Joanna Cotton has over 30 years of experience developing and leading high performing teams in sales, marketing, product innovation, and strategy. Before transitioning into leadership development, she held successive executive positions at a number of leading publishing companies, as well as the world's largest privately held international education company. Joanna trained with the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) in 2016. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and an ICF Associate Certified Coach (ACC), and has completed training in Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC). She launched her own leadership development practice in 2017 and in 2019, she co-founded Alliance by Design with her husband and business partner, Ren Wiebe.
As an executive leadership coach, Joanna has contributed to the success of senior and high potential leaders in a range of industries, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail, manufacturing, education, government, publishing, and professional services. She draws on her extensive business and leadership experience to create a strong alliance with her clients, empowering them to deepen their insight, set clear goals and execute on action plans. She creates a safe and courageous space for her clients to explore their unique values, strengths and limiting beliefs. Her clients appreciate her genuine and approachable style that promotes both reflection and action – allowing them to to confidently progress towards achieving their personal and professional objectives.
As a leadership consultant and facilitator, Joanna coaches teams to build their overall effectiveness in terms of both productivity and culture. She works with organizations to deliver high impact leadership training workshops at all levels. She brings a combination of high energy and enthusiasm along with an ability to get to the heart of what’s going on “below the surface” that may have been holding leaders and teams back from reaching their full potential and maximizing their performance.
Each executive coaching session that I have with Joanna has a slightly different focus but we’re always making progress towards achieving the objectives that she’s helped me identify. The power of the confidential sessions with Joanna is the momentum it helps me to gain and maintain in constantly working on being a fulfilled and effective leader in all aspects of my life. If you are looking for a way to “raise your personal leadership bar”, I enthusiastically recommend engaging with Joanna for a professional coaching experience tailored to your personal values, strengths and goals.
President and CEO
I believe in living a life of purpose that is aligned with our own personal values. Life is too precious and too short not to be lived to the fullest. Connection and relationship are at the heart of everything I do and I have a compelling desire to make this world a better place.
After graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Film Studies, I took some time to explore the world and spent 18 months travelling and working in Australia and New Zealand. I was fortunate to have been exposed to international travel by my parents at a young age and that global curiosity continues to be a passion for me to this day.
Once I returned to my hometown of Winnipeg, it was time to find a ‘real job’. And yet I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I was qualified for. Relationship building and interpersonal communication were my strong suits and I knew I wanted to do something meaningful. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, my core values were already formed.
My first professional job was working as a travelling sales representative for HBJ-Holt, a leading publisher in the post-secondary textbook market. I was 25, working from my home office and travelling 2 out of every 4 weeks to meet with professors at colleges and universities from Saskatchewan to Thunder Bay. I loved the freedom to plan my own days and spend most of my time talking to people about their goals and pain points. On the other side, I had piles of paperwork to complete after every trip and I was lonely working all by myself. Another clue in discovering my values. After almost 2 years in the field, I was promoted into a marketing manager role which meant a move to head office – and to Toronto.
I enjoyed being part of a team, creating marketing campaigns to drive awareness, and supporting the sales team’s efforts. It was in this role where I discovered my passion for solving problems, developing strategy and looking at the big picture. After a few years in marketing, I moved into an Acquisitions Editor role – responsible for researching new content opportunities for specific courses, hiring and managing authors throughout the writing process, and ensuring the sales and marketing teams were armed with everything they needed to position our products as the text of choice in this competitive market.
During my 25 -year career in post -secondary publishing, I moved into successively larger leadership roles at 3 different organizations, with my last position as Vice-President, Editor-in-Chief at McGraw Hill. Throughout my tenure in publishing, I had the privilege of working with some incredibly smart and creative people. We were an industry that was evolving from book publishers to technology and digital content providers in order to meet the changing needs of students and educators. Another value came to light for me during this time – I thrive in a changing environment; the status quo just doesn’t work for me.
It was the pursuit of this value that drove me to make a major change in my career at the age of 47. I knew I wanted to work in a purpose driven organization, with a focus on education, and with a fast moving, nothing is impossible mandate. I joined EF, Educational Tours – the world’s leading language and educational travel company. I spent 5 wonderful years with this team, leading the marketing and educational strategy for Canada. It fulfilled a beautiful combination of my passion for education with global travel, along with the opportunity to create meaningful and innovative learning experiences.
As I reflect on my values, a constant for me is the desire to support others, to fan their flames, and to create opportunities for them to succeed. Some of my most gratifying experiences as a leader have been witnessing members of my team overcoming obstacles and coming out stronger at the other end.
It was this passion for serving others that led me to the field of coaching. At the end of 2015, I “retired” from corporate life and went back to school. I enrolled in the Coaches Training Institute’s (CTI) core coaching curriculum, followed by their 6 -month intensive professional coach certification process. Since then, I have continued my education with training in systems/relationship coaching (ORSC), certification in a range of assessment tools, and a 10 -month intensive leadership development program with CTI. The rest (as they say) is history. I have embraced my life as an executive coach and leadership consultant, knowing that I have an opportunity to make an even bigger impact at both the individual and organizational level.
I am very fortunate that I get to do this work with my husband and best friend, Ren Wiebe. Having been married for almost 30 years, and raised two marvelous individuals into adulthood, we have first- hand experience in navigating conflict, setting goals, and building a high functioning team!