You’ve won! An Executive Champion and support for your initiative that is, and you know from Part 1 of this series that one of the main reasons that projects fail to launch or lack long-term success is weak executive sponsorship. But once you’ve earned it, how do you successfully leverage the support? A 2014 Research Study by Prosci indicated that projects with strong, effective executive sponsorship were 3.5 times more likely to meet or exceed objectives than those with weak sponsorship.
A successful Executive Champion is visible, available and most importantly, clear in the communication of the vision and outcomes of the project. Our executive leaders are pulled in a number of directions; here’s how to keep them active and visible to ensure the success of your project or change initiative.
Key One: Establish a Framework to Account for Results
Take the lead on embedding project results into your performance management systems to keep progress in front of the Executive Team. This gives your Executive Champion metrics and feedback they can use to report back to the C-Suite on progress. This can be done a variety of ways:
- Use key metrics of success (KMOS) as standard agenda items in regular check-ins, both formal and informal. Discuss progress weekly, monthly and quarterly.
- Create small, manageable deadlines with project milestones to keep project progress visible and on track. This also provides small wins your Executive Champion can easily promote amongst the team.
- Discuss both project and people progress. Many initiatives fail due to the lack of adoption and behavior change of individuals. Ensure behavioral coaching and change management receives equal, if not more, attention.
Key Two: Enable a Clear, Multi-Media Communication Plan
A clear and consistent vision of the why of the initiative and/or change will keep teams on task and focused when small decisions or challenges come up that could impact the trajectory of the project. A clearly communicated vision and why statement from the Executive Champion should be visible and consistent amongst all team members. It should be present in the project charter and referenced in status meetings.
Research has shown that people need to hear something as often as seven times before it will “stick” with them. Here are a few ways to help your Executive Champion enable a strong messaging plan:
- Web: Work with your organization’s communication team to post messaging and video to intranet pages. These messages should include the why for the change, authored by the Executive Champion. The whyinspires action.
- Visual: Magnets, posters, and flyers that include a note from the Executive Champion have proven to be a memorable way to communicate an initiative. Believe it or not, some of our most successful clients have reported that hanging posters in the bathroom stalls have been the most effective!
- In-Person: Meet your employees where they are – on their shift and on their terms. Hearing the message from the Executive Champion in person is proven to be the most effective way to ensure buy-in for any project. Most importantly, be sure to schedule a session with the Executive Champion to host a night and weekend shift event – our clients have reported this session to be a game changer in terms of buy-in for a large majority of their staff.
Key Three: Create Consistent Visibility
A critical part of the choice followers make to believe your initiative comes from seeing the Executive Team provide visible support for initiatives. This could include actions as simple as checking in 1:1 with project leads or sending personal communications to team members. A lack of visible and active presence sends the message that the initiative is unimportant, so take the step of scheduling time on the Executive Champion’s calendar to participate in important project milestone events. Along with the Town Hall meetings, the simple presence of walking the halls and asking staff about the project sends a strong message of buy-in and support.
Tips for Reclaiming Sponsorship
If you’ve found yourself present in a situation where you’d like more from your Executive Champion, the best way to remedy the situation is to give the effort you are not receiving and actively coach your Champion on his or her role. This can be accomplished by:
- Asking for presence at meetings and provide communication topics and talking points
- Assisting in drafting communications for your Champion to send
- Scheduling calendar time your team members and Champion via formal and informal check-ins
If the level of visibility by your Executive Champion has much to be desired, it is not an excuse (or guarantee) for project failure. Instead, look at this situation as the new circumstances in which you must succeed. This is your opportunity to advance your leadership skills by finding ways to clearly communicate, keeping milestones moving, and creating visibility with your core team to create buy-in and track results.
We’d love to hear your results, in what ways have you successfully maximized, or transformed, the relationship with your Executive Champion?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.