What Is the Process for Leading Change? (With 10 Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 24, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leading change in any environment involves creating and implementing a set of processes to reach a specific goal. Identifying the ideal process for leading change is essential when guiding a team or a business. If you plan to pursue management and impact change, it helps to understand how to create a process that works effectively. In this article, we discuss how to develop a process that leads to change, and list ten steps to following through on a leadership initiative.

What is a process for leading change?

The process for leading change is a series of steps that you develop and enact to reach a certain goal. While the ultimate purpose is to cause a difference, the specific approach to implementing change differs based on the goal, the individuals involved, and the resources available. Change comes in many forms, with common business goals including:

  • Increasing production efficiency

  • Reducing overhead expenses

  • Improving workplace culture

  • Enacting a corporate social responsibility plan

Read more: What Is Leadership in an Organization? (With a How-to Guide)

10 leadership steps to influence change

While every situation that requires change is unique, the following ten steps are methods you can follow to enact a change process from a leadership position that is effective and productive:

1. Establish a goal

In a managerial or executive position, you have the perspective of a leadership role. The goal executives create differs from the goal of each employee. For example, a department manager can set a goal to increase sales by 10% within a year, where the sales represent the ideal change. The employees making those sales can view this change from a commission perspective or can interpret it as extra pressure. Establishing a goal as a manager is an important part of implementing a change plan.

Read more: A Guide to Project Management Leadership Styles (With Tips)

2. Create a realistic timeline

Leading a process for change involves realistic expectations. By considering the amount of time you plan to invest in the change process, you can establish ways to achieve the results you seek. Rather than immediately instituting a 10% increase in sales quotas, extending the plan over a full year offers the opportunity to incentivize production.

Read more: 6 Steps for Making Timelines (With Tips and Benefits)

3. Prioritize milestones over end results

A long-term timeline allows you to generate a plan for change fully by envisioning its ultimate results. Milestones enable you to track the success and sustainability of the initiative. Depending on the situation, you can create daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly milestones. These function for management's use, rather than the entire team. It allows the team leader to facilitate the change process without interfering with the results by adding pressure or extraneous information.

Read more: What Are Project Management Milestones? (With Types)

4. Construct a sense of urgency

Once you establish an internal plan suited to the leadership and management team, you can introduce the goal to the employees it impacts. To engage participants in any change process, it's important to generate a sense of urgency. Per the first law of motion, objects at rest remain that way until you act upon them. Your initial call to action begins the process of long-term change. It inspires employees by showing potential, and often includes a form of incentive, whether that's a personal reward or team spirit.

Read more: How to Use the Covey Time Management Matrix (With Steps)

5. Foster involvement through purpose

When a team actively engages in the change process, it becomes much more effective. Not only does it mean that each individual member of the team is adding value, but it also means that each member's participation can encourage others to get further engaged. A common approach to promoting change is by involving the team directly in its implementation. It shows that you appreciate the work that goes into executing the plan and that you acknowledge their ability to affect change.

Finding the value proposition for your team involves understanding your employees and knowing what they desire. There are several ways individuals find fulfillment during a career, and identifying the ideal way to relate to team members can accelerate the process of change. Some examples of ways to provide employee fulfillment include:

  • Competition within a team to promote a sense of achievement

  • Responsibility for the performance of others and the opportunity to lead

  • Financial rewards through the form of bonuses, raises, or commissions

  • Accolades through the form of awards and recognition

  • Purpose by way of doing good for the company or via a socially responsible initiative

Read more: Learning Management System Examples: Description and Purpose

6. Include feedback from your team

After you determine the best roles for team members, you can begin to enact the change. It can include creating daily rewards for the highest salesperson to generate competition. Alternatively, you can create a system where the change contributes directly to a worthy cause, such as using part of the increase in productivity to support a positive cause.

While it's important to set a plan for leading change before you begin, it's important to incorporate advice from team participants. By requesting the feedback of participants and being transparent about the results, you can gain a better understanding of how to approach your goal. Successful leadership stems from an understanding of the value of others and the ability to listen and adapt actively to the advice of team members.

Read more: How to Give Feedback Constructively in the Workplace

7. Encourage innovation

Though management courses and leadership seminars provide insight into processes to cause change, there's opportunity for new ideas. The purpose of change in the workplace is to improve the function of the business, whether through culture, profits, or social wellness. As the world progresses, gaining information about ethics, psychology, and management theory, professionals learn new ways to implement change. For example, modern technology allows change through remote work opportunities.

While the advancement of popular, modern ideas can offer substantial value, it remains important to consider the unique traits of your team, department, or business. Team members are more familiar with the existing systems and approaches the company takes than anyone outside the business. This means that the team members partaking in the change initiative may have useful, innovative suggestions. Consult with your colleagues regularly to determine if the change is effective and identify areas for improvement.

Read more: A Guide to Innovation in Management (With Ways to Improve)

8. Prove the initiative's success

One of the optimal ways to encourage success is through objective goals. Quantifying your results can show participants that they effect change. This proof can encourage further effort because team members know that their work is making a difference for the business and the community. Job satisfaction has many components, and clearly showing the results can help encourage continuing efforts. Among the motivations for employees are:

  • Receiving respect and acknowledgement through praise or awards

  • Obtaining fair compensation for the work an employee performs

  • Gaining a positive work-life balance

  • Having purpose by productively contributing to a worthy cause

Read more: The Benefits of Operationalization in the Workplace

9. Apply the change's inertia

Once you understand how the change affects the team and the business, you can use that to build on those developments. Inertia is the ongoing progress that results from the change process you implement. For example, consider a goal of increasing sales by 10% by the end of a calendar year. Inertia refers to building on that success using the same approach that the team proved to be a success.

If the company's original sale is $500,000, the original change goal is to increase that number by 10% or $50,000. After year one, if the company reaches that target, its annual sales become $550,000. Using the same change approach from the first year, growing sales by 10% is an extra $55,000. Provided you regularly adopt this change using the process steps, you can encourage sustainable growth.

Read more: 40 Change Management Quotes to Inspire the Entire Team

10. Reassess at the end of your timeline

Change is perpetual, making it essential to evaluate your progress routinely. Many businesses incorporate multiple goals for change with a view to optimizing workplace success. Usually, this involves a balance of all the aspects that contribute to employee fulfillment. By regularly assessing what your team requires to perform optimally, you can continue to create change processes that lead your team to success.

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