What does it mean to pivot?

April Sabral

/ Leadership

PIVOT to what?

What does it mean to pivot? I have been hearing this word for a couple of months in many conversations. New terms are coming out to describe the new reality in business, specifically retail. However, this term was and has been used in start-ups for years. Being the curious person that I am, I decided to do some research on this interesting word. Here is the best description I could find.


picture of a book

A PIVOT is defined as a change in strategy but not a change in vision.

This is KEY; keeping your vision will ensure your store, team, and organization will not lose sight of their overarching goals. Retail is reactionary. We are used to changing and executing new strategies to drive results;  these changes can confuse teams, especially front-line teams. Great starts ups like PAYPAL and TWITTER pivoted to become what they are today but did not lose their vision. So how do you maintain your vision while pivoting your strategy? This is easy…we have been doing this for the past five years. As you use this word with your teams and organization, think about how you use it in your communication. Ensure front line teams don’t get derailed and confused about what you are ultimately trying to accomplish. Which for most retailers is to deliver an exceptional customer and employee experience while maintaining a profit.

This video on YOUTUBE may help you even further understand pivoting. WATCH IT HERE

To help your teams pivot, we created quick microlearning on HOW to WIN HOLIDAY 2020

retailu surveyed over 1500 District Managers and asked them what they felt their team needed to be trained on in the upcoming months to help them pivot effectively. Check it out HERE.

women in a retail store

So let’s be clear that while pivoting is the word of this year, your vision should remain the same. So don’t let this word confuse you and your team. To maintain a strong vision, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself.

  • What is our promise?
  • What is our mission?
  • What are we trying to achieve, and why?
  • What does success look like?
  • What would we do again if we could?
  • What is our ultimate long term goal?
  • Why are we choosing to do what we do?
  • How does it help our customers or humanity at large?
  • If you asked your team to share the company vision with someone new on your team, what would they say?

The last question will cause a great discussion. When I pose this question to senior leaders, it is difficult for them to answer, and they also assume that their teams could answer it, however, most would have 10 different versions of this. You must have a vision that everyone is working towards, even if you have to pivot your strategy to get there.  Read this blog post if you need to learn more about creating a vision. I find this strategy tool kit extremely helpful when I am trying to pivot and change my strategy.

This year has been especially trying for many leaders, whether you are in a support role or frontline. I am sure we will all review this year’s lessons as we count down to 2021. These are valuable lessons and ones we should take time to reflect on. I myself have had to pivot my strategy this year. As someone passionate about retail leadership and creating training that saves time and money for HR and Operations teams, we opened up the retailu courses to individuals, not just for businesses. Why did we do this? Because we felt it necessary to give manager access to uplevel their skills if they wanted to. Many managers have lost jobs or have to pivot their leadership to the new demands in this COVID reality.

Keep this in mind, and do what you have to, to react, but don’t lose sight of your vision and mission. And remember, positive leadership matters! Start 2021 with a clear vision for your team, one that they can all get behind. One thing is clear this year those visions could be changing. Where ever you are, just make sure you have one.


April Sabral

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