I hear this from clients a lot these days. Spending 9 – 10 hours a day in online meetings. Making decisions, developing multiple budget drafts, submitting project plans – all, knowing full well, that it could change in a day, a week, a month – depending upon the virus, the economy, the whims, even the misguided good intentions. And then the day starts all over again. New meetings, new plans, new direction. All of which can change on a dime. Exhausting.
My son Rob, athlete, coach and a direct care supervisor, agreed to help me with the analogy of pivoting in sports to what is happening in our workplaces.
How does the word “pivot” apply right now to what you are experiencing at work?
It’s important to remember how emotional all of this is. When I played high school football, there was this build up throughout the week and we worked on a specific game plan tailored to the team we were playing. We put everything into it, emotionally and physically. And then the game would be over. There was a brief grieving period of letting go, but then right away we’d have to move onto the new game plan. That’s what it is like at work right now. It’s very emotional and we need to increase our empathy for others as we all go through this.
What’s the most efficient way to pivot?
Pivoting in an athletic sense literally means to turn and change direction. You have to start with one foot firmly rooted to the ground. At work, that planted “foot” is the clear objective to what you are doing. Details and process may change; the goal does not. This allows us to stay rooted with the planted leg, but handle the change of details with the pivot. Soccer is all about opening up space. When the play gets jumbled up, thee best way to break up is to kick a long ball across the width of the field that opens up the space of the field. Often at work we get cluttered and scattered and focused on one detail. When we expand our minds to the bigger vision, we can find space to do it differently and more easily.
We are living in constant change. The HBR article the summer 2020 issue, “Leading in a Permanent Crisis” talks about the need to “embrace equilibrium.” How do you get ready for multiple pivots?
Stay flexible – In sports, flexibility is the main factor. And at work, keeping an open mind and being able to put yourself in unfamiliar or even uncomfortable situations allows us to be able to do things we have always done one way, in another way. As a pitcher in baseball, I didn’t have a really strong arm. I learned that changing up speeds can be as effective as throwing hard. Some of the most successful pitchers are crafty and figure out the nuances, like changing up your speed, being good at “ locating” (getting the ball where you want it). It’s not necessarily meeting others’ expectations for how it should be done. It is playing to your strengths and finding the best way for you to do it. The time now is perfect for it. We don’t need to go into an office 8 hours a day, and many of us are much more productive. AND . . .
Anticipate – Agility is aided when one has the ability to see and anticipate things before they happen. If you develop a way to make decisions based on external factors possibly changing, it becomes much more comfortable to accept changing results. It’s anticipating something is going to happen. Michael Jordan’s brilliance was that he was a step ahead of anyone on the floor – he could see it happen before it happened. So he knew exactly where to put the ball.
Thanks to Rob! Here he is working out with his new “weights” – how’s that for doing things in a different way!