A few weeks back we had a webinar on "Managing Up". In just a 1 hour webinar it is hard to answer everyone's questions. One of our attendees afterwards asked the question: "We all know that if it is the wrong or disengaged sponsor, then he/she should not be there (which was sort of the answer given). In larger organization that may be possible, but in small ones you may not be able to change that. There may be only one or two sponsors and what you have is what you get. So, what would be a proper way to influence these types of sponsors?"
Thanks Ana for your question. It is a difficult question regardless of the company size, but I do understand the issue as it relates to a small company. The first thing I would suggest is that you ask a lot of questions, of yourself or with someone in management that you trust.
1) Why is the sponsor disinterested? Is it because they don't believe in the project, or something else?
2) Would the sponsor EVER be interested? What would engage them?
3) Does the sponsor even know what it means to be a sponsor? Would that person be open to learning how to be a good sponsor?
Once you have these questions answered, we can then formulate a plan. In order to execute the plan, you may have to enlist the support of other senior leaders that may have more influence over that particular sponsor.
Unfortunately there are no easy answers in this situation. Let's put this out there for others to comment.