Zuma teaches Stakeholder Engagement

The Beeld newspaper’s headline today reported that ANC president, Jacob Zuma met yesterday with a number of Afrikaans stakeholder groups to discuss a a variety of issues(‘Zuma bekoor Afrikaners’)

Apparently many of the groups said that the meeting was very positive and was a new start for an Afrikaner/ANC relationship.

This is fine, but there is also a danger that meetings like these can be misinterpreted, just before an upcoming election. Why now?

Be that as it may. Engaging with stakeholders even when done late, is a positive step by any leader. Mr Zuma said that dialogue with the Afrikaner was important because they play a valuable role in society. It looks like I should get Mr Zuma to come and lecture in my Stakeholder Reputation Master Class.

At least the ANC recognize that a country are more likely to get desired performance when everyone has a common shared set of beliefs. Beliefs are assumptions or convictions that a person holds to be true regarding people, concepts, or things. And often these beliefs can be clouded when there is not adequate dialogue.

Talking to the Afrikaner is a positive step if a ruling party wants to adopt values of openness and respect and recognition which it applies to all of its citizens.

I liked that the article said that they spoke. One of the most important stakeholder tools is dialogue. Note: I said dialogue and not lecture. Lecturing is defined as a prepared formal talk given to an audience for the purpose of instruction. Dialogue is a conversation between two or more persons.

Engaging in a two-way conversation is a means where you have a chance of finding out what a person really believes about an issue. Other forms of communication, such as information (emails, lectures, surveys, etc.) and imitation (training, three-way communication), are important and essential parts of business activity. However, they do not generally facilitate bringing stakeholders ‘ actual beliefs into the open.

You need face-to-face interaction, a tool not too many leaders feel comfortable using. Yet, by encouraging dialogue with stakeholders, you’ll often get answers and solutions to some of your country’s problems.

"Research shows that the major weakness in organizations and countries is communication" — The Conference Board of Canada once reported.

The key is that a process of dialogue has begun. A country that wants to be successful needs to look closely at inclusiveness of all stakeholders demands and expectations. This process is a difficult one but by asking the stakeholder why he/she feels the way they do, lots of valuable information can come to the fore.

I just hope that all these issues are captured and recorded in a database.