When organizations are undergoing a large scale transformation, they recognize the need for systematic change management efforts. Most of the times, they are ready to on board an external agency to handle the change management aspect of transformational programs. However, what they often disregard is the importance of having strong Sponsor Anchors. Before I talk more about sponsor anchors, let us first understand what really happens to an individual when he/she is on a change journey.
The way I define change is anything that breaks our routine. Our responses are mechanized to routine circumstances around us. Our brains have set paths, developed over a period of time which helps us to be in the “comfort zone”. Now, if a small change is introduced to us, it derails the set path and causes some discomfort. The set patterns / pathways in your brain (formed out of repetitive actions) immediately ring a warning bell! Hey there, you are about to break the routine and you should object to this. Not just this, but on a serious introspection, it leads to loads of thoughts on how and why not to accept the change. And then, we find numerous reasons to show the outside world why this change will not be beneficial to us. With this brief introduction to a change journey of a mind, let me now explain the concept of Sponsor Anchor.
Imagine the days when you were used to visiting a bank for withdrawing money. The human interaction at the counter and someone giving you your money was important to you. Soon, there were ATMs and the banks gave you the option to withdraw money anytime without having to stand in the long queue and without even waiting for the bank to open. Yet so many of us hesitated to exercise this option fearing what if money doesn’t come out? What if less money is dispensed by the machine, what if my card gets stuck inside the machine… so on. All these fears kept you away from using the ATM machine for some time. Switching to the use of ATMs involved inculcating new behavior of trusting the digital over the physical (nothing but in simple terms breaking the set habit of visiting the bank to withdraw money).
Some of the fears stated above were the outcome of the discomfort felt by the mind in more tangible ways. Then came the time when you would have been either told by someone to use the ATM, or you would have used it when you had no choice at all. If there was someone who would have told you to use the ATMs because – he has used it, or he has found it beneficial; this person has acted as a Sponsor Anchor for you. He has enabled a new way of looking at old things (money withdrawing options) for you. The one who is giving directions to your change journey (anchoring the change for you) by believing in change and showing the positive / beneficial sides of change (he who is sponsoring the change for you) is your Sponsor Anchor. You may have encountered many such sponsor anchors so far.
Something similar to our ATM example happens when organizations decide to change. When employees are used to working on certain systems, and suddenly they are told that they will have to work on some new systems, they know it will demand lot of changes in the way they were operating. Relating back to what I mentioned: changes in set paths, set way of working is what causes people not to change. In case of organizations, the person visioning the change completely believes in the change. But then, there are thousands below him/her who may not consider “this” person as their Sponsor. Hence, the role of real sponsor becomes critical to make the change possible (at first) and then, successful. Sponsorship from leaders is undoubtedly mandatory without which, the change will fail. But that’s only the first step.
An individual will change and embrace change when he has that one person telling him about the change message. This person is what I call a Sponsor Anchor; one who has the power to influence his network without imposing authority/force. Such people play critical role in moving individuals from state A to state B i.e. from status quo to a desirable state. This sponsor anchor has some qualities which the person changing is able to relate to. Some of these qualities could be – his knowledge, the relation between these two individuals, his personality and lot more to this list. Because of one of such qualities, it creates a powerful influence on the other person and helps him move on the change path. In personal life and also at work, we have such anchors present. These anchors can be leveraged for making change a bit easy for their networks. Each one of us can be a sponsor anchor in someone’s change journey. So who do you anchor today to change?
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