Even for the most accomplished leaders, the road to success is not always linear. Ups and downs, twists and turns, and even complete 180ºs can all make for a challenging journey. Changing the strategy — or pivoting, as we know it today, can occur for a variety of reasons. New information, a market shift, even a worldwide crisis such as Covid-19 are all potential triggers of change. The important thing is to recognize the need to course correct when it presents itself, and take decisive action.
Pivoting may encompass a series of small, gradual decisions, or be an earth-shattering leap. Whatever the circumstances, change can be tough. If the course correct is due to a less than stellar path to begin with, it can hold additional issues. If you set the strategy yourself but now believe it to be a mistake, the best course of action is to admit the error to those who need to know and work to fix it. Now is not the time for embarrassment, pride, or fear, and especially not delay. Ignoring hard data, hoping for a miracle or shifting blame, can all be very dangerous for the company, and you. Instead, a timely mea culpa and an action plan will demonstrate that you are a leader with the maturity and strength of character to own your decisions and do what’s necessary for the good of the company.
When a significant pivot is called for, it is important to handle it deftly. These tips will help you get the best results.
1. Get your Team on Board
Getting your team on board with a significant change in course requires transparency and inclusiveness. Ensure each member understands the reason for the pivot, what the expected outcome will be, and what will now be required of them. Be forthright; only with their buy-in can you succeed. If mistakes were made, explain them as a matter of fact with humility. Ensure team members have an opportunity to ask questions. Welcome their input as you may receive some valuable ideas you had not considered yourself.
2. Pivot Thoughtfully
Make sure you pivot with an eye on the long term as well as the short term. While you may believe a change in direction is urgent, what will be the longer-term impact? Ask yourself if a pivot is truly necessary. Frequent change may cause employees to feel their department and even the entire company is out of control. Some may even jump ship. To retain your valuable contributors, and to get the best from them, pivot only when you believe it is absolutely necessary.
3. Seek Advice
When contemplating a pivot, seek out advice from those you trust and respect. High-stakes pivots can be particularly sleep-depriving and a second or third opinion might help you make the right decision. Don’t overlook this opportunity to seek guidance as most are only too happy to provide it and a fresh set of eyes on a problem could hold the answer you need.
4. Learn from Your Mistakes and Successes and Document Them
We all make mistakes and enjoy successes, but we don’t all document them. Don’t waste an opportunity to record what happened and why, so you can refer to it later. This includes situations related to pivoting. Two years from now will you remember the facts? What precisely was the situation? Why did you pivot and how? What were the results — good or bad? For many of us, the pace of business is a blur. Make time to jot down the basics of your major decisions as you go, because there’s nothing like hindsight for 20/20 vision.
5. Add Empathy to Your Considerations
Pivoting can be emotionally challenging. It requires a lot of courage and emotional energy. It also takes humility and empathy. As you present the new direction to your team, take the time to discuss the losses you are facing. Your humility and vulnerability will help them stay connected to you as a leader and help them refocus on the new vision. When we pivot, everyone experiences a sense of loss. Share how the process of pivoting is impacting you. Like you, they invested a lot of effort and time in the previous strategy and plan. Provide a forum for people to express their reactions. Once they feel heard they likely will be able to join in the new adventure.
In today’s world with its unprecedented rate of change and all the associated challenges, the ability to pivot has become a fundamental requirement of good leaders. That’s not surprising when you consider that business success, like success in our personal lives, largely comes down to choices.
So, how is your ability to pivot? Do you need help embracing change and resetting a course for your team, your company — or yourself? Forge Coaching & Consulting can help. Contact us at (905) 873-9393.