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Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team: The Champ (and the Chip)


In my previous post, I described the psychological profile of the “Giver”, how people with those characteristics tend to function in the workplace and where they fit in your Dream Team lineup. In this post, I’ll discuss a very different type of person: the “Champ (and the Chip)”.

What Makes Them Tick?

The Champ is your quintessential high-performing salesperson. Champs are high-energy, optimistic and love engaging with people. They’re also extremely skilled at reading people—a skill which often comes from their upbringing. Maybe a parent taught them. Or maybe their home life wasn’t quite perfect, and they had to learn at a young age how to understand and deal with the imperfections of the adults around them.

Either way, they gained confidence in their ability to handle interpersonal interactions early on, and it’s served them well throughout their lives and careers. This little bit of ego makes them believe in themselves, the products they sell and the companies they work for.

Champs tend to come with another distinguishing characteristic: the “Chip” on their shoulder. That Chip can come from a variety of sources, such as the socio-economic status they lacked as a child, their physical appearance or their educational background. While “having a chip on your shoulder” typically has a negative connotation, I’ve found that it can be extraordinarily motivating. Some of our best employees carry a little Chip with them. To be honest, I do, too!

It’s also important to note that, as with the Giver, maturity is independent of personality type here. A more mature Champ can keep their ego in check and learn to overcome some of their innate potential problem areas, such as tenure, teamwork and commitment.

What Qualities Do Champs Have?

Here’s a quick breakdown of how Champs tend to rank for certain key qualities and tendencies:

Rating (out of 5 stars)

Who Are Some Famous Champs?

Here are some famous Champs throughout history, grouped by level of maturity:

More Mature
Less Mature

Regis Philbin

Charlie Sheen

Dale Carnegie

Jim Jones

Barack Obama

Anthony Weiner

As mentioned before, a mature Champ doesn’t let their confidence get the best of them, uses their people skills effectively, is committed and can work well with others. An immature Champ may still achieve success, but eventually, their pride turns to hubris, and the negative consequences of this are the stuff of legend.

Philbin’s people skills and commitment landed him one of the longest-tenured gigs in morning television, while Sheen’s public displays of narcissism have made him the punchline to countless jokes and internet memes. Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is a perfect description of his track record. But Jones is the dark side of this coin: the blood of all those he influenced is on his hands. Whether or not you agree with his politics, Obama’s charismatic leadership twice won him the Presidency, while Weiner’s “champ overload” led to some quite unsavory exposure and his loss of the New York City mayoral race.

What Makes Them Great?

Champs possess some important characteristics that make them great employees:

  • They’re optimistic. The key strength of the Champ is optimism: the firm belief that the next sales call he or she makes is going to be the one that closes. That belief energizes Champs to keep picking up the phone and keeps them positive about selling, even in the face of rejection.
  • They’re confident. The best Champs are confident, but not cocky. They know they’re good at what they do, and are assured of their own ability to understand customers and sell them on a given product. However, they’re still respectful of managers and customers alike; their ego isn’t manifested as arrogance.
  • They strive to be the best. Champs are ambitious, driven and high-performing, with a strong competitive edge. They are constantly striving to be the very best at what they do, and they often succeed. It’s fairly common for Champs, over time, to rise through the ranks of a company and become top-level executives.
  • They’re “people persons”. As previously mentioned, Champs are good at reading and understanding people, which makes them ideally suited for sales and leadership positions. Champs are all-around “people persons”: they love interacting with people, and are skilled, natural conversationalists. Verbal communication is one of their strongest suits, making them a valuable addition to most any business meeting.

What Challenges Do They Face?

While Champs have plenty of great characteristics, their personality traits also lend them some unique challenges:

  • Champ overload. A healthy dose of ego is part of what makes Champs so dynamic—but for some, this ego grows big enough to become narcissism. Those who are cocky and boastful about their achievements are on “Champ overload,” and if it goes unchecked, they won’t work out as employees. Not to mention, this braggadocio is probably covering up some deep-seated insecurities.
  • A really big Chip. When it comes to the Chip on their shoulder, most Champs will cover it up with a nice dress shirt; it will quietly drive them, unbeknownst to others. The problem comes when the Chip is too big, and turns into a liability. Sometimes, even Champs who start off strong may decide to tear off the dress shirt and wear their Chip with belligerent, cocky pride. Typically, this means challenging authority and butting heads with managers, customers and prospects.
  • Turnover. The turnover rate for Champs tends to be higher than it is for other personality types, such as Givers. Champs really need to be on a winning team—and they will find a different team if you don’t keep pace with them. You need a dynamic sales strategy in order to retain dynamic sales talent.

How Do Champs Perform in Key Roles?

Here’s a quick look at which roles Champs are most, and least, suited for:

What They’re Good At
What They’re Not So Good At
Marketing Strategy
Executive Support
Political Campaigns
Customer Service
Software Development

Which Roles Are Best for Them?

The characteristics shared by Champs make them well-matched for certain workplace roles, including:

  • Sales. The Champ is a born salesperson. The skills necessary for success in sales—such as confidence, competitiveness and communication—are in her DNA. She isn’t fazed when she hears the word “no,” because she firmly believes the next answer she hears will be a “yes.” She is thick-skinned, and doesn’t get discouraged even when dealing with angry or dissatisfied customers.
  • Political campaigns. Champs are also natural politicians. The greatest of them are adored by voters: President Obama has a Champ personality. Champs are charismatic and energized, and they like to come up with new ideas. Their marketability makes them well-suited for “campaign” roles; they aren’t afraid to reach out to prospective clients or customers, and will shake hands and kiss babies on behalf of your company.
  • C-suite executive roles. Those Champs with the greatest maturity—who have mastered humility and tempered their healthy dose of narcissism—will rise up through the sales department and become senior executives. When Champs are at their best, they are great leaders whom other people look up to.

Which Roles Should They Avoid?

While Champs shine in sales-oriented roles, they aren’t a good fit for every position. Some roles they should avoid include:

  • Detail-oriented positions. Champs are focused on making deals and moving units—so they tend to not have time for the details. You probably don’t want a Champ, say, heading your development team or running your accounting department; they would likely overlook more than a few important transactions.
  • Creative roles. Champs are generally not creative types. The best of them do think creatively, and could apply this ability to evangelical marketing, in the mold of Steve Jobs—but Champs are probably not your ideal rank-and-file marketers, copywriters or advertisers.
  • Customer support. While Champs excel at bringing customers in the door, it’s often best for that to be the extent of their customer interaction. Champs are always focused on closing the next sale; their attention tends to be drawn more to making a customer out of the next prospect than to solving problems for an existing customer.

How Do You Identify a Champ in an Interview?

During the interview process, there are certain clues you can look for in order to identify whether or not a candidate is a Champ:

  • A really good handshake. Cliche as it may be, most of us overlook the importance of a good handshake. A Champ will enter an interview and shake your hand firmly enough to mean it, but without trying to break your fingers. And they’ll look in you in the eye while doing so, with a gentle and genuine smile.
  • They set themselves apart. Oftentimes, Champs will be interested in material items such as expensive watches or designer clothes. While they might be conservative in other areas of life—even with finances—they tend to put on just enough sparkle to set themselves apart. Champs want to be a little bit unique and to highlight their success.
  • A natural conversational flow. Champs enjoy conversation and human interaction: they’re not threatened by the interview or the interviewer. And they will be able to flow naturally in conversation, from business to personal and back again. If, when you attempt to shift the conversation with a candidate, they remain too focused on a prior topic, they may not possess the dynamic interpersonal skills indicative of a Champ.
  • A positive and successful track record. The Champ will have a track record of success, and when asked, will humbly share examples and metrics that prove it. They will speak positively about their past work experience, their employers and the products they sold; it’s unlikely they will say anything negative.
  • A love of competition and challenging games. Champs are naturally competitive and love a challenging game: There’s a good chance they’re involved with some kind of sport, whether it’s tennis, golf or triathlons. The distinguishing factor is that while many people enjoy these pastimes, Champs are really skilled at them and work hard to get better. They may also enjoy games of chance, including gambling; this is an area to be cautious of, so try to assess just how far that passion goes.

What Should You Do As an Employer?

When hiring Champs onto your staff, there are a few things that, as an employer, you’ll have to do to ensure that everyone on the team is happy:

  • Keep up with them. Champs want to be winners. Ensure that there are plenty of regular opportunities for “wins”—for example, meeting daily, weekly or monthly goals—and compensate your Champs when they achieve them. Ensure there are opportunities for career advancement. And, most importantly, have an aggressive sales strategy that motivates everyone on the team to succeed.
  • Keep them in line. Champs are independent and driven to achieve ever-higher levels of success. Usually, this is a good thing, but on occasion (especially with younger Champs), this drive clashes with authority. Have a clear leadership hierarchy—and a clear set of rules that are clearly enforced—to keep everyone in line.
  • Gauge your Champs’ maturity level. Again, you must gauge your employees’ maturity independent of personality type. Life-stage changes, such as marriage or having a family, often push Champs into a more grown-up mindset and help them work better in a professional environment. In many cases, a younger professional with a big Chip on his shoulder matures, in his late twenties or early thirties, and becomes a true Champ.

Champs can be some of your most valuable team members: given the right opportunities, the sky’s the limit for them and for your company. Of course, as with any personality type, you’ll need to have others on your staff who balance Champs out and make for a well-rounded team. In my next post, I’ll discuss another psychological profile: the “Matrix Thinker.”

Holly Regan and Dr. James Maynard contributed to this article.

Image by Holly Regan.

Regis Philbin by David Shankbone” created by David Shankbone used under CC-BY / resized.
Charlie Sheen 2012” created by Beyond My Ken used under CC-BY / cropped and resized.
Dale Carnegie signature” created in vector format by Scewing (Heritage Auctions) used under public domain-signature / resized.
President Obama Visits Ellicott Dredges on Jobs Tour” created by Maryland GovPics used under CC-BY / cropped and resized.
Anthony Weiner, NYC, May 2011 (Pre-‘Weinergate’)” created by Tony Fischer used under CC-BY / cropped and resized.
02-jones-jim-ji” created by Jonestown Institute used under attribution / cropped and resized.

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About the Author

Don started Software Advice in 2005 after a ten-year career in the software industry. Previously he held positions as an ERP analyst at an investment firm and as a corporate development executive at a pioneering CRM software company. Don lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Lauren, daughter Hudson, son Stone and Bernese mountain dog Stinson.

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