Executive Sponsorship Redux

It wasn’t enough.

The last time I wrote about Executive Sponsorship, people loved it but wanted more. How to get more sponsorship, earlier sponsorship and greater commitment.

Let’s start with the idea of Political Capital

In a big company, there is an unaccounted for currency called Political Capital. That term stands for the sum of the positional authority, favors, charisma, recognized successes, perceived favoritism from higher-ups and “fair-haired” status that a person has in a company. Now, this is real “coin of the realm” stuff and it is exchanged in a very subtle way for all sorts of purposes, including:

  • Moving priorities around. Say, getting your IT project done before someone else gets theirs done.
  • Quashing prying eyes. For example, your people screwed up a quarterly report and you want it re-run on the down low rather than having someone making the mistake a big deal.
  • Getting promotions. These can be for that person, for a subordinate, a peer or a friend.
  • Getting preferential treatment. Travel vouchers, seating at the company banquet, office supplies and so on.
  • Making things happen. Little or big, when an executive wants to make things happen, he or she is using political capital to do it. The less organizational chart influence they have, like telling a direct subordinate what to do, the more political capital it takes to get things done. Don’t be confused though. Even getting a direct subordinate to do something takes political capital.

In the end, it’s for influencing people in an organization in order to give/get a person his or her way. This works even if a person does not seem to have much power on the organizational chart.

If someone is your Executive Sponsor, he or she will have to spend their Political Capital on you. Your Executive Sponsor is going to spend Political Capital to:

  • Get people to meet with you;
  • Get the information that you need;
  • Move a competitor of yours out of the way and
  • Swing the deal your way.

Remember, your Executive Sponsor is only spending his or her Political Capital for one reason:

To Get More Political Capital!

How do Executive Sponsors get more Political Capital by helping you?

  • With success. Part of the way to get Political Capital is to win. If you are successful in the deal or interaction that your sponsor set up, he or she will also be seen as successful. Success always increases Political Capital.
  • By defeating their own competitors. Everyone is watching. When one “player” in the company sways decisions his or her way, everyone knows that Political Capital is at play.
  • By making change that works. “Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.” When someone implements a successful change in a big company, people notice and quickly “get on board” with that person’s ideas.
  • By getting other people what they want. Part of this game is trading. By doing favors, that person gets favors. Players look for low-risk ways to give people what they want so as to trade on that favor later.
  • By doing things in an honorable way. Everyone is watching the way in which and Executive Sponsor handles him or herself. If he or she handles him or herself in an honorable way, he or she will gain the trust of others in the organization and in the industry. Trust is a cornerstone in the game of Political Capital.

How can you get someone to spend their Political Capital for your purposes? By showing the Executive Sponsor why investing in your purpose is important to them. How?

I will address this in next week’s post!