March 6, 2017

Michael Frohm (’14) is currently the Chief Operating Officer of Goodwill of Greater Washington (GGW), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on workforce development. Its mission is to transform lives and communities through the power of education and employment.

GGW serves persons with disabilities and disadvantages in the District of Columbia and 11 surrounding counties. GGW delivers its mission through three core functions: Thrift Stores, which create employment opportunities; Contracting in janitorial and grounds maintenance, which employs individuals with disabilities; and Workforce Development, which delivers educational, job training, and placement programs, including the new Goodwill Excel Center – an adult charter high school in the District of Columbia.

Michael started with Goodwill of Greater Washington in January of 2004 and has held positions as the Director of Business Development, VP of Human Resources, Executive VP, and COO. Prior to joining GGW Michael had a 19 year career in the radio industry rising from ad sales to VP and General Manager of a group of stations.

Q&A with Michael Frohm

How did you first become involved with LGW’s Signature Program?

MF: My colleague, Brendan Hurley (’11), GGW’s Chief Marketing Officer, is an LGW graduate and brought it to my attention. As my role expanded at GGW it became more important for me to network and develop a deeper understanding of the issues in our community and I thought LGW would be the perfect place to do so.

Can you describe a truly special LGW Moment from your experience - a connection you made, something you pursued because of LGW, or a distinctive memory?

I was impressed right off the bat when DC Council Member Kenyan McDuffie (’14) was my roommate at my Opening Retreat! I also remember being very moved by the training on diversity and the exercises we did revolving around unconscious influences.

Following my graduation, I attended a member dinner where I met June Kress, the Executive Director of The Center for Court Excellence. June and I had a great discussion about the challenge of individuals returning from incarceration or having other involvement with the criminal justice system. GGW serves a number of these individuals. June subsequently invited me to be on her board and on their criminal justice subcommittee.

How would you describe LGW - the alumni, leadership, staff, and overall mission of the organization?

MF: The description I typically use is that through LGW you will meet a lot of people who have their heads and their hearts in the right place. It is an organization comprised of excellent business people who truly want to make a positive difference in their community. This holds true for staff, leadership, and alumni.

Can you give us some background and insight into your personal leadership path – including sources of inspiration and the most important lessons learned?

MF: I have been involved in leadership for a long time. I am one of the older siblings of a large family and had a lot of responsibility at a very young age. I played sports throughout my school years and was asked to take leadership roles on those teams. In my work life I moved into management quickly and rose through the ranks at a fast clip. I enjoyed reading and learning about great leaders in politics, sports, and business. To me it comes down to a few key principles:

  1. Create a compelling future for your associates by having an inspirational mission, a clear vision, and immutable values as an organization.

  2. Treat people with Respect- Make sure you listen and acknowledge them. Honor their differences and opinions. Be interested in them as human beings not just cogs in your machine.

  3. Have great Integrity- Be a person of your word and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be open about the good and the bad. Be willing to admit when you are wrong.

  4. Give your direct reports exceptional Service- Make sure they have what they need to get the job done. Clear away obstacles and help them be more effective and efficient. Give them clear direction and set high expectations.

  5. Model Excellence in all you do- People watch your every move as a leader and will do what you do, not what you say. If you want your staff to give their all then you must do it as well.

Please tell us something most people might not know about you.

MF: I write poetry and song lyrics. I have a few musician friends who I work with and they have put some of them to music. I also go see a lot of live music around town.

How do you envision the future of the region? What about LGW’s role in that future?

MF: The region is quite vibrant currently with growth across many sectors. In order to keep that going, regional leaders will have to deal with transportation, housing, and talent issues that could constrain growth. There are a number of industries that are turning down opportunities because they can’t find the skilled labor they need to fill their open positions. This skill gap is a major problem in the region as well as throughout our country.

From a social perspective the DC area really is a tale of two cities. We have such economic strength and affluence side-by-side with such poverty and disparity of opportunity. My hope is that we find a way to lessen that gap and help those who have been left behind to catch up. LGW can play a major role in that by connecting the business and philanthropic communities in the region and by continuing to highlight the issues of education, housing, training, criminal justice, and transportation that drive that divide.

How do your efforts and leadership at your current organization impact the future of the Greater Washington region?

MF: GGW impacts the region by helping individuals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain the skills they need to be self-sustaining and contributing members of the community. By opening more thrift stores we can create more jobs and give people a start to a career. By growing our contracts division we can create more jobs for individuals with disabilities and give them the pride that being a part of a team can bring. Our Workforce programs give people the skills they need to develop careers in the hospitality and security industries.

The most recent expansion of our mission was the opening of The Goodwill Excel Center, an adult charter high school in the District. We currently have over 300 adults working their way toward a real high school diploma and gaining the literacy and numeracy skills they need to start a career. They also receive job training and recognized industry credentials through the Excel program. All students have access to supportive services through our coaching programs and will get assistance moving into post-secondary education or finding a job upon graduation.

We envision a community where people are empowered to rise to their highest level of personal success.