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    3 Tips to Successfully Engage Reluctant Sponsors of Change

    Jun 2, 2022 | Posted by Michael Campbell

    Organisational transformations can be extremely challenging processes and the right level of sponsorship is so important. Consistently throughout the past 20 years of Prosci's research,  sponsor effectiveness is the number one contributor to successful change, as active and visible promotion of a change accelerates adoption rates and positively influences employees' attitudes towards change. 

    Download: Sponsor Roadmap and Start-up Checklist

    Sponsor Roadmap and Checklist

    We have discussed how to develop change sponsorship previously, but we have yet to touch on how to engage reluctant sponsors of change as their involvement is key to long lasting change adoption. There are often severe consequences when change sponsorship is weak, with the worst case scenario being that the change will fail all together. This is why is it necessary to develop an action plan, what Prosci call a Sponsor Roadmap, to help engage a reluctant sponsor. Below are our 3 tips to help you on your sponsorship journey:

    Tip #1: Help them understand what their role entails 

    How well understood is the role of effectively sponsoring a change, compared with sponsoring a project, in your organisation? Do they understand the additional responsibilities they have when sponsoring a change? Prosci's Best Practices research into change sponsorship has identified that 58% of sponsors do not have a strong understanding of the responsibilities of their role in effectively leading change. Sponsors often don't know what great sponsorship is.

    Common mistakes made by sponsors include being visible at the beginning of the change, but then misunderstanding that they can disengage earlier than they need to. To mitigate this, change management practitioners must spend time with sponsors to support them continuously throughout their role, keep them on the right track, schedule and prepare them for a program of face to face interactions with impacted employees and emphasise how important their sponsorship role is. 

    We find the Prosci Sponsor Roadmap to be an extremely useful tool as it clearly identifies their key activities and responsibilities that are involved in their role. 

    Tip #2: Give them all the support they need 

    We often forget that sponsors may be stressed and have added responsibilities in other areas of their working life and these other areas may be negatively impacting their ability to become an effective sponsor. This is why coaching is imperative. Sponsors need time, support and encouragement  to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to lead change effectively; coaching sessions and one-to-one meetings need to be scheduled for sponsors to give them the opportunity to express the areas that they feel they are struggling with, and to improve their experiences of being a sponsor of change. 

    Taking the time to build strong relationships with the sponsor will improve their competency and allow sponsors to more effectively support employees during times of change by mitigating resistance. If the sponsors feel like they are being listened to and feel more prepared to perform their role then they will be more likely to become an engaged sponsor. This will also encourage sponsors to fully immerse themselves in their role and not delegate their responsibilities to lower level management, diluting the effectiveness of sponsorship.

    Tip #3: Recognise and reward

    Recognition can help to breed success; it's as simple as that. If your change sponsors feel like their hard work is not recognised, then it is understandable why they would become reluctant to engage with the change and why they may start to take a step back. Treating change like a project introduces milestones and measures that need to be achieved in order for successful adoption and usage of the new change capability. If these milestones are achieved, then the change sponsor should be recognised for their efforts and this success should be celebrated. This will make them motivated in continuing to actively promote the change and be more concerned about the overall success of the change. 

    How can I learn more?

    Become equipped to support and guide your sponsors during change. Take the next step and become a Prosci certified change practitioner with CMC Global! Find out more.

    We can also organise training, privately for your organisation. If you're interested in empowering you teams to lead your organisation through change, get in touch!

    Topics: Sponsors, Planning and Executing Change Management, Getting Started with Change Management


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