The importance of a good sponsor

sponsorshipA week from now I’ll have the privilege of meeting with participants in our Luoma Leadership Academy program and hearing what 10 action learning teams accomplished and learned over the year. Each of the 10 action learning projects represent the beginnings of change efforts that could help a college, university or our entire MnSCU system. A few examples of the projects include:

  • A Systematic Approach to Nursing Admissions
  • Using Learning Communities to Improve Student Persistence, Progression, Engagement, and Completion
  • Collaborative Academic Program Planning

In working with this leadership development program, I have observed two things. First,  the success of these change efforts hinges greatly on the productiveness of the team and the skills, knowledge, ability, and energy each team member contributes to the team. Second, the support and guidance of an executive sponsor is critical in keeping the team on target, finding resources as needed, and removing obstacles for the team. Without strong executive sponsor support, teams can often flounder. This is especially true if there is turnover in the sponsor role.

Sponsors who are visibly committed to the project or change effort and communicate frequently with their teams often have the most successful efforts. Their team is energized by the fact that their work is deemed meaningful and will be implemented. While a sponsor’s role is usually determined by the nature of change effort and the organization, here are some characteristics of sponsor roles adapted from Exploring the Role of the Project Sponsor

  • Allocates budget
  • Supports project politically
  • Approves the project plan
  • Provides project objectives
  • Makes major decisions for the project
  • Ratifies decisions made by the project team
  • Finds resources for the project
  • Is responsible for the project’s scope
  • Issue management
  • Risk management

Most important, when a sponsor builds the project or change effort into the organization’s goals, objectives, and annual work plan, with clearly defined outcomes,  it demonstrates the importance of the team’s work not only to its members, but to the entire organization.

What examples of effective sponsorship have you observed?

Anita Rios


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