Developing Sponsorship from Top to Bottom

Last week I wrote about the importance of getting the right champion or executive sponsor in place.  It’s important to note that for a telework or flexible work initiative to succeed it will need sponsorship at all levels.  Although one leader may be accountable overall, leaders throughout the organization will have to reinforce behaviors.  In other words, sponsorship is a team effort. 

Your goal should be to build committed leadership from the bottom up.  To help you, think about the various roles different parts of the organization play in the deployment of your initiative:

Champion: The Champion holds ultimate decision-making authority over the initiative, sets the direction for the initiative, is chief evangelist, ensures alignment with strategic priorities, rewards the right behavior, demonstrates commitment through personal example, and helps to manage stakeholders.

Program Manager / Initiative lead: The PM is the leader assigned to manage and lead the tactical deployment of the initiative.  The PM works closely with the program team members to drive the initiative forward , identify and mitigate risks, engages sponsors, and communicates progress to the champion.

Program Team Member:  Team members are individuals who are on the initiative team, including project managers or coordinators, subject matter experts (SMEs), change management practitioners, communication professionals, trainers, and/or others involved in the initiative

Support Sponsors: Supporting sponsors can be every leader below the champion who must understand the impact to their organization, department, or function and show sponsorship to their teams.  Similar to the champion, supporting sponsors must demonstrate the right behaviors through personal example, reinforce the right behaviors in their personnel, and ensure priorities are aligned. Supporting sponsors also ensure information is cascaded down through their teams.

Stakeholders: Stakeholders are the groups or individuals that are impacted by the initiative.  Many of these groups have formal or informal influence on the execution of the initiative.  Their buy-in and support is usually necessary, or at least you need to ensure they don’t become a detractor. 

Don’t be surprised if there is some overlap between the stakeholders and supporting sponsors.  You may need to convert some of the stakeholders into supporting sponsors.   You can use the stakeholder management matrix as a tool to develop specific individual strategies.  In general, start with the people most impacted by the initiative.  How will undergo the most change?  Target those leaders first and get them onboard.  Once you have their support it will easier to gain the support of other leaders. 

You can also map a hierarchy of how supporting sponsors link into the champion.  This may help identify any gaps and differentiate between the people that need to be supporting sponsors versus the other stakeholders.  Remember, the more support you can create, the better the odds for success.




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