The definition of the word – Stake

j0402541What is a Stakeholder?

Most course delegates say that it is someone who has an interest in you. But, that is only partially correct. Yes, they might be interested, but what are they going to do with that “interest”?

Many definitions exist with probably the one that says it best – A Stakeholder is an individual or group that can impact the organization or be impacted upon by the organization.

However, few people ever stop to define the word – stake.

Maslow said if the only thing you have is a hammer you tend to treat everything as a nail. This is why definitions to me is a vital tool in ensuring common understanding.

The word stake refers to a rational or emotional stake. Thus a stake can be financial/economic in nature(ownership), it could be an interest stake, a legal one, a moral stake, an emotional one or in the case of the media – a public interest stake i.e. the public has the right to know..

Understanding a stakeholder’s stake or positioning on an issue is vital. Just because an issue is financial in nature does not mean that it does not have emotional issues attached.

For instance when companies offer stakeholders like the community money to move away from an area where they want to mine or build a dam, they often find the resistance by the community – frustrating.

The reason – Land has memories attached to it. I was sitting on my lawn the other day, when in my mind’s eye I saw my 2 kids who are now both in their late 20’s running and playing on the lawn.

Then I realised why this lawn means so much to me. It’s the memories, the emotional connection that counts.

My advice. Think carefully about what stakes are involved in an issue. If you do not know and understand your stakeholders needs, wants, desires and expectations, you could err in making value judgements about their positioning.

Or to say it succinctly – Think twice who you are going to get into bed with.