8 Must Read Books on Stakeholder Management

This blog is reader-supported. When you purchase something through an affiliate link on this site, I may earn some coffee money. Thanks! Learn more.

There are thousands of project management books, many of which focus on the difficult issues of managing stakeholders. Here are some of the best stakeholder management books around. I’ve read them all!

1. Practical People Engagement

Buy Practical People Engagement: Leading Change Through the Power of Relationships by Patrick Mayfield, Elbereth Publishing, 2013

An easy-to-read book packed with useful, practical tips on stakeholder engagement. Patrick was the one who first introduced to me to the term ‘engagement ‘instead of ‘management’ and he’s been expert in this area for some time.

The book covers a 5-step approach for a pathway to engaging others on projects.

2. Project Communication Tools

Buy Project Management Communication Tools by William Dow & Bruce Taylor, Dow Publishing, 2015

At 700-ish pages this is a desk reference rather than a quick guide. Very detailed coverage of all the communications tools, methods and techniques available to you on projects.

Follows PMI practice and aligns with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). High level templates available in the book and downloadable versions available on the book’s website.

3. Engaging Stakeholders on Projects

Buy Engaging Stakeholders on Projects by Elizabeth Harrin, APM Books, 2020

Yes, this is my own book! It’s a supplement to the APM Body of Knowledge but more than that, it’s a huge practical book on what engagement means and how to do it.

What I wanted to achieve with it is to give you tangible things you can do on your projects to make sure you are working effectively with other people — your stakeholders. Because projects get done through other people; it’s rare that as a project manager you are leading a project with no one else doing any of the work.

We have to be able to work with others, and while some of the other books on this list provide inspiration and big picture thinking for change management and stakeholder management, my book is the helpful friend-in-your-pocket (although it is a bit big for pockets) to give you ideas of what to actually do.

4. Enchantment

Buy Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki, Portfolio Penguin, 2011

This is all about how to be so likeable, trustworthy and visionary that people will want to embrace your goals. Enchantment has lots of examples and aimed at people working with brands to engage consumers in the main, but plenty of tips you can translate to a project environment. An inspiring and enlightening read.

I really enjoyed it, and the cover image is great too. You will have to take the ideas and translate them to a project environment, as it’s unlikely if you are reading this that you are in a charge of something like a huge brand refresh as a marketing lead (but I guess you could be).

5. Message Not Received

Buy Message Not Received: Why Business Communication is Broken and How to Fix It by Phil Simon, Wiley, 2015

The main concept of Message Not Received is that business communication is too much led by jargon and we have lost the ability to actually get the message across. Sadly, I understand most of the jargon (what does that tell you about me??) but I get that other people don’t and that it impedes understanding.

Project management is so full of terminology that means sometimes the team is speaking in a totally different language to our colleagues outside the team. When you want to engage stakeholders, you have to do it using words they are actually going to understand.

I found this to be a well-researched book for prompting thinking about how we communicate with a focus on how to simplify communication and make the best use of technology.

6. The Project Managers’ Little Book of Cheats

Buy The Project Managers Little Book of Cheats by Beth Spriggs, available on Amazon

A very quick read but packed with practical tips for doing the work of project management. Beth acknowledges that there is no such thing as cheating in project management, but if there was, it would be this book.

It’s quick questions and answers with a real-world flavor to the responses based on tried-and-tested techniques.

7. Managing Project Teams

Buy Managing Project Teams: Shortcuts to Success by Elizabeth Harrin, BCS Publishing, 2013

My Shortcuts to Success book was turned into a series of smaller ebooks and this is the one on managing teams. It covers 11 short, practical ideas about how to be successful as a project leader using both formal project management techniques and less obvious ideas as well.

8. A Practical Guide to Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

Buy A Practical Guide to Dealing With Difficult Stakeholders by Jake Holloway, David Bryde & Roger Joby, Gower, 2015

This is from the Advances in Project Management Series but don’t let the boring cover put you off. It’s actually an accessible and useful read.

A Practical Guide to Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders includes case studies and anecdotes about how stakeholders have shaped (or destroyed) projects along with key tactics for dealing with difficult sponsors, team members, external clients and internal customers. If your people aren’t responding to anything you are doing, this is a good place to start!

Choose your next book

There are loads of great books out there. Reading is one thing you can claim as PDUs for PMI certifications, and professional development credits for other bodies as well, so there really is no excuse to grab yourself something to read. If the act of reading doesn’t suit you, isn’t accessible to you or you struggle to find the time, how about downloading these as ebooks?

If you are looking for some other suggestions for project management books to read, you can check these out: