• Sarah Cameron

The Role of Senior Sponsors In Culture Change


A tricky business is culture change.  Peter Drucker once said, “…culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It’s true that rationalising a change in culture, mapping it out and carefully planning the intricacies regarding such a fundamental part of your organisation, is not to be taken lightly and is easy to mess up.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try. Often, a change in culture is important, and in some cases, necessary, in order to correct the course of a wayward organisation or one that is recovering from a shock.  Many organisations are using the context of the post-Covid ‘new normal’ to frame out such changes. 

We can talk about culture change, and how to do it, all day long.  With culture best driven from the top, seeking senior sponsors to champion the cause is a great place to start.

How Senior Sponsors Influence Culture Change

For better or worse, senior sponsors have influence.  Your role as a driver of culture change is to channel this influence to ensure your senior sponsor leads the change by example.  If you put in the effort to communicate the culture change to your sponsors, they will put this into action through their own behaviours, inspiring others in the organisation to do the same. 


This strategy is one of the most powerful ways to bring culture change to life.  You might need to work hard on this, managing up and coaching your sponsors in what needs to be shown and said, but trust me, it’s worth it.

How to Champion Culture Change


Connected to influence and behaviour is the very real benefit of how senior sponsors will communicate and verbally champion culture change.  You might be the mastermind behind the change and its processes, but hand over the glory and the mic time to your senior sponsors.  Put them on the pedestal and have them talk to the ground troops about what is happening, why it’s important and what it means.  If executed well, this will be a powerful message from a powerful person and will make your job in implementing the change a lot easier.

So far, we have presented senior sponsors as powerful and influential individuals who might not be aware of the intricacies of changing culture, but, if emotionally invested in it, can immeasurably help the process. However, these sponsors are talented and knowledgeable people in their own right.  Drivers of culture can learn from them.  Listen to your senior sponsors and get their thoughts on how you are doing. Heck, even ask them to mentor you through the process.  Lean on their talents and digest their feedback.

Summary

Your senior sponsors create the conditions for culture change to succeed.   They provide material support through financing, tangible space, and freedom for you to work.  They will champion your cause through leading by example, and act as the figurehead to tie it all together.  Best of all, in keeping with the natural complex world of changing culture, these stakeholders, the ones who will be instrumental in driving the change, will, in turn, become part of the positive culture you are seeking to introduce, which is cultural synergy at its very best!