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Season 1, Episode 24

We had to Change… Whole Foods HQ’s Journey through COVID-19 with Jess Kolko

About this episode:

The world has seen dramatic changes taking place through many businesses and the way we live our daily lives due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr. Caneel Joyce speaks to Jess Kolko at Whole Foods Market HQ to get a look inside how one of the most beloved grocers in the US has quickly adjusted and managed their company and their team to, not only keep business running, but also help all of us who rely on essential services like these during uncertain times.

Caneel and Jess have a vulnerable conversation about how their leadership and their humanness was tested during the Covid-19 crisis.  Jess shares their human emotional side and how wholeness is so important to the way they lead.  

Even through these big changes you can continue your growth and find ways to share the human side of yourself. Like Jess, you can take moments to lead from above the line and support the humans in your lives.



Read more about conscious leadership

Change begins with one willing leader, whether they are hungry for growth or desperate for transformation. In the realm of the desperate, the catalyst for change is the person most willing to change themselves, driven by exhaustion and a desire for something better. But change doesn’t solely depend on others; it starts with self-recognition and personal responsibility. By committing to conscious leadership and practicing it diligently, you can create transformative change in both your professional and personal life. Conscious leadership is about self-awareness, extending its positive impact beyond the workplace, and ultimately transforming your entire world.

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Want to hear another leaders story of conscious leadership?

The startup game is a roller coaster, and for many, it is one of the most difficult, frightening, stressful roller coasters in the world – it’s boot camp for the soul. As a founder, an executive, or a leader in a fast-growing company, you can feel alone in your struggles. We often hide them in an effort to appear like everything is going great. If you’re feeling alone in your role in the world as a leader, you can find healing in connecting with the stories of others.

Hear about the journey of startup entrepreneurship and how to navigate the rollercoaster of the startup game in this special guest episode of Allowed. Throughout this episode, featuring the remarkable Terry Lee, of Mezcal Rosaluna and MeUndies, gain insight and information about the leader’s journey and lessons that every conscious leader can learn from. He’s a former CEO, he’s a former COO, and he is human, just like you. Many of the lessons Terry learned along the way would not have come without a certain degree of heartbreak, pain, and struggle. The journey is ALWAYS here to teach us what our soul most wants to learn. Buckle up and come along for the ride as we dive into the wild rollercoaster of the startup game.

Meet the Guest

Jess Kolko Headshot

Jess Kolko has been working in the nutrition and food industry since 2010. Jess began their career at Whole Foods Market as an Intern, then progressed to Registered Dietitian & Culinary Educator, Senior Research Specialist, Nutrition Team Leader, and Culinary Transformation & Nutrition Senior Team Leader / Product Manager. In 2020, Jess Kolko started their own business, Jess Kolko Nutrition LLC, where they serve as the Principal Registered Dietitian. In 2021, they were appointed as the Global Quality & Regulatory Operations Director at Wicked Foods.


Jess Kolko obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics/Dietitian from The University of Texas at Austin between 2009 and 2011. In 2011, they received a license from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation as a Licensed Dietitian. Jess also holds a Registered Dietitian (RD) certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist certification from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to this, they obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University between 1996 and 2000.


  • 1:46 – Check in with Jess Kolko, one of Caneel’s coaching clients who works at Whole Foods Market HQ.

  • 4:45 – Jess talks about her position at Whole Foods Market HQ and the moment when the news of change hit her and her team.

  • 6:56 – Caneel and Jess talk about what challenges Jess has been facing during this crisis and how she would have responded a year ago before she began leadership coaching with Caneel.

  • 9:36 – There is a burden that leaders have to not fail themselves or their team. Jess discusses her journey struggling with perfectionism and allowing herself to be vulnerable and a human being and not just a stereotypical leader.

  • 10: 45 – Owning mistakes is important because people mess up and leaders have a huge burden about not feeling like they can mess up and feeling that they need to have all the answers and not ask for help. 

  • 13:49 – Why Jess decided to take on a professional leadership coach and begin working with Caneel. 

  • 17:00 – Examining the crisis and the reaction Jess had. Jess discusses how she managed her team and made major shifts at Whole Foods Market HQ very quickly. Jess talks about the Drama triangle and working above the line.

  • 20:12 – There is a need for emotions when we lead. Caneel and Jess talk about working with emotions and using them to your advantage including the concept of intelligent fear.

  • 22:41 – Jess talks about how quickly things can turn to chaos without a structured and clear management style.

  • 27:23 – Caneel asks about the moments over the past month that were particularly challenging for her and her team during this COVD-19 crisis.

  • 30:30 – Jess discusses some of the success she and her team at Whole Foods Market has had during this uncertain crisis because of her leadership coaching work she has done with Caneel.

  • 33:30 – Caneel and Jess talk about how her team, her leadership, and the world will be different after this crisis is over.

  • 36:56 – Jess gives advice to managers and leaders out there who are just learning about conscious leadership and what they can do to manage during a crisis situation like COVID-19.

Discover experiences that give your life purpose in your Zone of Genius

Executive Coach Dr. Caneel Joyce reveals a life-changing framework that can help you overcome self-doubt, uncover your hidden talents, and radiate with confidence, one small step at a time.