Anyone who is trying to make changes will be met with a variety of reactions and responses. This will happen regardless of how important the change is to your Job, your Department, your Function or your Company.
Certainly there will be people who will happily, and openly, be willing to support you and help in any way they can. While this is critical, it is 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 may be many good reasons that you will be faced with this kind of opposition. However it is incumbent upon you, as the leader, to take all necessary steps to address these issues head on. One technique that can help you and your Company is to solicit and acquire visible and active Executive Sponsorship!
While I have framed this as Executive Sponsorship, your Sponsor could be your Boss, a Peer, a VP, or your President and CEO. They may have formal or informal authority. The scope of change you are setting out to accomplish will help you determine who you need on board. Further you may need several Sponsors at different levels of the company. If you are looking to make broad based, company wide change you can certainly use the active support of people everywhere and at all levels of the organization.
For several of the challenges I’ve had I have looked for Sponsorship from the CEO. In driving company wide Inventory performance breakthroughs I’ve asked for support from the CEO. In driving company wide business process transformational changes I’ve asked for support from the CEO. But again, it depends on the task you have ahead of you.
The Benefits of Executive Sponsorship!
Why is Executive Sponsorship important? What do you expect and need your Sponsor to do? When all is said and done you both share the same objective of making things better. There are many benefits that your Sponsor can provide to help you achieve the Breakthrough results you are looking for:
Sharing the Vision and Driving Alignment Around the Objective
By having alignment around the problem, objective and targets between you, your Sponsor, and your organization you have established the basis for consistent communication. Plus you have solidified the organizational resolve to attack the issue, especially when the going gets tough.
When all is said and done everyone wants the company to succeed. And driving this success is at the core of what you are trying to accomplish.
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
It may be cliche but the importance of communication cannot be overstated. A critical part of your job as the leader driving change is to communicate up, down and across the organization. Your Sponsor can help immeasurably.
On one project the CEO communicated the importance of the message everywhere. In every company conference call and in every staff meeting it was discussed. And in every employee meeting, and in every visit to a site or operation the message was communicated. There was no ambiguity about the importance of the task. This helped pave the way for the changes we had to make.
Affecting Cultural Change
If you are really trying to achieve game changing results there is a high likelihood that you, and others will need to challenge sacred cows and existing paradigms. You need people to think outside the box. You need people to Embrace the Possibilities.
Consider that the only things you can’t change are the inevitabilities of death and taxes. Then changing anything and everything else falls within the realm of possibility. That is the cultural mentality you will need for breakthrough results. And your Sponsor is instrumental in helping you set that tone.
Providing Air Cover
When you are working hour to hour, day to day, driving progress forward on your project, I have always found that it is great to have air cover. It can be too easy to get distracted with demands from on high and dealing with other high level agendas, politics and priorities.
Executive Sponsorship should be able to effectively help filter out this noise so that you can focus on the task at hand. In my experience a clear hand shake with my Sponsor and Boss on providing air cover has gone a long way in giving me the room and time I need to drive change.
Providing Governance and Driving Accountability
Complex challenges involve many different parts of a company: different functions, different operations and facilities, and different processes. Your Sponsor can in every interaction with each part of your organization ask for status reports, action plans, and progress to targets (all in support of your challenge and the groundwork you have put in place) as he/she interacts with the various parts of your company.
This highly visible governance provides regular reinforcement of what your goal is as well as it’s importance to the company.
Giving Recognition and Communicating Tasks/Future Direction
Your Sponsor has many different platforms for communication. Each such event and interaction is an opportunity to recognize individuals and teams as your project proceeds. In addition you can communicate to your Sponsor what messages you want them to convey, messages which can be crafted to communicate the tasks you need done, the direction you need followed, and the issues you need addressed.
This clearly sets the stage for enabling you to drive this at a working level.
Addressing any Conflicting/Competing Objectives
When all is said and done everyone, no matter what they are doing, is trying to make your business successful. There may be instances however whereby objectives within the company seem at odds. In driving Inventory turnover performance improvement I was often told that lowering inventory levels would compromise our ability to deliver to customers and customer satisfaction.
For my part a cardinal rule in the change that we were driving was that we would never hurt our customers. And when all was said and done we proved that we could IMPROVE customer satisfaction while at the same time lowering Inventory. Whatever the issue may be, there could be times when you need your Sponsor to arbitrate so that everyone can get past the issue, real or perceived, and move forward.
Your Sponsor will most likely have a lot of experience that can be shared through this process. In addition to achieving the results you are after, the project is a great opportunity to foster the personal growth and development of you and your team.
Take advantage of the experience and expertise that Executive Sponsorship brings to the table. Learn from the relationships, interactions and obstacles you encounter along the way. The opportunity you will have will build on your ability to take on bigger challenges along your path.
Whatever your challenge may be and whatever improvements you are trying to make it is a sign of strong leadership that you can leverage all levels of your organization to help you on your way.
When you are driving for truly Breakthrough, Game Changing results, having Executive Sponsorship to help you can be a phenomenal asset. You don’t have to do it on your own. Leverage the resources at your disposal, learn from your experiences, and watch the progress you make!
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