Part 4: Knowing When to Pivot

R&R 2.0 Series
Part 4: Knowing When to Pivot

Many of us have a sense that something may be off, that we may be tracking off-course, or that we may not even be on the right track anymore.

As a result, many of us are considering whether we need to pivot.

Given the desperate need for good talent and the high cost of employee turnover, this is a scary proposition for many leaders and organizations today… but it shouldn’t be; not if they are seeking to truly engage and develop their employees.

The fact is, some form of “pivoting” is the only way to avoid a decline.  

Even if we know we are on the right track, we need to continuously pivot to progress and refresh along the way.

Individuals who understand growth cycles, work-life seasons, and what is means to live a full life will be positioned to enjoy continued growth and success at the office and beyond.

Leaders and organizations who embrace cycles and design strategies and systems to maintain growth will be positioned to capitalize on the new opportunities afforded when top talent has the choice to stay, be engaged, and grow.


Cycles Within the Cycle

Whether related to cell regeneration patterns, planetary movements, or designed development stages, we have cycles within our larger overall career and life cycles.

This has certainly been the case for me.

As I developed my career-related “S-curve” (Part 3 of this series, Seeing Our Own Big Picture), I saw distinct sequences within the flow of my career track.

Over the course of my 24-years as a professional engineer, there were several sets of “learning and development”, “growth”, and “peaking” stages at each level of career advancement.

Moving from project engineer to project manager to principal to senior executive to “what’s next” were clearly marked in 5-year increments.

Each cycle along the path was needed to keep me moving forward, successful, and refreshed… at least in terms of professional growth.  


“Winning at work was clearly more of a milestone for me than the destination I had committed to early on in my career. 

 -Peter C. Atherton


The Personal Refresh

High-achievers, in general, follow a similar pattern of continuous growth through a series of advancements, and traditional leaders and organizations encourage and endorse this.

This approach is short-sighted, however; especially today when is it clear that top talent wants more than just traditional success.  

Even for the most driven, pure professional pursuits begin to lose luster once we’ve “mastered our craft” and “made our name”.  

Many successful professionals and business owners with 15 or more years experience are feeling discontented, burned-out, and disengaged with business as usual.

When this is the case, and even if an organization takes strides to improve workflow and culture, a “personal refresh” and “reset” is often in order.  This is a season of personal growth and development to balance out our professional success.

Once refreshed, we are in a position to regain perspective on both our lives and careers, and can begin to develop a plan for continued and sustained success – whether that be continuing on our current path, refreshing in place, or pivoting in a new direction.

Without some form of continuous personal growth and development (or at least mid-career reboot), we are likely to realize the fate of most senior staffers and leaders in terms of losing emotional intelligence.  

Regaining and maintaining our self and overall personal awareness is key to our overall professional growth and effectiveness.


The Process

The process of a refresh or a pivot is just that – a process.  

The optimal time for either option is during the later portions of a growth phase, with the goal to continually push off the peaking and decline stages as illustrated in the graphic below:

blog27 pivot chart

“Knowing exactly when to begin the pivot or refresh process requires the knowledge of cycles, vision of where you want to be, and the courage to act.”

 -Peter C. Atherton


For me to understand how my professional and personal interests and passions intersected, complimented, and conflicted… and then design a pivot from a comfortable and lucrative career I could have coasted in for decades… I needed a time-out experience, a parallel life, a lot of great counsel, and a little tough love.

I describe this further in my book, Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and agree this process is ideally done with the aid of an experienced coach who can guide you through the various steps and customize them for your unique career path, personal situation, and work-life seasons.


Your Homework

1. Play out the future at work

In the context of your current cycle and overall career trajectory:

What is left to accomplish on your current career path?  

What is the best case and worst case scenarios over next 1, 5 and 10 years?

Will you be satisfied at each juncture?

Are there vertical moves, horizontal roles, or new opportunities in your current organization that can best suit your current and anticipated future professional goals and interests?   

2. Begin a personal refresh.  

Continue to use your “margin” time established in Part 1 of this series, but now apply it to your personal growth and development.  

In the context of your life, reflect on and inventory your interests and passions and your ideas related to purpose.  

Also, consider what you want to be and what you want to stand for in terms of your personal brand.   

Using the concepts presented in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, document and map your changes over time to provide a personal “big picture”… and note any gaps that exist between your present reality and your ideal future.   

This, along with the work done career-wise, will give us the perspectives to begin the design of any desired retargeting and revitalization necessary to win at both work and life in Part 5.

Part 6, the final one of this series, will focus on how leaders and organizations can leverage top talents’ desire for continuous growth as part of an effective employee engagement and development strategy designed for greater organizational growth and success.

To your winning,

PS – Ready to stop feeling burned-out, disengaged, and that you are missing out?  Check out: 7-weeks to Reversing Burnout and Avoiding It Forever Fast Start Program   

PSS – Click HERE to receive a free download of “3 Ways You Can Immediately Begin to Reverse Burnout”

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Pete Atherton

About the Author

Pete is the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.  ActionsProve works with professionals and business owners to create greater growth and profits through more effective employee attraction and retention, impact, and branding.  Prior to founding ActionsProve, and for more than 20 years, Pete was a very successful and accomplished professional engineer.  Pete sold his engineering firm ownership to focus on designing systems for you and your organization to grow and succeed in more relevant and effective ways.  For over a dozen years, Pete has also been serving in multiple capacities in the non-profit sector to achieve both local and global impact, and is a co-founder of the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Knoxville and the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Southern Maine.

For a more expansive biography and experience summary.

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R&R 2.0 Series – Part 4: Knowing When to Pivot