As I shared last week, I recently completed my coach certification as the Hudson Institute. The program two weekends ago was he culmination of the greatest learning experience I’ve ever been a part of. I’m proud to now be able to call myself a Certified Hudson Institute Coach (ain’t that a catchy acronym … CHIC)! What I’m more proud of is to call myself a team-mate of 37 remarkable people who put so much on the line to make sure that we were the best team ever to pass through this amazing certification program.
I have to be careful with that best team ever comment. Firstly, because there have been so many great coaches and teams before us. Secondly, because it is a totally subjective measure. Some of our faculty weren’t shy about the label, but the executive of the Hudson Institute would rather that I refer to our success as “well to the right on the bell curve”!
All that said, we do have some evidence that this was a very remarkable team. How’s this for a set of accomplishments:
- Oldest ever graduate (76 years old)
- Youngest ever graduate (30 years old)
- 100% graduation rate.
- Published a book of haiku in honor of one of the faculty who is a haiku poet.
- 3x the # of web board threads as the previous highest class.
- 100% on time submission of final portfolios.
- More spouses in attendance at the graduation dinner than ever.
- Post-graduation lawn party at the hotel that got the “attention of management” 🙂
- And my favorite … highest number of Canadian grads (6).
There was a class of 38 students that made this possible. Every one of them totally committed to their personal success and totally convinced that their own success was totally dependent on being fully engaged as a high performance team.
What did the team do that was so remarkable? Sometimes it’s hard to identify exactly what happened. In this case … I think there were some pretty obvious success factors. How about this as a formula for a highly functional team?
- Recognize A Common Goal. It was pretty quickly apparent that there wasn’t any need for competition. If you deserved the certification, you would get it. All of us. So there was no reason not to conquer the challenge together.
- Park The Egos At The Door. I know that is easy to say and hard to do. I learned something about this in this journey. It’s the “I want to be better than you are” form of ego that has to be parked, and I can’t think of when I saw any of that on this journey. That left everyone simply focused on being their own personal best. The end goal was individual success in the form of certification and we all quickly realized that would be easier if we helped each other.
- Manage Group Size. A group of 38 people is just too big to manage effectively. It’s important to be able to know who to reach out to, so the program had four small learning groups within the bigger class. This turned out to be really important as the catalyst for our learning was an immensely high level of interpersonal trust based on being comfortable with vulnerability. I’m guessing you are uncomfortable even reading that! So we got really tight and close in groups that would end up sharing so much of the alter-ego of the ego above … that of “I’m not good enough at this.”
- Step Up When Needed. This was an intense program, requiring 12-15 hours a week on top of the day job, family and other commitments. It meant that everyone had to take a turn out front, making sacrifices that were sometimes really tough.
- A Little Rivalry Never Hurts … But. The small learning groups all had identities. Ours was the Falcons (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination). We joked and competed and compared. But it never went too far. On the final day when everyone sat for their oral exam there was a very lovely but slightly military “no one left behind” kind of feel to the day. As each person came out with their emblematic pin they were greeted with hugs from the entire class. In the end, no one was left behind!
It wouldn’t be fair for the students to take all of the credit for this success. The faculty – our leaders – had a huge hand in this. What was their part of the story?
- A Culture of Success. What I noticed here was from the very beginning they looked at our group and told us from the very beginning they knew we would be successful. It was clear that even before we arrived at the program they had done work to ensure that the right people were in the room, and that how they aligned us was well thought out. They conveyed a confidence that they knew how to get us to the finish line and that our part in this was to commit to the program. In short, they built trust quickly and constantly reinforced it through their actions.
- Experiential Learning Environment. As the program moved on I had this strong vision of an artist at a canvas with a plan for the work they would create. They knew how they would render the various layers of the painting … each layer containing the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience. Most importantly, each layer contained an element which seemed to stretch us from the comfort zone of the previous layer … challenging us to grow. Each layer had us experience what we had just learned.
- Safety. One thing I learned through this journey is that learning requires us to be out of our Comfort Zone. That required constant support, affirmation, check-ins and celebration of success. There as little measurement and comparison as possible. No marks … no rankings … ever. All that mattered was making sure everyone got everything they need to reach the end goal.
- Fun! It’s an intense program – one that adds 12-15 hours a week to already busy lives. It takes people to places they don’t normally go and aren’t comfortable. So just knowing that there would be fun events and laughter along the way really helped. The leadership team did a good job of keeping it light, providing the arenas for enjoyment and practicing a little self-deprecating humor along the way.
I learned a lot in the program, but I’m wondering if one of the bigger lessons I might learn from this is the teamwork and leadership I’ve outlined here. I really want to spend some time integrating these learnings into how I appear as a leader and in other parts of my life to see what I can bring forward to grow further.
In that light I would really appreciate your thoughts on these concepts! What resonates with you?