The Three Steps to Leading Successful Change

Leading change is one of the most important things leaders do. Author and business expert John Kotter devoted an entire book on How to Lead Change. Pastor Brad Powell wrote a book on the Art of Sacred Cow Tipping called Changing Your Church for Good. It’s one of the greatest challenges in leadership today.

Recently I was reflecting on the change process that leaders navigate in organizational settings. While there are many elements in the change process, three steps are always necessary: Seeking Insight, Selling Ideas, and Securing Involvement.

  • Seeking Insight is all about gaining perspective, counsel, advice, and wisdom from other leaders. This is the research side of leading change. Without it, change initiatives usually fall short of their full potential and often result in diminished outcomes.
  • Selling Ideas is the vision-casting side of leading change. It focuses on painting a clear picture of a bright future and usually involves speeches, small group meetings, and one-on-one conversations to help people see the possibilities of the new change. The goal is to do more than push your agenda…it’s to inspire a shared vision.
  • Securing Involvement is where people accept your new idea and throw their time, energy, emotions, and resources behind the vision. This is the buy-in side of leading change.

There are four observations I’d like to make about this three-step process to leading successful change.

1. The Bigger the Change, the Longer the “Seeking Insight” Runway – In the same way bigger airplanes take longer runways before they can get airborne, big changes require a longer runway before leaders cast vision publicly. The long runway consists of prayer, reflection, research, strategy sessions, counsel, and market testing. The runway is everything that goes into the development of an idea before it is sold to your audience. If you cut your runway short, your idea will falter or possibly even crash on take off.

2. “Seeking Insight” Always Comes Before “Selling Ideas” – This sounds like an obvious truth, but I cannot tell you how many times leaders violate this principle. When you begin spewing vision off the cuff expecting people to devote their blood, sweat, and tears to your new idea, resistance often bubbles to the surface. Why? Because your vision passion outpaced your vision preparation. Seek insight first. This will help you sharpen and focus your ideas while building support before going public.

3. When You’re Sick of “Selling Ideas” You’re Just Getting Started – By the time you go public with your vision, it often feels like old news to you. If you feel like a broken record is playing over and over in your head, you’re just getting started. Don’t stop. Most people still haven’t heard your vision for the first time.

4. “Securing Involvement” Requires a Heart Connection – Marketing has changed in recent years. People aren’t looking for one-way marketing blasts telling them what to do or how to spend their money. Instead, people want to engage in dialogue and participate in what Seth Godin calls a “Tribe.” When you sell your ideas, you’re inviting people to participate in your tribe. That takes a heart connection. People want to feel needed, valued, and appreciated. They want to share their passions with others. And they only want to join things that they believe in. If you want to secure involvement from people in your new change initiative, connect with their hearts first. Inspiration always precedes information. Without a quality heart connection, the Law of the Boomerang Effect quickly settles in.

As you begin a new change initiative, remember the basics of leading change: Seek Insight, Sell Ideas, Secure Involvement. How you do these three things will define your success.

Questions: Which of the three change elements is your biggest challenge? What do you need to do differently?