A Practical Guide to Sponsor Engagement and Communication
The participation of an effective project sponsor is one the crucial factors for the overall project success. In many cases, project leaders have to deal with less-than-effective sponsors, so the question is, how can you engage sponsors and you make them contribute to the project success?
1. Find out what your sponsors want
First of all, it’s important to understand what your sponsors want. They are often motivated by a desire to achieve something, so your goal is to learn what that agenda is. It often means that you will need to examine your sponsors’ career aspirations, desire for status and recognition, priorities, etc.
As soon as you know your sponsors’ agenda, find out ways to achieve it through effective sponsorship of your project. The golden rule here is to respect your sponsor’s needs.
2. Make sure your sponsors knows what their role is
Both you and your sponsors should understand what their role is. The principal dimension here is the governance/leadership dimension with four roles that sponsors are expected to perform:
- Project support and guidance
- Project oversight
- Project promotion
When everyone understands these roles, it will be easier for your sponsors to carry out their duties – they will know what they are responsible for, what information and other resources they need to keep the project moving, etc.
3. Provide all resources your sponsors need to perform their role
If you want your sponsors to actively perform their role, make sure they have all project-related resources they need.
- Information: To perform their decision-making and oversight roles, your sponsors will need timely information. Discuss together how your sponsors want the information to be presented, what information matters most to them, how often they want to get updates, etc.
- Involvement: Sponsors need to feel involved in a project. The question is how much involvement they want. Some people want to know every detail, for others – minimum engagement will be totally enough. Understand your sponsors’ preferences and involve them at the level they want.
- Trust: Sponsors need to feel they can trust you. Otherwise, they may either over-manage your team or see the project as a risky one and distance from it. Build trust by achieving success and sharing it on a day-to-day and week-by-week basis.
- Management: Sometimes your sponsors need help with their project commitments. They may want to step out of their duties, so your role here is to make sure that all project processes are well-managed and your sponsors feel in safe hands.
- Service: It’s a common practice that sponsor may ask you to do some work for them. For example, preparing a speech or presentation for them, provide brief notes of the meeting they weren’t able to attend, etc. Remember, it’s a part of your job is to help your sponsors do theirs.
4. Pay attention to personal reputation-building
Here are some of the most important things to consider if you want to build a sustainable relationship with your sponsors:
- Learn what character traits your sponsor values and behave accordingly. Some common examples are calmness, optimism, etc.
- Invest time into getting to know your sponsor better. The better we know someone, the more we like and trust them.
- Express loyalty – to your sponsors, team, project, business.
- Communicate – be a good listener, express your opinion with clarity, and no matter what speak in a calm and courteous manner.