Author: Anju Aggarwal

Anju is founder of "Speakho" It is software that can catch all the mispronunciations in your recorded speech. It will also show these words' correct pronunciation so you can learn and correct them within the tool. An incorrectly pronounced word will distract or confuse listeners. It will probably cause them to lose confidence, especially when the interactions are not face-to-face. Speakho helps you speak better English by correcting your mispronunciations so that you can talk confidently and be easily understood by a large and diverse population.

A Project Sponsor Wrecked My Project

Sponsors play an important role throughout the life of a project. They help support, shape, and integrate the project to realize the benefits for the business. But the Sponsors can also hinder the success of a project. They can harm a project by becoming too elusive or too intrusive. In this article, I will share the havoc caused by an intrusive sponsor.


An Intrusive sponsor tries to take too much control over the project. It is important to remember that the Sponsor is not the Project Manager and, as such, should not be trying to micromanage the project.


Let us first start with the definition of a project sponsor.

A Project Sponsor is a person or group who owns the project and provides resources and support for the project, program, or portfolio to enable its success. Every project has at least one project sponsor. Project sponsors are senior managers or executives who liaise between the project and organizational goals.

One of the critical success factors for any project is the presence and participation of an effective project sponsor. The Project Management Institute reports that the top driver of those projects meeting their original business goals is an actively engaged executive sponsor (PMI, 2018). However, the same project management research also found that one in three failed projects are linked to poorly engaged executive sponsorship.


Sponsor’s Primary responsibilities:

– Sponsors help clarify project goals from the organization’s perspective and guide project managers to make consistent tradeoffs across the project’s schedule, scope, and resources.

– Sponsors serve as a point of escalation when decisions or actions are needed to keep the project on track for matters outside the authority of the project manager.



Not every Sponsor wants to be confined to their primary responsibilities.

Not every Sponsor wants to guide PMs, preferring to micromanage them.

Not every Sponsor respects the PMs boundaries and authority.


In some cases, a sponsor’s overzealousness to make a project successful can sabotage the project. A sponsor can create or destroy value for a business. They can act as a hinderance to project success.

Here is my true story between myself (the Project Manager) and the Sponsor. Let’s call him Mr. A.




A brief background about this project

It was a project in a startup company. I was well supported by the Sponsor, who also happened to be the owner of that company.

Here are the few scenarios which lead to the project’s doom:



As the project had aggressive timelines, Mr. A suggested hiring freelancers to expedite the work. He recommended a few profiles that he had shortlisted from LinkedIn. I selected one freelancer from that list and started working with him.

What an excellent camaraderie between a Sponsor and a PM. Right?


The supportive Sponsor wanted to give more support. He started micromanaging me. He was asking questions like:

How frequently do you connect with that freelancer? How are you tracking his work?

As the freelancer was doing data entry work, I delegated the supervision of his work to another team member. This way, I could concentrate on more pressing issues in the project.

But Mr. A did not like it. He wanted me to supervise that freelancer directly.


Overriding PM’s decisions

We were working hard to achieve the unrealistic timelines. As the due date got closer, I decided to share the actual situation with the customer and ask for more time. I hope that sharing the information about the real efforts to complete the ongoing tasks would help the customers see the massiveness of the work. I would own the misjudgments of estimates done earlier in the project (although those commitments were made by Mr. A.)

But it does not matter as we are one team, Right?


Alas, I did not get to share this information with the customer. Instead, Mr. A had a private conversation with the customer and asked for a one-week extension timeline. In place of the extension, he also committed to doing some extra work.

I was caught unaware when I received this information from the customer on a slack group channel.


Expect the impossible

We could not deliver the work we had already committed for this week, on top of the extra work due in another week. I became furious! How could Mr. A have this conversation without first discussing the impact of the scope changes with me? Mr. A crossed a boundry and overstepped my authority on this project.

Many other things unfolded after that and I eventually left the project. Mr. A eagerly stepped into the shoes of  interim Project Manager.

I became an observer on this project and provided my help as and when required.


How the wrecked project looked

Firstly, the project could not be delivered even after the time extension that Mr. A got from the customer.

Secondly, he made the entire company work on that project.

And thirdly, the customer was unhappy about this delay and voiced his concern over the slack channel by sending angry messages to the entire team.

We all know that for a project to be successful, the Project Manager and the Sponsor need to work hand in hand. And we also know that this collaboration is often missing in projects.

In many cases, the PM has to spend more time handling Sponsor queries rather than project queries.


How should a PM handle an intrusive Sponsor?

Before talking more about this subject, understand that it is a sensitive topic to handle.  As in most cases, the Sponsor also happens to be the PM’s immediate boss.

Hence PMs need to handle it so they do not damage the working relationship with their manager.


  1. Train and Educate – Sponsors (specifically, those who are also startup owners) must be educated on what it takes to effectively work with a project team. Sponsors should be explicitly and deliberately taught to deal with projects, project issues, and project people. In addition, they need to learn about change management – the effective tradeoff between cost, duration, and performance.


  1. Clarify Expectations – Understanding what the Sponsor expects from a PM. They may have a different understanding of what project managers do and how PMs can help them. For example, some people might think PMs just do all the paperwork and nothing else. Ensure the Sponsor completely understands a PMs roles and responsibilities.


  1. Set up the Communication plan – Establish the frequency, granularity, and channels for communication between the PM and the Sponsor to share the project progress or impediments. Communication channels include status meetings, automated reports, dashboards, and impromptu conversations. When sponsors start weighing in on all the minor details, the PM can remind them about the agreements made in the communication plan.


Project sponsors are essential to the success of any project. They provide the financial support and resources necessary for a project to exist. They can have a hugely positive impact on the success of a project. While they can be helpful, they can also hinder if not properly managed.


The three ways in which we can handle the intrusive Sponsor is:

–             Educate them about Sponsor and PM roles and responsibilities

–             Set the clear expectations

–             Be honest with them to ensure a successful project outcome


We can also sum up the above three points in a single sentence – A Sponsor needs to know their boundaries and accept the boundaries of a Project Manager!

Organizations tested positive or negative during Covid-19?

In the past few months, with deadly second wave of Corona virus in India, I have seen and heard of many cases that unveiled the Empathy and Apathy culture in different organizations.  I feel these instances can truly differentiate a good organization from a bad organization. So next time, when you look for that job change, also check how these organizations treated their employees during the pandemic. This could be another criteria to select your next dream company in the future.

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Know Thyself and Others

Communication is challenging because different people hear different things.

You may think you are making yourself clear, but you run the risk of being misunderstood unless you make a conscious effort to speak in a way that appeals to the way the other person thinks.

The first step to make effective communication is to know what type of communicator you are dealing with. It is important to recognize how someone communicates and to be aware of your own style.

I will be sharing a situation faced by my friend Nisha to talk more about these communication styles. In her workplace, she gives clear instructions to her team members, but they seem unhappy with her, she can’t see what she has done to offend them.

Nisha’s problem seems to be related to different communication styles. Sometimes the problem isn’t what you’re communicating but the way you’re doing it. People have different communication styles. And it might be that yours doesn’t match with your colleague’s.

I decided to solve Nisha’s problem. I took help from the research work done by communication specialist Mark Murphy who breaks down communication into four fundamental styles – Functional, Analytical, Intuitive, and Personal.

I created a questionnaire to identify these 4 communication styles and then tried to map these styles with Nisha and her team members:

The First set of questions are

1. Do you value processes and procedures
2. Do you like to work with timelines and milestones
3. Do you have lot of questions

Nisha jumped up, “Oh, this is Praveen, my database manager” he behaves exactly like this.

So, Praveen has functional communication style

Functional communicator is someone who likes to get deep into the details. Someone who likes to understand how everything works.

How to tailor your communication with a functional communicator? Practice active listening. Be prepared for them to point out something you missed and allow them time to triple-check details. Give specific timelines and milestones for projects.

Nisha admitted her mistake in communicating with Praveen. She was taking Praveen’s criticism and feedback too strongly and thought that he is unnecessarily asking questions and wasting the team’s time. Whereas all this while he was trying to help himself by getting more details about the project.

Next set of questions:

4. Do you often use numbers to support your ideas
5. Do u get frustrated when conversations go off-topic
6. Do u need time to think about decisions

This time Nisha didn’t jump but was smiling mischievously – this one is you Anju

Alright point taken, I have Analytical communication style


Analytical Communicators like direct conversation. They have little patience for emotional words and feelings when communicating. When you tell them sales are down, they want to know how much, as in a specific percentage.

How to tailor your communication with analytical thinker? Get straight to the point. Make your expectations clear. Give them time to think of the pros and cons of a possible choice.

Don’t get offended when they don’t want to spend time chatting about what they did on the weekend during the work meetings

So, Nisha, let’s not waste time and straightway move to the Next set of questions:

7. Do new ideas and innovation excites you
8. Do you dislike getting into lot of details
9. Do you prefer to use visuals when communicating

Nisha was nodding her head vigorously and taking name “Shruti, my tech lead”

So, Shruti had Intuitive communication style

Intuitive communicators prefer a more casual, big-picture approach to convey their points. Details aren’t as important to them and they prefer out-of-the-box thinking.

How to work with an intuitive communicator? Stay on topic; keep the discussions brief and to the point, Use visual aids if possible. Focus on the end result of the task at hand and leave out any unnecessary details.

Nisha added she was trying to give all the details to Shruti to help her with the tasks, but she observed that Shruti lose interest and focus. And now she understands why this was happening.

Last set of questions:

10. Are you a good listener
11. Do you tend to play a role of mediator in any conflict
12. Do you prioritize people’s feeling when making a decision

We both spoke together, and this is Nisha. She has personal communication style

Personal communicator is a people person. Their goal is to connect with people and understand how they’re feeling – they’re the ones who are always smoothing over workplace disagreements.

How to Work with a personal communicator: Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t feel too pressured to get to the point. Keep your tone casual and authentic—professional, but not overly formal.

Don’t provide too much of detailed numbers to back up your point. Let them express their emotion and ideas even if they are non-work related

So now we have a good understanding of each of these communication styles as well as how to adapt our communication according to each style.

Murphy says “No one communication style is inherently better than another. But picking the wrong style for a particular audience, shuts down listening and can spell trouble. Learning to build flexibility around your preferred style allows others to more successfully hear the important things you need to communicate.”

This tailored communication with her team members has helped Nisha immensely in setting up a harmonious workplace.

Understanding different communication styles and paying attention to which styles our teammates gravitate toward, can improve our interpersonal skills, build trust, and help us get more done with less frustration.

Remember the first rule of effective communication: The success of the communication is the responsibility of the communicator. And for that you need to Know Thyself and others.

The Leadership Paradox – To Become a Leopard or Chameleon

Leadership is an important facet whether you are running a kitchen, an organization, or a country.

It is difficult to gauge what leadership style should be implemented when, where, and how. The best leaders are able to adjust their style based on the situation they find themselves in.

There are numerous types of leadership almost a leadership style for every situation!

Therefore, it is important to know all the different styles of leadership so you can identify which style is appropriate for each situation.

I have selected a book titled ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ written by Jules Verne in order to understand some of the leadership styles in different situations. The story starts in London in the year 1872.

It is about a rich British gentleman named Phileas Fogg who goes around the world in 80 days with his butler, Jean Passepartout as they embark on journey which is full of adventures and surprises. The story follows two travelers that grow to a trio and then a foursome as they fight their way through countless obstacles to reach home in time.

Scene 1 – Phileas Fogg is a perfectionist. One of the first things we learn about him is that he dismissed his butler for bringing him water that was two degrees too cold. So, when Fogg says someone can make it around the world in 80 days, we should probably listen.
Fogg likes to go to the reform club. One day, he is playing cards with his friends. Then, they start to discuss a bank robbery and if someone can travel around the world in 80 days. Fogg’s friends challenge him to prove his statement. So, Fogg places a bet of £20,000 (his entire fortune) for the wager.
He comes back and informs his newly hired butler about his travel plan with instructions to pack 2 shirts, 2 pairs of trousers and 3 stockings in a duffle bag within 20 minutes.
Here Phileas displays Autocratic leadership style – is a strong one-dimensional leadership style that gives full power or authority to the leader/boss/manager.
In this style, the leader makes all the decisions without any consultation with subordinates or team members. He makes all the crucial calls which are then communicated to team members and they are expected to work on the instructions immediately.


Scene 2 – Mr. Fogg knows to the detailed level as what he means. He has a planned route along with the mode of transportation as well as how much time each leg of journey will take him.

Fogg’s travel route was like this: London > Cairo > Mumbai -> Calcutta > Hong Kong > Tokyo > San Francisco– >New York > London.
In India, when Fogg was travelling to Calcutta, the train stopped halfway as the railway tracks were not completed.

Mr. Fogg wasn’t angry or worried about the delay because he had prepared for it. he had calculated into his plan such obstacles. Whereas for most people, the end of the rail line would be the end of the bet and the journey, for Fogg it was a stimulus to find some other means to continue. He was very resourceful and managed to find everything under difficult circumstances. He purchased an elephant for 2,000 pounds, to travel through the forest.

This is a Strategic leadership style – it is a practice in which leaders, develop a vision, that enables them to adapt to or remain competitive in a changing environment. These individuals care about the meticulous details to manage their vision to success. They will do what they can to fulfil their goals in the event of an unforeseen situation. They are highly intelligent, and they promote a culture of learning and discovery.

Scene 3 – While Fogg and Passepartout were in the India jungle, they saw a woman, Aouda, who was going to be burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre as per a tradition called “Sati”. Fogg decided they need to save her. Passepartout devises an intricate plan to save Aouda, where he takes the place of Aouda’s deceased husband on the funeral pyre. During the ceremony he rises from the pyre, scaring off the priests, and carries Aouda away.

The project of rescuing the girl was a bold one, full of difficulty. Mr. Fogg had risked liberty and the success of his tour. But he did not hesitate. If not for Fogg’s actions, Aouda would have been killed.

Phileas displays an Altruistic leadership style – acts of courage, such as taking personal risks for the greater good; putting others above self to effectively lead a team and/or an organization. When altruism is combined with leadership, that means the leader’s focus is reaching the common objectives while leading in a selfless way, where the happiness of the employees is paramount.

From these 3 scenarios, it is very clear that there isn’t one perfect leadership style. By recognizing when to use each style appropriately, you maximize your chances for success and long-term achievement.
Unlike the Leopard that never changes its spots, the best leaders are Chameleons – they observe their surroundings, and they blend in.
Leadership is all about how you inspire, motivate, drive and adapt your style according to the situation. If you can’t do that, you are not a good leader.

Project Closure – Ignore it at your own risk

A Project closure phase is considered to be complete when:

1) the Client gets value from the service they paid for, 2) the Project Manager gets acknowledged for the hard work they put in for the project and, 3) the Project Sponsor (Organization) gets the payment from the client on time. But all these listed completion criteria seldom get completed on time and still the project will be marked as closed. Do you also see the similar situation? Is this a correct way to complete a project? Should we rectify this behavior or not?

Let us reflect on all these questions in this article. We will look at the perspective of our three main stakeholders: Client, Project Manager, Project Sponsor. Let’s also try to understand the importance and impact of the project closure phase in order to justify the significance of this “last” but not the “least” project phase in the project lifecycle.

The primary objective of the project closure phase is to ensure that all loose ends are tied up and that the project manager’s work is approved. Project Closing is the combination of the following when applied to a project:1) Assurance that all the work has been completed, 2) Assurance that all agreed upon project management processes have been executed, and 3) Formal recognition of the completion of a project—everyone agrees that it is completed.

Project closure has a huge impact on an organization’s overall profitability and success—as the saying goes, projects are remembered not by how they start but how they finish. No matter how well the final stage looks, the project is not complete until all steps of the closeout have been completed and everyone goes home satisfied.

But, in many cases, the project closure does not happen properly OR in the worst scenario, it never happens. Some of the scenarios (specific to the three important stakeholders) that leads to this situation are:

  1. Client – Sometimes project just drag because the client is too busy to give the feedback or to release the payments for the work done. Sometimes it goes into arbitration because of the differences in implemented vs agreed scope.
  2. Project Manager – moves to another project. They still remain as a primary contact point for the previous project and are expected to resolve any future correspondence (requests) from the former clients, even when they have no team member to complete the request.
  3. Project Sponsor – primarily focuses on getting the payments from clients, concentrates more on financials then on project essentials. They will mark the project “closed” as soon as the payments are received

Failure to conduct Project Closure could potentially:

  • put the organization at a considerable amount of risk,
  • prevent the organization from realizing the anticipated benefits from the deliverables of the project,
  • result in significant losses to the organization
  • undermine the project manager and project management team’s credibility.


Let us consider the impact of incomplete project closure activity on the three important stakeholders:

  1. Client – They never got the information that the project is completed. The project is no more active, means all the active correspondence (weekly/periodical) meeting also stops. They will have doubts about the capabilities of the organization. There might be some unfinished items in the project, on which the customer’s team have to rework. This means more spending in time and cost efforts to get the desired business outcomes from the project. Eventually, they will not see any value add in working with the organization. They will not sign any new contracts with that organization.
  2. Project Manager – As the project did not go through a formal project closure phase, there might be some pending items that customer wanted from the team, and the PM is well aware of them. They will feel as if they left something unfinished. Their hard work seems to go in vain because the project was ended abruptly. As a PMP, they did not follow the right practice and process. This might lead to setting bad practices for the future too. As a project manager, they are responsible for the integrity of the project management process and the product. This conflicting situation will lead to their demotivation and distrust with the organization.
  3. Project Sponsor – the requisite payment might not be released or delayed by the client. The clients might generate negative feedback in the market which will negatively impact the organization’s reputation. The project did not bring customer success so there will not be any repeat business from that client. All the work done to engage with the client and build a relationship gets destroyed.

Projects are started in the first place to be completed and to provide the desired benefits to its stakeholders. None of the three stakeholders will ever want the project to fail or be marked incomplete. So, onus also lies on these three stakeholders to end the project on a positive note and to reap its desired benefits for the long term. The right approach at the project closure stage can also ward off problems and ensure that every stakeholder ends up happy with the experience and final results. The three stakeholders can help it in the following way:

  1. Client – should provide necessary guidance to the team as and when required. They should not wait till the end, for their feedback with the intention to stall the project. This support and timely feedback will help in building the trust with the organization and will also get better price negotiation for the client for any future project.
  2. Project Manager – need to be more proactive and alert to the project closure risk. They need to constantly watch this risk and take proper risk control measures. Successful project closure is their responsibility and they should ensure that it gets done. If there is a difference in opinions with other stakeholders then those should be addressed, it should not be taken as an opportunity to move to a new project so as to keep the “skeletons in the closet”.
  3. Project Sponsor – should look at the long-term gains from a project rather than just focusing on the account receivables. Project closure is also a time to acknowledge the project manager and the team’s efforts. By ignoring it, they diminish and demotivate the team. A happy customer and a motivated team have much more shelf life than any currency in the world.

Project closure is an educating experience where you get to learn a lot of lessons than what you did during the execution of the project. Try and resist the temptation to jump onto a new project as soon as one project is over without completing the formal closure process. An efficient project closure creates value for all project stakeholders.