A personal perspective on the challenges of 2020

Paul Hodgkinson from saha, the Salvation Army Housing Association, looks back at his personal and professional highs and lows from a year like no other. 

The year started for me as any other – to do things I hadn’t done before and always wanted to do and with an optimism about what this year could be. At saha I was facing two key business challenges, to implement a new learning and development (L&D) strategy and foster greater collaboration. Little did I know at the start of the year what that actually meant, and how 2020 would be one that I would never forget, impacting on my work as well as my mental health and wellbeing. 

My first priority was to implement an L&D strategy that had started its journey the year before. I wanted to focus on embedding saha induction resources, scope out a plan to embody our performance approach, and build the first stages of our Leadership Essentials programme. 

Induction
Embedding saha induction learning resources has been a steady upward trend of success. We built the content of our virtual induction programme, automated our new joiner checklists, and created a set of onboarding development resources which have ‘piggy backed’ off the original induction resources. 

All of these have played their part in maintaining engagement levels at a good level. It’s also helped the organisation realise that there is a long journey to truly having a performance culture, where everyone has their role to play in learning, performance and engagement – not just the L&D, human resources, and/or organisational development teams. 

Leadership development
The Leadership Essentials programme, which includes eLearning, has also been a success. There are five modules to the programme: 

  1. Getting started
  2. Working effectively
  3. Relationships
  4. Leading others
  5. Learn and grow

Alongside this content, We’ve created some simple job aids that aim to inform typical conversations that managers have day to day. There are constant opportunities for ‘just in time’ conversations, and we are most effective as leaders when you adapt what you say and do, leading different people in the right way and at the right time. My mantra is to make the most of every moment, take each opportunity to direct and grow your people.

The organisation’s performance approach is fundamental to how our transformation will continue to develop in 2021. So we’re busy refreshing the behaviours that we’d like to see, aligning them to our values, identifying examples and stories to showcase them, and creating a new landing page on our intranet to launch in the new year. 

Greater collaboration
Collaboration has been the key word across our business this year and is something that we’re still trying to perfect. It relies on so much more than being present at meetings and sharing information. Collaboration only works if as a group you take on board the notions of coordination and cooperation, so that we move from win or lose to winning for all. 

This approach was key this summer as we were going through a number of transformation workshops. As an organisation, we’ve started to transition from a traditional business to embracing agility and working smarter. Collaboration is something we’ve realised doesn’t happen in a few days, weeks and months though. It’s part of an on-going change in mindset. 

Linked strongly to this collaboration is new ways of working, and how we plan together. We’ve begun to structure this using the following principles, with some early success: 

Partnership first: 

  • Integrate plans and outcomes
  • Identify joint focus
  • Agree ways of working and strategy
  • Deliver together and sustain

We’re at the start of this transformation, and in the next year I hope to see more progress from following these principles.

Wellbeing
Managing my mental health amongst all of this has been a blur, as I adapted to a new way of working from home. It initially felt exciting and fun but it affected me in ways that I’ve only begun to understand now. Sometimes this stuff just creeps up on you without you knowing it.  At one point I was a complete hermit, hardly going out, and my step count was unusually low. My only connection to the outside world was via my laptop and iPhone. How did we cope before these gadgets came along? 

By late Spring I’d taken some positive steps. I’d begun to get involved with Joe Wicks’ virtual exercise classes, Gareth Malone’s virtual choir – both on YouTube – and our very own saha Family Choir. That began to lift the mist. 

I don’t mind mentioning here that I used to cry every day or so for a short moment, less than a few minutes. This is not unusual for me to do, as I find the whole experience very cathartic and a great release of tension and emotion. It allows a clearer perspective on yourself and the ability to step back from who you are and what you can do positively. It definitely isn’t for me a moment of sadness or self-pity, although this does occasionally filter in. It’s more of an opener, to try and be honest with yourself and with others.  

By the summer I had really explored my local area by foot, and found how little I knew about my surroundings. Uxbridge has two rivers running through it, one just a stone’s throw away from my apartment. Now I really appreciate that we have so much natural beauty around us, with wild flowers, fauna and an array of insects taking advantage of the quieter and undisturbed habitat. This time in nature has allowed me to reflect on how I could be of more value to the business, as we were going through transformation workshops.

2020 has definitely been a journey of refinement on so many levels. Ultimately, I hope that both myself and saha will come through it all the stronger.

What are your reflections of 2020? Do please get in touch and let me know.

Read how Paul created a new L&D strategy in just eight weeks at saha, and his top tips for doing so. 

About Paul Hodgkinson

Paul Hodgkinson is a trainer, facilitator and business coach with experience of working in multiple industries, globally and with key stakeholders to drive learning, performance and engagement initiatives.

 

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