Pivot: a person, thing, or factor having a major or central role, function, or effect. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Let’s unpack this definition. A ‘person’ having a “major or central role, function, or effect”. This speaks to our agency.
How many times have you experienced a sense of loss of agency in the direction or momentum of your career? You are certainly not alone. Its most commonly experienced when attempting to get beyond the crowded, middle-management space.
Middle management is filled with lots of other people who want to reach more senior levels of leadership. What drives us towards this vision? Why do we want to lead? Simon Sinek has given us excellent insights, through his Golden Circle, into exploring our personal WHY.
When asked about their driving WHY, leaders responses include:
· to have influence, to make decisions,
· to gain status, to make more money
· to demonstrate leadership capabilities, to make a difference.
Why are you so keen to lead? Personally, my driving force was the frustration I experienced at the slow pace of decision-making in organisations.
It is not uncommon at this stage of our career to feel a sense of overwhelm. We can feel that our peers are better positioned, better educated, better connected, better prepared, better…better...better. In his HBR article on Imposter Syndrome Andy Molinsky writes:
“One of the greatest barriers to moving outside your comfort zone is the fear that you’re a poser, that you’re not worthy, that you couldn’t possibly be qualified to do whatever you’re aiming to do. It’s a fear that strikes many of us.
This mindset can rob us of our agency. We apply for promotions, and we get pipped at the post. We want to take our place at the table, and our voice isn’t heard. We put up our hand to lead a project, and we get the supporting role.
This is a high-risk zone. We begin to believe that no matter what we do, we will be continually overlooked for someone ‘better’.
Agency rests with your capacity and readiness to pivot.
Take back your agency through a well-planned and executed pivot: Be the “person” who is taking “a major or central role, function or effect”.
Your pivot will be bespoke. You know your environment, the key players in the environment, the next level you are targeting, as well as the barriers, hurdles, challenges and opportunities ahead.
The successful pivot lies in taking deep dives to find the opportunities to pivot.
Some of the barriers we experience when seeking the next level of leadership can reflect our lack of preparation. Have we built a solid platform from which to pivot? How do we show up, engage, reflect, plan and execute strategy and hold ourselves and our teams to account?
Caroline Ceniza-Levine, in Forbes, Stuck in Middle Management provides some tips for getting un-stuck.
I liken hurdles to pop up tests. They are unexpected but we should have foreseen them.
Examples of hurdles include:
· Missed project milestones
· Skills gap in team
· Budget blow-out
Pivot the hurdle into an opportunity to learn. Analyse where we took our eye off the ball, ignored a growing risk, missed a blind bias or failed to see a risk. Once we can hold ourselves accountable for our part in the hurdle, we have grown our capacity to lead, and it’s unlikely we will make the same mistake in the future.
Challenges provide the greatest opportunity to demonstrate our capacity for leadership.
Challenges are the big-ticket items that all organisations grapple with and they include:
· High staff turn-over - High turn-over
· Team dysfunction
· Loss of major client/market
· Disruptive Technology
By owning our agency, taking a proactive approach, leaning into mentors, arriving at shared solutions across a range of lenses we demonstrate capacity to pivot into senior leadership.
Pivot points materialise constantly when we are managing people and projects. Developing the practice of sighting pivot points gives us the opportunity to take back our agency and actively pursue the next level in our leadership career.