Catherine Allen

Greater Washington, D.C. Area

Catherine Allen

Co-Founder and CEO

Catherine Allen is Co-founder and CEO of AO People Partners, a company dedicated to inspiring and supporting the conscious practice of people development in the workplace.  Catherine is passionate about helping leaders and organizations lean into the power of developing people to drive business success and meaningful social contribution.

With over 25 years of experience working as an organizational and people skills development practitioner and executive coach, Catherine specializes in helping executive leaders and teams Own, Model and Drive business and people development integration in their organizations. Skilled in conflict resolution, communications, business strategy and change management, Ms. Allen has extensive experience working with executive leaders seeking to take their business to the next level of conscious growth and senior leaders transitioning to executive level roles in private sector organizations in a range of industries.

As AO’s CEO, her focus is on guiding her team to build the full suite of capabilities to help leaders design and build integrated and holistic people development cultures that are sustainable, practical and cost efficient.  Catherine holds an M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University and is a certified professional coach.

Catherine is also co-author with Ed Offterdinger of the book: Conscious, Capable and Ready to Contribute: How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution.  Catherine writes and speaks regularly on leadership and people development integration and why people development in the workplace should become a recognized and incentivized form of social contribution.

Favorite Quote

“Everything is perfect, and we get to figure out why”. Over the years, this phrase has served me well by reminding me to look at everyone and everything as a teacher – a source of learning and growth. This way of thinking has made all the difference in how I navigate every aspect of my personal and professional life.  Hang around me long enough and invariably life will dish up an opportunity for me to ask, “what might be perfect about this situation?”

Get to Know Me

  • Leadership Coach, People Strategist, and Author
  • Former Owner, Allen Impact Group
  • Former Senior Organizational Development Practitioner and Executive Coach, SRA International
  • Former Washington Director, WISDOM Foundation
  • Among my favorite things: cooking, great conversations over great meals, dance parties, reading, family hikes and vacations

Memorable Moments

Encountering a very angry elephant while doing wildlife management research in Zimbabwe and living to talk about it.


Embrace the opportunity to grow your brand and reputation as a company that truly invests in helping employees grow their capabilities – even and especially during an employee off boarding experience. When viewed through the development lens, this is a valuable opportunity for employers to learn and improve organizational and people development practices, build brand ambassadors, and enable departing employees to reflect on gains in skills and capabilities.


Facilitate strategic conversations with senior leaders to explore and define ways conscious people development can be integrated into the culture and daily workflow to power your business, your people, and your employer brand. 


Incorporate learning and development objectives into retention activities to prepare employees for new roles and opportunities. This can be done through engagement and feedback surveys, recognition and rewards programs, promotion, succession planning, and more.

Social Contribution

“Build it so they will want to come, flourish, and stay, knowing that someday they may leave.

Thus, it is imperative to define what you want them to say about their growth experience with your organization and what you want the outside world to say about how you invest in and contribute capable people to society.”

-Ed Offterdinger & Catherine Allen
Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. (p. 173)

Integrated Capability Development and Performance Management

Integrate learning, growth, and capability development goals and activities into your performance management rather than relying on day-to-day responsibilities alone to create a more engaging, productive, and helpful process.


Adapt onboarding to set new hires up for success in a continuous learning environment through orientation activities that introduce the principles and practices that support everyday learning and development for each employee.


Integrate practices, principles, and tools to better evaluate a candidate’s orientation to continuous learning and development as a factor in their overall fit for a position. This provides:

  • Improved candidate interviewing, assessment and selection practices
  • Better candidate selections with learning and growth mindset
  • An early introduction to your company’s development culture focus


Embed messages about commitment to people development to attract your ideal candidates.