12 qualities you need in your change champions for success #change managment

Do you remember those painful days waiting to be picked to join a sports team? The waiting was never very pleasant. Picking a winning team’ has its challenges and rewards if done well.

I know we weren’t ‘playing for sheepstations’ in the schoolyard but in the world of work the stakes are higher.

Making a choice requires you to know what you want and search out and find the right person with the right qualities.

So if you are picking your Change Champions what qualities should you be looking for to increase your chances of success? Here are some of the key attributes to provide some guidance as you approach this task.

Picking your change champion team

Choosing your change champion team players is no different to those golden days  of picking a school yard team or what goes in your bag of lollies.

You’ll always have to leave someone or something out and take a risk that you’ve made the right choice.

So if you have to make a choice what should you be looking for and what might reassure you that you’ve picked the right participants? Lets’s shine the light on some key qualities or attributes you should look for when selecting your change champions.

The qualities of a great change champion

In picking your champions it might be true that you do not have an abundance of choice but no matter what your circumstances it would be wise to choose carefully.

For a quick and easy reference please feel free to download the Change Champion Qualities Checklist.

You want your change champions to have the following qualities

An established network in the workplace – This quality might be self-evident but it is worth stressing, it is perhaps the number one quality for a successful champion. There is no point picking someone who is a ‘loner’ or ‘Nigel no mate’ because WHO are they going to convince and convert as a change champion? No one that is who! Also having this network reflects that they are liked, respected and trusted – so with this one quality you have effectively screened for these 3 qualities.

Leadership with compassion

Good listener – Champions are your window into your workforce. To be successful they need to be open to, and willing to listen to all inputs, even those that challenge the adopted approach. They should be able to draw out and clarify any issues identified. They must keep the conversation going, not shut it down. This skill will enrich the project and open up new problem solving opportunities.


“Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.”


Keen understanding of your organisation, clients and business –  while it is sometimes useful to have a fresh pair of eyes review your change you also benefit from a deep understanding of your organisation and business. You want to tap into this understanding and knowledge. Armed with this you have an appreciation of the culture, your customers and the unique challenges you might face with implementing change.

Passion – passion can be a good and a bad quality so why would you pick it? Passion is contagious and can foster enthusiasm. If someone has passion for the change they will often put in extra effort to see it succeed. It won’t be a given that your change champion will be passionate about the planned changed – your challenge will be to create a compelling vision and be a change contagion to ignite this dormant passion.

Without passion, a compelling vision alone, will not see the change spread through the organisation and become second nature and your new of doing.


“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

Steve Jobs

Learning leaders – Change requires re-learning or learning news ways of doing things in the workplace. You want champions who have a history of seeking out and understanding the WHY, WHERE, WHAT and HOW of change so that they can share this with others.This also implies that you want champions who can mentor and guide.

Able to mobilise support – You want someone who is able to motivate and mobilise a change in behaviour or attitude. This is not something everyone can do – so pick wisely.

A change champion must be able to stimulate and motivate their colleagues to ‘buy into’ the change and give it a go. They need to have skills in creating a sense of excitement or urgency about the change and provide some guidance and support as they make their first tentative steps to adopt the change.

change champion must ask questionsComfortable with risk and uncertainty – With any change process you are going to have periods of uncertainty or unclear guidance.

For some this is troubling and a source of stress so having a change champion who is not daunted by this will enable them to reassure and reaffirm others as they during these uncertain times.

Positive in their outlook and communication – The last thing you want is ‘naysayers’ among your change champions as their primary role is to, exactly as the title suggests, ‘champion the change’.

Agreed they shouldn’t be uncritical drones but they need to present a positive outlook when working with their colleagues to implement the change.

See also 4 strategies to counter the ‘nay sayers’ in change

Project team focused

When working with the change, or project team, you want change champions to have the following qualities:-

Listen and challenge – gone are the days of the Stepford Wives. A change project teams need critical input to challenge ‘group think‘. So having champions who are willing to ask questions or uncover assumptions provides  valuable insights into the inner workings of our change.

clarify your problem to solve it #problemsolving

Problem solver and someone who is focused on solutions – the old adage of ‘two heads are better than one’ holds true in most circumstances and change management is no exception.

As the project unfolds and obstacles and flaws arise the whole team needs to be able to problem solve and find solutions that and viable alternative options. The person’s position in the hierarchy should not dictate or discourage their contribution to problem solving.


“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”

Henri Kaiser

Asks for help and support – You want champions who are not afraid to say ‘they don’t know’, or  who aren’t afraid to ask for help when it is needed.

Asking for help shows that they are comfortable with showing their vulnerability and that they are open to learning – which should encourage others to do likewise. It also shows to others in the team that asking is not a sign of weakness.

There are also some other benefits that will come to the whole change team when questions are asked – for example, it opens up new perspectives and points of view.  Also the mere act of asking for help helps make the change team stronger as somewhere along the line the favor is returned – building a shared effort and stronger team.

Speaks their mind – in change management ‘silence is not golden’ – you don’t want someone who isn’t able to stand up for what they feel strongly about, and you don’t want to be kept in the dark about problems or issues.

You want to hear ‘warts and all’ what is working or not working.


When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.

Chinese proverb

This is by no means an exhaustive list – have I missed out a quality you think is essential? Please drop me an email if you can suggest other qualities that are important.

About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself to help you understand what my driving mission is. I am committed to helping aged care and not for profit organisations ‘accept the challenge of industry change’™.

I have over 26 years as an industry and organisation leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change. Armed with this background I can guide and assist you with your change management challenge.

To find out more about my background visit the Meet Helen page. If you are still struggling with change and need some support or assistance please feel free to contact me.

Let’s discuss how I can help