Leadership experience goes a long way for this business owner
I n June, Libby Cole, ’08, celebrated her first anniversary as the business owner of Expand Coaching and Consulting, LLC. She’s a certified Enneagram coach, helping individuals, couples and teams develop self-awareness, effectively relate to and communicate with each other.
The Enneagram is a tool that describes patterns of motivation among individuals. She discovered this method while working in higher education and now uses it with her clients.
“I was researching new things to do with my students, and it hit me hard and gave me permission I didn't even know I needed, to become an entrepreneur,” she said. “So, it really changed my life.”
A big part of what she learned about herself through the Enneagram process is she dives in fully to whatever task she takes on.
“I decided I wasn't just going to learn about this. I was going to make it my career,” she said. “I feel like the Enneagram is really gaining interest now, because it's valuable and transformative.”
With respect to leadership opportunities at Georgia College, Cole immersed herself in a broad spectrum of them as a student. She was a member of the Georgia Education Mentorship (GEM) program, which led to an internship. She was also on the GIVE Center Team, director of Dance Marathon, president of Phi Mu and international president of Circle K, as well as an orientation leader, a student ambassador and member of ODK, Eta Sigma Alpha, Order of Omega and Rho Lambda.
“When I pulled up my first resume, I wondered how I did all these extra-curricular activities. It's amazing,” Cole said. “That was part of the reason I chose Georgia College. I wanted all those opportunities, so I could have a more close-knit feel of the smaller campus and make an impact while I was there.”
“First and foremost, I learned balance and time management,” she said. “I also learned leadership skills and the lessons I still use today—how to manage and encourage people and challenge the process.”
She highlights three top moments during her time at Georgia College.
“With GEM, I got to travel and learn from leaders around the community and in Atlanta,” Cole said. “I was also present at the first dance marathon at Georgia College and continued to be involved in that as the executive director my junior year.”
She also got engaged to her now husband, Tyler Cole, ’08, who’s a nurse practitioner.
“I’ve used the leadership skills I learned at GC every day since then,” Cole said. “I learned how to work with people who think differently than me.”
When Cole volunteered at the GIVE Center, Kendall Stiles, senior director of Community Engagement and Service, taught her the importance of learning to work with individuals in her community. Stiles told her that she would recognize these people at other times in her life, even though their faces and names would be different.
“I’ve shared that advice with others many times, and it backs up the idea behind my work with the Enneagram—learning to relate effectively to other types of people,” she said. “I also learned to always practice integrity and not be afraid to challenge the status quo.”
She’s still in touch with John Bowen, former coordinator of leadership programs at Georgia College, whom she credits for her growth and learning.
Dr. H. “Lee” Gillis, chair of psychological science, was her advisor and professor. He provided her with a good foundation to counsel others.
“I took every class he offered,” she said. “I just appreciated him because he was supportive, but challenging at the same time.”
Cole uses her psychology and public speaking skills she learned from Georgia College every day.
“Sometimes I forget that other people don't have that background of thinking about other people's points of view and patterns of behavior,” Cole said. “Psychology helped me have good problem-solving skills and taught me how to approach things with an inquisitive mind.”
She also gives “shout outs” to the rhetoric faculty: Drs. Amy Burt, Scott Dillard and Janet Hoffmann. They provided her with a good, practical foundation in public speaking—something she also uses regularly.
She draws her inspiration from her family, too, for this rewarding profession.
“I get to help people, so that feeds my soul,” Cole said. “I also get to connect with individuals from all over the world. Since I’m my own boss, my time is flexible and that’s very rewarding. I get to spend more time with my five and seven-year-old.”
She’s worked with the national headquarters staff of Pi Kappa Phi and Phi Mu, as well as several individual sororities on campuses across the country, which was possible due to her connections in Greek life she made as a student at Georgia College. Cole has also worked with groups from other organizations, like several Girl Scout troops, staff and volunteers outside of Georgia and companies like Minnow Swimwear. Recently, she flew to Oklahoma to work with the staff of an oil and gas equipment company.
In addition to working with groups, Cole has a six-month, signature program for her one-on-one clients and couples. Her goal in working with clients is that they learn more about themselves, so they can relate to others more effectively.
“The core of my program is that my clients are learning and growing,” she said. “We do check-ins for feedback to gauge whether my clients have met their goals. So, we are constantly communicating and adjusting it as needed.”
She’s excited about her clients’ success.
“It brings fulfillment for me,” Cole said. “When I was working with a company, I got a standing ovation when an individual there had a breakthrough. So, I think it really is a visceral thing, where you can feel that change, and we can celebrate it together. That's really rewarding.”