Learn How to Handle a Difficult Project Sponsor

Learn How to Handle a Difficult Project Sponsor
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Understand His Role

Sponsors are a very important part of your project. Project sponsors make it possible for a project to move forward.The project sponsor is also responsible for the following items:

  • Obtaining funding, resources and support for the project.
  • Obtaining the project manager and stakeholders for the project.
  • Developing the project scope and charter, and answering any questions about these.
  • Dealing with changes to the project.
  • Ensuring that the project is progressing on time and within budget.
  • Ensuring that the project manager understands regulations.
  • Dealing with organizational red-tape to help a project be successful.

But, what do you do when you feel like your project sponsor is working against you? It can adversely affect your project and cause your team to suffer. There are ways, however, to deal with a difficult sponsor.

What You Can Do

First of all, get your sponsor involved in the process from the get-go. This will ensure that they are invested in your project and willing to provide you with support. If they’re invested in the beginning, they’re not as likely to become difficult later on.

Get to know your project sponsor. Know what his goals for the project are and what he wants from it.This will make your sponsor feel that you understand where he’s coming from. It will also enhance the quality of your work and make your sponsor very happy, keeping him from becoming discontented with you and the project.

Try to make your sponsor pleased at all times. If your sponsor wants you to try something that you feel won’t work, try it anyway and try to make it successful. The sponsor has the largest interest in your project, and therefore he has the most to lose. His decisions should be listened to and acted upon. If you can’t make one of his suggestions a success, you should adequately explain the problem and why it didn’t work. Then provide an alternative solution. Hopefully, your sponsor will be understanding enough to listen to your new solution.

Come up with a Communication Plan

Finally, come up with a communication plan before you even start on the project and begin communicating with your sponsor. This will help you deal with anyone at any time.

Your communication plan should combine the following:

  • Communication objectives - Do you want to inform your sponsor, have him take action or simply get approval for something?
  • Your message – What’s the main, targeted thing that you want to say to your sponsor? Do you just want to inform him about what’s going on? If so, what information do you want to provide?
  • Channel of communication - What’s the best way to reach your sponsor? Is it face-to-face or via email, telephone, or another method?
  • Obtaining feedback – How do you plan on getting feedback from your sponsor? How do you encourage such behavior? This is very important since it keeps the lines of communication open both ways.
  • When to talk – Timing is very important. You don’t want to interrupt him at the wrong time. But, you also need to communicate as often as possible.

If you figure out how to succeed with the touchiest person with a communications plan, it will set you up for success no matter whom you are dealing with.