When you start working with a new project sponsor it’s important to make a good impression. Here are 5 ways to wow them with your project management prowess.

1. Hit your deadlines

Project sponsors – and all managers when you think about it – appreciate someone who delivers what they say they are going to deliver. Hit your deadlines.

If you can’t manage to make your deadlines and deliver your project actions on time, then at least have the courtesy to let them know. It’s poor stakeholder management if you let the dates drift without reporting back that a significant task has passed and you’ve done nothing to notify them.

2. Manage risks away

Risks bother project sponsors. They don’t like risk because it makes the outcome of the project less predictable. They do like project managers who can proactively look at the risks on the table and come up with ways to mitigate them.

Active risk management makes the project much less risky overall. That in turn means it is more likely to meet its objectives and deliver something of value of the stakeholder. It’s unrealistic to expect you to be able to manage away all project risk, but you can have a go!

3. Produce stellar project reports

Project updates should be:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Factual
  • Informative
  • Preferably visual, with charts, graphs, mind maps and plans to provide context.

A good project report will set you apart from the other project managers in the team. There should be enough data for the project sponsor to feel connected to the project but explained without jargon. It should be easy to see where the project needs support or is at risk. Highlight areas where you need them to advise on what route to take next.

4. Help them make decisions

Your project sponsor relies on you to provide the information that they need to make decisions. On a project, there are many things that the project manager can decide and implement themselves. But the project sponsor, who doesn’t live in the detail day-to-day, isn’t as close to the facts of the project as you are. When it comes to a decision that you need your sponsor for, you have to present the information in a compelling way, so they are able to make the right call.

Remember, there is no such thing as a bad decision, so prepare your recommendations, present them effectively and help your sponsor keep the project moving. 

5. Make your data easy to understand

Sponsors are busy people. They may be managing several projects plus an operational day job. They don’t have time to try to work out how to interpret your project reports or digest information in complicated plans. 

Think about how you can share information with them in ways that makes it easy to understand. That could mean using bulleted lists, and keeping the format of your updates the same week on week so they can get used to looking for information in the same place. 

Don’t let technology be a barrier either. Use a tool like Microsoft Project Viewer to make it possible for them to read your Microsoft Project Plans even if they don’t have access to that software directly. Interested sponsors may well want their chance to look at the source data like your project plan, so make that available to them if they ask for it. Other sponsors may be happy with an extracted list of milestones instead.