By Nader Bitar

There are two types of people in business: ones that can pivot when they need to, accept that not everything will go to plan and that timelines need to be flexible, and those that can’t. Guess which one I am?! In all seriousness, in the past I would have been more of the latter, frustrated that everything was taking too long, or that despite every precaution, things just weren’t coming together how I would have liked.

And now? Well, one child, a completed MBA, new promotion and three house moves later, I am proverbially more ‘chilled’. Life experience is a great learning curve. Believing in yourself, in your team and your vision helps to mitigate any doubts or fears you have about what can be achieved. Time is always short. Deadlines are always last minute. So, really we should be used to this way of working right now.

I think we need to let go of what we can’t control and be more proactive about the things we can. Easy, right? I’ll admit, it takes some getting used to, but trust me, once you start to realize that the world is not going to end if something doesn’t happen right there and then, it’s incredibly liberating.

When I was thinking about what to write this month, Friends was on in the background; the episode where Ross, Rachel and Chandler try and fail to get a sofa up the stairs. As Ross shouts ‘PIVOT’ in an ever-more annoying and exasperated tone, you cannot fail to crack up and laugh; it’s classic TV, basic humor at its best, and shows that sometimes even with the best will (and friends) in the world, things don’t always go as planned.

And there you have it, the inspiration for this Linkedin post. Boom! Pivoting. In business, in life, everything is not one straight line. It’s messy and things don’t just happen because you think they should. You need to set goals and a pathway to reach them, recognising that circumstances will change and unforeseen issues are bound to crop up. Your job as a leader is to manage the chaos, reassess and yes, at times, admit that maybe the sofa really is too big to get up the stairs.

Generally, we’re all less rigid than we were 18 months ago. Industries have made ‘pivoting’ an art form, trying to stay afloat amid changing market conditions and COVID lows, finding new avenues of business wherever they could. However, I’ve noticed recently a tendency to revert back to old ways, clamping down on risk-taking, demanding more for the same or less, and more worryingly, the empathetic approach championed during the height of the pandemic, is waning.

I get why this is happening; there is a desperate need to feel like we are returning to normal, but really, how normal is working 24/7, connected to our devices all the time, plugged into work mode and demanding more than any of us are really capable of giving? We needed a wake up call to relax. And by that, I don’t mean putting our feet up and only working when we feel like it. I mean finding a good balance.

Setting boundaries, pivoting when things don’t work and finding alternatives, rather than shutting down and being negative, when say, a deadline hasn’t been met. So what? In the grand scheme of things, as long as we are all doing good work, believing we have done our best, then I believe we will prevail and be successful. Granted, we don’t have an abundance of time, but flexibility needs to be a core component of doing business today, otherwise we’ll likely lose the plot!

So, having experienced more than a few setbacks over the years, I thought I’d share my tips when it comes to pivoting successfully. I.e.- What to do when things go wrong and how to stay calm…

  1. Disrupt! Get out of your current routine and try something radical. It really does help the majority of the time.
  2. Role Play! We often forget to put ourselves in the clients’ shoes, and yet, it’s vital to understand how they tend to react, respond, and action the things you offer. Trust me, by taking on another viewpoint, it gives back some perspective, control and also makes things smoother.
  3. Moon walk! Stay on the ground but take a step back and analyze why things didn’t go as planned. Change your approach and change your tone.