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Creating Champions Out of Change

The idea of change management is simple: engaging employees so that they adapt to organizational change. Although an easy concept to understand, several factors play into successful change management. For now, let’s focus on an area that is arguably one of the most important – the change champion.

A change champion is someone who understands the benefits of the organizational change being made to the point that they are willing to advocate for it. Not to be confused with a change agent, the goal of the change champion is to influence fellow employees to accept, understand, and adopt the organizational shift they are experiencing. This is a crucial need as employees are usually hesitant and resistant to any type of change in their daily routine.

How many times have you faced resistance when asking someone to change something? Although sometimes difficult, it takes change to make change. A change champion helps answer those whys for you and helps ensure that change is accepted easily.

The change champion will serve a multitude of purposes such as:

  • Obtaining support for the change
  • Guiding the initiative from the perspective of his/her coworkers
  • Removing social roadblocks
  • De-escalating conflict among peers resistant to change
  • Acting as the change leader’s voice to the organization
  • Acting as the “pulse” of the organization back to the change leader

It is key to understand that a change champion can only influence the people in which he/she works closely with. For example, Change Champion John Doe who works in IT will only be able to influence the people who work alongside him. John Doe would be an ineffective change champion if it was his duty to also influence a completely different department, such as operations. Luckily for John, an organization can have multiple change champions, known as a change champion network. In successful change initiatives, these exist throughout large-scale organizational changes so that each person, regardless of what department they are in, can have a dedicated change champion consistently and effectively influencing them.

Imagine you are working with someone on the precipice of instituting a large-scale organizational change. What steps can be taken to successfully equip and engage a change champion?

Step 1: Understand the Nature of the Change

Before recruiting a change champion, you must first understand every aspect of the change being made:

  • What are the intricate details of the change effort?
  • Which employees/departments will be affected by the change?
  • What type of dynamics are involved in this change?

Step 2: Sell the Benefits of the Change

Once you understand the details of the change, you can now prospect for potential change champions. Here are some key characteristics and important traits you want to keep in mind:

  • Can be from any department affected by the change
  • Can be from anywhere on the hierarchy, does not have to be a senior leader
  • Has a willingness to listen and understands the change effort
  • Is not afraid to speak up when needed
  • Is a great communicator and social networker
  • Voice is respected amongst their peers

Once you have identified candidates to fill your change champion network, start selling them on the benefits of the change.

Step 3: Provide In-person Training

Before your change champions begin advocating for the change, take time to sit down with each of them and go over the expectations and strategy for the change. Review what is expected of them in this job, how you plan on staying in contact with each champion, and anything else pertinent to set them up for success.

Step 4: Provide On-going Support

Once your change champions have been successfully recruited and trained, your last responsibility is to provide on-going support for them. This assistance will always vary, but often means providing them with tips, tools, and/or additional help on how to address concerns that arise from their coworkers.

When each one of these steps is successfully followed and implemented, your change champions will be well equipped, engaged, and primed for success, ensuring that the large-scale organizational change is successfully adopted among employees.

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