Last week I introduced three topics to help leaders better understand how to lead change. This week we’ll focus on one of these topics: the leader’s personal sponsorship role.

There are three things that a leader of change, or a sponsor, can do to improve her effectiveness:
1. Provide active and visible support for the change.
2. Understand the behavior impact caused by the change you are introducing.
3. Repeatedly communicate the need for change.

Provide active and visible support: In my experience, the most effective sponsors are actively engaged with the change. She gains their commitment, engages with them every day and holds them accountable. She attends leadership meetings to provide direction, clarity, and accountability. She is also actively involved in mitigating risks and resolving issues. With the front-line organization, she meets regularly to talk about the change and its impacts. She solicits feedback and visibly incorporates the feedback into the change process.

Understands the behavior impact: All large-scale change – and most small ones – have behavioral change associated with it. Here are examples of behavior change drivers:
a. The organization changes one or more of its business processes, causing the people who use them to interact differently.
b. The organization restructures, causing former business relationships to give way to new relationships. Employees must now build new working relationships.
c. One company acquires another often causing two different cultures to figure out how to work together. Employees must understand the behaviors and norms of their new colleagues and adjust their own to work together effectively.
Effective sponsors understand this early in the program, determine how she needs to behave, models the new behavior to the organization and speaks openly about these changes.

Repeatedly communicate: Communications experts tell me that employees need to hear the message seven to ten times to fully comprehend the meaning of the change. Sponsors and their leadership teams must regularly emphasize the why, what and how of the change:
a.Why. Discuss the business drivers causing the change. Define the value to the business. Describe how this fits into the overall organizational strategy. Communicate the downside effect if the organization doesn’t change.
b. What. Define the impact to the organization. Explain the nature of the organization after the change. Describe how jobs will change. Define how roles will interact differently. Estimate job increases or decreases. Show how things will be different.
c. How. Explain how the change will impact individual roles. Specify support mechanisms available to the employee during and after the change. Identify new metrics and the process for accountability to the measures.

As a sponsor, you might not be responsible for the details of each of the actions outlined above, but you do need to ensure that someone is handling these issues and hold them accountable.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,
Steve

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