Are you 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 executive.  Because of this, there are real benefits to an organisation to appoint a change champion.

We all know that change brings stress and uncertainty with it. We also know that there are those within the workplace who will find it overwhelming. There will also be 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. It’s even more difficult at times to change attitudes. People make judgements about the value of change and decide whether they see it as a positive or negative thing.

A positive perception of change

In today’s modern world, making organisational changes may result in anxiety, frustration, and fear among the affected employees and other key players. This is where having change champions or consultants who know how to roll out certain change management processes enters the picture.

Generally, change management can lead to a competitive advantage for organisations. With this systematic approach in place, organisations will be able to support their staff. Additionally, they will be able to reinforce new ways of behaving as they implement new initiatives and processes. With the help of people who can efficiently execute change management in the workplace, organisations will know what it takes to establish new habits, skills, and behaviours for employees that drive desirable business outcomes and ultimate success.

That said, there’s no question about how important change management is to businesses. So, if you’re tasked to make it happen within your organisation, then you should start searching for ways to implement it more effectively. Perhaps, 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.

The Volunteer Army Of Change Champions

In his book “Accelerate“, John Kotter further expands on his seminal change theory and introduces the concept of a dual operating system. This model emphasizes the standard hierarchical structure for efficiency and a network-like structure for agility, operating simultaneously. Here, change champions, or what Kotter calls a “volunteer army”, play a significant role.

Kotter’s “volunteer army” is essentially change champions who rally around a common opportunity. They spread the vision and drive the strategic initiatives that address this opportunity. They operate outside the day-to-day organizational structure and are driven by a shared sense of urgency, co-creating and co-owning the change. This dynamic, passion-driven network can quickly assess the environment, adapt, and drive change much faster than a traditional hierarchical system.

Kotter believes this network, coupled with the hierarchy, is the key to an organization’s capacity to handle strategic challenges and change quickly and effectively. As such, his stance on change champions, as encapsulated in the idea of the “volunteer army”, is that they are not only beneficial but essential to accelerating change. They leverage their enthusiasm, commitment, and cross-organizational connections to help the organization adapt, innovate, and succeed in an ever-changing environment.

the characteristics of a change champion

Here are my thoughts on this.

1. A willingness to listen to new ideas

A champion for change is usually open to feedback, and 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 use change management tools to systematically manage the transition process, minimize resistance, and ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved with minimal disruption to the organization.

2. They are good networkers

Able to interact across the organisation and make connections with others. Generally, good networkers know how to create more opportunities to connect with other people and bring them into your network. Since they’re known for their networking skills, they have a positive attitude that makes people want to be around them to associate with them. They’re also willing to collaborate with others to establish trust and a better working relationship.

3.  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.

4. 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 a misunderstanding or identify when and where communication is needed.

5. 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. So, when looking for a change champion, they should be someone who isn’t afraid to take risks. In most cases, people who are good at risk-taking know how to think outside the box. When they’re put in a new situation, they’ll be motivated to adapt by becoming more creative in coming up with solutions.

6. The Change Champion communicates 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.

7. 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.

8. They are people focussed

Also, they 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.

9. 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 differently.

10. The Change Champion Is values-driven

They 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 as a team of champions, given the opportunity to resolve issues through an action-learning approach

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