Senior level stakeholders mostly hold a unique position of influence within the company; some may be wired closely to the company’s board of directors, while others have access to suppliers, customers or the executive team. Support and blessings of these individuals may be the deciding factor when you need a nudge for a decision or a your dream project to take off.
Also keep in mind that career decisions can be swayed by a favorable or an unfavorable word delivered by a senior executive. For example, consider the annual corporate leadership meet, and the team is doing the talent review, which attempts to identify managers and leaders of high potential within the organization. During the review, a managerial candidate is introduced by his/ her reporting manager and other senior members of the management team are invited to share their views on the candidate’s competencies and leadership potential. These discussions can exert a major influence on the manager’s future career progression. It’s at this point that having support and sponsorship of your senior management team can have a crucial and positive effect on your career trajectory.
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Senior positions are of no use unless you work to keep them informed of the issues and challenges being faced by you. Here are some suggestions for keeping your sponsors alerted to your activities.
Meet Them Regularly
Schedule time on your calendar for regular meetings with your sponsors. Make sure you let them know you are willing to accommodate their schedule challenges, even if this means an occasional breakfast or an after office hours meeting.
Share Important Correspondence
Supply your sponsors with copies of important correspondence and emails, the discerning factor here is “ Important”. The fastest way to lose credibility with senior management is to waste their time by flooding them with all the details of your regular work activities. They don’t want to know, period.
Provide Briefing On Key Assignments.
For key assignments, prepare a briefing that highlights some of the most important factors that are likely to influence the success or failure of your projects, as well as any pitfalls or obstacles that you have tentatively identified. This briefing should be a high level summary, therefore, omit all the minutiae and fill your project folder. In addition it’s best to avoid use of any technical jargon in the briefing session.
Give Them Enough Lead Time
In case you need your senior manager’s to put their weight behind your decision, bring them on board early on. It does not do a lot of good to inform your sponsors on Friday afternoon that you need them to give you cover fire for a Monday morning decision. In general the sponsors or senior management team members find it easy to take action when they are given sufficient notice regarding impending issues and the type of support you envisage.
The best senior members of the management team are willing to provide tough trouble shooting and hard critical feedback provided you are game for it. Its good to receive this type of information from someone you trust in private rather than being bombarded with this information in midst of your presentation or project review. In short the best managers, wont tell you what you want to hear – they will tell you what you need to know.
Don’t Get Caught In The Cross Fire
Take care to manage the relationship between your managers and your sponsors with tact and sensitivity. Keep in mind that you don’t report to your senior team members directly, nor are they responsible for authorizing your projects or setting your budgets. Use your best judgment in determining how to inform your managers that you would like key sponsors to be involved in selected projects and activities. You might want to introduce the idea with comments such as the following. “Before we launch the new customer survey, I would like to run this past our Vice President. He has a lot of experience with running these surveys and I think he has a good helicopter view of what our customers want.”