#257 – Pivot To Clarity With Lori Michele Leavitt

Thomas Green Here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the episode today, we have Lori Michele Leavitt. Lori, welcome. Thank you, great to be here. It is great to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what you do? Sure. I call myself the pivot catalyst, that’s how I’m known. I help organizations not just push through a pivot, but I actually help leaders understand how to and actually execute orchestrating change within their organization, meaning getting their organization ready to change when change is needed, so that there’s not a push. Interesting. So just for context, do you mind giving an example of how that might look?

Sure. I think the key to that is that you’re going to get change much more smoothly if people choose to change. And so what happens, well let’s take the pandemic for example, we actually saw a lot of people choose to change and organizations were surprised how quickly they were able to quote pivot, but people are now overwhelmed and you’re gonna find as a leader that if you say, hey, I have this other significant change that we’re going to do and there’s not this obvious urgent matter that it’s not so easy to create that change. Pivots aren’t fast. The realization of a pivot involves many shifts by many people over time. And how do you do that? I mean that the key is the many shifts by many people so you as the leader directing that pivot to happen. It means that then you are always, it’s like this urgent project where you’re always pushing and re-explaining and this is what we need to do and and why didn’t you do it this way.

Where when people understand the direction that you’re headed and what it means for them. You have alignment not only between the roles and strategy, which is critical but also between what people want for themselves and their roles. That’s when people can say, oh here’s where we’re headed, Okay, so now this is what I will change in my role. It’s like they opt in and they make those changes so it requires having a safe place where people feel safe to speak out and step up, which means they know that their manager has their back and wants them to be successful. And when you bring a group together, when everyone knows that everyone cares about everyone else’s success, that’s powerful. Is it easy? No, of course it’s not easy, but it’s doable. I do it in smaller groups and then I help leaders orchestrate within that within their organization. Thank you for the clarification. When did you first get into this, and how did that look?

Yeah, everyone has a journey, and so have I always called myself the pivot catalyst? No, of course not. I didn’t come up with that like, oh well I am this until I got the idea for my first book which is called, “The pivot orchestrating extraordinary business momentum and realized that that’s what I’ve been doing all my life and how powerful that is both in business and in life and so in my professional career I have been, I guess you would call it decision support, but decisions are usually made these significant decisions where you’re bringing in someone like me to help you through it, have to do with a significant change. There is usually some type of transformation and that’s what a pivot really is. The idea for a pivot might be that quick move like the basketball move with your foot, shift shift, shift shift. But a true pivot is you’re turning turning that ship around that organization, it’s not just you and even when it’s just you, it takes time. You’re not gonna move from, let’s say you’re deeply depressed to joy in one fell swoop, it’s gonna take some steps, some concentrated steps and focus over time.

So I think you’ve got in terms of your role or your business, I think you’ve got coaching and you’ve also got your books out, so congratulations for becoming an author. Is there anything in addition that you do? Well I do coaching and I am, I’m gonna say I’m a performance coach and why I say that is because I do consulting and coaching. So it’s not, I am not a therapist, I’m not the one sitting there just asking questions. I do give advice and guidance as well and that combination I find is very powerful and it also was very powerful for me. It required me to unlearn a lot of what I had learned on my journey to coming through corporate and being, and then becoming a consultant and I have, I create software and all these quote “smart people” in the room, person in the room stuff where you’re you’re saying well this is what you you should do. And then people do it or not to being a coach where you’re actually catalyzing change through them and it’s okay if no one even knows thatyou were part of it.

Which is you know there’s a lot of unlearning and there’s a lot of ego dropping to be done when you make that shift. And I found it very quite a gift for me. Do you remember the story of your how you got your first client? Um So I left corporate in two into 2000 and started my own company. And my first client came actually pretty quickly I had a prior by boss who I actually didn’t think he liked me very well, which was interesting. And I got a really cool gig helping them set up a uh neo pharmaceutical plant in Denton texas or something like that. And I helped them with their pricing and I help them with the flow of compliance and and then one with general mills helping them find a new co packer. And then I it was right about the time when Hipaa in the United States we had a privacy security regulation and it was a forced transformation of our healthcare organization and that was a fit for me so no one was an expert because it was a new regulation.

And what I saw was that health care organizations were reaching out to attorneys because its policies and we’re reaching out to medical records experts because there’s protected health information. Well, great. Those people are absolutely involved in this transition but they do not know business or how it flows or how to ask the questions or how to do this in a way where you actually as you’re meeting this compliance actually becoming a better performing organization. So that was me. That was my fit. So I did these gigs. But I also then saw that need and it was such a quick change that was needed. It needed more than a consulting engagement. And so I Architected I don’t code but so I don’t know if Architected as the right word. I created a software and had a development firm created for me created all the content in it.

I had even big organizations buying my Excel spreadsheet because because of the questions that they were asked and how they were asked helped move these organizations through that to be ready for the regulation very quickly. Thank you for that. I think there’s a lesson in there as well in terms of you never know who’s going to give you business. So very interesting moment for you. Do you remember like the feeling of getting your first client whether it was a big deal or you took it in your stride. Um Well it was it was a big deal to to make it. I mean that transition from corporate, I did not, it was a when I made the transition, my department actually was dropped and I was in a pretty small community. It’s not like I had this plan to become an entrepreneur, I didn’t even really know what an entrepreneur was and thank goodness all my training um made me ready for it.

So I think my what I made over the next three years was each, each year on average was over five times what I made in corporate. So it was a it was a happy, it was a happy thing and the freedom. So when I was in corporate, I remember working in the oil business not long before this final position and had had to bring my daughter in on my hip one day to pick up something from my desk and I was I got in trouble For bringing my daughter in on my hip for like 10 minutes to grab something from my desk and that is just not a I’m I work a lot. So it’s it’s not that I was striving for work life balance, but but things like that I tell you I did not miss when I left corporate and what I found when I left corporate is those same types of leaders when I wasn’t in the organization and and it was human resources or some administrators or whatever, creating the rules, they would work around my schedule?

It was just a completely different context of living. So my life really expanded. Yes and I, but but I don’t feel that a job should be a bad thing. Not everybody is wired to be an entrepreneur. It’s hugely risky. You have, you do not always have the money that you want and then sometimes you have a lot of money, you do not always have the freedom that you want. And sometimes you have a lot of freedom. You always have the freedom to choose, but you do in business as well. And and so having a job shouldn’t be a horrible thing and I think that’s one of the, if I change anything in this world before I leave, I would I love seeing that change over time and I love being part of it at what point do you become an author So similar to designing the first software?

The book came from a similar place. It was 2013 and the word pivot had been around a lot in the startup world and and it was always talked about as a as if it was super quick and it just isn’t and I was seeing a lot of failures, pushes people being compliant until they’re burnt out and then they leave. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t, you know, the quick part of it wasn’t real and I just, I knew that all the tools I had, I could just envision it of how this changes orchestrated, you know, what do I do and what have I seen in organizations with the work I do and this along with a lot of research created that first book. And what was the process like the process of creating a book?

Um well there are several processes you go through one is just okay now I’m writing though I I speak but writing is a different thing. And so initially to me it came out way too academic. I mean it’s got to be something people want to read. So so that was a challenge. I mean now you have to write, you can have other people write for you but that just didn’t, that didn’t fit what I wanted to do. So I wrote it and so that was the initial process then I had publishers interested but I it’s probably the entrepreneur in me, I just wanted full control of the quality of what I wanted to do with it. And so I self published. So that’s another process and then the final process especially with the first book is having the courage to send it out into the world and realizing that this, it’s a gift.

So why would you not? But I had, but I had to get to that point and were you happy with it? I am very happy with it. Yes any any feedback or any learnings from it that you took. I’m sure that there are words when I was writing the second book, I would be writing something and I would think to myself, I think I said that a little bit differently in the first book. So, so um you know, life changes, context changes, we continue to learn. So maybe some of the ways I explained things in the first book, I might explain them different today, but the concepts are still absolutely valid. So the second one, most recently released, if I’m not mistaken, is called pivot to clarity, who should read it and what do you think that they will get from it?

So in the first book, I, One thing that I wanted to do with a different with a business book, I wanted it to be? Well, there are so many businesses business books, but so many are actionable. So the books that I write have the last 10-20 more prescriptive if you’re here, then go here so that you can come back to the book and look at that. Look at that part. Um I also wanted it measurable if I’m telling organizations that they are, they want to strive towards being in a state of what I called aligned momentum. It’s just how it sounds, it’s alignment plus momentum, if they’re seeking to be in a state in that, how do you measure that? How do you know that you’re there, how do you know that you’re even making progress to get there. And so I came up with six key indicators, six indicators. This is how you measure that you are in or moving toward a state of align momentum.

The first one is clarity. So the second book came from one that there are going to be seven total books because there are six key indicators. I just happened to write this next one on the first one, which is clarity the next second book, because after the pandemic, I don’t know about you, but even writing this book was difficult because one, how do you be clear about being clear and how do you get clear when you’re in the midst of a pandemic and everything is so overwhelming. And so, um this one really felt like a gift. And I also, you know, you’re reading about clarity so you you can’t reach clarity from, it’s just like a lot of leadership training isn’t that successful because it’s training and and the student hasn’t been ready to be trained. So also in this book to it needed to ready people to be clear and to get clear, it’s, it can’t be just training and and so it needed to touch their hearts in some way and and what I did was somewhat what I do in some of the meetings I run, which is throw in a little chaos, so that people’s minds are free of, what do I already know?

I’ve tried that or I’m not getting that yet and help them get in that state where you’re, you do marketing, you’re creative. Not everybody is to get into that state where you can reach clarity. So there are two sections. One is getting clear. That’s the part that really required some work creativity and and reaching inside. And then the other part is about being clear, which is more informational because that is more, you know, here’s but there’s a little bit, there’s a little bit of, well, there’s a lot of understanding people, you can’t be clear with others unless you understand what’s going on with them as humans, which also really helps if you understand yourself as a human. And what goes on with you. Like your fears, did you say you have a favorite chapter? Uh, Depends on the journey of where someone is in the I like the Chapter seven on hope and fear.

And I actually give it away on the site, pivot to clarity if they want to go to the site and get that just that chapter, it will help you walk through the fears that people, the common fears people have that are blocking your communication landing the way you’ve intended it to interesting. And how long would you say it takes you to write a book now because you’re on your third one, you’ve got a fairly good idea of it. I can’t tell you the first book is nine x 6. So and Almost 300 pages. And the second book is half the size. It took me almost as long. Oh it’s it’s a it’s a combination of what else is going on in your life and Also how deep one is reaching to write on the topic. So you said that the first one, the second one took the same amount of time.

How long was that? Well, the first one took about 3.5 years and the second one took three years and I’m going to try to get the others out in a year and a half each and wish me luck, we’ll see. Do you think what’s the reason for that? Do you think that’s a perfectionist? You like super editing it continually? No, I think it’s it’s not editing, it’s it’s it’s not editing the book what I write. It’s editing yourself and the thoughts and how you’re going to speak them and really getting clear about what you want to, how you want your words to affect what that person is feeling and will do next from what you write. Well, if you’re going to do a book on clarity, it’s probably important that it does need to be clear. So I sort of understand and it needed to be concise? I purposely made it a small book and the next one is not out yet.

What’s what’s that one? So the next one is actually of the six indicators. It is the 5th because again I believe that is this one is a topic that is needed very much now and it is on talent, adaptability, interesting and if you were to summarize the meaning of that, what would you say uh answers to questions. All of my books have three parts. Usually the first part is really about the leader and and how they’re needing to get into their own state of mind to do whatever happens next. The second one is usually about others. And then the third part is typically more prescriptive and the first book it was if you’re here then move here and the second book, it’s questions you can ask others to get the information that you to get the feedback that you need. So in this one, the first question is how on earth do we as leaders get clear enough about the future?

Because when you’re looking in the future you’re never gonna know. So we have to stop ourselves from needing to know, but we still need to be clear enough to know what kind of talent we’re gonna need, how are we gonna need to adapt? How do we know? So the first part answers that question. The second part answers, Alright, so if we have an idea, you know, the best idea we could come up with the direction we’re headed and how talent needs to be adapted to this future that we envision, how do we communicate that is similar to a pivot people are doing fine in their roles. So why would they want to learn something new? How are you going to do that? So those are the two questions this book answers, would you say? Um how much of a futurist would you say you are? Do you do you spend much time looking into the future of what’s going to happen in certain industries, that sort of thing? I do not. So with this book I am interviewing others.

So every book needs a little bit. Something different from me is just a constant creative gift making challenge for me to write these books. So this one I am interviewing futurists, I’m interviewing um academics who are seeing what’s they can they can help envision the future by what they’re seeing with the kids who are going through school now. I’m talking to you know, C E O S and how they’re seeing that their their future is changing. So, I’m talking with a mix of people to get a good perspective from the book, but the book will be in my words with of course quoting from these sources. So what would you say you picked up from speaking to those types of people that could be generally applicable. There are a lot of there are a lot of differences and everybody’s different. So some are focused on how technology is going to change us and which is I’m going to have to flip that because my book is about how people need to adapt or will, will benefit from adapting, I don’t know if needs the right words, it’s always about looking for the right words.

Um and then it’s one I’m, one thing I’m seeing is a lot of hope from all the people that I that I talked to and I think it’s in part the people that I attract. So, you know, I reach out to and connect with people to interview people not just based on their expertise, but about how they say what they say and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. And so the people that I have around me tend to be very hopeful and I think that those words will, I mean I hope is an opener, I hope hope will. If the book has hope in it, it will help people absorb the message. They’re optimistic about the future basically, and I’m optimistic about our ability to adapt. We touched on your coaching and the fact that you went into entrepreneurship or would you say that your biggest challenges have been? Um I’m a single mom and so my she had to come along with me for the ride of risk taking, I mean, being part of a family with an entrepreneur is not necessarily a simple thing, It worked out great, she’s great.

Um so, so that’s, you know, that’s challenging, I also spend a lot of time working, so I don’t get out as much socially. I take actually a lot of trips, they tend to be solo writing trips. So I just, when people, someone would ask me, you know, what do you do for fun? Well, fun is a relative term. I have fun at what I do. But do I spend a lot of time entertaining myself? No, I don’t. So I guess it’s only challenge. It’s not really challenging for me. But it’s challenging when you’re, when someone’s asking you and you’re feeling kind of awkward because they’re thinking you don’t have a life and you’re just loving your life. Especially something that, you know, I I am the same. So, um, when people often talk about holidays and stuff, I’m like, well, I don’t really need a holiday because I’m doing, I’m doing everything I want to do. I don’t need to take a break from it. Is that kind of where you are to mm hmm. Yeah.

And it’s, you know, the breaks are different. You probably take breaks and that your work is varied. You’re not on a line, putting a bolt in one place over and over and over again. You are creating it. Sometimes sometimes you have to do the administrative stuff, which probably isn’t very fun and yet sometimes that can be an escape because you know how to do it. And it’s easy to do and you’re not always in a creative mode and you’ve probably learned how to adapt your calendar to that I have to you, you can’t, you can’t put Creativity or deep thought into 10 minute slots between meetings. So if you have, you know, a lot of meetings with people calls with people, but you need to write a book, you gotta carve out like a whole day or at least a half a day, at least for me. I’m not someone who can get up early in the morning, right an hour.

I’m going to write an hour and then go on with my day. Many people can do that. I can’t, what would you say your biggest winds have been closing deals? I’ve never seen myself as a sail. I grew up as a financial person and, and I’m going to say support, decision, support. So you know, negotiation and influence but not sales and I don’t love the the hunting part but the when you make the connection and you know, it’s the right fit for them. That the clothes and some of the deals deals have been really big 11 business I ran um, right after the financial crisis was I know this seems really off the beaten track of what I do was a remote monitoring business because I wanted to bring fresh water technology transfer and business opportunity to third world countries.

So I did it and I created a remote monitoring company that now rather than software, which I knew had hardware involved. And we were so, and I, why I shifted to that was because my business, which is about performance momentum used to be called performance management, trying to get rid of that because you don’t, you manage work, but you don’t manage people to lead people. So, so I could actually use some of those pieces, the measurement pieces for remote monitoring, but certainly not, you know, the there’s the hardware is new and had to get different engineers. It was a needed business. It was really cool to create something that I sold probably $1 million dollars worth through a website. I didn’t even meet some of the people. It’s just was phone calls. It was no more having to travel over and over and over again to a boardroom or different people to try to finally get that sale for a performance management system.

Now, it was just someone calling me because they’d seen it on the website and they need it and they want it. That was that was cool. I think you touched on the what the actual definition of sales is. Um, I think, um there’s sometimes a presupposition which is that sales has to be this kind of, I don’t know, forceful saying things that aren’t true type thing. Whereas I think, you know, if you just have a normal conversation with someone about, you know, here’s what they might need to know about it and find out whether it benefits them and what they can expect And then if they want to go ahead, then here’s what they need to do. That’s essentially a sales conversation. But all it is is helping them. So I think um I think everyone can be a salesperson but they don’t have to do it in a particular way that most people think of sales. I don’t know what your thoughts are about that now. I totally agree. I think the biggest challenge right now is is being visible because the the channels change and and there’s so much overwhelm the like the C.

E. O. S that I work with leaders I work with are inundated with emails that come right out and say buy this, you need this, this is what we do, you need your website updated and and they’re ignoring them. So even if you have a message that is a gift, it’s not going to be seen because it’s delete, delete, delete and and it’s a challenge for those for me. Um you know, how do you how do you get seen? Well, one way is what you’re doing right now. So in terms of the promotional side of the book, have you got any thoughts on how you go about getting your book in people’s hands other than perhaps podcasting, speaking on stage. So the first software that I came up with for the privacy security regulations getting on the stage around our nation, but also in some other countries, if they worked with our health care system or in any way or just wanted to understand what our privacy regs were about, that helped me really get visible in the credible way that that I want to be seen and that that is a great way now we’re not on stages as as often, but they’re they’re opening up again and it doesn’t have to be a stage.

I remember um speaking to a health care organization, a conference. So it was several organizations and I expected to have a room for my particular talk, I expected to have maybe 400 people and it ended up with something like 40 because it was right after 9 11 and I think there were two people on my plane from Seattle to Chicago. I mean it just was you know and people weren’t going to, they weren’t flying to conferences and I got one of my best clients from one Of those 40 people that were sitting in the room. You enjoy speaking? I do and what are your thoughts on podcast? Guesting. I love it. I love conversations so um I like speaking but I like short spurts of presentation and I really like interactions.

So I I enjoy conversations and I know that I am speaking most in this particular conversation but they still feel like conversations. No, you’re fine. Is there anything that I should have asked you about today regarding your books? I don’t think so um I really, you know, if when I guess I could ask this, if someone feels that they really want to, their input on the next book on talent adaptability, It was their hearing my words and they’re like, well I have a point of view on that. I am taking interviews for a little while longer and the best way to reach out to me would just be uh probably to email me at Lori at the pivot catalyst dot com. And and I will respond because I do look at my emails, you don’t hit the delete button all the time. It’s a question that I ask everyone that comes on and I’m interested to know what your answer will be.

The question is, what does success mean to you? So success to me is is a feeling, is what I love the word momentum as you can see, I write it. It’s through my books and that’s that feeling of, of moving in the flow to where you’re supposed to go rather than, you know, striving immediately for that, that financial result, when you learn to know when you learn to sense, are you moving in the right direction that financial result will come? So success to me is not the financial result. It’s that it’s that learning to feel and feeling that, that you’re in the momentum towards where you’re supposed to go. Mm I um I use a definition which is um uh no nightingale and he says that success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

And I think basically you’ve just explained that in a different way. So thank you for providing your definition of success. If people want to buy the book or connect with you or visit the website, where do they go? So all of my books are at a site called thepivotbook.com. I did create a landing page with some giveaways for pivot to clarity and that is pivottoclarity.com. And then my consulting coaching site which where you can see the software and the leadership groups are run and everything is there is thepivotcatalyst.com. It’s not a https. So if you put that in front of it because it forwards to lorimicheleleavitt.com. It’s just that so many people get my name spelled wrong, I just say go to thepivotcatalyst.com and don’t put anything in front of it. Right. Well, at the very least it sounds like you’ve been very busy with your websites, but I’ve enjoyed the conversation today. Lori, thank you for being a great guest. Me too. Thank you.