Does your organisation have a change champion?
There’s nothing so certain than the fact that things change in the workplace whether it’s a change of direction for the business, the need to downsize, new technology or a new chief exec.
We all know that change brings stress and uncertainty with it and we also know that there are those within the workplace who will find it overwhelming and those who will embrace it and be excited by it. It can be really difficult as a leader to know how to help those who struggle with the challenge of change and even more difficult at times to change attitudes; people make their own judgements about the value of change and decide whether they see it as a positive or negative thing.
What can help you as a leader though is to look out for those individuals who have taken a positive perception of the change, to harness their motivation and positivity and use it to try and help bring along those who feel more negative. We might call these people champions for change. The closer a change champion is to the key stakeholders in the change, the greater the chances of success.
So what are the characteristics to look out for in a change champion?
Here are my thoughts on this.
- A willingness to listen to new ideas. A champion for change is usually open to feedback, new ideas and they are often, though not always, quite creative. They embrace change, think critically and are not afraid to move from the way things have always been done.
- They are good networkers, able to interact across the organisation and make connections between others.
- A focus on solutions. Rather than making a fuss or placing blame when things don’t go well, they come to you with options to resolve the situation and move forward.
- Understanding of the organisation. They know how the organisation works and understand its culture, challenges and strengths. They are also ‘tuned in’ to the mood of different areas of the organisation and able to provide clarification about the change where there is misunderstanding or identify when and where communication is needed.
- Not afraid to take risks. A strong change champion recognises that we can learn from things that don’t go well and then build on this learning.
- Able to communicate the positives. A key aspect of change is that people naturally look for ‘what’s in it for me’; an effective change champion can translate the outcomes of the change into positives for individuals and teams.
- Not afraid to ask for help. They recognise that everyone can benefit from the experience and ideas of others, whether that is a coach, a member of their team or a line manager.
- They are people focussed and want to get the best out of others in the situation they face. Whilst they are enthusiastic about the change, they have empathy with those who are being affected by it.
- Not afraid to speak up. Whilst championing the change they are also not afraid to give feedback to leaders when they feel something could be tackled in a different manner.
- They are values driven and stand by their values whatever the situation.
A change champion can make a key impact on the outcomes of a change management programme but it is not enough to just nominate change champions and then expect them to get on with it. To play their role well, they need to be managed, developed and supported and as a team of champions, given the opportunity to resolve issues through an action learning approach.