Sponsorship Matters

In a recent LinkedIn survey of change management professionals, over 71% indicated that the top contributing factor to successful change initiatives is “active and engaged sponsoring: committed, consistent, and positively supporting and impacting progress”.  ( 1)

No change, whether transformational or incremental, happens without support, and pivotal to that support is sponsorship and change leadership. This is a fact of life, regardless of environment or organization. In our collective experience at Orion Advisory, sponsorship is make-or-break for real change.

Sponsors are essential to the beginning of an effort. They help determine the “vision” and think through the particular challenges and pitfalls that may arise with it. They constitute teams and secure resources to allow the work to get off the ground while simultaneously ensuring sufficient coverage to attend to the normal day to day operations of the organization.

As change efforts unfold, Sponsors are there to help ensure the team remains an open venue where ideas are freely exchanged. The Sponsor also protects the team by being an advocate of their work and an apostle of the achievements toward achieving the vision. As achievements yield results, Sponsors are the leaders of recognition and celebration with the team.

You may know from your own experience that it takes time to do the work of sponsorship along with all the other activities that comprise a leader's day to day life at work. Our experience has been that sponsoring is a learned activity. What’s more, simply being in a position of leadership does not automatically translate to being an effective Sponsor. The work of sponsorship involves leadership and leading, but people have to learn how to do it. Just because someone may be a leader in an area doesn’t mean they are a “natural” and can effectively sponsor teams.

Yet, even in environments where people have some experience working on teams and projects that are “sponsored,” the actual work of sponsoring is not generally taught, especially in healthcare, and can look daunting at the outset. But with practice, sponsoring can become second nature. Most often, it is a skill that is learned like any other, and with coaching, sponsoring can not only become integrated into one’s work, but also be a “source of joy,” as is often shared by Sponsors. No one is born a great Sponsor.

Good Sponsors realize that sponsorship is a part of their job as leaders. But it takes time to learn how to become a Sponsor and more time to do the work of sponsoring—along with any and all of the other activities that comprise someone’s daily job.

We will follow this with additional insights on sponsorship and leadership over the next several weeks.

(1) Change is good change factor survey results. 10/24/2013 LinkedIn

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