How to develop resilient leaders: Meet Amy Wolfgang and Michelle Poole, Founders of Coaching 4 Good
Over the last several weeks, I've spoken with dozens of individuals about their career, leadership, and communication challenges as they navigate these uncertain times, and every single person has mentioned how their company is reacting to the global pandemic and treating its employees. Employees notice, and they care about how their company is operating in the world, especially in trying times like these.
We often see that coaching and leadership development are some of the first things to get cut from a company budget during an economic downturn, but we could argue that it's one of the last things that should be downsized. Your employees, your talent, are the glue that keeps the wheels on the train in your company, and they will be more impactful when they are given the time and support to rest, reflect, recharge, and approach your business challenges from a place of resilience.
This week, I sat down with Coaching 4 Good Co-Founders Amy Wolfgang and Michelle Poole to talk about their company, their career journeys, and how they are helping individuals and companies develop the purpose, resilience, and intention to creates real impact in the world.
JF: What inspired you to create Coaching4Good?
Amy Wolfgang: In 2009, I created our sister company, Wolfgang Career Coaching. I started that company because I believe everyone deserves a rewarding career, but often individuals don't know how to make that happen. I was inspired to partner with individuals to help them own their careers. Over the next several years, I helped individuals navigate their career journeys and create immense impact through their leadership. In 2015, my business partner, Michelle Poole, and I saw the impact that career and leadership work was having with individuals. We knew that we could create a greater impact if we took our work to the organization level.
Michelle Poole: After leaving an 18-year career in Human Resources, I felt completely burnt out. At the same time, I felt inspired by the positive impact our coaching at Wolfgang was having on clients. A lot of those who were coming to us for individual career coaching were in the same situation as me, and it made me inspired to want to go back into organizations to help people develop and grow before they reached burn-out themselves. I feel that if I had an opportunity to experience coaching early in my career, as a part of my on-going development, I would have had a much different and satisfying career. I have also seen that when you help people understand themselves, they operate from a place of intention, and that creates a positive ripple effect for those around them in both their personal and professional lives. This new energy creates a more inclusive organizational culture and, ultimately, a positive social impact.
JF: Being an entrepreneur and running your own company can sound like a dream from the outside. If all honesty, what's the best and worst part of running your own company?
AW: I am grateful every day for the work I get to do with clients, to partner with them through change, and to see their growth and development. I literally get to do the work I want to do. Also, entrepreneurship affords me a lot of creative freedom. The downside is the lack of resources and security. At my first office during my first year, I answered
the phones and all email inquiries, coached the clients, ordered supplies, fixed the printer when it broke, implemented all tech and non-tech systems, and took out the garbage. It is humbling when following a client meeting, you are the one walking the trash out to the dumpster, and the garbage juice starts running down your leg. Also, the lack of a consistent paycheck is something that takes time to get used to. When the phone call and email inquiries slow down, you have to pause and recognize that more abundance will come your way. You can easily get into a scarcity mindset early on, for good reason!
MP: The best part is getting to create the kind company that we want to work in. We are building a company that is in alignment with our values, strengths, and purpose, and seeing our work make a positive impact. The hardest part is the lack of people and resources to complement our skillsets. Also, the lack of financial stability can create stress, and for me, that can often lead to a lack of balance.
JF: You just launched a major (and beautiful) rebrand. What was the hardest part of redefining your company after a decade in business?
AW & MP: Thank you! We are continually evolving and believe that coaching is a positive catalyst for change in so many ways, so the hardest part was narrowing down our offerings and, therefore, our messaging. There are still a lot of misconceptions about what professional coaching is and the incredible value it brings to people and organizations, so our challenge has been to translate the results we see into
we see into measurable, relatable language. Thankfully, the industry has caught up with us, so there is more research that we can draw upon, in addition to sharing our survey results and testimonials. And honestly, it's funny. The fundamental work we do has not changed in the past ten years. The way we need to connect it to the different audiences to make it meaningful to them was the major shift.
JF: What would you like every organization to know about the impact that coaching can have for their company, culture, and people?
AW & MP: We have now worked with hundreds of people globally, and the consistent impact we've seen is that coaching brings out the best in people. When organizations invest in their people by giving them the time and opportunity to develop holistically through coaching, the rewards are exponential. People are more engaged in their work and their lives. You have people who are fully awake and who think and operate from a place of purpose and intention. The results we've seen are amazing, and we constantly hear from people that the residual impacts continue to grow, as a result of the work we did with them. For organizations, this means more engagement, innovation, inclusion, and impact, which is good for business in that it helps with attrition, leadership, and recruitment.
"I am fortunate to help people be more engaged in their careers, leadership, and lives. I honestly believe that is what I was brought into this world to do. "
JF: At FinkDev, we define an authentic career as one that reflects your strengths, values, and interests. How is your career path authentic for you?
AW: At my core, I want to help people. Right now, I am fortunate to help people be more engaged in their careers, leadership, and lives. I honestly believe that is what I was brought into this world to do. I can see the thread of helping people throughout my entire career, from early jobs in training, process improvement consulting, talent development, career coaching, and teaching college students to today. I also have analytical skills that led me a bit astray from my path in my first job out of college as a business analyst. However, those skills show now and are utilized as I help run and scale my company. I have been called a statistical anomaly for my analytical skills and my coaching skills, but now I have been able to merge the two in the most fulfilling way.
MP: As a child, I knew I wanted to grow up to help people. I thought I would be a nurse, but in college, I took a Sociology course that changed the course of my life. I learned that I had a fascination for learning about people and that I could combine this with my desire to help others into a profession. This discovery led me to an internship in Human Resources that launched my career. In the last half of my HR career, I had opportunities that expanded my world view and changed my life for the better. I realized that I hadn't always had enough self-awareness to take ownership of my career and ended up in roles that were not in alignment and led to burn-out. After leaving the corporate world and going through several coaching and development programs, I realized that I could take what I loved about my previous career and create an intentional career path that is in alignment with my values. This is where I am today, and I'm grateful for the opportunities to get to help the people I work with do the same.
"Resilience is key to not only survive during this time, but also to thrive."
JF: As you head out and spread the word for your new brand, who would you most love to connect with this year?
AW & MP: We are fortunate that we have been able to partner with some amazing organizational leaders who courageously advocate for their people. These partnerships have allowed us to expand our impact to a global level, and as a result, we're running our six-month leadership coaching cohort program that empowers diversity not only in the US but also in India and Brazil. In addition, last year, we launched a global women's empowerment program for a Fortune 50 company. Based on the survey results, the participants measurably grew from the experience. Being able to create these impacts for others is why we do what we do!
We are excited to expand our work and are ready to connect with more innovative, courageous leaders and organizations that are ready to empower their people and transform their cultures.
JF: We find ourselves in unprecedented times. How are you helping individuals and organizations navigate the rapidly changing workplace environment?
AW: These are unprecedented times for all of us! In my 11 years coaching, I have never experienced an event with such a tremendous impact on a global scale. Resilience is key to not only survive during this time, but also to thrive. To that end, we developed and are hosting 20 free and live webinars for clients in the areas of career, leadership and mindfulness https://coaching4good.com/events-webinars/. We also created a Resiliency hub on our website with articles and information that can help individuals manage through this time.
JF: What advice would you give to organizations right now that are looking to support their employees through this pandemic?
AW: Many employees are simply overwhelmed right now with all the demands on their energy and time. They are outside of, what Dan Siegel first termed, their window of tolerance and are not able to function most effectively. I would continue to encourage employers to think of ways they can help their overwhelmed employees get back into their window of tolerance. This might be through working individually with each employee to see what their needs are or employing resources to all employees like an EAP or coaching. While organizations are facing cuts to their revenue and implementing hiring freezes, their employees will be the ones to help bring them out of survival mode to thriving once again. There are short-term considerations that are necessary, but don’t overlook the long-term positive implications to helping your employees navigate this uncertainty now.
Amy Wolfgang, CoFounder of Coaching 4 Good
Amy Wolfgang is an entrepreneurial and innovative co-owner of Coaching 4 Good. She is also the former CEO of her own highly successful career coaching company: Wolfgang Career Coaching. Amy knows that creating impact always starts with the individual, and she consistently sparks self-awareness and contagious courage in every person and organization she works with.
Michelle Poole, CoFounder of Coaching 4 Good
Michelle Poole is a dynamic certified executive coach and co-owner of Coaching 4 Good. She is passionate about re-invigorating the hearts and minds of those she works with to help increase their personal and organizational impact. Her mission is to bring humanity back into the workplace.