Helping Stakeholders Make Useful Requests

At points in your L&D career, you'll get requests that are – to put it nicely – less than helpful.

They could be too broad:

"We need to boost sales!"


"Can you help us with compliance?”

On the other hand, they might be extremely specific:

"We need a 1-day training course for all frontline managers!"


"Can you find a library of off-the-shelf leadership training that includes courses on having difficult conversations with employees and empathy?”

In these situations it is helpful to pause, take a step back, and work with your stakeholders to create a clear and useful request so everyone understands what the business needs to achieve.

1. Create a problem / opportunity statement

Depending on how you work, you may frame your projects in terms of problems to solve or opportunities to be realized. Either way, it is important to define and agree on what the problems or opportunities are.

You can do this by asking questions like:

  • What are the issues?
  • Why are you making this request?
  • What happens if nothing is done?
  • Who else is talking about this?
  • How will this make things better?

2. Identify the needs behind the request

If you understand the needs behind the request, you better understand the context. It's like discovering the backstory of the request.

You can do this by asking questions like:

  • What is driving the request?
  • Who is being affected?
  • What assets, costs, products, services and infrastructure is being affected?

Work with your stakeholders to figure out all the factors contributing to this point.

3. Define the intended results

Now that you’ve identified the current state, you need to work out what you want to happen –  what the desired future state is.

You can do this by asking questions like: 

  • If we solve this problem or realize this opportunity, what will happen?
  • Who will benefit?
  • What will change?

Don't be afraid to ask questions

Of course, this isn't all the up-front work you need to do on a project. However, going through these steps will help your stakeholder better understand what they want to achieve and will create a shared understanding that will be incredibly helpful throughout the project life cycle. It will make all your following meetings easier, give you a story to onboard team members with, and leave little doubt to what the actual aims and reasons for the project are.

Read the room

Adapt your approach to the situation and the people you're dealing with. What you say and how you say it are incredibly important. Be mindful of your tone, your words, and the timing of your questions.

Create a moment where the stakeholders feel safe and comfortable. Emphasize that you're not questioning their work or ideas, you are asking questions to better understand their request and create a common language between you.

Also, make it clear that things change. When you delve into a discovery and analysis phase, you may discover more information that changes what was discussed.

Remember, you're all on the same team

It's in everyone's best interests to have a mutual understanding of a project: the problems, opportunities, needs, and goals. It'll help you all work better together and get better results for your organization.

Blog thumbnail photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya

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Find more articles in related categories:
A stakeholder is a person who has an investment in or will be impacted by something. For example, a client is a stakeholder in your project.
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Off-the-shelf content
Off-the-shelf content refers to ready-made, immediately available learning experiences.
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Compliance training
Compliance training is the process of making sure employees understand the laws, regulations, and processes that apply to their roles and govern their organization.
See more ->
A course is a unit of learning.
See more ->
In business, a goal is a target or accomplishment an organization sets out to achieve in the short or long term.
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