Top Ten Six Sigma Black Belt Candidate Qualities (2023)

Top Ten Six Sigma Black Belt Candidate Qualities (1)

Whether you are a process owner, Master Black Belt or Champion, you will at some point need to interview candidates for an open Black Belt position. Or, you may be a Green Belt or quality engineer with aspirations of someday working full-time as a Six Sigma Black Belt. What should you look for in a Black Belt candidate or how should you develop yourself for a Black Belt position? This article will address these questions.

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The Role of the Six Sigma Black Belt

Six Sigma Black Belts are most often referred to as change agents, and there is no doubt that the Black Belt role is a leadership position within an organization (please note that I intentionally did not say “within the quality department or Six Sigma organization”). Black Belts are full-time Six Sigma project team leaders responsible for implementing process improvement projects (DMAIC [Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control] or DFSS[Design for Six Sigma]) within the business. Black Belts are knowledgeable and highly skilled in the use of the Six Sigma methodologies and tools, as well as facilitation and change management, and lead subject matter experts to increase customer satisfaction levels and business productivity.

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Black Belts have typically completed four weeks of Six Sigma training, and have demonstrated mastery of the subject matter through the completion of project(s) and an exam. Black Belts coach Green Belts and receive coaching and support from Master Black Belts. It is generally expected that a Black Belt will move into a Master Black Belt or significant business role after the Black Belt assignment is completed in 18 months to three years.

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Six Sigma Black Belt Qualities

So, what should you look for in your next Black Belt? Here is my personal top ten list. You will notice that I bulletized the list instead of numbering it. This was done on purpose, as a numbered list usually indicates that one point might be more valuable than another. In this case, all ten qualities are considered essential and should have equal weighting.

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  • Customer Advocacy. Black Belts should readily communicate the understanding that customers are always the recipients of processes, and that customers (both internal or external) are always the final judge of product or service quality. Understanding customer needs (“CTQs,” although they may not know the Six Sigma language yet) is the key to process improvement. Hence, a Black Belt candidate should speak clearly about how eliminating process variation is a key to business improvement.
  • Passion. No cold fish are welcomed in Six Sigma. Black Belts must be self-motivated, have initiative, and have a positive personality. At times they are expected to be a cheerleader, to pick up the team and help them move forward productively. Passion also gives them fortitude to persevere, even when the going may get tough on a project.
  • Change Leadership. Black Belts have demonstrated performance as a change agent in the past, regardless of their job duties. During the interview, ask them how they challenged the status quo in their last role. They didn’t?…well, they may not be the right person for your Black Belt position. Changing the organization and how business is accomplished may upset employees; change agents and change leaders have a way of accomplishing positive change while engendering support for the change.
  • Communication. Black Belts are effective communicators, which is essential for the many roles they serve: trainers, coaches, and mentors. Black Belts should be able understandably speak to all audiences (from shop floor employees to executive management). Understanding the various needs of audience members and tailoring the message to address their concerns is the mark of an effective communicator. Once a Black Belt has these qualities, creating Power Point presentation slides (a requirement in corporate America, right?) is a snap.
  • Business Acumen. Black Belts are business leaders, not the quality managers of the past. As such, they should have business knowledge and the ability to display the linkage between projects and desired business results. How is a project making the company stronger competitively and financially? You can ask questions during the interview to determine if the Black Belt candidates have made this connection in their prior roles.
  • Project Management. Six Sigma is accomplished one project at a time. We should not lose sight of the fact that the Black Belt must manage projects from scope, requirements, resources, timeline, and variance perspectives. Knowledge of project management fundamentals and experience managing projects are essential.
  • Technical Aptitude. The Black Belt candidate need not be an engineering or statistical graduate, but in some cases this is beneficial– provided the other top ten qualities listed are also present. In all cases, a Black Belt is required to collect and analyze data for determining an improvement strategy. Without some technical aptitude (computer/software literacy and analytical skills) the Black Belt will be frustrated in this role.
  • Team Player and Leader. Black Belts must possess the ability to lead, work with teams, be part of a team, and understand team dynamics (forming, storming, norming, performing1). In order to effectively lead a team, a Black Belt must be likeable, get along with people, have good influencing skills, and motivate others.
  • Result Oriented. Black Belts are expected to perform and produce tangible financial results for the business. They must be hard working and quick to demonstrate success.
  • Fun. Black Belts should enjoy their jobs if they are passionate about them. By having fun, you encourage others to do the same.

Qualities that Did Not Make the Top Ten (But Are Important)

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  • Trust and Integrity. It almost goes without saying, but if I didn’t list these two qualities someone would have emailed me. These are requirements and are non-negotiable.
  • Deep Process Knowledge. Six Sigma involves having a team of subject matter experts working to eliminate defects and improve a process. Obviously, someone on the team must have a deep knowledge of the process being investigated. This does not have to be the Black Belt, but it can be.
  • Been There, Done That. Sometimes a team gives credibility to a Black Belt that has “been through it.” When the team is forming, this can help accelerate the acceptance of the Black Belt, but it’s not a requirement.
  • Knows Six Sigma, ISO, TQM, Etc. Remember, you are building your business leadership pipeline one Black Belt at a time. Having a specific and detailed knowledge of Six Sigma is not a prerequisite– they will go through training; having the top ten list of qualities for a Black Belt (listed above) is.
  • Diverse Work Experience. This will enable the Black Belt to appreciate more than just one aspect of a process improvement project. For example, if Black Beltsare fresh out of a statistics college program, they are likely to predominantly utilize newly acquired skills and tools. Black Belts with a diverse background can appreciate projects and issues more holistically.
  • A Degree. While having a degree supports the idea that a person has developed independent thinking skills, not having a degree does not imply that the Black Belt candidate does not have independent thinking skills. This quality is very debatable as I have seen excellent Black Belts with and without degrees.

Direct From the Mind of Billybob

Those of you who frequent the iSixSigma discussion forum have probably run across a post or two from a colorful Green Belt named Billybob. His anecdotes about possums and Six Sigma are found to be entertaining, at least by some of the other readers :). Below are Billybob’s (slightly modified) thoughts on the top ten qualities of a successful Black Belt, which are based on his personal experiences with his own Black Belt.

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  1. Always tell the plant manager you support the Green Belts with the time they need even when you don’t.
  2. Always play golf with the plant manager.
  3. Never have a Black Belt project of your own.
  4. Complete your certification project, but don’t worry about the benefits being sustained.
  5. Be overheard over cubical walls or on phone conversations bad mouthing Green Belts for being the same type of poor project managers as you are.
  6. “You know all the tools…so go use them.”
  7. You haven’t a clue as to what good project selection is for the Green Belts.
  8. [Forget about the 1.5 shift…] You know well what an 8 to 5 shift means.
  9. You have never been wrong, no matter how long it takes for you to be right.
  10. You’ll read this list and say, “I’m glad I’m a better Black Belt than that!”


1. Tuckman, B.W. “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 63, 1965, pp. 384-399.

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Top Ten Six Sigma Black Belt Candidate Qualities? ›

Black Belts must have leadership traits as well as teamwork abilities to assist the team grow and accomplish their goals and objectives. Candidates that understand team dynamics have a better chance of getting the most out of their project teams.

What makes a good black belt candidate? ›

Black Belts must have leadership traits as well as teamwork abilities to assist the team grow and accomplish their goals and objectives. Candidates that understand team dynamics have a better chance of getting the most out of their project teams.

What are the qualities of a Six Sigma black belt? ›

Six Sigma Black Belts play the role of change agent. Their role is a position of leadership. They must possess the sharpest business acumen, strong communication skills, customer advocacy knowledge, leadership qualities, technical aptitude and most of all, patience.

Who is a Six Sigma black belt candidate? ›

The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt is a professional who can explain Six Sigma philosophies and principles, including supporting systems and tools. A Black Belt should demonstrate team leadership, understand team dynamics and assign team member roles and responsibilities.

What is a key characteristic of an individual team member is Six Sigma? ›

The primary characteristic is their belief in the power of the team and its potential to leverage abilities and adjust to changes with greater speed and efficiency.

What is the hardest thing to get a black belt in? ›

The toughest may be Shodokan Karate, which requires around 75 memorized striking moves. It also calls for four different types of sparring sessions and a kata, a memorized sequence of techniques. One of the harder requirements is to consecutively freestyle spar against two black belts.

What earning my black belt means to me? ›

Being a black belt means many things. It means dedication, hard work, friendship and accomplishment. It is showing dedication to classes every week, which is hard when you play sports and have tests at school.

How hard is it to get a Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

The Six Sigma Black Belt Certification exam is hard to crack but not impossible. Most applicants fail a few times before they're able to clear it. You need to set aside dedicated time, and also make the most out of your study experience.

What is the salary of Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

Salary of Six Sigma Black Belt in India

It usually ranges between ₹7.2 lakhs to ₹28 lakhs for Black Belts with 7 to 15+ years of experience. The monthly Six Sigma Black Belt Salary is approximately ₹1.5 lakh, and beginners earn up to ₹60k per month.

Is Six Sigma Black Belt worth it? ›

Is a six sigma black belt worth it? Professionals with a Six Sigma certification may earn more money depending on their belt level. White belts get an average yearly income of Rs 42,000 while master black belts can earn up to Rs 1,35,000 according to The Council for Six Sigma Certification.

What is the average age of Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

Lean SIX Sigma Black Belt Age
Lean SIX Sigma Black Belt YearsPercentages
40+ years53%
30-40 years30%
20-30 years18%
Sep 9, 2022

What skills does a Black Belt have? ›

Black Belts must possess the ability to lead, work with teams, be part of a team, and understand team dynamics (forming, storming, norming, performing1). In order to effectively lead a team, a Black Belt must be likeable, get along with people, have good influencing skills, and motivate others.

Can you go straight to lean Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

Do I need to complete the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course before the Black Belt course? Yes, completion of Green Belt training (through UH or another reputable provider) is required because our program is designed such that the Black Belt course builds directly on of the concepts taught at the Green Belt level.

What best characterizes Six Sigma? ›

The best way to describe six sigma would be to say that it is process focussed and data driven. At the crux that's what it is, it is the application of statistical methods to ensure quality with consistency.

What are the three main characteristics that best describe Six Sigma? ›

The 3 Characteristics Of Six Sigma
  • Leadership support and commitment. The success of any Six Sigma implementation project depends a lot on the level of support that is provided by the top management to Six Sigma teams handling the implementations. ...
  • Data-Driven Approach. ...
  • Training And Cultural Change.

What consideration makes a successful Six Sigma team? ›

Conclusion: Attention to Process and Content

Balanced attention to the process and to content of the team activity can make a Six Sigma project team a great personal development experience for each member and for the leader, while at the same time delivering excellent results.

Is it a big deal to get a black belt? ›

Earning a black belt is a major accomplishment for any martial artist. It represents years of hard work, dedication, and discipline. However, earning a black belt is just the beginning. Being a black belt requires ongoing commitment and responsibility.

How fast can you be a black belt? ›

The average duration can differ when it comes to various types of martial arts. The longest time taken to earn a first degree black belt is 27 years while the shortest training period recorded was 4 years. Going by this study, you can say that it can take anywhere from 5 years to 25 years of rigorous practice.

How hard is it to get a 8th degree black belt? ›

8th Dan Black Belt – You are now a Grand Master. This can only be achieved after 7 years of practicing as 7th Dan. 9th Dan Black Belt – Achieved after eight years of being a practicing 8th Dan Grandmaster.

What do you call someone with a black belt? ›

Yūdansha (roughly translating from Japanese to "person who holds a dan grade") is often used to describe those who hold a black belt rank. While the belt remains black, stripes or other insignia may be added to denote seniority, in some arts, very senior grades will wear differently colored belts.

What should a black belt know? ›

The Six Sigma Black Belt should know factorials, permutations and combinations, and how to use these in commonly used probability distributions. The Six Sigma Black Belt should be able to compute expected values for continuous and discrete random variables.

Does black belt mean master? ›

5th Dan Black Belt – Master Status. Can be achieved after 4 years as a practicing 4th Dan Black Belt. 6th Dan Black Belt – Master Status.

Will Six Sigma increase salary? ›

Six Sigma Certification Salary for All Belts

Whether you're looking to switch careers or advance in your current role, certification as a Six Sigma professional will make you more marketable and open up new opportunities for advancement. Most importantly, certification will help you increase your pay.

Does Six Sigma Black Belt expire? ›

After successfully fulfilling the certification requirements, candidates will receive an Official CSSC Six Sigma Black Belt Certification issued by The Council for Six Sigma Certification, the most respected accrediting organization in the Six Sigma industry. Our certifications have no expiration date.

How many people have a Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

However, as a first-order approximation (wild eyed estimate) without the benefit of some research time, I would say there is somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 Black Belts working full-time in US organizations.

What is the highest paid Six Sigma Black Belt? ›

Master Black Belt- A master black belt is the highest expert in six Sigma and can get a salary of up to 29018.83 USD per year.

Is Six Sigma Black Belt a job title? ›

WHAT JOB TITLES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SIX SIGMA BLACK BELTS? While many certified Six Sigma Black Belts work in contractor and consulting roles, companies also employ Black Belts in roles such as Operations Director, Senior Continuous Improvement Leader, Senior Project Leader and Senior Business Process Analyst.

Is Six Sigma Black Belt equivalent to a degree? ›

A Black Belt, or Improvement Specialist, is a Level 5 “Higher Apprenticeship”, which is equivalent to a full degree. An Improvement Specialist really leads the deployment of an improvement strategy.

Does lean six sigma look good on a resume? ›

Six Sigma has a great impact on the resume of aspiring candidates. A document containing the details of Six Sigma certifications and work experience enhances the candidates' chances in the job application process.

Which is better PMP or Six Sigma? ›

Between the PMP and Six Sigma certifications, one is not better than the other. They just have different focus areas. If you want to be a project manager, you choose PMP. If you want to work in quality assurance or process improvement, go for the Six Sigma certification.

Is lean six sigma still relevant 2023? ›

In reality, lean six sigma remains a powerful tool for continuous improvement especially when combined with other enabling solutions such as agile, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

What are black belt competencies? ›

Black Belts must possess the ability to lead, work with teams, be part of a team, and understand team dynamics (forming, storming, norming, performing1). In order to effectively lead a team, a Black Belt must be likeable, get along with people, have good influencing skills, and motivate others.

Why do you deserve to be a black belt? ›

There are many reasons why I want to be a black belt. One reason is because it will increase my discipline, my respect and respect for others. Because as a blackbelt you need to be more firm in your karate. Another reason is that when defense is needed you know how to protect yourself.

Does being a black belt mean anything? ›

A new Black Belt is the same way: highly proficient in the basic techniques and principles of karate, but by no means an expert. Their karate journey is only just beginning.


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