Executive sponsorship to enable change!

Anyone attempting to change anything is met with a variety of reactions and responses. This happens regardless of how important the change is to your job, department, function, or company. But what if you had executive sponsorship?

Surely there will be people who will be happy and openly willing to support you and help you in any way they can. While this is crucial, it’s more important to understand that there are those who will aggressively oppose you. They may put obstacles in your way or they will be passive aggressive in their lack of support.

There can be many good reasons that you might face this type of resistance. However, it is your responsibility as a leader to take whatever steps are necessary to address these issues head-on. One technique that can help you and your business is to visibly and actively advertise and win Executive Sponsorship!

While I designed this like this Executive Sponsorship, your sponsor could be your boss, a colleague, a VP, or your President and CEO. They can have formal or informal powers. The scope of change you want to achieve will help you determine who you need on board. In addition, you may need multiple sponsors at different levels of the organization. If you are aiming for a broad, company-wide change, you certainly could use the active support of people everywhere and at all levels of the organization.

For some of the challenges I’ve had, I’ve sought sponsorship from the CEO. I’ve asked the CEO for help driving company-wide breakthroughs in inventory performance. I asked the CEO for help in driving company-wide changes in business processes. But again, it depends on the task you have in front of you.

The advantages of the Executive Sponsor!

Why is Executive Sponsorship important? What do you expect and need to do from your sponsor? Ultimately, you both have the same goal of making things better. There are many benefits your sponsor can offer to help you achieve the breakthrough results you are looking for:

Executive Sponsor

Sharing the vision and driving alignment around the goal

By aligning the problem, goal, and goals between you, your sponsor, and your organization, you have laid the foundation for consistent communication. Also, you have cemented the organizational resolve to tackle the problem, especially when the going gets tough.

Ultimately, everyone wants the company to be successful. And driving that success is at the core of what you’re trying to achieve.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

It might be a cliché, but the importance of communication cannot be overstated. A critical part of your job as a leader driving change is communicating up, down, and across the organization. Your sponsor can help immeasurably.

On one project, the CEO communicated the importance of the message throughout. It was discussed in every company telephone conference and in every works meeting. And the message was communicated in every staff meeting, on every visit to a construction site or company. There was no doubt about the importance of the task. This helped pave the way for the changes we needed to make.

influencing cultural change

If you are truly trying to achieve breakthrough results, there is a high probability that you and others must challenge sacred cows and existing paradigms. You need people who think outside the box. You need people to help EEmbrace the possibilities.

Remember that the only things you cannot change are the inevitability of death and taxes. Then it is within the realm of possibility to change anything and everything else. That’s the cultural mindset you need for breakthrough results. And your sponsor helps you set that tone.

Provision of air protection

Working hour by hour, day in, day out to drive the progress of your project, I’ve always thought it was great to have air support. It can be too easy to become distracted by demands from above and dealing with other high-level agendas, policies and priorities.

Executive sponsorship should be able to effectively filter out that noise so you can focus on the task at hand. In my experience, a firm handshake with my sponsor and my boss in providing air raid protection has gone a long way in giving me the space and time I need to drive change.

Provide governance and promote accountability

Complex challenges affect many different parts of an organization: different functions, different operations and facilities, and different processes. Your sponsor can ask for status reports, action plans, and progress towards goals at every interaction with each part of your organization (all in support of your challenge and the foundations you are laying) as he/she interacts with the different parts of your organization.

This highly visible governance provides regular confirmation of what your goal is and what it means to the business.

Recognition and communication of tasks/future direction

Your sponsor has many different communication platforms. Each such event and interaction is an opportunity to recognize individuals and teams throughout your project. In addition, you can tell your sponsor what messages you want them to convey, messages that can be designed to communicate the work you need to do, the direction you need to follow, and the issues you need to address .

This clearly sets the stage for you to be able to push this on a working level.

Addressing any conflicting/competing goals

Ultimately, no matter what they do, everyone is trying to make your business successful. However, there may be instances where goals within the organization seem contradictory. As I drive improvement in inventory turnover performance, I’ve often been told that reducing inventory levels would affect our ability to serve customers and customer satisfaction.

For me, a basic rule in the change we have been driving was that we would never harm our customers. And when all was said and done, we proved we could improve customer satisfaction while reducing inventory. Whatever the problem, there might be times when you need your sponsor to mediate so that everyone can overcome the problem, real or imagined, and move forward.


Your sponsor will most likely have a lot of experience to share through this process. Besides achieving the desired results, the project is a great opportunity to encourage personal growth and development of you and your team.

Benefit from the experience and expertise that an Executive Sponsor brings to the table. Learn from the relationships, interactions, and obstacles you encounter along the way. The opportunity you will have builds on your ability to take on greater challenges along the way.

The executive sponsor in conclusion

Whatever your challenge and whatever improvements you are trying to make, it is a sign of strong leadership that you can use all levels of your organization to support you along the way.

When you’re striving for truly groundbreaking, groundbreaking results, having an Executive Sponsor to help you can be a phenomenal benefit. You don’t have to do it alone. Use the resources at your disposal, learn from your experiences and monitor your progress!

Originally published January 20, 2017.

Leave a Comment