Evolving: Leaning into the Changing Workplace
Antoni Gaudi is a great artist and architect that you likely didn’t know about until this moment. You most likely know his work, though. Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; a massive cathedral that is absolutely stunning. At the age of 30, Gaudi, took paper and pencil and begin to reimagine the design of the building. The original architect had abandoned the work just a year into the project, giving Gaudi the artistic license to dream up something breathtakingly new. Realizing that he was living in a time of incredible transformation in the world, Gaudi sought to fuse the old and the new into his design. To accomplish this vision, Gaudi invited admirers from the city to come and join him in his work. Together, Gaudi and his fellow artisans created a culture of mutual respect and improvisation on the worksite, working hand in hand to build a masterpiece.
We are in a time of sweeping transformation in our business environments. Because “everything changed” during the pandemic, we now have the artistic license to reimagine and implement innovative workplace models. This is a time for vision. Using the lessons of the pandemic as our foundation, we can now create cultures that emphasize mutual respect, transparency and flexibility, sustaining and growing our brands over the long run.
Over the past 15 months, we discovered the importance of providing time and flexibility to the members of our teams, giving them permission to flex, as required, to care for the needs of family and community. I’ve long since had a motto around this where I am clear with the team that “there are no schedules, just deliverables”. Can we not carry this respect and philosophy beyond the pandemic?
One of the keys to reimagining the workplace culture and ensure it is achievable is by nurturing buy-in from the team. When Gaudi hired workers for Sagrada, he made it clear that his vision was theirs as well. In our environment, it’s important to listen to the team instead of simply directing them. Ask your people: What will improve our culture? What changed for the good during the pandemic? What facets of pre-pandemic culture do you want to “bury for good?” As you share your vision of the reimagined future, let the members of your team provide input. Give them the tools to make the vision a reality so that it is not entirely dependent on you. This is buy-in, making your vision the collective vision.
Gaudi died at the age of 70 with less than 20% of the cathedral finished. While his team grieved his death, they had no hesitation about continuing the work. Having taught them how to thrive as artisans, Gaudi also gave his people the license to take the vision and improvise. Sagrada Familia is still a work in process 100 years later.
If we reimagine culture, then we must create a climate of flexibility and agility. A team cannot be locked into a singular vision and an unchanging blueprint that the leader provides. We are all replaceable (sadly). Our vision for the post-pandemic culture must be transferable… it must outlast us. Give your team the tools to pivot and to reshape the vision and the outcomes should changes in leadership, technology, or the external environment change. All of the above will happen, so let’s ready everyone for it.
Is it YOUR vision or THE vision? True artists know that great art is always bigger than the one who produces it, outlasting its original creator. The vision is constantly evolving. In the meantime, the process – the journey we all take in our belief and our passion of driving towards the vision – can inspire us all to do our best work.