Solutions 21 programs a ‘safe haven’ during tumultuous year 

Pittsburgh (March 1, 2021) – “Change happens because of two things: either inspiration or desperation,” Solutions 21 client Lesley Elwell said recently. 

Elwell, the chief people officer for construction firm JE Dunn, noted that the past year has ushered in “lasting structural change in every aspect of our work.” 

The combination of inspiration and desperation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to be nimble in the midst of extraordinary challenges. 

For clients of Solutions 21 – which (in the before times) deployed its elite team to mid-market firms across all industries to ensure they have the tools to strategically develop the next generation of leaders – that meant investing in leadership development was more critical than ever. 

“It’s not only part of the development; it’s also a big part of [employees’] well-being,” Elwell noted, adding that Solutions 21 coaches have served as something like a work therapist over the past year. “You have to be the best of yourself to do your best work.” 

“It’s a great honor to aid our clients during this challenging time, helping them to succeed amid unprecedented challenges,” President Buddy Hobart said, noting that Solutions 21 joined the ranks of the Inc. 5000 in August 2020 and promoted Vice President of Consulting Services Rob Salome to the position of chief operating officer in January 2021. 

Solutions 21 nimbly shifted its programming a year ago: The firm immediately implemented all-remote workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions as lockdowns swept across the United States. 

Marc Warrington, the SVP of sales for insurance firm Sun Life, noted that one-off webinars provide “doses” of employee training, but Solutions 21’s programs ensure sustained development. 

“If you really want to develop people, you need a full-time leadership coach with a select group of leaders” in a structured, formal, real-time practice, he said.

Warrington said that Solutions 21’s programs prove to employees that Sun Life cares about them and the development of their careers. The programs offer employees a “safe haven” in which to be vulnerable, with coaches serving as a sounding board for problems that employees might not want to bring to their managers. 

“What Solutions 21 does is fulfill the role of a hitting coach in baseball. They fill the role of the leadership coach.”

Danica “Didi” Lurito, the senior HR business partner for SingleSource Property Solutions, joined a Solutions 21 cohort in February 2020. She had one in-person meeting with her coach and managed to remain resilient and fight “COVID fatigue” thanks to regular Zoom sessions and online resources from weekly newsletters to group chats. She said learning about “productive conflict” was beneficial for her during a challenging year.

“We can have a disagreement on it and still move forward and be OK,” she said. “It’s been really beneficial for us.”

SingleSource CEO Brian Cullen noted that the company’s first cohort started with Solutions 21 just as the pandemic began. As the entire organization shifted to remote work, what the cohort was learning became “that much more important.”

Remote work eliminated the opportunity to interact with people – no meetings, no lunch – but the Solutions 21 cohort built a support system that wasn’t there before, Cullen said. They “became their own little focus group” and understood “they were dealing with a lot of the same problems and fighting a lot of the same battles.”

“They had not only themselves as a peer group, but they also gained a coach,” Cullen said. “It gave them a safe place to talk so someone outside the organization to help them deal with issues internally in the organization.” 


Solutions 21 deploys its elite team to mid-market firms across all industries to ensure they have the tools to strategically develop the next generation of leaders. Solutions 21 has offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Nashville, Tennessee; Kansas City, Kansas; and Phoenix, Arizona. Solutions 21 founder Buddy Hobart has authored six books, including the recently released The Leadership Decade: A Playbook for an Extraordinary Era.



Rob Salome
COO and VP of Consulting Services
Solutions 21  

Danica “Didi” Lurito
Senior Human Resources Business Partner
SingleSource Property Solutions

Brian Cullen
SingleSource Property Solutions

Marc Warrington
SVP Head of Sales
Sun Life

Lesley Elwell
Chief People Officer
JE Dunn