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How do you become a successful change leader?

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Change leadership can be demanding. Nevertheless, the ability to navigate change is a crucial leadership skill. I have been leading and coaching complex change initiatives with executives, senior managers and frontline teams around the world for over a decade. I also bake traditional sourdough bread and I teach an online sourdough bread course. It’s amazing how intertwined these two topics are.

Combining personal and professional skills for greater life satisfaction

Do we need strict boundaries between our personal and professional interests? I have found that they feed each other beautifully! For example, I often apply my knowledge of standardization and lean improvement to my baking process for more consistent results.

This made me realize that skills are transferable, as long as I give myself the freedom to apply them where necessary. Here’s another example: I developed an online course on “How to Make a Sourdough Starter in 7 Days” using my years of expertise in change management. I was amazed when my course attracted over 50 students from 14 countries in just a few months! So let’s simplify a complex and multi-layered change process with baking sourdough bread.

What are the key ingredients for navigating successful change? Here are some proven ingredients for initiating, strategizing and executing a successful change as a startup:

Related: 5 Strategies to Strike a Balance Between Passion and Personal Growth

1. Get proactive leadership from executive leadership

Active leadership is the dynamic force of successful change. Commitment to executive leadership is key. They project the vision and set the tone when they set the changer wheel in motion. The most successful change initiatives I’ve seen have had the executive leaders (C-suite) at the wheel.

Without a starter, the dough will not rise into bread. Without sponsorship from executive leaders, the effort will not bring about successful change.

2. Become Inclusive Leaders to Create a Change Tribe

Successful change requires key players of that change to be part of it. It can’t be otherwise! Like every ingredient of the bread – flour, water and salt must be included. Inclusive leaders create conditions where key personnel are part of the change journey, encouraging teams to collaborate, solve problems and be innovative.

Being an inclusive leader means much more than just communicating. It means engagement, connection, relationships and active listening to hear different points of view. There must be respect and trust in the work environment where everyone’s voice is more important than hierarchy, titles, gender or background. Everyone matters, and every ingredient is key.

Related: Why You Should Be An Inclusive Leader (and How To Do It)

3. Develop the ability for change management

Change calls for specific knowledge and a round of experts increases the chances of success. For example, a change lead – also called a change agent – is a steady hand that facilitates, offers training and support. Monitoring change requires input from project management, as we often see simultaneous change projects. The local expert (ie department leaders, operational managers, administrative leaders) acts as a local knowledge resource that drives change and is supported by the project office and the change leader.

In the beginning, I support change programs more intensively, and as we work together, the leaders and their teams acquire skills to implement change and spread their knowledge in future projects.

Creating organizational change capacities takes time, effort and energy – it took months to get my first sourdough bread with a crunchy crust and a perfectly tangy taste.

Related: Managing Change in the Workplace

4. Measure the change

Experimenting with something new is great! However, without measurement, the loaves will not taste the best and our exchange program will not deliver what our customers want. Measuring allows us to understand whether our change is making a difference or not.

Change statistics are our levers to monitor the progress and effectiveness of our change process. It is the story of our success – or failure. It also makes or breaks the baking process!

5. Connect with the art and science of change management

When both the human side of change and the technical aspects are considered, it produces the best results. Success needs human input. It is crucial to consider and mix all the ingredients of the sourdough bread, but the success lies in the intuition of the baker.

Tools, techniques, frameworks and methodologies all contribute significantly to organizational change, only if people are able and willing to use them.

Changing leadership means: lead differently and creating an environment where people can challenge the status quo and initiate change. The result is better for everyone: the customers, customers, service users, staff and productivity.

Create the ideal conditions with the most important ingredients first, and change becomes easier. The sweet smell of a delicious bread from the oven is the result of a harmonious collaboration of all ingredients. The result is a happy home.

My professional background still benefits sourdough bread baking, and my baking influences my journeys of change. I would like to invite you to connect one of your joyful hobbies with your professional passion. In my case, I will continue to bake my way to coaching change as they are both exciting.

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