Become a Role Model for Change

It's the Project Sponsor's role to get people excited for the Change at hand.

Role Model

Become a Role Model for Change

The role of the Project Sponsor in change programmes

The Sponsor in a change initiative plays a critical role. He or she initiates the programme once it has been identified that there is a need for change. While the change programme is underway, the Project Sponsor has got the task of creating and maintaining a vision for the programme, to define the goals and priorities and remove potential obstacles. He or she is a role model for continuous improvement culture and is instrumental in making changes in the organisation sustainable.

“I can’t emphasise enough how important the role of a Project Sponsor is in a change programme. A Sponsor has the task to get people excited about the change!” – Cathrin Kolb

The key responsibility however is to send the correct message – and this is what I understand role model behaviour to be! It’s worth to put some thought into. What are the desired outcomes of the change; what are you asking your people to put up with and how will they be affected by the change. And most importantly: are you prepared to be the first person to visibly adhere to the new rules?

Communicate the change

Just a few examples to make my point:

  • Cost cutting programme: Are you still putting in expenses for expensive dinners when your colleagues adhere to a travel ban?
  • New way of working: Every team leader needs to establish a new daily huddle to monitor team performance, but you are cancelling weekly team calls because you are too busy?
  • Reorganisation: You expect all department heads to lose some headcount and to rationalise some managerial positions, but you need your historical structure in place?

It is not easy to challenge your traditional behaviours in the light of the change. But it is worth it, as it will give the initiative credibility and buy-in. I have observed these following behaviours in Project Sponsors I consider outstanding role models.

Five suggested behaviours for Sponsors:

1Show leadership – if you are not doing it, no-one will. Be decisive, take decisions even if not all facts are on the table, remove roadblocks.

2Delegate authority – empower your people to take decisions and to move the initiative forward.

3Be interested in the progress of the project – be challenging, but fair. A good motto is to be hard on the facts, but not on the people!

4Be prepared to set consequences – address it when members of staff don’t fulfil your stated expectations, and give praise when they do.

5Stay results focused – Maintain a clear view of the connection between the expected results of the projects and the overall company goals. Make sure that team members are on the right track (ask the right questions and re-emphasise the vision).

Have a think – when projects you were involved in failed, did the Project Sponsor display these behaviours? I bet not!

Exercise: How can you support change initiatives in order to guarantee their success?

Your task for today:

Complete the quick 10 minute exercise which gives you some prompts to think about your and other’s behaviours in the context of the change you are going through. Draft a quick outline of your future role model behaviours.

Take 10 minutes and write down how you want to act as a role model Project Sponsor in the future. Use the following questions as a guideline:

  • What behaviours will I display as a role model?
  • What specific positive actions will I carry out?
  • What new actions and activities will I start doing, which have not so far been part of my Project Sponsor repertoire?
  • What behaviours will I request from my staff?
  • What behaviours will I no longer accept?


To move from good resolutions to action, make a note of specific actions in your diary. What will you do exactly? What are the specific actions you want to carry out: As an example, what will you do specifically when your resolution is: “I want to better support the project manager“? Some suggestions:

  • Rather than just open the workshop and be there for the first 10 minutes, “I will be present for the full kick-off workshop and emphasise the vision for the programme and support with strong messages during the workshop”.
  • “I will help the project manager by thinking through the answers to difficult challenges together”.
  • “Every Friday at 2 pm I will have a project meeting with the team. As a role model, I take this commitment seriously and I will not cancel this appointment”.

I’d like to end with a quote by Gandhi – for me, this is what role model behaviour in a change context is all about:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Please call me on +44 7855 919748 or send me an E-mail to I am looking forward to an informal conversation to discuss your specific Project Sponsor needs.