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Rick’s Reflection | 7 Lessons Learned By Leaders As Sponsors Of Change

When it comes to leaders being sponsors of change, we’ve learned a lot over the years, both watching those who’ve done it well and those who haven’t.

And in that time we’ve identified 7 key lessons that will help any be a stronger sponsor of change. Leaders of course need to be focused on the organization, but also on the key stakeholders, and their needs throughout each phase:

1 – Clearly Address the Stages of Change

Targets of change need to know:

  • Why change is necessary and no longer viable
  • What the future holds and how they fit in
  • How you plan to support them during the transition

2 – Provide Clear Definition of the Future 

Targets of change need:

  • Terminology that makes sense to them
  • Clear definition of your “vision” statements
  • Measurable goals
  • To see where they are in the picture

3 – Address the Dip in the Delta

Leaders need to accept the inevitably of the delta dip, whether in a measure of productivity, or quality or customer satisfaction or whatever key measure may be impacted. What you can do is adjust the change or its implementation to absorb that dip. And let the Targets know you recognize and have a plan for the dip.

4 – Consistently Gain “Target” Perspective

Targets may not be able to easily recognize why their feeling of frustration and even fear exists. Give them a framework within which to analyze and assess their feelings and an opportunity to articulate their resistance

5 – Choose a Change Approach

Directive, Facilitative or Collaborative: The approach used in the change is determined by the level of urgency, not the inherent management style of the leader. Leaders have to be able to operate in all three styles to ensure success in different types of changes.

6 – Know the Difference Between Sponsors and Change Agents

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the sponsors and those of the change agents. A good starting framework may be…


  • Make it clear that resistance will be addressed
  • Commit the resources that are required to reduce the resistance
  • Do the communicating
  • Provide the rewards and reinforcements

Change Agents

  • Systematically identify the target populations and the sources of potential resistance
  • Systematically identify the actions required to reduce the resistance and build the plan of action
  • Write the speeches
  • Determine what those need to be

Be very careful not to delegate your role as a leader to the project team, the change agents.

When starting the project be sure to clarify the unique responsibilities of each role with the change agents.

7 – Establish a Governance Model

Multiple change initiatives can be overwhelming and gaining alignment and support are critical as you integrate project management with change management.

Remember, managing change requires commitment. Managing change well and performing the sponsor role well are changes. Leaders need to understand the change process and their role and be willing to make the changes required in themselves and in the organization.

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