How do you create the future when the present breaks? Do you rebuild, trying to put every piece back exactly as you remember it? Do you toss all broken pieces in the bin and start all over again? Think harder. You could make a mosaic.
For a while now, we’ve been talking about the ‘re-onboarding’ process post COVID-19, but re-onboarding is exactly the wrong thing to do. It implies people, culture, practices can be the same as they were before. We have a better idea.
Who’s doing well?
Let’s start by looking at leaders and organisations that are doing well. Right now. While so many are like deer caught in the biggest ever headlights, there are others who have a steely (and highly visionary) eye for the future. We’ve chosen three for special mention.
The first is an organisation that as this all hit, completely reset their organisation. Not ‘hibernated’ it, or stood it down, but actually looked at ‘when it’s over, who do we want to be’. In the first week of March, they got their whole team signed up to a new way forward. Every. Single. Person.
The second is a huge Government Department. As the crisis gripped most minds, the Secretary and a very unique and creative team up close to them, started thinking ‘what are we learning?’ and ‘what lessons can we take forward’. They started talking about a culture and way of working way better than returning to the old ‘normal’.
The third is Domain, and their story is public. When everyone else unimaginatively lopped off some wages or reduced hours, they offered to trade employee’s time for equity. No obligation, just an invitation. 90% of the Domain team said yes to shares. That’s courageous – Leadership and Followership.
What’s so special?
So, what’s so special about these leaders, who when faced with a crisis, don’t blink, but rather find a new path? A unique path to the future, not a path back to to to the predictably of where they used to be.
Well, we’ve been looking hard at them, working alongside them, learning from them, reading about them, thinking hard, and then thinking harder.
They’re visionary, empathetic, optimistic, practical, courageous and as comfortable in discomfort as they are when things are going to plan. They just keep leading, even when the path is rough at best, and non-existent at worst.
We took those characteristics and kept trying to think of the metaphor that made all the actions – all the crazy puzzle pieces – make sense. And then we saw it.
They’re curators, not creators.
They’re pulling together the best of the past, the present and the future, and making it make sense, whatever the exhibition topic is at a moment in time, so it’s a pleasure to join.
What makes a killer curator?
We found an old Forbes Article and it had this beautiful quote:
“What makes a good curator?
You need to be bold, charismatic, fearless and willing to take risks. Great curators will see around corners, embrace and expose unusual and unexpected themes and sources, and make bold predictions”.
And that’s the metaphor for the best way forward right now.
Your organisation, or more correctly, your culture, is like an art gallery, and curation is needed. The role of curator need not be played by just the biggest leader, or the CEO. – it is a collective effort. The gallery has (or is) weathering a shattering event, where everything has fallen off the walls. The exhibition has to be rebuilt.
The role of curator is to choose which important artworks from your historical past are rehung. Your values? Your work? Your purpose?
Then you need to decide what are you adding from your most recent lessons and time. Flexibility? Humanity? Intimacy? Collectivism?
Plus, you have to acknowledge that your team may have shifted, to new places and new thinking. They may have some great ideas or new habits.
Finally, what new pieces will you commission? A new way to lead or think about leadership? A new idea? A new possibility?
Where we land
It’s clear our passion and deep expertise is culture. It’s the purpose of our work, so moments like this for us are seen as massive opportunities for step-changes in the way we all think about work.
We land on there being a very real opportunity right now to curate, or better still, co-curate right alongside every member of your team, a much better fitting culture for each and every individual and for your collective future.
What you might do
There you are – standing in front of that empty wall.
What pieces will come back as foundational to everything your organisation stands for? And how will you decide?
What new pieces from this crazy time will you take forward. Is it a few new technology tools, or is it deeply knowing your team and their pets and families, and whether they like to look out over an orange tree, a cityscape or the ocean? Is there a new flexibility that you never thought possible?
And what do you need to commission? Did your leaders try to use remote to inspire, connect and care for the team? Did it work? Or did they use constant virtual connectivity to replace office presentism? Are they capable of inspiring your future? Are there unique options that only your organisation can design and consider?
And that’s the role right now.
Curating, or better still co-curating, your organisation and your culture, so it is so much better than it was in January, or you had planned it to be right now.
If you want a hand, we’d love to help. This is a massive opportunity to step forward your way and we have more than a few ideas from watching and working with some of the very best.
An extra special thank you to my beautiful colleagues James Hancock, Sally Woolford and Suzanne Gavrilovic for the conversation that became the inspiration for this week’s blog post. I love that you are as optimistic and passionate about a better future of work as I am. Pleasure to work right alongside each of you, and especially all three of you together.