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Creating Champions

Everyone wants to be a champion – a winner.  However, when it comes to changes, you need to make others champions if you want to win the change game.  Here’s how to do it.

Connect to Care

The first step is connecting to the people who care about your change.  For some changes, this may happen naturally.  People are naturally interested in the latest technology, the opportunity to reduce their work, or the chance to feel like they’re making a real difference.  However, there are too many change initiatives that aren’t sexy or inherently interesting.  For those, it’s important to connect the change to something that is important to people.

Infrastructure change initiatives are particularly hard to get people to buy into.  The change itself doesn’t do anything for the person.  Here, connecting the vision – the why – for the infrastructure change is important.  The change itself may not be that exciting, but the idea that they’ll be able to create their own solutions, reduce frustration, improve customer service, or simply deliver better product can be something they can get behind.  It can be something they can care about.

Make it Special

As humans, we have a natural desire to be a part of an exclusive group.  We want the VIP access – even if we must pay for it.  The result is an opportunity to engage a group of champions through creating special access – even if that special access is minimal or trivial.  Creating office hours that are reserved for champions, a special badge, tag line, or identification can go a long way at getting people to want to support your change initiative with neither official responsibility nor any kind of tangible compensation.

When we work on change names, logos, and tag lines, it can seem silly, trivial, or even frivolous.  But it’s these activities that allow us to activate the desire to be a part of an exclusive group for our champions and provide the fuel that they need to continue to support the initiative after their initial enthusiasm fades.

Training and Support

The enemy of champion engagement is frustration.  Nothing shuts down a supporter faster than feeling like they don’t have what they need to be successful.  That’s why your champion group needs to have training and support.  They need to be the ones who can be seen as the experts and the people to whom employees and other stakeholders can turn to get answers.  You can’t be everywhere, but they can.

To get the training and support right, you must first listen to what they’re asking for and be responsive when new needs arise.  With the needs clearly in hand, you’ll want to develop training that can be delivered not only to your initial champions but also to the new champions that you attract as the change continues.  That generally means getting training materials together so they can be repeated – even by existing champions.  It may be easier to record training sessions to replay for new champions.

Additionally, developing productivity/performance aids and knowledge bases that the champions can refer to will reduce the load of answering their questions – and will make them feel empowered to solve their own and others’ problems.

Plan for Change

Inside of your change initiative, you’ll have to accept that some of your champions are here for the marathon while others are like sprinters in a relay race who only participate for a short time.  That means staying on the lookout for the next champion and wishing well those who have supported you but need to move on.  Even change itself has change, but by engaging and supporting champions, everyone can be winners.

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