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How to get the best from your sponsor

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Vicki James

Vicki James, co-author of Strategies for Project Sponsorship

Peter Taylor, Ron Rosenhead and Vicki James have just written a book called Strategies for Project Sponsorship, about (surprise, surprise) project sponsors. Last time I interviewed Peter about how to manage when your sponsor is rubbish. Today I’m going to share my conversation with Vicki. We spoke about how to get the best from your sponsor and tips for first-time sponsors. Here’s what she had to say.

Vicki, in order to get the best from your sponsor, you actually need to have one! Many projects don’t have sponsors or clear sponsorship. Why do you think that is?

Uncertainty and ignorance about the role of the project sponsors is a huge contributor to the current challenges. Unfortunately, project sponsors are not educated and trained in project best practices in their career development.

Project managers must take an active role in influencing and educating project sponsors in these best practices to get the leadership support the project requires. This is a daunting task for many project managers as their sponsors are likely higher up within their chain of command. Our book is a step in reducing these factors by providing the best practices for sponsors and arming the project manager with strategies to influence.

It’s certainly full of good advice for project managers and sponsors. If you had to pick one thing, what would be your top tip for getting the best out of your sponsor?

Here are three tips:

  1. Keep the focus of the conversations and requests on what is in the best interest of the common goal of the successful project – that is important.
  2. Frame the project and project team’s needs in terms of maximising project success.
  3. Remove personality from the conversation to have a greater influence on your project sponsors and their support.

Thanks! What about your advice for first-time project sponsors?

Remember these words from Theodore Roosevelt: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Trust in the expertise of your project manager and other key players.

Strategies For Project SponsorshipBeing a project sponsor is best served by providing ‘servant leadership’. Remember, you are there to provide strategic leadership and tactical interference to project barriers. End each communication with, “What can I do for you (the project),” and you will be the biggest contributor to project success.

Great advice, thanks, Vicki!

Next time I’ll be speaking to the final co-author, Ron Rosenhead. He tells me what he thinks are the top challenges facing sponsors today and shares a story about sponsorship gone wrong.

Buy Strategies for Project Sponsorship on

About Vicki James

Vicki is passionate about learning and sharing best practices in project management and business analysis. Certified in both project management and business analysis, she provides a broad view to support project governance and processes. Vicki spent 11 years in the public sector successfully delivering projects to support governmental operations. Today she provides private consulting to government and private industry clients in addition to writing and presenting on all things project. Vicki is a contributor to The Complete Project Manager (2012) by Randall Englund and Alfonso Bucero as well as a popular blogger and Tweeter.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.


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