In the past I’ve written about the importance of identifying and managing stakeholders. However, a key player in the deployment of telework, or any large cross-functional initiative for that matter, is the champion or executive sponsor. Some champions are assigned sponsorship from higher management while others volunteer. Regardless, you should know what the role of champion is, why it’s so important, and the responsibilities of a champion.
What does a telework champion do? A champion’s main responsibilities can be described by the following 6 things:
- Communicate the Case. Although the business case for telework may be a collective effort, the champion or sponsor is the chief evangelist or face of the initiative. The champion should emphasize the risks of maintaining the status quo, highlight opportunities, paint a compelling picture of the future state, and link the initiative to the business strategy to make it relevant for the organization.
- Set Expectations. Champions play a critical role in ensuring stakeholders are aligned and driving closure for any gaps in support. The champion should reiterate the need to achieve the desired results and communicate the high level metrics that will be used to measure results.
- Lead by Example. A good champion doesn’t let others simply opt out. The champion leads the way by demonstrating desired behaviors. When necessary, the champion makes visible sacrifices for initiative success and clearly shows that telework is a high priority. Sponsorship is not delegated down to lower levels; the champion legitimizes the change through personal influence.
- Reward the Right Behavior. The champion has the power to influence behavior by positively recognizing and rewarding desired behavior changes. Communicating successes across the organization will also help create needed momentum. Conversely, the champion can visibly provide consequences for behaviors that do not support the change.
- Resolving Conflict. As telework coordinators or program managers advocate and drive the move to the virtual office environment, challenges will always arise. The champion is the person they go to for help, whether it is dealing with difficult stakeholders, clarity on organizational priorities, or resolving budgetary gaps.
- Mitigating Risk. The champion should proactively understand how the initiative impacts other areas within the organization. Risks should be identified and the champion should anticipate the disruption to organization in relation to the needed changes. The champion can reach out to other organizational leaders to counter any resistance or work through challenges.
If you are currently a telework champion in your organization, ask yourself honestly if you can fulfill the requirements above. If you are trying to drive telework in your organization, do you have the right champion? As part of your deployment strategy, don’t overlook the importance of getting the right champion in place and ensuring adequate sponsorship.