The relationship between a project sponsor and a project manager is a unique one. Where the project manager is focused on delivering project results at a tactical level, the project sponsor operates at a political and strategic level. Companies around the world have discovered the critical importance of the project sponsor in organizing and completing projects.

In the real world, we know that the project manager rarely selects the sponsor. Rather, the sponsor is the person who wants the project, is willing to pay for it, and who is looking for a project manager who can get the job done. As a project manager, make sure to discuss the following four criteria in your first conversation with your new project sponsor. Consider this the project sponsor interview process.

Understanding: When selecting a sponsor, it is critical that the candidate have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the project. Beyond project objectives, however, the candidate should be operating at such a level that they understand where the project fits in the organization. This visibility from the top can be a key success factor in driving change; visibility that often escapes project managers and team members who are busy with project activities.

Support: It is not enough for a project sponsor to simply understand your project, they must support it. A successful candidate believes that there is a need for your project, and that change as a result of it will be beneficial for the organization. Your project sponsor will be your conduit to executive leadership for your project; their actions at this level can be a driver for change, and will help you deliver resources to your project and your team.

Political Capital: When confronted with the biggest and most dangerous project problems, your project sponsor must have the political capital to solve them. A good sponsor will put their name and reputation on the line as a public proponent of your project, marshal resources on your behalf, and insulate you from any political backfire that could distract you from your project.

Will to Act: Your project sponsor is not a process monitor. They’re not your cheerleader, either. In fact, having understanding, providing support, and delivering political capital mean very little if your candidate does not have the personal will to take action. There is a toughness to your sponsor, a grist that comes from experience and training. It is the combination of all these attributes that will drive your sponsor to take action, to remove barriers, and to navigate the pitfalls of organizational backlash and fear.

Project Sponsorship is the newest in the Cadence seminar portfolio. Organizations too often do not spend the time to understand what sponsorship is, why doing it better is important, and how to improve sponsorship performance. The Cadence Project Sponsorship seminar is designed to teach participants how to create an environment that achieves greater project prosperity as a result of excellence in project sponsorship.

We invite you to take your own Project Sponsorship audit! Click here to download 15 questions to spur your own thinking about sponsorship in your organization, and learn more about the Cadence Project Sponsorship seminar.