The CFO Challenge: What Projects Will You—or Should You—Sponsor?

Incoming CFOs, in their roles as company leaders, not only need to frame how they will oversee their function and team, but also need to give careful thought to what they will likely sponsor—and what they will not.

Unlike direct leadership of a function, project, or initiative, sponsorship is more subtle and indirect. It often takes the form of shaping the context where others lead and drive an initiative to success. For example, sponsorship could include the provision of tangible resources—such as capital, people, customer connections, or subject matter resources—to make a project more successful.

Sponsorship can be an important activity for CFOs. It can catalyze new behaviors and also be an amplifier of the changes you wish to bring about

Sponsorship could also be more symbolic and less tangible. It could be the provision of specific job and project opportunities for high-potential individuals so that they can learn and extend their skills from new experiences. It could be about bringing the prestige of your office or your personal commitment to recognize and give visibility to a project or an individual.

It could even be tolerating the failure of a high-risk project because the team dared to try to engage the unknown or do something truly difficult to accomplish.

Whatever form it takes, sponsorship can be an important activity for CFOs. It can catalyze new behaviors you wish to manifest in your company. It can also be an amplifier of the changes you wish to bring about by having others lead change initiatives aligned to your objectives.

While few executives systematically think about how to use sponsorship as a means to catalyze change, in this issue of CFO Insights, we’ll discuss the importance of sponsorship and outline ways CFOs can use it to make an impact.

The four sponsorships of leaders

In our CFO Transition Labs, there are four specific sponsorships that typically emerge for incoming leaders to consider. These are: innovation, collaboration, leadership development, and brand. Each of these ties to the four faces of the CFO as strategist, catalyst, steward, and operator.

The four sponsorships, which lie at the intersections of the four faces of CFO leadership, are illustrated and discussed below:

The Four Faces of the CFO

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