Frederik Van Lierde

How to Ensure Smooth Pivots Without Eroding Team Trust?

Unlock the secrets of adaptive leadership in startups. Learn how top leaders, like those at Twitter, smoothly transitioned through pivotal changes without losing team trust. How to Ensure Smooth Pivots Without Eroding Team Trust?
Main article:
Why, When and How to Pivot Your Business + Real World of Successful Examples
The journey of a startup is seldom a straight path. It is winding, with peaks of success and valleys of failures. Often, the need to change direction – or pivot – becomes an essential part of the journey. However, the challenge isn’t just about recognizing when to pivot, but executing the pivot in a manner that retains the trust and morale of your team. Adaptive leadership is the answer.

Adaptive leadership, a concept born out of the need to lead through change, focuses on helping leaders and their organizations navigate through the murky waters of change, all while keeping the ship steady. For startup founders and entrepreneurs, this becomes crucial, especially when the stakes are high.

Understanding the Need for a Pivot

Before delving deep into how adaptive leadership can help during a pivot, let’s understand why pivots are necessary. In the startup ecosystem, a pivot is a fundamental shift from one business model to another. It's not a sign of failure but of adaptability. Recognizing that the initial idea might not be as lucrative or scalable as once thought and then making a conscious decision to change direction is in itself a courageous leadership move.

Example: Odeo to Twitter
Take the case of Odeo, initially a podcasting platform. When Apple launched its podcasting platform, Odeo found itself struggling to differentiate and make a mark. Instead of sticking to a sinking ship, the leadership, which included founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, decided to pivot. The result? Twitter, one of the most dominant social media platforms in the world today.

Leading through the Pivot: Key Strategies

The transition from Odeo to Twitter wasn’t just a matter of changing the product; it was about carrying the team through this significant transition and ensuring that the vision was clear, compelling, and cohesive.

Clear Communication:
The first rule of any change management is transparent communication. Leaders must be open about the reasons for the pivot, the potential risks, and the new direction the company is taking. Withholding information or sugarcoating facts can lead to distrust and skepticism.

Involve Everyone in the Decision Process:
While the core decision to pivot might be made by the top leadership, it's essential to involve team members in discussions about how to execute this new direction. This inclusion fosters a sense of ownership and reduces resistance to change.

Reiterate the Company’s Core Values:
Even though the product or business model might be changing, the core values of the company should remain consistent. These values serve as an anchor during turbulent times.

Provide Training and Resources: A pivot might require team members to acquire new skills. Leaders must be proactive in providing the necessary training and resources to ensure a seamless transition.

Celebrate Small Wins: Pivots can be daunting, and morale can dip during the transition phase. By celebrating small wins and milestones, leaders can keep the team motivated and focused on the larger goal.

Maintain Open Channels for Feedback:
The transition phase is when leaders need to be more receptive to feedback, both positive and negative. It not only helps in course correction but also ensures that team members feel heard and valued.


Pivots are an integral part of a startup's journey, and adaptive leadership is the key to managing these transitions successfully. As seen in the case of Twitter’s rise from Odeo’s challenges, with the right strategies in place and an unwavering focus on the team, leaders can not only make successful pivots but also ensure that the team's trust remains intact. As a startup founder or entrepreneur, embracing adaptive leadership can be your biggest asset. It prepares you for the unpredictable journey ahead and ensures that no matter the challenges, your team remains your strongest ally.