Dear Change Initiative Sponsor, An Open Letter on Courageous Leadership

Dear Change Initiative Sponsor / Senior Executive,

I’ve drafted this letter in my head to you many times. Today, I’m finally taking the time to sit down and write it out for you.

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Let me first say that I wish I personally, and the organization collectively, had a better understanding of why we are taking on this big change initiative.

We would like you to better communicate with us about, “What’s in it for us.” Right now we’re not sure the pain of changing outweighs the pain of staying the same.

Even though I don’t fully understand the why, I’ve still been working on the project for more than a year now. I don’t think you intend to make life difficult for the rest of the team.

My guess is that, as you sit at the top of the organization chart, you don’t realize the decisions you make cause the rest of us to spin. By spin, I mean your decisions cause us lots of extra work, stress, long hours, cancelled personal plans and so on. We do our best to deliver what we think you want. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don’t.

We would like for you to empower your direct reports to also make decisions and support them with the results. All roads do not have to lead to you personally.

Do other leaders in the organization support this change initiative too? My co-workers and I truly are not sure. What they say privately (off the record) and what they say publicly do not match. We hear about it from our colleagues on the other departments. We know that if this change initiative is going to be successful, it requires cross-functional support and involvement.

We want to have confidence you are partnering with the leaders in Finance, Operations, HR, Legal, Procurement and Marketing to drive this initiative through the entire business so all our efforts will pay off in the end.

Are you all actually working together or are politics or personalities getting in the way? Are you willing to have the crucial conversations to ensure business results and put personal feelings aside? It IS possible to be too polite sometimes. Also, remember that silence does not meant consent.

Thank you for reading my letter.

I DO want this change initiative to be successful after working on it so long. I DO want to see you become an effective sponsor, which means you need to be a courageous leader.

Your Team Member

Betsy Winkler is Partner at PeopleResults. She has worked on many change initiatives over 20+ years and seen a variety of executive sponsors – some effective and some not-so-effective. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.