Mastering The Pivot

“We value our people and encourage them to be adaptable and innovative.” ― Sir Richard Branson

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” ― Jack Welch

The Pivot is a well-orchestrated change over time, comprised of smaller changes or shifts initiated by many people. Mastering The Pivot is critical to extraordinary business momentum and makes performance breakthroughs possible.


A Pivot doesn’t have to be an earthshaking change in your business. It may be comprised of many small shifts. The Pivot is prepared well in advance of any major shift. Let’s take a look at an illustration of The Pivot:

    • Before beginning a Pivot, you know what it takes to gain Clarity, and you practice this.
    • As you move into a Pivot, employees are trained to be both Focused and Nimble. They are empowered to initiate the changes to best meet priorities and remain aligned with strategy.
    • As you orchestrate The Pivot, small shifts are made continually by many people to keep individual roles aligned with strategy.
    • A continuous state of Aligned Momentum within the culture ensures that bold strategies are brilliantly executed, building extraordinary business momentum and creating opportunities for breakthrough performance.

If you want to master The Pivot, you must pay attention to the foundation before you start. Masters do the work. They are prepared and they practice. Being culturally ready is critical to mastering The Pivot.

As you Start, these three cultural truths must be in place:

    1. it is safe to step up and speak out;
    2. employees are empowered to initiate change;
    3. strategy is clearly communicated.


Preparation and practice of these foundational cultural truths are critical to mastering The Pivot. They are described in more detail below.

The following three cultural truths must be in place to effectively Pivot.

Cultural Truth #1: A culture where it is safe to
step up and speak out

A safe culture does not mean that people can knowingly underperform. Rather, a safe culture is one where people feel safe to speak out as they step to do their best work: work that is aligned with the company’s strategic objectives, values and purpose. Respect, trust, transparency and accountability are a few of the key characteristics of a safe culture.

A culture becomes unsafe when unhealthy characteristics are openly or unwittingly rewarded or tolerated, including unwanted bureaucracy, positioning, gossip, manipulation and short-term focus. If you find these unhealthy traits in your organization, start preparing your culture for The Pivot by looking at you and your leadership team. You must model the way forward. Ask:

    • Are you spending time in the workplace, meeting with people, at eye level?
    • Do you seek input about company performance and your performance? This is not only about feedback. Input includes such information as discoveries and ideas that are not prompted (say, for example, by a specific question that you ask directly, via survey, etc.)
    • Do you listen to first understand and then take action?
    • Does power of leadership through positive influence trump power of authority in your organization?
    • Do you ask what people need to perform at their best?
    • Do you fairly and consistently hold others accountable?
    • Do you hold yourself accountable?
    • Do company policies apply as strictly to you as to others?

Be a leader, not a boss. British journalist Russell H. Ewing describes the difference well:

A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group.

You are a model for your entire workplace culture. What you say and do, and how you are being every day, sets the tone.

A safe culture is one where every person knows their manager has their back and wants them to be successful.

You can positively influence employees’ feeling of safety (to step up and speak out) with three best next steps:

    1. Get to “yes” on all the questions you’ve just asked, above.
    2. Lead all communication, regardless of what levels, units, divisions, functions or teams are involved, with a collaborative “we.”
    3. Engage a coach who will challenge and guide you toward success with the first two steps, and beyond. Leverage your experience with your coach to help managers gain coaching habits. Consider also fast-tracking their growth, with a coach.

Every employee, even an executive, needs a manager and/or a coach discovering what they want and holding them accountable in a way that shows they care about that employee’s success.

Cultural Truth #2: Those closest to the work
are empowered to initiate change

If you’ve identified roles and placed people in those roles who have talent and who fit into your culture, you’re ready to empower them. If roles haven’t kept pace with the work to be done to execute your strategy, or if you don’t have the right person in the right role, you may still need to mentor, train or reassign. In particular, make sure each of your managers is in the right role, so they can succeed.

Empowerment requires letting people be, and giving them the tools, direction and support to do their best.

Train every person in leadership and Strategic Thinking. In particular, give people a voice to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and give them the tools to be aware of threats, opportunities and trends. Help them practice “play(ing) the movie” for each situation; to forecast scenarios that might result from the changes they initiate or the choices they make. The “play the movie” concept fits Strategic Thinking to any skill level, role, age, gender and nationality.

Any person can be trained to think strategically.

Some employees will choose not to think strategically, even though they now know how to do so. They do not fit in a culture with Aligned Momentum.

Whether setting priorities for the year or day, modeling scenarios, making a sales call, dealing with a misunderstanding, or making a decision, by first “play(ing) the movie” forward, the best next step will be more clear. In business, the best next step is not always the step that worked previously in a similar situation. Often what was done before is not what is best done now. In a culture where employees are empowered to initiate change, the employee is trained to identify the best next step.

Mastering The Pivot includes creating an organization-wide process by which employees can initiate change.