When we survey Change Management Office leads and change practitioners we hear quite frequently that good, effective sponsorship is rare. When we check in with sponsors we hear that they are not sure ‘what else’ they can do - in addition to securing resources, mediating a conversation here and there, and delivering presentations - to help change efforts.

Sponsors can be the catalysts for desirable behaviours, not only once the change is implemented, but all the way along the path to the future. Instead of defined tables of behaviours, values posters and other frameworks, we want to make the connection between self-leadership/self-management and a successful change journey for all.

With roughly half of all change efforts still failing to deliver on their promised benefits we need to really wrap our thinking around the how of ‘people change’. Change practitioners have many examples of people not wanting to engage with change because they do not want to experience failure; the lack of engagement is in fact a failure point. This is the sponsor’s opportunity for demonstrating change leadership and triggering a viral network effect in the organization,  promoting self-leadership (and self-management).

It sounds simple. In reality it is about culture change, universal culture change, woven through the change initiative’s life cycle.

Where to start in a drive for effective sponsorship

Where to start working with and coaching sponsors, laying out action plans for them:

1. The Stakeholder Map

The stakeholder map and any intel on readiness for change at functional leader level. Are there any leaders who are trying to obstruct the change, or who take the stance that their people will be allowed to get involved when the change becomes a reality?  This requires a crucial conversation.

2. The Case for Change

The case for change and change story comprises elements beyond technology advances and fresh processes. Is there data (and insights) from employee surveys that can be used as a catalyst for the sponsors to play a role preparing people leaders?

Sponsors partner with people leaders to make expectations explicit and individual accountability clear so that:

  • Every single person impacted by change can make a difference to the overall outcome of the change, no-one is insignificant (individual value adds up to the significant value of the whole community)
  • Each individual must take responsibility for understanding the change and for being change ready, by taking the training, speaking up or giving feedback to help the change team or the people leaders (individual contribution adds energy, velocity and stability to the whole community).

3. The Change Plan

The change plan and rollout road map is designed to ensure that the change experience is positive and drives towards the desired future. Is the roadmap highly prescriptive or can sponsors reassure other leaders that freedom in a framework is an acceptable approach?

  • Sponsors support the road map by holding space for key players to choose to execute certain actions in the ways that they see fit, this helping self-leadership gain momentum

Many organizations need a shift of paradigm. They need to step out of old thinking, where only the top leaders ‘know best’, which may include those who take on the sponsor role. Instead organizations need to work from a strong social constructive understanding where everybody equally co-creates the future, with a base or anchor for the success of the whole in every person’s own position or role.

The gold standard of CMO sponsorship

We want sponsors who are open to learning new ways and who demonstrate what is at the heart of self-leadership, deciding to act not for themselves but for the greater good, no matter how tough that challenge may be.

If you look at Danish and international research, Self Leaders need to focus on five core commitments to succeed:

  • Contribute to the greater good,
  • Focus on co-succeeding with others in the organization,
  • Co-create from the perspective of the common vision,
  • Innovate and share their hopes, ideas and dreams,
  • Co-thriving and being a part of a community.

This is a model of commitments we want to see in sponsors everywhere. We believe sponsors need to be able to act individually yet in the interest of the whole. They also need to be able to work in situations that require co-creation and collaboration across levels and boundaries. A sponsor should do much more than tell the story of the change, they should be seen to be living the story of change.

What next?

We held a Round Table discussion for enterprise change leaders to share ideas and experiences of driving effective sponsorship. If you’d like a copy of the summary of the discussion please contact info@issoriachange.com