“Get up front!”

When his officers needed to tell him something, that’s what legendary General George Patton wanted them to do. He wanted direct, simple engagement from his subordinates with no hesitation. He didn’t want anyone to waste his time, explained one of his former staff officers, Porter Williamson. As a result, his officers were never in any doubt about what the general wanted.

Williamson and his fellow officers knew Patton so well that it influenced every aspect of their military careers. “No man served under Gen. Patton,” Williamson wrote in his memoir. “He was always serving with us. In truth, I still serve with Gen. Patton, and he continues to serve with me.” Though it isn’t necessary to get to that same deep level of understanding with your stakeholders, it is necessary to have a very clear picture of what they want and to provide them with exactly what they need.

To guarantee success, provide them with accurate data about project deliverables and progress. Refine and focus the information you have as much as possible. Don’t waffle or waste their time: Give them solid facts and metrics clearly articulated so that they understand your team’s situation and how it aligns with the project’s charter. Treat sponsor updates like any elevator pitch: Brief, informative, and to the point.

Reports or presentations for your project’s sponsor should demonstrate in a clear way what your team has accomplished. If the project involves something concrete—for example, creating a piece of software or print materials—put a sample in your sponsor’s hands. Make your team’s success tangible to them; let them witness it for themselves. This will increase their trust.

Key Takeaways

  • Be on point when providing updates on progress to the sponsor
  • Demonstrate and engage the stakeholder not only about problems but also what the team accomplished
  • Provide a realistic picture of where the project is, ideally via concrete samples
  • Engage the sponsor to help provide clarity on project priorities and direction