for Inside Sales, iHeart Media

In this episode of Become an IDOL, I’ll be chatting with Melanie Eakin about the stakeholder role in corporate training projects.

 

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In this episode we discuss:

  • The role a stakeholder plays in a training project
  • The different roles of the decision-makers on your project
  • Who a project champion is and how they can help move the project forward
  • Who is going to judge the success or failure of the project
  • How to navigate the expectations & respect the boundaries of the stakeholders and other key players
  • Planning out your timeline for reviews and approval
  • What to do when facing a company with a “check the box mentality”
  • What questions to ask at the beginning of the project
  • How to deal with your ego when getting feedback and critiques
  • Processes & schedules to help the feedback process

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Show Transcript

Robin Sargent: Welcome to Become an Idol. This is episode three stakeholders who they are and how to work with them. Robin Sargent I'm your host, Dr. Robin Sargent, the owner of IDOL courses. This is a place where newbies come to learn, and veteran share their knowledge. In this episode, I'll be chatting with Melanie akin about the stakeholder role in corporate training projects. We cover everything from who the decision makers are, to how to deal with your ego, when you get stakeholder feedback and critiques. I have the pleasure of having on the podcast today, Melanie Aiken, and I first met Melanie when I started at Cbeyond which is now called Birch Communications, as an instructional designer there, and Melanie was actually the learning and development business partner. And we'll get more into what that means. And now she is the VP of performance effectiveness for inside sales at iHeartMedia. And so that's just a little background about Melanie and how I met her. And we've just continued to stay in touch and now we're friends. But I wanted to bring Melanie on to talk about the stakeholder role and corporate training projects and in that environment. So, Melanie, could you tell our audience like who you are and what you do, and a little bit about yourself?

Melanie Eakin: Yeah, happy to do that. I started my career in sales and relatively quickly moved into learning and development role as a trainer and through that experience, and moving through the ranks in the learning organization at Cbeyond where Robin and I met. One of the things that I got to experience was working with stakeholders, and now in my current life, they function as a stakeholder, oftentimes on projects. And still, sometimes I'm actually still working with stakeholders. So I'm excited to tell you a little bit about that experience, and help put together the importance of the role that a stakeholder plays and a project for you.

Robin Sargent: Right, so when we say stakeholder, what, what exactly is a stakeholder on a training project? And, why are they important?

Melanie Eakin: Sure. So a stakeholder it can be a couple of different things, it can be an individual person, it can be a team, or it can be like a whole division of people. And usually, they have some type of vested interest in the successful execution of that training project. And by vested interests, we mean they've got some right to care about it. And they probably have some skin in the game. And that can mean that their group is impacted by a certain change that's coming in. And that group is requesting training for addressing that need. Or it could be you know, a new product that a product team within a company is going to launch. And now they want to make sure that all the sales divisions know how to sell it effectively. And all the operations folks know how to install it. So it can take a lot of different forms and shapes in terms of what a stakeholder is. But ultimately, it's who asked for the project, and who has the skin in the game in making sure that the work is completed and executed. And ultimately the objectives are met for that project.

Robin Sargent: That's good. So for instance, a stakeholder could be someone who is a manager in a department that brings a training need, or could be a product manager, or an executive or any of these people.

Melanie Eakin: Yeah, it could be the leader of a sales organization who realized that their sellers don't know how to execute this particular step of the sales process. They could come with that it could be an operations team owner, who has a new system that they're going to be implementing or transitioning to in the next six months, and they want to go ahead and plan and train for that. So like you said, there's a lot of different ways that can show up.

Robin Sargent: When usually, does an instructional designer in your experience come into contact with the stakeholders about creating training?

Melanie Eakin: A stakeholders, usually the one who's reaching out with the request from the project, sometimes they may have a project champion who does that on their behalf. They just know that hey, this needs to be this particular objective needs to be accomplished. It needs to be accomplished through learning and development and I'll have my project champion run with it, which we haven't mentioned yet. Because a stakeholder is one of the key players in the project but you've also got a couple other kind of Secondary characters that are really helping out like your project champion, and your subject matter expert. Unlike a stakeholder, a project champion, they're both a little less formal in nature and icons, it's really focused on driving the project success. And that means through removing obstacles that come up. So if, for some reason, say, you need assistance, getting sign off on the project plan from the stakeholder, the project champion can help with that. Or say, your subject matter expert, who is typically going to be the person who knows the most about the topic of that training, or the initiative, or whatever the objective of that training project is, your subject matter experts going to be like the go to person who knows the most about it. And if you're really lucky, you might have more than one subject matter experts, the project champion and subject matter experts are really there to also help facilitate success for that particular project.

Robin Sargent: Right. And so usually, in my experience, whenever we start with the stakeholder, you your first meeting usually is with the stakeholder to get ideas about like, what is it that they want their learners to learn?

Melanie Eakin: Absolutely. Well, and what's the other point that's really important about that is, they're also the ones who are going to judge success of the project. And so it's important that they're in that first meeting, because they're going to tell you exactly what they hope to see, in order to sign off on the product at the end of it and say, Yep, great job. That was exactly what we needed. So that in that first meeting is critically important, because they're the ones who know exactly what the objective is usually.

Robin Sargent: And is there some tips that you have about setting the tone from the very beginning with that first meeting with your stakeholders, stakeholders, if you will? What are some of your tips for that?

Melanie Eakin: Well, I have a few. And a lot of that I actually pull from my sales background. And from my coaching background, I'm also a certified professional coach. And it's, it's really, in that initial stakeholder meeting, not only are you trying to understand what they want to accomplish, but you also want to understand kind of what their expectations and preferences are, in how you work with them. So, you know, I go back to asking just, how would you like me to contact you? How often do you want to be contacted? Do they do better with impromptu contact? Or would they prefer to have something scheduled for, you know, the different check ins and milestones, everybody has different preferences and different corporate environments are, they're going to vary across the board, you're going to find some that are really meeting heavy, and it's hard to get time with that stakeholder. And then you'll find others that are really accommodating. So that's why on the on the front end, I like to have that conversation about how can we work as seamlessly and implicitly as possible together as effectively as possible together.

Robin Sargent: Right. And a lot of times, you also have to get approval from your stakeholders, as far as your timelines go?

Melanie Eakin: Yes, that's an important part of the process. Because as you are creating an initial Statement of Work and putting that in and creating your timeline, and milestones, and all of that, they're going to give you your end date, and you're just going to be most likely working back from them. And then understanding how they want to work with you, and what their availability and kind of how all of that works, it's going to help you design a timeline, that's going to be something that they can meet you in the middle with. Instead of it makes no sense to have a timeline that has all these rigid checkpoints in meetings, if you're dealing with a stakeholder who has extremely limited available availability, and they really function better off of, you know, emails with fewer meetings. So those are the types of things that you want to take into consideration.

Robin Sargent: That's excellent. And so also, stakeholders are also kind of the people who set a lot of the boundaries as far as resources. And just like you've already mentioned, time, but even budget to I've found.

Melanie Eakin: Absolutely, they will be the ones giving you your budget, they'll be the ones either authorized to sign off on the budget, or doing the legwork behind the scenes in their corporate environment, getting the approvals to execute that budget.

Robin Sargent: So we kind of already touched on this a little bit about the first meeting, but what are some of the things that instructional designers and elearning developers can do when they need to interact with the stakeholders after that first meeting? What are some like best practices you found?

Melanie Eakin: I would say, you know, definitely honor the communication preferences that they have shared with you. That's a great way right off the bat to indicate that you were listening. And then beyond that, just making sure that you know communication is concise, and very clear and crisp, so that it's something that they can read easily. A lot of times, you know, your stakeholders are jumping in multiple projects, they may actually be leading a couple that have been very busy. So it needs to be easy for them to respond to you and to interact with you as much as possible. And the other big thing is just the expectation setting in that first meeting on that level of frequency. But after that, as long as you are, are honoring what you guys were agreeing agreed to, I would also recommend potentially checking back in, you know, agreeing that, hey, I'm gonna follow up with you midway through and just make sure that this path of communication is, is still working for you. Just having an open door communication policy with that client so that you're fully accessible.

Robin Sargent: These are all good tips and information. And so also, whenever you're usually talking to stakeholders, in my experience, you're bringing them some kind of piece of the project, right? So you're bringing them either like, this is what our outline looks like. This is what our full scripts look like. This is what a storyboard looks like, how much have, you know, involvement is something that you prefer? I know from the instructional designer point of view, we want, you know, check offs at every single stage, because it sucks to get to the end. And then you have to rework the whole training plan.

Melanie Eakin: Right, right. Yeah, one of the things to help avoid that a question that sometimes people don't think to ask, it's really important to ask, who else are you going to be sharing this with? Who else are you going to be getting input from? Because this is also true in sales, you do need to know how many hoops you're going to have to jump through in order to get to a signature, whether it's on the statement of work, or you know, the check to pay you. So understanding that's an important part of the process as well.

Robin Sargent: That's right, because sometimes you'll think that you're only needing to share it with one stakeholder. And then you find out later down the path that, oh, I also need to get, you know, this other VP to agree with me that this can move forward. And then you've hit, you've ran into a new stakeholder that you didn't expect to be on the project. And, and now they've come to you with all these questions.

Melanie Eakin: Right. But if you understand that up on the front end, you can build it into your timeline to where you know, to build in enough time for two people to give reviews. And it also gives you the opportunity, if it makes sense in that particular situation to reach out to that kind of secondary stakeholder provided your primary stakeholder has given you. I guess the okay to do that you obviously want to be conscious of those relationships and boundaries and not go over them unnecessarily. But it that's certainly a real possibility that you may need to actually engage with them to almost as like a secondary stakeholder.

Robin Sargent: Now, I remember when I first started out, and I got my first job where I interact with stakeholders, right, because my first couple of instructional design jobs, it wasn't really me meeting with like the C suite or VPS, or having like a series of stakeholders, it was just like, the director of the Learning Development Department, he had to approve. But then when I moved into the role, where, you know, I'm the director, and so now I have to get the buy in from the C level executives and the VPs, I found myself in a new position where they had a lot of demands, and requests about turning training around and 35 business days, even though it's 14 modules and so on. And I found myself just saying yes, without knowing how to push back, or how to justify, like, why that was insane. And so what are some of the things that, you know, on the other side of the table, you know, just from the instructional designer point of view, when working with those stakeholders, and just maybe like, not feeling the fear, and but how can they work with them and, and have a real open dialogue without being intimidated by their position and, and then also, you know, your role as an instructional designer.

Melanie Eakin: So you're probably going to laugh, we're not be surprised, but I'm going back to that first conversation that we have, where we're setting expectations and deciding how we want to work together. And I think that's where you can start to define some of those boundaries and, and establish exactly what they want happen and set their expectation because they don't, a lot of times, folks in a stakeholder position, don't understand and sometimes, no offense, they don't care how it gets developed in the process that an instructional designer is following. They just want to make sure that they get a completed training project that's going to meet their objectives in the time that they needed it on a budget that they agreed to, and that it's effective and it does what it was supposed to. It does really just go back to the beginning in being be able to explain as much as they're willing to hear of what you'll need from them. And again, going back to the communication, style of the emails, just making it as concise and clear as you can in that conversation. Don't be intimidated, be confident and position, your process and what you're going to need from them as being for them to aid in the success of their project to ensure their satisfaction. And a lot of times, I find that when they understand why you need that from them, there's less likely to be push back or they're not meeting because they already know why it's important. And they understand the consequence of it. So that's the other piece, not only do they need to understand what they're willing to hear about the process and what that means for them, but the consequence of not getting something back to you when they had agreed upon that, that does put you behind that you can't always make up that extra time and still deliver the quality of work that you're committed to delivering for them.

Robin Sargent: And I've also had experience with stakeholders where they say, we don't want this to take, you know, months to build, we just want you to build a series of PowerPoints and roll it out via webinar.

Melanie Eakin: Oh, Lord, yes, we, we certainly do come across that sometimes, don't we? And the challenge with that sometimes is not judging, and not holding it against them that that's what they need that, you know, they're willing to pay for that. And if that's what they want, and what works for their organization, we are somewhat obligated to deliver, you know, are very obligated, what they want, and what works for their organization, we are somewhat obligated to deliver, you know, are very obligated, probably, for exactly what it is that they asked for. Gosh, that's a hard one, though. Because I'm judgy. I'm super judgmental about that. Like, why would you do it that way when you could just, you could do such a better job. And it's not actually take more time. But the fact is a lot of businesses right now and especially in my experience sales organizations, they just move at a breakneck speed. And yeah, they sometimes you have to get things out quick and dirty, depending on and that's probably not language you want to use on your podcast.

Robin Sargent: No, it's fine. We're all adults.

Melanie Eakin: Yeah, no, I mean, sometimes quick and dirty, is what you got to do. And I don't even know what to say other than just try not to judge yourself too harshly. And the main thing to judge yourself on is, is the client happy with what they got? Does it meet their needs?

Robin Sargent: Well, it's just such a different perspective from an instructional designer, because we think about well, what's the point of getting it out quickly, if nobody's going to remember what you had to say, or pay attention to your webinar, or like change the behaviors or implement the new tasks that you've decided that they need to learn and accomplish in their role?

Melanie Eakin: Yeah, and that's symptomatic of a check the box mentality, that is not uncommon in companies where the learning and development function is still being kind of built out, so to speak. So because that's in those cases, that's how they're used to getting by, too, is just, hey, we did it ourselves. And this work just fine. It got it done. It's unfortunate, they just don't know how much better it could be with, in some ways, less effort on their part, and maybe an extra day or two.

Robin Sargent: So what if they wanted to have that conversation, what they felt comfortable with their stakeholders, and they wanted to present something that might take a little more time, but would deliver better results? What are kind of some tips that you would give about opening that conversation up instead of just being an order taker?

Melanie Eakin: Oh, goodness, since I've worked so closely with sellers, now, this is super fresh, because we talk about this in a way that they sell with clients, and it's really don't hate me, it's that first meeting, it's getting those objectives. And when you want to relate a better approach, being able to relate what you're recommending, instead of what they're asking for back to their objectives. Same thing with the reasons why perhaps what they're asking for might not actually meet their objectives. It's really about helping them actually come to the conclusion on their own in some ways, that oh, wait, maybe that isn't the best route. So asking powerful questions on the front end, like you would hopefully do anyways, which is, you know, let's say that we have delivered your training project, everybody's taken the training, they all know exactly what you needed them to know. How did we get there? And let them you know, how did that happen? Let them tell you some of those things. Because if especially if they're telling you from like a perfect world standpoint, chances are they're going to sell themselves on whatever your recommendations are going to be because you've already taken them down that path.

Robin Sargent: Yeah, that's right. And some I just found in my own personal experience, a lot of the things that worked for me is, first of all, but even before the first meeting is looking at that training intake form, or that email that initiated the conversation, and really kind of doing some legwork, and some homework before you even get to that first meeting, because you don't know like, exactly what they're going to throw at you at that first meeting about, oh, well, we just want it to be, you know, we want it to be turned around next week, or whatever kind of expectations they are going to have. And so you almost need to have a plan and a justification. But you don't want to present that at first. Instead, what exactly right, it said, when they say, oh, I want, you know, this set and the other and I want it done next week, you say, oh, yeah, you know, I can understand your need for this to be done quickly. And I see where you're coming from. And in my experience, I've actually done something like that before. And this is what the result was. And so sometimes, if you can just tell them? Well, what what that will look like if you follow down that path, just kind of like what you said, Melanie, but like even more strategically, just let them follow out the you know, the conclusion of their logic. And then that's also another way of just like letting it be their idea. But then also, like you said, sometimes not worth the fight. I mean, that's what you want, but that's what you're gonna get.

Melanie Eakin: It's a hard call. I mean, it's because do you want to turn money away? Because they are asking you to build them something that might not work? I mean, it's, it kind of goes back to just building your own business in general, you know, if I want to pay you to give me something that, you know, may not work for me, but I'm satisfied, it's gonna meet my needs. I'm gonna love it. Who are you to say that? I can't have that?

Robin Sargent: Yeah, well you know, people have certain ideas and needs, and we all come to the table with like, preconceptions about, especially, you know, training and learning and development. And even like how long that process takes, right? A lot of people think, Oh, you're just gonna put PowerPoints together? Like, why is that going to take so long? I can whip one of those out real quick.

Melanie Eakin: Oh, god, yeah, I cannot. I cannot stand when people do that. But, but true, it happens. It does. And the important thing to remember in those cases, myself included, needing to remember this is that, that that's not personal. That's perception, and has nothing to do with you. So definitely don't let stuff like that offend you. Robin, like you said, you know, obviously, that intake form is the best resource to start with. And that's going to help you drive what questions you might want to ask them to dig deeper into what it is they're trying to accomplish, which is going to in turn give you one more information to create a better plan for how you're going to deliver what they want, but also starts to build that that bank of reasons why the client should consider to be an alternative option that you want to present to them, if you think that's the right course, to continue pressing forward with.

Robin Sargent: And since you brought it up, what do you think are some of the best questions that, you know instructional designers can come to stakeholder meeting with like, just like general questions, because we want to give them something, you know, actionable that they can take away?

Melanie Eakin: So I think understanding that organization, whoever the end user is going to be receiving the training, understanding as much as possible about that. So just even asking, starting with a broad question, what can you tell me about your intended audience and serve their name here? I think that's a great starting point, open ended questions in general are going to be very helpful, not only in getting the information that you need from the client, so that you can prepare your project and your plan accordingly, but also just in establishing the rapport and kind of building the foundation of the relationship with the client, where they're comfortable talking with you, ultimately asking questions about what the perfect outcome might be for them. At the conclusion of this training, I think that's another great one. It's, it's so broad that they really, they have to think and hopefully you're going to give you what's going to be the most important and sometimes they'll give you something that's as simple as we just want to sell 15% more of this particular product by increasing the sales skills our people have around it. So I think questions about that.

Robin Sargent: Yeah, budget, timeline...

Melanie Eakin: Budget timeline, any perceived risks to the timeline, you know, sometimes as a stakeholder, you know that the day Eight you're pushing for the training is like your stretch date, like that's the, the latest or the soonest that you could possibly get it done. And that's when they want it. But sometimes there's a risk that, hey, it's actually not going to deploy until a week after that. So just fully understanding the different factors of the timeline.

Robin Sargent: Right, because there's a, there's a timeline where like, you might think, Oh, it has to be done on this date. But what you have to include in your timeline is not just like when it's supposed to be done. But you have to include the stakeholder approvals, maybe all the reviews, yeah, maybe you need to put it in front of some, like beta learners to make sure that like, it's effective, or like there's, you know, do some kind of QA on your course and training before you actually roll it out. And then you got to market your course, like, you know, like you're a marketing agency to get them to be interested in it in the first and that could take another week.

Melanie Eakin: Yeah. And that's another great point. Because, you know, part of the questions that that do need to be asked, Is this something that's going to be delivered, you know, on an ongoing basis? Or is this just a one time initiative, we're just pushing it out and getting it done? Honestly, when you think about the business world and generating revenue for an instructional designer, I'd want to know, what type of updates might you guys need to this? Because that could be potentially repeat business or small edit work, you know, that could also continue to contribute to your bottom line as an instructional designer?

Robin Sargent: Yeah. And it's also important to ask that question, is this going to need to be updated regularly, because you will build a course differently? If you know that there's going to have to be changes to the core material, then if it's just going to be like a foundational course or module or program? Those builds are very different. So that's a good point, too.

Melanie Eakin: Yeah, well, you've probably talked about this to the other one, that you just made me think of how many different audiences will be utilizing this training? And are there any variations that are going to be necessary in the training to accommodate each audience, because you throw that in with ongoing updates, plus across multiple audiences, and, and that's a lot of work in your future, which is a good thing.

Robin Sargent: Right. And, you know, a lot of who we are talking about are not even people who are freelancers. But they are, you know, they have a corporate training job. And so what I really like about what you've, you kind of switch from saying stakeholder to client, but even if you're inside a company, and you're working for that company, and then your stakeholders are in within your own organization, that you should absolutely treat them as if they were your clients. And so I really like how you slipped back and forth between stakeholder and client.

Melanie Eakin: Thank you for calling that out. So definitely use both interchangeably. You'll also hear me sometimes refer to them as partners too, because it truly is a partnership between you and the stakeholder and the project champion, and the subject matter expert. They're all important parts to the successful execution of any project.

Robin Sargent: And there's one more thing I want to touch on before we get to our last part of our of our episode, and that is, there are there are some times when as an instructional designer, you have you thought you asked all the right questions, you thought you got reviews, and you know, you've passed a couple of the reviews and the checkbook, the checkmarks, or whatever, and the milestones, and then you get to the part where they see, maybe it's like, maybe you're building an elearning course, right? And they see what you have built, and they come back with a lot of feedback. They don't like these graphics, they don't like your color scheme. They don't like whatever it is, I mean, it could even be something you know, if something major, right, like, oh, you totally missed it here. What are just, I mean from your coat, put on your coach's hat, but also like as a stakeholder and then, you know, we've you've been in the Learning Development Department, we're kind of some things that you would tell somebody who's received some feedback that is, you know, that feels negative and critical. How, what's some of the best things they could think about? Or how they can respond? Or what's your advice for that?

Melanie Eakin: I think remembering that it's not personal, it's perspective. You know, they see things your client, your stakeholders, they're gonna see things a certain way, they're gonna have a vision for the project and you like you pointed out, you can do an excellent job of capturing all that information and feel like you really have a good handle on it and come back, and then you spend all that time putting it together, you're probably a little attached to the work, the work that you've done. So, you know, being able to detach yourself from the work and know that it's, you know, it's not personal to you. It's doesn't meet the needs of that client. I think that's the first big step. Because once we kind of let go of our own ego, and stop looking at critical feedback as criticism of our person, it makes it a lot easier to just focus on what the client is saying, and digging into the business of making the edits or having some healthy discussion with the client on, you know, okay, great, tell me, help me understand where you're coming from there. And, you know, asking for more context. And just, I think at that point, once, once you can remove the attachment from that criticism and actually hear it for what it is, you've just got to remember, it's a business decision. They are they, they want a certain outcome with the project, and like any customer, and our client and somebody providing a service, it's, it's our responsibility as that service provider to, to meet those needs of our clients, without letting ourselves fit without a bunch of attitude, or, God forbid tears or, or anything like that happening in that exchange.

Robin Sargent: Yeah, that's absolutely right. And, you know, and I've had experience where it like, you brought up tears, and you brought up attitude, and I've seen it happen. And I've even, you know, in, in the beginning, felt it in my own, you know, like my face get read, you know, why do you spend all this time creating something, and then you hear that they want to change everything that you've done. And what it really like, you know, why we bring up, you know, stakeholder meetings, and how important the review process is, is that a lot of what came up as far as the criticisms one could have been avoided, if I would have done some kind of prototyping, or like graphic design, or sometimes they give like, here's a and b option, as far as the design, aesthetics go, and they'll like, build out a slide for them, or something like that, or some interactions. One that could have like, helped, but to, it was like, in the actual meeting, when you hear it, just take feedback as a gift. And that took me a little bit to get. And so if you can learn that early as an instructional designer, that feedback truly is a gift. And it's not personal, and you're only going to make the learning better. And you're only gonna make the client happier. If you can just take it as a gift and just say, Aha, and even if you disagree, even if you decide not to make those changes, right, say it's like the timeline is too short. And it'd be crazy to go back and switch out all the graphics or whatever, even if you're not going to make the changes. Just acknowledge what they've said. And say yes, okay. Great. Thank you so much for that, seriously, just acknowledge it and just take it and no tears, and no attitude. That is excellent.

Melanie Eakin: I'm glad. Yeah. I mean, that's kind of straightforward. And I feel like obvious. But you know, one of the other things that you made me think of right there and don't laugh, but yeah, that first conversation that you're having that with that stakeholder, you could go ahead and say, Hey, throughout this process, you know, we may have, you know, a difference in how we see things, how open are you to hearing, you know, why I might be making a recommendation over or something you're requesting, are you open at all to hearing that, and that way, you know, right up front, whether or not that's, you know, a conversation you're going to have to have, and they also are prepared, that you could have those conversations. So that's another way to address you know, the, if you disagree with your stakeholder, if you've addressed how you guys might disagree as you work together, when you're setting expectations and kind of designing how you'll work together, that can make that whole experience a whole lot easier to navigate, as well.

Robin Sargent: Melanie, this is time for our final and best tips about working with stakeholders. So just think about, like when you've had the best experience with, you know, Instructional Designer, training developer, whatever you want to call them. Think about that experience and tell our listeners, what are those things that that instructional designer did that made it fantastic, easy to work with them, and then they produce great results.

Melanie Eakin: And the communication was, that was one of the things and one of the best experiences that I've had clear communication was a critical factor in that like I always knew what was next what was due when. And I also knew who else involved maybe didn't get what they needed. And so in the example I am thinking of I was both the stakeholder and acting champion as well and just having off for us we had a very tight timeline, so we'd agreed early on that we were going to connecting on essentially a daily basis. Because there were so many people involved in the review process. And every day like I had my email I knew who had seen it, who had signed off and who was looking at it, and, and when we'd anticipate getting feedback from each person, and then also just sticking to the schedule, and being proactive in identifying risks, and hold up, they spotted an opportunity to add additional content, or additional point around a certain topic. And we found out about it in time in order to actually make that change without drastic impacts to the development timeline. Because thankfully, it was a small addition, I think, really, it's, it's the communication, the clarity, and then also having kind of clean and easy to use resources through it. Throughout the process.

Robin Sargent: Yeah, talk more about those resources, what kind of resources I've seen, that really helped move things along and made things clearer and your role clear.

Melanie Eakin: I think a lot of times, it was just it was the layout of the way that they were communicating, you know, I would get emails that had, like a table showing, like, things that were completed were dark, but you could still see what they were it was just very aesthetically invisible. To read, because if you think back to what we talked about earlier, in terms of stakeholders, what they're juggling a ton of different things. In a lot of cases, there's a lot of people sending them emails and, and reaching out to them. And so the easier it is for them to tune in to what you're sharing, see what they need to see and, and understand what it is that you need from them if you need something at that point in time, so that they can act on it and deliver it and move on to the next thing that they have on their plate for the next meeting, the better it is. Because it's easier for your clients to do business with you and to work with you. And ultimately, it's about creating strong communication, and making it easy to work with you.

Robin Sargent: These are all excellent tips, Melanie. And I just like want to say the last thing, which is yes, make it easy for your stakeholders to work with you. So don't send emails that like have a big long set of questions where it is a burden, a burden for them to answer your email, just like even in like the online marketing world, just give them a quick ask a one a one button thing that they can push, include a poll in your email include just like, oh, one question at a time. And that will get you a lot further than sending everything to them all at once and expecting your stakeholder to keep up with their with the project timeline. That's your job.

Melanie Eakin: Right. Well, and also, if you've had a productive initial meeting, you've hopefully also established how frequently do they want to meet? or under what situations would they say a meeting was probably better than trying to do it via email. Because they may say if you have you know, 20 questions you need to ask us about something, let's just put a 30 minute meeting on the calendar and get it done. Or maybe there's already a weekly check in. And they may want you to hold certain things until you get to that weekly project check in.

Robin Sargent: That's perfect. This has been so good. Melanie, I know that everybody's going to find huge amount of value of just like hearing from an actual stakeholder in the corporate environment, what's kind of expected and how they are their clients really, whenever they are producing training. Yes, we always see it's the learner. But there are other people like the stakeholders and the account champions, or the project champions who hold the purse strings and the timeline and the resources. And these people are important to us.

Melanie Eakin: Absolutely. I would argue that possibly the people holding your purse strings are maybe the most important all digital learner is absolutely very close.

Robin Sargent: Thank you so much for joining me, Melanie. I really, really, really appreciate you.

Melanie Eakin: You are so welcome Robin. It's been wonderful catching up with you and hopefully sharing some useful knowledge with your learners.

 

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