Just as you can lead a horse to water, but not make him drink, you can’t turn everyone into committed champions of everything. However, there are things you can do to realize potential that’s already there.

Assuming a base level of interest and caring, invite participation and then inspire, enable and empower commitment to and personal ownership in the cause and the story. It’s about helping people move from audience to storytellers to participants to heroes of the story themselves.



The difference between those forced to watch events by others, those enjoying the experience, and those fanatics who feel like they are part of the team is palpable.

Witness the NASCAR car racing fans who sit in the same lounge chair on the same trailer parked in the same spot for every race because they know that brings their favorite driver good luck.

Witness the team jersey-encased sports fans often referred to as the “6th” or “12th man” because, not only do they identify with the team, they actively contribute to its success with the passion of their cheering and jeering.

Witness the music fans who go to concerts not so much to hear their favorite performers sing as to sing along with them. Country legend Garth Brooks won’t even call them “fans,” “tickets,” or “customers.” He calls them “voices…Because I hear every one of them.”


Some customers are transactional, using price to choose between what they see as equal options.

Others get into the habit of purchasing a particular brand or offering because they trust it enough not to have rethink their decisions each time.

The most loyal customers possess brands, referring to them as “my” ketchup, car, bar, restaurant, hotel or the like.

When a transactional customer is disappointed, they move on to an alternate, equal choice without a second thought. When a habitual customer is disappointed, they feel inconvenienced at having to do more research. When a loyal customer is disappointed, they feel betrayed.



There’s a massive difference between colleagues who are compliant, contributing and committed to the cause.

Expect those complying to do the minimum required – and no more.

Expect those contributing to be involved participants, following the spirit as well as the letter of direction.

Expect those committed to the cause to champion their cause at every opportunity.


How to deal with disinterested observers

Everyone’s going to have some unwilling fans, transactional customers, and compliant employees. Accept them for what they are and don’t over-invest. Hygiene is more important than motivation. Strive to do no harm and focus your time, effort and resources on managing costs to build a viable business at the price transactional customers are willing to pay, or on providing clear direction and policies to your compliant employees.


How to activate potentially involved participants

Value is a function of benefits and costs. Involvement grows with perceived relative benefits. Focus there – on the features that best meet customers’ needs. Put those together into product or service benefits they value. And remember that all benefits ultimately ladder up to feelings. The key to getting fans, customers or colleagues to increase their involvement is to make them feel good about themselves.


How to fuel committed champions

Webster defines champion as “a winner of first prize or first place in competition.” It also defines it as “one that does battle for another’s rights or honor.” These champions see it as a point of honor for their team, their favorite artist, their brand to win, and their organization’s cause to succeed even more than they care about their own personal recognition and rewards.

Command and control management won’t work with these people. They don’t care about their commanders or controllers. They care about the cause.

Elevate involved participants to committed champions by 1) inspiring them with the cause, 2) enabling them with needed resources, and 3) empowering them by getting out of their way.

If they are fans, help them help “their” team win.

If they are customers, help them help strengthen “their” brand.

If they are colleagues, inspire, enable and empower them to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose.

As someone put it, “Committed champions come when people identify with the cause and feel personally invested in the outcome.”

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #714) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.