As has been stated in earlier blogs, the Executive Sponsor is the only one who can fulfill the actions of their role.
- cast the vision and
- overcome the atypical barriers.
However, a Relationship runs the majority of the time within the operational boundaries which have been established and the operating teams must be the ones to implement the Relationship on a daily basis.
The biggest challenge for an Executive Sponsor is to do ONLY their 2 functions and to do those 2 functions consistently.
As mentioned in an earlier blog many times Executive Sponsor is so emotionally drawn to the fulfillment of their vision that they do not let go of the operational aspect of the Relationship. When this occurs they are “over functioning”.
However, there are times that the Executive Sponsor is actually under-functioning and unwilling to pay close attention to the Relationship. There are two common causes for this:
- The Executive Sponsor trusts the operating team so completely, that the Executive Sponsor is
fails to recognize their critical role and its 2 function.
- The Executive Sponsor feels restricted, burdened, or fatigued by the discipline required to be an Executive
Sponsor of too many Relationships. A certain tediousness begins to occur due to too many similar meetings.
Problem example : Under Functioning Executive Sponsors:
John is the founder and CEO of SolGen Energy, Inc., a company which specializes in ultra small high power solar patches. This is a new technology which reduces the size of heritage solar panels to squares varying in size from a postage stamp to a post card.
There is one great exception to John’s behavior and it has to do with Tampa Touch, a company owned by one of John’s long time business associates, James. John and James were real estate developers in the same booming Florida market. They each set aside their real estate careers in pursuit of a great idea. John’s was the solar technology idea that led to SolGen Energy. James’ was a vision to market building materials in atypical manners much like the pharmaceutical company’s marketing directly to the consumer to drive demand through to the medical professionals. James’ vision was the seed corn of what is now Tampa Touch, one of the largest brand management companies specializing in not only building materials, but other related technologies as well. SolGen Energy and Tampa Touch have formed a Relationship. However, despite Rick, one of John’s key executives, constant effort to involve John in the Relationship, he is never available and dismissive of the need to be involved. His long time friend and associate, James, is leading the other organization. John is certain all will work out well. John feels he can concentrate on other opportunities and needs of SolGen Energy.
Rick’s operating team is highly concerned. Tampa Touch has missed several important deadlines. Their first short term goal was achieved, but the cost was 10 times what was projected due to inaccurate forecasts from Tampa Touch. There is a high degree of abrasion and a lack of cooperation on the part of the marketing communications team within Tampa Touch. The administrative support has been downright rude even to John’s executive assistant. James, John’s friend, is constantly traveling and never returns phone calls. The only communication received is from a woman who travels with James. Nobody understands if she is an executive assistant, an investor, or all the above. There is suspicion that she is even more on the personal level. Her communication is always requests for SolGen Energy to do more. There is never the “give” portion of the give-and-take required to make Relationships work.
Recently she has begun to ask for SolGen Energy proprietary customer information which has raised concerns throughout SolGen Energy in marketing, IT, and legal. John, SolGen Energy’s CEO and the Executive Sponsor of the Relationship with Tampa Touch, continues to put off his team’s request to have a Relationship Review because he trusts James. SolGen Energy’s policy is not to share proprietary or customer information without a signed NDA or other agreement covering confidentiality.
John trusts James, but John’s operating team is concerned. One red flag waving in the wind is that James refuses to sign the Relationship agreement document which states what each other’s responsibilities are in the Relationship. From the perspective of John’s operating team, the Relationship with Tampa Touch is the highest cost, most difficult Relationship they have and it also has the lowest return.
Analysis and Avoiding the problem of the under functioning Executive Sponsor:
The key to ensure that the operating team has adequate time with their Executive Sponsor to receive his input on a Relationship is for all Relationships to have a regularly scheduled, tightly structured presentation (not written reports) on the status of the Relationship to the Executive Sponsor. This needs to be mandatory for all Relationships. Such a meeting draws the Executive Sponsor into the Relationship for an appropriate amount of time to ensure his sponsorship responsibilities are fulfilled. The Relationship Wheel™ and the Relationship Review process, which are discussed in detail in my book “Six Strand Weave”, are the most effective and efficient way to accomplish this. Please note that the Relationship Reviews are done with all Executive Sponsors present at the same time. It is one Relationship and the Executive Sponsors need to have the opportunity to engage not only their teams, but also each other, in order to be able to fulfill their sponsorship responsibilities.
Unlike the single overt event in which the operating teams commit to involve the Executive Sponsor, the Relationship Review process must occur at least twice a year with the Executive Sponsor. If an organization has the same Executive Sponsor for 3 relationships, which is often the case due to the CEO often being the Executive Sponsor, then the Executive Sponsor will soon find himself involved in nearly monthly reviews. If an organization has 12 Relationships, then the Executive Sponsor could find themselves meeting every other week on a different, bi-annual Relationship Review.
This need to have Relationship Reviews with the Executive Sponsor and the degree of discipline the Executive Sponsor is willing to have in regards to the Relationship Reviews is one factor which sets the limit for the number of Relationships one Executive Sponsor (and often one organization) can handle. It is better to have a few excellent Relationships than to have too many Relationships which go without Executive Sponsorship.
Remember, without Executive Sponsorship there can be no Relationship.