We all have senior stakeholders – the managers and leaders who have a say in your career and how well you’re doing. Some are wonderful and supportive while others can be challenging.

Either way, you need to gain their respect so you can get the recognition, opportunities and fulfillment you want at work.

The question is, how do you do that?

When it comes to gaining respect, not all stakeholders are alike

Some things are universal for gaining respect – like competence, trustworthiness and delivering results. But beyond that, each stakeholder has a different set of metrics for who deserves their respect. No single quality or behavior covers all the bases.

The thing you need to be aware of is what matters to specific stakeholders and what they value in others.

Armed with this knowledge, you can highlight the parts of your personal brand that will most help your relationship and reputation with key stakeholders.

Here are five types of senior stakeholders you’re likely to come across

I’ve encountered each of them in my career. And based on my interactions, I’ve discovered a few things about what they tend to respect most (more on this in a moment).

See if you recognize your stakeholders in any of these.

  1. The “Hard to Please”
  2. The Aggressor
  3. The Innovator
  4. The Impatient
  5. The Consummate Professional

Let’s start with the first type.

1. “Hard to please” stakeholders respect resourcefulness

Like one of my first bosses, Dean (not his real name) who had a reputation for being demanding and hard to work with.

Dean would give out a vague assignment like “see what you can find out about company X” and expect a two-page synthesis of their latest activities and insights on future opportunities.

If someone came back with a 12-inch-high stack of articles and financial statements (these were pre-digital days) for Dean to wade through, you could hear him shouting from the other end of the hallway.

The way to gain Dean’s respect was to be resourceful in figuring out what he really wanted and then going beyond the obvious data sources.  And if you got it wrong, it was key to show you could handle his moods without getting rattled.

Which brings us to the second type.

2. Aggressive stakeholders respect people with backbone

People who are aggressive and “hard-charging” tend to like and respect people who are similarly aggressive and hard-charging. Of course, you need to be careful not to get into an outright competition or confrontation. But what won’t get you respect is to come across as meek and quivering.

This means showing you have backbone – that you can hold your ground even in the face of being challenged. Ideally, you would have your stakeholder observe you being aggressive with third parties. Like the time I stood up to an unreasonable client demand within earshot of my most aggressive stakeholder and closed the deal on favorable terms.

There may also be times you need to show you can hold your ground with them directly. Do this sparingly and only in private. It’s like tennis – they want someone who can return the ball and keep it in play but be careful not to smash a winning shot that embarrasses them, especially in public.

This leads to the third type.

3. Innovators respect ideas and articulate communication

If your stakeholder is an innovator, they’re like to value people who appreciate thought leadership, bring ideas to the table, and can communicate ideas clearly.

With one of my innovator stakeholders, I’ve become a thinking partner who can brainstorm with them. This has led to becoming part of his inner circle and trusted to lead new initiatives.

If you go the thinking partner route, it means being present so you can listen, ‘think on your feet’ and keep up with your innovator. It also pays to spend time before meeting with them to prepare your thoughts.

If you’re not an innovator yourself, don’t worry – you can bring other ideas you’ve heard (with proper attribution) to the conversation, and help with the implementation of your stakeholder’s ideas.

Which brings us to the fourth type.

4. Impatient stakeholders respect people who get to the point

Time is the only thing we can’t get back or make more of, so if your stakeholder is impatient then it’s essential you aren’t perceived as wasting any of their time. This means getting straight to the point and not giving long explanations.

It’s like the story of a writer pitching a movie idea to a producer and asking, “how much time do we have?” and the producer answers, “take as much time as you want, but just be done before I am.”

A sure sign you aren’t getting to the point is if you find yourself being interrupted by your stakeholder. To gain (or regain) their respect, learn to get to the point, avoid lengthy explanations and produce results quickly.

This brings us to the fifth type.

5. Consummate professionals respect people who are “smooth” in tricky situations

A former CEO who joined my non-profit advisory board is someone I think of as the consummate professional – someone who acts with integrity, keeps his word and achieves the desired outcome without ruffling feathers. All while making it look effortless.

It was when he wrote a letter of recommendation that I discovered what he respects most. And that’s someone who’s not only humble, self-aware and grounded, but also “smooth” in tricky situations.

“Smooth” means being able to handle difficult people and public challenges in a group setting without batting an eye and have it turn out well. Being able to command respect in a room, whether that’s with peers, clients or seniors.

Said another way, consummate professionals respect other consummate professionals.

Your stakeholders may fall into more than one category

What matters is being aware of what each person values because this gives clues as to what they respect most. And when in doubt, remember that people generally like and respect others who are like them.

This doesn’t mean you need to become a “mini-me” of your stakeholders. Frankly it’s impossible when there are many different kinds of stakeholders.

This also doesn’t mean you need to put on an act or twist yourself into a pretzel just to “please” stakeholders.

Instead, it’s about focusing on the part of your own personal brand that will most resonate with each stakeholder and bringing that part of you to the forefront. Just like having a variety of clothes in your closet but wearing the outfit that’s most appropriate to the situation.

Which kind of stakeholder do you come across most often at work?

And what could you do to gain their respect?

  • The “Hard to Please”
  • The Aggressor
  • The Innovator
  • The Impatient
  • The Consummate Professional

Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

Recommended Resource

How to Build Key Relationships to Take Your Career to the Next Level

Relationships are at the heart of being successful at work and in your career. They are a magnetic force that attracts people to you so you can get things done, be seen and respected, and move forward to higher levels in your career.

However, certain relationships are harder to build than others – usually the ones that matter most to us professionally so we’re under pressure to get it right.

In this Career Mastery workshop, you’ll discover concrete steps you can take to make it easier to build those key relationships successfully, and take the anxiety out of the process.

You’ll discover:

  • Who you need to build relationships with
  • Strategies for how to build those relationships
  • Action plan for building your most important relationship right now
  • And more

Get instant access to this Career Mastery workshop