Imagine you're being told that going forward you're the one from your team selected to be a 'Champion' for an initiative that you have no real interest in. How would that make you feel?
Even though you have no interest in this initiative, would you accept the champion designation? If your job depended on you accepting it, then you might feel you have no choice.
This is the same way that others in your organization may feel when they are being forced to be a part of a change management initiative that they don't care much about.
You can't simply create champions. Instead, you have to discover and then empower them.
Who is considered a change management champion?
A change management champion is someone who you choose to advocate for a product or initiative.
Their job is to increase enthusiasm for team members and to be a go-to resource for them on the initiative. The champions are the people who can assess what is currently going on with a certain process and help the company improve it.
When empowered, these champions can help gauge the feelings of other employees in their area or team and communicate them to management so the management can make better decisions about specific products and processes.
Why you don't need to create champions
If you try to create champions, you are basically forcing someone to buy into a process, product, or specific change you want to see and, on top of that, you are expecting that person to spread that excitement to others.
That’s doomed to fail.
You might get some temporary results where a person does your bidding and tells others, sometimes unenthusiastically, about what you want them to convey, but this never lasts.
Instead of creating champions, find individuals in the company who are existing champions. Think of people within your company who are already enthusiastic about the product or process that you need champions for.
How to find your change management champions
Here are a few ways you can identify your champions:
#1 They usually can’t help sharing their knowledge with others. Do you know of a person who incessantly talks about a product they love? They are not getting paid to talk about it. They just love spreading enthusiasm to anybody who is willing to listen. That's your champion.
#2 They are inherently drawn to a process or product they are passionate about. This is particularly useful if you are introducing a new initiative or topic. They might be drawn to those types of products and initiatives. For example, Anthony on the Customer Success Team might be interested in CRMs and their functionality. He could be a great choice for champion when adopting a new CRM.
#3 They are the people people usually go to for help with the product. For example, who is that person that everyone in their team or department goes to when they have an issue with their SharePoint intranet? Do you have a person in mind? That's your champion.
What's in it for them to become a champion?
Why would Suzy in accounting want to become the champion for your initiative?
This is a very important question to ask yourself.
Money is definitely not the motivator. This is a mistake that many people make: creating bonus structures or monetary benefits and trying to push people to become champions for their cause. It never lasts.
I've heard many people wonder how much MVPs get paid since they see them doing so much work on behalf of Microsoft.
I always have to smile when I hear that question. The Microsoft MVP program, which now has thousands of members, doesn't pay anything.
In fact, MVPs give their time and energy on a regular basis to help others in the community. They do that because that's who they are--not because someone is forcing them to do it. If you calculated the time spent, as well as expenses MVPs incur to go to Microsoft events, such as the annual MVP summit, it usually comes out to be tens of thousands of dollars on an annual basis.
Microsoft does a great job of identifying people who are already helping others and awarding them the MVP designation.
You can do the same in your company. Give these existing champions a voice. Recognize them, honor them and empower them. Provide them visibility to leadership. Give them non-monetary perks, like influence on the product or process roadmap.
Incentives such as these will motivate and engage these people.
So don't go at it alone. Find those people who care about the same initiatives you care about and who are already passionate and helping others without being told. Get them on your side and watch the magic happen.