Chris Duffy, Principal Amplify Leadership Partners, spoke with Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price about his experience embracing entrepreneurship, engaging with the leadership community, and helping others channel their strengths.
NAN PRICE: When and why did you transition from corporate work to becoming a solopreneur?
CHRIS DUFFY: I filed my LLC in 2017 while working full time in corporate. I’ve slowly built up my book and this year I made the leap and decided to focus full time on Amplify.
As for why, my mission is to help others realize their own great potential. I love fighting for the underdog. I’m propelled in part by my own self-identification as one. A lot of people have helped me along the way, and I think it’s important to pay it forward. That’s why I do this work.
NAN: Tell us about your business concept.
CHRIS: The business concept is all about leadership development. At the individual level, I provide executive one-on-one coaching—talking about intra-personal awareness, psychometrics (also known as personality assessments) 360s, and how you can get feedback anonymously from everyone you work with. It’s fairly common in the corporate environment, but I think there’s a lot of appetite in other sectors, too. It’s a great way to learn about yourself, how you’re perceived, and the impact you have on others.
The leadership development services I offer at the organizational level focus on interpersonal dynamics. It’s examining how to make leaders be more empowering of their people, doing surveys in employee engagement, working on team dynamics to explore things like social identity, and talking about the company vision and culture.
NAN: How has your prior experience enabled you to provide these leadership development skills?
CHRIS: I was a leader in my student government undergrad at Drexel University and I was also editor-in-chief of the student newspaper there, so learned early on how not to be a leader.
Later, through a co-op opportunity at General Electric, I became a project leader. I also went through one of their Leadership Program over the course of several years. Then, I had leadership roles at GE and Travelers.
I went to Columbia to earn my master’s in organizational psychology, which focuses on work psychology and change leadership.
For me, all those experiences clarified what great leadership means. It’s not command-and-control management but working with people and figuring out how to use people’s strengths to improve an organization.
NAN: What sets you apart from other leadership coaches?
CHRIS: I believe in a strengths-based approach. I don’t come in, diagnose the issues, and point out everything that’s wrong. I develop true partnerships with my clients where we co-create and co-design a solution. And I want the solution to be sustainable so, eventually the client won’t need to rely on me because they’ll be in a great place on their own.
NAN: Who is your target clientele?
CHRIS: Great question. I work across all industries and I work a lot with the social impact sector. A lot of my individual clients are in mid-level positions at big corporations; they don’t have executive coaching accessible to them. They have access to professional development and training, but they still need one-on-one.
NAN: How are they finding you?
CHRIS: Mostly word-of-mouth. This region is small, and I’ve been fortunate to have been here for more than 10 years. I’ve developed a name for myself through board service, community involvement, and partnerships I’ve formed with the University of Hartford, Leadership Greater Hartford, and the Obama Foundation.
NAN: Why locate your company here in Hartford?
CHRIS: I came to Hartford in 2008 through work. I didn’t plan to stay long. I started making friends and getting involved and realized: I don’t want to leave. I like it here.
Hartford is a small city in size, but it has a lot to offer and it’s cool to see it going through its own rebirth right now. I love that. I love that Connecticut is a progressive state and Hartford is a diverse area with a lot of different races and social identities.
NAN: What’s next?
CHRIS: I recently got an intern through the University of Hartford, which has helped with providing even better services for my clients. What’s next is offering workshops so I can introduce some leadership concepts to a broader range of people.
And then longer term—not what’s next, but what’s on the horizon—is getting to a place where we can look at systemic change in this region. That’s my big vision: How can we be more inclusive while improving Greater Hartford?