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Starting the Pivot Conversation

Elisa Spain

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This Special Guest post focuses on how advisors can help the executives they serve understand when it is time to think about a career or personal pivot.

Our guest blogger, Elisa Spain, is an Executive Life Coach who has helped hundreds of leaders pivot in their careers and lives.  Her clients include CEOs and C-suite executives from some of the largest and well-known companies across the country.

Elisa Spain was a guest on The Flexible Advisor podcast and shared tips for advisors that want to be proactive in helping their clients with a transition. Some of those tips are in this article. The episode - Supporting Executive Clients With Their Tomorrow Story - was one of the top-10 most downloaded of 2021. Check it out today.

Whether you are a business owner, a professional manager, an advisor, or anyone engaged in an enterprise for an extended time - How do you know when it is time to move up? Time to go? Time to consider a pivot to something else?

"Nothing is forever," the saying goes, and yet sometimes, we stay too long. — Elisa Spain

We watch professional athletes stay past their prime, and we participate in the debate about term limits for our congress. 

How often do we look inward and debate our own need for term limits when it comes to our own engagements? And how often do we ask our clients the tough questions to help them make the same inward evaluation?

A while back, I worked with a client referred by his investment advisor. His advisor recognized that it was time for him to exit his business about a year before I met him. The company recently sold, and she could tell from their conversations that he was not a fit with the new owners. She also knew that it is rare that the acquirer retains the current leadership. The warning signs were there, and she encouraged him to talk to me then. He demurred. 

A year later, he and the owner parted ways, and this time he contacted me. It took him a while to recover from the exit. Once he did, he was able to craft his tomorrow story, start reaching out to his network, and by the end of the You Pivot Program™, he had three offers. 

More recently, I worked with a business owner who has been talking about selling for many years. The You Pivot Program™ gave him a platform for clarity. He gained the insight he needed to take action. He found a buyer that he was comfortable with and handed him the keys. He has completely stepped away and fully embraced the new life he crafted in his personal strategic plan. 

I am currently working with a client who is one of the founders of a rapidly growing service business. Before joining her partners, she led a smaller practice of her own.

Today she is one of four leaders of a large practice with 100+ professionals. She engaged with the You Pivot Program™ to learn how to make this executive pivot.

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How to tell if a client you are advising is ready for a pivot:

  • Have they recently made an executive pivot? Perhaps they moved into a CEO, President, or senior leadership role for the first time and want to learn how to work with a board and navigate the politics of their new role?
  • Have they been satisfied and gratified by their work and have begun to say otherwise?
  • Have they begun talking about a future exit? 

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If the answer to any of the above is yes, it may be time to probe a bit with these queries:

  • What has changed for you? 
  • What would need to happen for you to feel fulfilled by your work?
  • Do you know what you want/need to do next? Have you thought about how you might get from here to there? 
  • What's holding you back?
  • Are you open to taking both a personal and professional journey and exploration? 


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