The Unlearning of 2020: How Hudson Learned to Thrive

Water color flowers thriving

Hudson works with people and organizations to explore how to create meaningful change. This year has offered us a valuable case study on how change works within our own organization.

Disruption opens new thinking and new doors

By July, our team had found a new stride by successfully pivoting all of our coaching programs to virtual delivery. In just one quarter, our professional and corporate services teams redesigned the experiences of all of our programs and got our operation running smoothly again in an entirely new format. Not only were we getting positive feedback from participants and customers, but we were finding that in some specific modules the virtual format suited our program delivery even better than in our in-person format -- something we didn’t think was possible. 

After the initial shock

We made it through the initial chaos of the pandemic and developed some newfound grit that made us a stronger team. In many ways we found that the kiln of the early survival-mode resulted in a team that quickly became more efficient, agile, and better at communicating. As August approached it felt like we had found a new stride as an organization, we could exhale and reflect on what we had learned. And for a week or two, perhaps we did. 

Radical resilience is a practice

The summer months brought discussions about burnout, some expressed a sense of isolation and a yearning for the hallway conversations we were accustomed to. Since the pandemic started we had moved to WFH with an all-hands zoom meeting every morning. Aside from constant connection and check-ins, this provided a pulse check on how our people were fairing. A general sense of “we’ve turned the corner” was mixed with the natural ennui of this unpredictable year.  We know our most important resource is our team and we started experimenting with ways to collectively build resilience and renew engagement.

Thriving in uncertain times

We were on stable ground and had forward momentum, but the chaos of the year meant the bottom could drop out of the economy at any time. It was important to make the most of this moment and adapt our strategy for a turbulent road ahead.

Definition of thrive: (1) to grow vigorously : FLOURISH;  (2) to gain in wealth : PROSPER;  (3) to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances

As always, we had a robust list of company-wide quarterly business objectives in place, but given the new world shaped by 2020 and the rapid evolution we were experiencing, we knew those goals needed to evolve along to meet these complex times and the needs of our customers. This was the genesis of “Operation Thrive” --  an initiative aimed at finding ways to better serve our customers and build internal resilience in challenging times, following a few high-level objectives. 

Thriving takes teamwork

No one knows our customers’ and each other’s needs better than our incredible staff, so--while our leadership team focused on the ‘why’ of our Thrive initiative--we enlisted the rest of the team to co-author the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. They came to the table with creativity, energy, and a sense of purpose.

Small, interdepartmental groups brainstormed tactical ideas within each of the main Thrive Objectives. The result of which was a long list of opportunities for Hudson to develop. Some were items that had been on our radar but never prioritized. Others were completely new ideas, conjured by the free-minded thinking that comes from brainstorming outside the confines of one’s own department or specialty. As with most brainstorms, there were ideas all across the feasibility spectrum. The next step was for the leadership to come together and decide which items we absolutely wanted to attack, with an emphasis on those that would optimize the effort to reward ratio. 

Thriving inspires more

With thrive goals decided, it was time to implement and adopt. This is always where ‘the rubber meets the road’, and requires company-wide commitment along with constant attention. Thriving is more than setting a list of goals and reaching them;  it’s about enhancing our teamwork and enriching our culture to better serve our customers. We all have our day-to-day duties, the table stakes responsibilities required of us. Thrive goals inspire us to stay on the edge of our learning, to lend a hand to others, to collaboratively experiment and test new possibilities. Operation Thrive is about constantly asking ourselves what can we do better that's going to have a big impact on those we serve; to paraphrase Frederic Hudson it's about ‘living at the edge of our possibilities.’

Adoption means incorporating our Thrive goals and language into the daily tasks and communication of our work. Each Friday we hold an all-team meeting to check in on our Thrive goals -- what had people done that week to contribute to thriving? We created a centralized Thrive Goal tracker for all to access, view and update.  When we dig in and create a forum for nurturing and elevating our goals -- our work thrives and we do as well.  

Thriving happens best when we engage in self care

We knew we needed to create the conditions that would allow our team to thrive in 2020. This meant getting innovative about our remote work practices. We have developed what we term “Self Care Fridays” once a month for everyone to unplug  and recharge and we have lengthened holiday break times. We have created new ways to interact and refuel with a monthly snack budget for each of our staff. And we will continue to keep our finger on the pulse through surveys to ensure that we are finding every opportunity to help our team thrive.

Thriving in 2021

The road ahead holds mysteries for all of us around the globe and finding ways to thrive will likely continue to shift and change for all of us. Perhaps what we have learned through this most challenging year and in the development of Operation Thrive is that while disruption of this magnitude brings challenges and burdens, it also allows us to think differently, to get creative in ways unknown to us a year ago. Most of all, it underlines one of our basic tenets at Hudson. To be fully engaged in this journey of life, we need to be engaged in a continual stream of learning and unlearning; never holding too tightly to “that’s how we’ve always done it”  and risking letting go of some old beliefs in order to engage in new learning!

About Author
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Hudson Institute of Coaching

One of the early leaders in the field of coaching, Hudson Institute of Coaching has been providing developmentally based coach training for leaders for more than 30 years. We set the standard for experiential learning programs that lead organizations and people to reach for their best as leaders and human beings in our global world.