No Need to Change – Just Pivot & Adapt

Is change the same as being able to pivot and adapt?

Speaking on change became a passion of mine about 14 years ago and I had both the professional and personal acumen to successfully navigate it. This woman inspired me professionally and personally. “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated,” Maya Angelou.

This is what a sales manager said to me at a recent conference. During Q&A, he stood up, walked up to one of the mics and stood positioned in the audience of 350 and proudly exclaimed “There is no need to change every time something goes down. You adapt, you pivot.”

On stage and armed with a mic of my own, I waited for his words to land as I heard a few people grumble. I wanted this to stick in their minds. “Pivot, adapt. No need to change.”

I knew where this was going. He wanted to look good. He wanted a fight with the keynote speaker.

“Sir, I’m Scott. May I have your name?”

“It’s Dale.”

“Hi Dale. I’m talking about huge change in the workplace. The kind of change that requires all hands-on deck kind of change”

“Did you know that pivot means to turn or rotate? That is change, is it not?”

“I suppose, but it’s not real change.”

Confused at his statement, I pressed on because I knew the participants could make their own conclusions.

“Okay, so how about adapt. That means to modify. That’s change too and we certainly hear both words used a lot.”

I was keeping the audience engaged, so I pressed on.

“Dale, my presentation is about changing leadership mindsets at work, to grow employee retention, attract new candidates and grow communication and collaboration. Especially during times of big change. My extensive research has shown that pivoting or adapting is helpful. However it takes purposeful and meaningful change from the top for this to work and to get buy in from the whole company.”

I thanked him and proceeded to answer other questions. It was a great conference and the meeting planner loved my presentation.

When faced with constant change, former top hedge fund manager/owner Ray Dalio of Bridgewater and Associates believed in something he called “Radical Transparency.” He stated that if all of his 1400 employee could share information, ideas and knowledge without the fear of being reprimanded, written up or fired, productivity would grow. He trained and educated his staff on a regular basis, understanding that together they were smarter than one man. Especially, during times of change. And, his hedge fund was the largest in the world for many years.

Dalio understood that open communication was mostly good and moved things along quicker from top to bottom in an organization. My experience shows that leaders who allow staff a wide birth to succeed often see great results. If an idea doesn’t work, we move on. During change this crucial aspect can continue to open communication which, in turn, brings less fear and rumors.

These are calculated risks and they seem to work. The biggest problem is getting the okay from top leadership.

Dale was partially right; however, it often takes more than a pivot and agility to successfully navigate change. It takes courage, tenacity and regular check ins with every employee to see if they need anything. Leaders often miss this as they are busy with their own challenges.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change,” said Charles Darwin. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is true of business as well.

Throughout our careers, we will be challenged, pushed, poked and even underappreciated. In the end, it is up to each of us to decide how we want to navigate change. And, as leaders there is much room for support, listening and supporting more.