Pivoting, especially in a business, never seemed easy. But our guest in this episode, The Pivot Catalyst, Lori Michelle Leavitt, President and Founder of Abrige Corp., made it seem so easy and clear - that you need to be clear.
Lori also explains how clarity can help you successfully pivot your business - and you can be clear yourself and how you can be clear with your team after you've gotten clear to yourself. She also provided some examples and scenarios of businesses pivoting, and explained why the 'why' of a business seldomly change when they are pivoting. And lastly, she shares how she gets herself #getnoticed.
You can grab a copy of Lori's Pivot to Clarity book here - https://pivottoclarity.com/
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Hello, and welcome to this episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James. And today I'm delighted to have Lori Michele Leavitt, who's joining me from Washington State, and she is "The Pivot Catalyst." And we're going to talk all about how you can keep alignment between you, and your team, and your customers, if and when you pivot your business. Lori, welcome to the show. Jim, it's great to be here. It's wonderful to have you here. And you've just written a new book called "Pivot to Clarity." Help us to understand what mistakes do entrepreneurs make when they change direction. And how does a pivot to clarity help? So I wrote Pivot to Clarity, because, one, after the pandemic, clarity is very important. It's also a key in pivoting in general, which is the leader orchestrating many changes, many shifts by many people over time. And so with clarity, what I found was that we take time to get clear. And if we're not taking time to get clear, we need to get clear in order to be clear. And then there are many stumbling blocks in our being clear... when I say "Our" I'm talking about a leader whomever is needing to communicate with others to gain commitment to hopefully inspire them. Many pitfalls we have when we're trying to be clear. You're absolutely right. So let's break that down because as an entrepreneur and having been one myself—where I've had to change business direction— I'm clear on what's happening. But communicating to that, my team is fraught with difficulty. So how would you help a company and that entrepreneur, if you like, get back into alignment and to pivot quickly enough so that they don't lose business on the way? Yes. Well, first, is you need to get clear for you. And if you are not inspired, you cannot inspire others. So if you have thought of something that you need someone else to do, and you're not putting yourself as part of it, and you're not feeling inspired—I can guarantee that it is not going to land. And so, first, you need to get clear for you. And one thing I find is that many... And I'm just going to spend a little time on getting clearer, if you don't mind? Because it's so important. What I find, you know, over the years, I have spent time with so many different leadership teams working through strategic planning. And what I find is that very seldom have they spent much time truly allowing themselves to be in awe about their big idea. And I'm not talking about that urgent matter that then you feel like, "Ooh, I need to change this." And maybe this will mitigate you having to be in that urgent position. So just allowing yourself to be in awe, interrupting those thoughts that come through your head, that say, "We've tried that before. We can't do that. I can't bring that to the senior leadership team because they'll just say, 'we can't do that, blah, blah, blah." How can you get into the strategic planning and truly spend some time with what I call "Strategic Thinking," and not just jump straight to execution planning. And then the next part in being clear, is you are spending all this time in execution planning. That is, you're choosing, "Okay, this is what we need to do. This is how we're going to do it. This is who's going to do it." And you haven't included anybody else. And so, then you're in the position of pushing, or we put a nicer word on it, we call "Creating buy-in." And I don't mean to poo poo Kaplan in the wonderful people who have talked about how to gain buy-in, but what isn't it? I'm sure that all of those on the call have had some time when they're expressing something that they're inspired by. And they've done that in a way that it's not a surprise, and it's shared by others, and it's clear, and they are committed to it, because they've been part of it. That's how you be clear after you've gotten clear. Okay. So you've got this sort of need for clarity. But I do have a question for you. In order to get your team bought into what will be a new business direction, maybe, or a new strategy, how do you reconcile the pivot between what was the original vision of the company and the new vision of the company? Because often, people buy the "why" of a company. And through a pivot, is it that the "why" has changed for the company or the "how" has changed for the company? Your purpose rarely changes. Your vision will change because you'll achieve it. You know, you have this desired future state, which is your vision. And you may realize that vision, and then you'll create a bigger, you know, a bigger vision. You've seen... oh, Starbucks is a good example, might have started with a cup of coffee, and now they're at changing the world. That's how visions grow over time. But your purpose—why you exist —rarely changes. If the purpose for your business have changed is, it's possibly that your business is, you know, you're going into new line of business. Well, you say that there are some times when someone's got a business and let's say, companies that have been impacted by, for example, new healthcare regulations have come out in America or GDPR compliance in Europe. The new ad-blocking software that's you know, now prevalent, for example, that's impacting Facebook. For some companies, the business model itself no longer exists, right? So a company has to pivot. How, with your Pivot to Clarity, are you helping the leader of that company kind of create realignment, because the whole business has to turn on a six months, doesn't it? Maybe create new revenue streams from existing customers? Or maybe find new customers? How are you doing that, Lori? Well, the one of those that you mentioned that I know the most of is the privacy security regulations in healthcare. And in the US, we called it HIPAA. And I was in that space, in that I was working with some healthcare organizations, and what I found was, one, it was not a change in how they would get their revenue streams, but it certainly did have an impact on were they attracting people into their organization, and the cost contracting, et cetera. And it was an enterprise-wide change. They had to change the way they communicated— with each other, externally, you know, in their marketing, what they had to send out. Everything was changing. Who had access online? All of that changed. And it was a tight timeline. There was a compliance deadline. And it was only about two years, it was a huge regulation that said, "Be reasonable throughout it." So all of these organizations came up with their own policies and procedures which aligned with the reg but may have been different than the reg. And it was pretty messy. And so, how do you move, you know, how do you move through that? In this case, what I saw was that those healthcare organizations were reaching out to medical records specialists. So my first tip is that, "Look at who you need input from. Who are you getting advice from? And is it going to help your organization actually go through this significant change?" Which we didn't call it pivots back then, but it truly was a pivot in how they communicated. In this case, they were reaching out to medical records experts because there was protected healthcare information. And to attorneys, because there were policies and rules. Neither of those understood business, understood organizational change, understood that when you go through organization-wide change, that there's an opportunity to also improve performance of the organization while you do it. And so it was the opportunity for me to step in with consulting, with speaking, and develop a software that took them through a discovery of what gaps they had from where they were today and where they needed to be, and how to close those gaps. Lori, that's interesting. You're the first person I've talked with who actually has a software for sort of implementing this internal communication and change. Tell us more. What's it called? And how does it work, and how does it help the business owner with the internal communication when they're pivoting at speed? So that one is called "Discovery." We actually actively power ourselves with it, but we may launch it again to the world soon. What I'm focused on with software, because I feel that it's a huge need today is gaining alignment and momentum in an organization. So we have a software called "Aligned Momentum," and it is shifting from what is called "The Category of Performance Management," which is really about managing work because you don't manage people—you lead people. And managers are only given tools; they're asked to lead; we're expecting them to lead. Everyone wants to lead more throughout the organization, and yet, they don't have a system to help them lead, to create a rhythm of leadership. And so that is what Aligned Momentum does—strategy, workplace assessments, reviews, conversations, everything that helps anyone who makes decisions about others lead better. Right. That's fantastic. And as you say, people are often taught to manage and not to lead. And yet in today's environment, especially with the remote working, leadership is really important. So, with this idea of pivoting and it being, if you're like, led at each individual manager's level, tell us about the sort of readiness and preparedness that you think an organisation needs to have in order to make a pivot? Because, from the sounds of things, do you think there's a cascade of information that needs to flow through organisations? Is that right? Tell us about that. Yeah, and there are stages for readiness for your organization to be always ready to feel it's natural to change. And so when a significant change, a pivot, comes around, it's not such a push. And it's so much easier to gain commitment, even if it didn't come from the bottom up. The stages include, first, your culture needs to be a safe place. And what I mean by that, well, a quick definition is that every person in the organization needs to know, absolutely feel that their manager has their back and wants them to be successful. If you don't have that, start there. Okay. That's really good. If you have that, then the next stage is clarity. Are you able to communicate clearly throughout the organization? And that's what my second book is about, "Pivot to Clarity." And how people... And the next two stages are about focusing and context within the organization. Okay. I love that. Well, there's a Scandinavian professor called Wiio, and he had the "Wiio's Laws of Miscommunication." He talks about the filtering that goes on as we do communicate. Lots of other people in the value chain will have their own filters. How are you helping an organisation to generate clarity at each individual, If you like, management, and team member, then? Because that's not easy, is it? Especially if you're across geographies, cultures, languages, and so on. Know, and often the challenge is that someone who brings us in has in mind the one thing they need to fix—we need to fix this person. You know, or we need to get buy in on this topic. When they may be in one of the stages and we need to find out which stage they're in, that's where it needs to start. If they're in the stage they're ready for clarity, then we want to find out how information flows. And is the way information is flowing and communication is flowing? Is that creating the momentum toward their vision aligned with their purpose and values that they intend? Right. And if it isn't, that's what we address - it's the specifics come much later. Can you give us some examples, then, when you talk about the flow of information. Lori, just tell us some examples of constructive and maybe non-constructive, if that's a term, ways that information flows within an organisation that you seem to be working and not working. Well, first, I'll tell you one of my pet peeves. So I grew up in the financial world. Have lots of letters after my name. Done a lot of strategic plans, a lot of budgets. Now, help organizations with strategy. And one thing I found, and, unfortunately, it's still done, is usually those decision makers have spent a lot of time coming up with a strategic plan, and includes all sorts of things that cannot be measured in financial statements. And probably, don't have any system to measure them. And then, without sharing that in any meaningful way with anyone, it's set to accounting, placed into a budget, and that's what people get. Right. You tell me, have you ever been inspired by a budget? I rarely start getting my inspiration from the numbers. Normally, it's, as you say, you're normally inspired by the purpose, and the result, and the emotional responses that you're going to get from what you've done. And the budget and the money comes afterwards, right? So, but you're saying that there's a disconnect where the people who are running the business, maybe the VCs or the shareholders, are driving a business because it's ultimately about money, but they're sort of encoding the value system in the budget rather than somewhere else. Lori, how else should they do it? What's the right way of doing this? So what we recommend is sharing strategy. Now this isn't about consensus. And it isn't that those throughout the organization are coming up with your game plan. There might be input into it. But it is sharing in that those closer to the work understand what strategic objectives and your priority strategic objectives. So we're talking three, maybe five , you know, what are you really needing to get done? And they have a say in what they can affect. And then you especially need from them: what would progress look like in the way that they affect it? So that's going to be different for customer service, for marketing, for finance, for admin, for sales, for operations. Everybody's going to be doing different things that align with that strategic objective. So we've started off talking about your book, Pivot to Clarity. If you've got all of these different people and people within the organisational sort of playing a role in the first strategy and then the business pivots, what happens, Lori? How do you go? Oh, I know we said this and that was great, but we've just changed business direction. How do you communicate that then? Right. And I talked about clarity, and let's just talk about how communication can not land well. So, in one of the chapters of my book, I talk about hope and fear. Hope is an opener. So if you are now communicating your vision, your direction, and it sounds good, you can open the door for hope that what's coming next is going to be better for them. And yet, there will still usually be fear. And fear is a closer. Fear closes that door so fast that you can, you know, hardly imagine it. And so I work with leaders to first help them understand their fears. Now, I have to gain trust with them to get into that conversation. It may be first done with one-on-ones and then with a group; it really depends on, you know, what the dynamics are within the organization. But a big fear with the leadership team, for example, is the fear of looking stupid. Yeah, I was going to say that would probably be the main thing is going back to people three months later and saying, "Hey, guess what? I know I asked you all that stuff and now we're not going to do it anymore." And there are fears of being blamed and fears of conflict. And so there are ways that you can if you understand how it happens with you, there are ways when you're in a conversation with others to understand, to take some time with your words and understand what words could bring up those fears, or how you might do this in a way to mitigate those fears. And my main recommendation there is get to the point up front. Don't go into this long story of your explanation before you get to the point, because while you're doing that other person is fearing the worst. Very interesting. And, this is such a deep topic, Lori. And, as you know, I am afraid I have to keep it this show quite short. But I am, of course, going to put details of the book, "Pivot to Clarity," in the show notes. Final question for you though, as an entrepreneur, how are you getting yourself noticed? So one way I do that is speaking. So you get on stages, you get noticed. If you're speaking, even if it's a workshop or a breakout, you are at that conference. Now, that was got a little odd in the pandemic, and here I'm doing podcasts. Now, which I love, I love the conversations that I have. I actually love that more than the just presenting too. A conversation is very inspiring for me. So getting out there. The other is, you know, LinkedIn, making connections. I connect with probably a person every day that has some meaning. Usually, other thought leaders. And through with social. I'm just now really getting used to social, and finding my authentic self because you're not going to see me dancing on the screen. No. And so, you know, it's always seeing, you know, asking where is my audience, and how can I serve them best? That will answer, for me, where should I be socially? That's a fabulous answer. Thank you for being socially with me today on The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast, Lori Michele Leavitt. Thank you. Joining me from Washington State, thank you so much. Thank you. Bye-bye. You've been listening to me, Jim James, with Lori Michele Leavitt over there in Washington State, talking about clarity and the importance of that. We will, of course, include her details in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. And as always, we encourage you to keep on communicating. And if you like the show, please communicate that with your friends and your fellow entrepreneurs. And until we meet again, I just wish you the best and to keep on communicating.