Lifetime Achievement Award Winner 2020 - Karen Wright, MCC

Take a look at the accomplishments of our Lifetime Achievement award winner for 2020, Karen Wright, MCC. Who do you think deserves to be recognized in 2021?

Below are excerpts from the form submitted nominating Karen. 

How did Karen lead and contribute to the coaching profession?

Karen is an established leader in the coaching profession, both in Canada and globally. Karen founded Parachute Executive Coaching in 1996, a full-service coaching practice with over a dozen associate coaches providing services to leading corporations, tech start-ups and small businesses in Canada and around the world. Karen distinguishes herself by supporting not-for-profit and charitable organizations by offering her services for a reduced fee, or pro-bono. Parachute Executive Coaching has been one of the longest serving and most successful stand-alone coaching businesses in Canada.

Karen is committed to the success of other coaches. She is constantly increasing her network of associate coaches and supports them in expanding their own coaching practices. Karen readily shares her knowledge and business tools and educates and mentors other coaches on the keys to long term coaching business success. Karen is a passionate advocate for training and credentialing and has mentored countless coaches in achieving their coaching certifications. Karen is a graduate of both Coach U and Corporate Coach U (and taught as well as designed curriculum for both schools), holds a Certificate in Positive Psychology, has studied the neuroscience behind coaching and has been a Corporate Mindfulness Trainer for The Potential Project.

What have been Karen's outstanding lifetime career achievements?

Karen has worked for some of Canada’s leading corporations, quickly distinguishing herself as a leader in senior roles in packaged goods, marketing and advertising at companies including General Mills, Pillsbury, Frito Lay, and Molson’s, and eventually serving as Vice President, Communications at McCain Foods. Karen founded her company, Parachute Executive coaching, which was one of the first associate-based boutique-coaching firms in Canada, evidence of Karen’s innovative thought leadership in the coaching community. While building and maintaining her own full executive coaching practice, Karen achieved her coaching certifications, founded her company, and led the coaching practice at Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions, Canada’s leading Human Capital Consulting firm, where she established practice structures and engagement processes, implemented coach training to ensure consistently high-quality service delivery and adherence to ICF Ethics and Standards, and quadrupled the practice revenue.

Karen was the first person in Canada to be awarded their PCC by the ICF. Karen’s knowledge in the coaching profession is well known. Karen has been featured many times in the media including CTV News, CBC Radio One’s Workology, The Globe & Mail, CFRA Radio Ottawa, TalkRadio (U.K.), the Toronto Star, Kiplinger’s, Computer World Magazine and Canadian HR Reporter.

Karen is a passionate advocate of professional development, both for herself and for the entire community in which she operates, including clients and fellow coaches. Karen continues to invest in her education having achieved certifications in Positive Psychology (Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness coach training program), Neuroscience, Health Coaching (Institute of Integrative Nutrition) and Mindfulness (The Potential Project). Karen was invited by to recruit, train and mentor a team of 80+ executive coaches in support of the acceleration and advancement of women into executive roles.

How has Karen contributed to and been a leader in ICF Toronto and Global over the course of her career?

Karen’s impact and contributions to the ICF were significant during infant years of the coaching profession. She founded the Toronto Chapter of the ICF. Karen joined the ICF Board in 1998 and served for 5+ years, including acting as Canadian Regional Leader and serving on the Credentialing Committee as the first credentials were developed. Karen has been a regular speaker and panelist at ICF Toronto Chapter events over 20+ years. Karen is frequently sought after as a mentor coach and coaching business advisor by both new and established coaches. Karen has spoken on numerous topics to the coaching community, including: “How to take your Coaching Business from Good to Great”, “Mastering the Business of Coaching” and “A Deep Dive Into Coaching Ethics”.

Karen is referred by three top coaching schools (Co-Active Training Institute, Accomplishment Coaching and Corporate Coach U) as a key resource for coaches wanting to start and build their practices.

How is Karen contributing as a thought leader for the coaching profession?

Karen is a nationally published columnist (Chatelaine magazine, “Ask a Job Expert” and “Ask a Balance Coach”) and sought-after speaker. Karen continues to promote and educate through media opportunities including CTV News, CBC Radio One’s Workology, The Globe & Mail, CFRA Radio Ottawa, TalkRadio (U.K.), the Toronto Star, Kiplinger’s, Computer World Magazine and Canadian HR Reporter.

Karen’s speaking engagements include: Global Ivey Day, Manulife Asset Management, RBC, BMO, The Moment, General Mills, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Dynamic Mutual Funds.

Karen’s first book, The Complete Executive – the 10-Step System for Great Leadership Performance was released in September 2012 with a forward written by Michael Bungay Stanier. Karen continues to write extensively on her blog, which may be found at

How does Karen's work and achievements demonstrate the ICF Core Values?

Integrity: Karen has designed high standards in every aspect of Parachute Executive Coaching and insists on it from her associates. Integrity, honesty and trust form the foundation upon which Karen builds relationships. Her core Driver Value is Honesty which she defines as “speaking truth, being honest with myself and others even when it is uncomfortable."

Excellence: Coaching quality starts with quality coaches. Karen has been a vocal advocate for coach training and certification, founded the Toronto Chapter of the ICF, and was on the ICF Board during the early years of the coaching profession.

Collaboration: Karen has often reached out to partner with other learning practitioners in order to best meet the needs of the client. Her Result Value is Wisdom which she defines as “continuous learning with interpretation and application. Respect for the experience of others and the knowledge that I couldn’t possibly have all the answers. A willingness to allow answers to emerge through the collaboration with others”.

At a local community level, Karen founded the Toronto Chapter of the ICF in 1997 with five others in the back room of the Toronto Public Library. We have all benefited from the social connection and community building from what has been co-created by the many that have followed her.

On a global level, Karen was one of the first ICF Board Members who was not based in the US. She had to consistently challenge the US-centric perspective in the earlier years as the ICF slowly evolved to reflect its International community building mandate.

Respect: There are a number of ways that Karen champions respect within her practice and the coaching profession. In her own coaching work, she coaches female executives who are trying to figure out how to navigate organizations that are male dominated. In her leadership role while at Knightsbridge, Karen partnered with Women in Capital Markets to create their executive coaching scholarship program such that high potential women in that male-dominated business could have access to the support of executive coaches.

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