In our first article on the leader’s role in change management, we outlined the leader’s role in actively and visibly participating in change. The next role they play is in building a coalition of sponsorship, which involves finding the right people in positions of authority and proximity to implement the change. Note that leaders can never delegate their leadership role; they must actively and visibly be at the forefront of the change initiative. That said, there is another role to play to deepen and amplify the change message throughout the organization. This is the role of the change sponsor.
A change sponsor must support the change through their actions, behaviors, and conversations. They invest time to ensure that the requisite amount of awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement (see our previous article on ADKAR) is in play throughout the organization. Typically, these change sponsors are middle managers or supervisors in the organization – people with a close enough relationship to those that will be impacted by change that they can help those individuals connect the change to a positive personal outcome. They help people answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”
The change leader must ensure that their coalition of sponsorship has the resources (time and budget) to effectively support the change. They also need to keep this coalition informed of progress ahead of the rest of the organization, so they are prepared for questions and any challenges that may come up to the change initiative.
An ideal change sponsor has these personal attributes:
• Communication skills: Change sponsors should be excellent listeners and facilitators who can communicate the business change to people in all parts of the business.
• Business influence: Change sponsors should have credibility with employees (both below and above them in the organization). They should be trusted and have proper authority.
• Commitment: Change sponsors should believe in the value of the change and share the vision of the desired future state.
• Knowledge of the business: Change sponsors need an understanding not only of the particular function or area being changed but also of general business principles and conditions.
• Interpersonal skills (team player): Change sponsors should be people oriented and able to work and contribute to success in a team environment.
An effective method we’ve used for building a sponsorship coalition is inviting people within the organization to apply for the role. We explain that change is coming and that, if they would like to have the opportunity to shape the change and be in the know, they can submit an application to be a part of the coalition. This ensures we are working with an excellent coalition that supports the change, will try the new initiatives, and help spread them throughout the organization.
Bellrock is a process benchmarking and change management company based in Vancouver, Canada. If your organization is embarking on a change initiative (and what organization isn’t changing these days) we’d be happy to discuss how to build a sponsorship coalition. And if you found this article helpful, please share it with your networks.