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Nicole Johansen

Nicole Johansen

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am a solopreneur with my own executive coaching practice, mainly focused on women and transitioning veterans. I love working with women because they are usually my most motivated clients who are ready for change and willing to put the work in to do so. Moreover, women often undervalue themselves and I can help them see what they bring to the table and figure out how to leverage that to achieve their goals. In addition, with my 17+ years of Marine Corps experience I can pull from my own leadership and management experience to help other women find their own style as a leader or manager.

I love working with transitioning veterans because, when I got off of active duty from the Marine Corps in 2008, the cultural shift from a military to civilian organization was stark and I found it hard to adjust as was the case for many of my fellow veterans. I think that it could have easily derailed me if I wasn't able to work through it. Furthermore, organizations spend so much money recruiting veterans, but underestimate how hard the transition can be which can lead to failure for the veteran and negative ROI for the organization. I think support from when the veteran is hired to when they feel like they have come through the transition is necessary to combat this.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I was invited to the Leadership Boot Camp event by a fellow USC alum, Rebecca Hu, and was immediately hooked. I was impressed with the mission of Ellevate, the comradery of women focused on the same thing, and the number of interesting and relevant events, such as Colonel Pilar Ryan. I joined the day after the event.

How would you define your professional mission?

My professional mission is to help my clients achieve the goals they have set by being an accountability partner, a challenger, and a cheerleader. This can be anything from becoming a better leader or manager, having more executive presence, using time more efficiently to allow time for other personal or professional priorities, being able to say "No," figuring out the next step in a career path and how to get there, etc. Whatever it is, my mission is to help define the goal, identify potential roadblocks and ways to mitigate them, and create a clear path to success.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

My career path is non-linear, as are most. I graduated Loyola College in Maryland with a degree in International Business and Spanish, and got commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. I spent 6 years on active duty, including 3 deployments to the Middle East, and transitioned out while remaining in the Reserves. My first civilian job was as a Buyer for General Dynamics NASSCO. I learned a lot, but also that I wanted more and different, but did not know what that looked like yet. I then got my MBA from the University of Southern California which helped clarify my interests - the human aspects of business. Upon graduation I took a job with Gallup as a management consultant. I spent 1.5 years in the Irvine office working with clients to maximize all of their "people points," and then 2 years in Sydney, Australia as the country manager for Australia and New Zealand. While in Australia I had my twins, Lia and Gunnar, and moved back to the U.S. to surround myself with some help as both my husband's and my parents are both still in New York. I wanted to stay home for a bit with my twins and also to figure out what was next for me. I did a LOT of self-exploration in terms of what my priorities were, what I was good at and what I enjoyed most about my previous roles, and decided that out of everything I've done, coaching others was my passion and my talent. I then got an M.S. in HRMD with a focus on Learning, Development, and Executive Coaching from NYU and started my own coaching practice.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when my clients make progress towards whatever they are working on or working through. As a coach, I am there to listen, provide perspective, challenge, and be an accountability partner while my clients do the hard work of self-discovery and take the steps to make real change.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

Through my work, I hope to leave a legacy of clients who are self-aware, know what they bring to the table and how to leverage it, and know that they have the power to create positive change for themselves.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I found my way to coaching through a journey of self-discovery, and I feel like it is right for me because I feel I am at my best when I am doing it. I am an empathetic listener who genuinely cares about my client's success, and I'm not afraid to gently challenge when needed.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower is hearing what isn't said. In coaching you have to listen with your whole body. Even on the phone or in a video coaching session, I can often sense through tone, pauses, what the client chooses to talk about or avoid, etc. that there is something important that the client either consciously or unconsciously avoids saying. When I sense this I help my clients figure out what this is and it is usually a turning point in our coaching journey.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Work-life balance is hard. I am married, have twin 4 year-olds who have school and their various activities, I have my own executive coaching practice, and I am still a Marine Corps reservist that needs to maintain the physical standards as well as the participation requirements. And up until recently I was also going to school full-time at NYU.

I try to focus on work-life integration, with a requirement for some self-care. My day is usually a mix of dropping off/ picking up the kids to/from school and their activities, a workout, coaching sessions or prep for coaching sessions, Marine Corps emails and/or calls, family time, and all the regular stuff you have to do to live (laundry, eat, etc.). Personal care is a priority for me as I fully believe I cannot give anything to others if I have not given to myself. Once a week I go to either the chiropractor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist to keep myself healthy and recharged.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

Being a working mom is hard, and there is always a constant feeling of guilt about what you're not doing at work or at home. My one piece of advice is to stop feeling guilty and to allow yourself some grace. You are one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. Your children will be fine and work will be fine. Also, breathe. Many times it feels overwhelming when things are going crazy at work or at home. Breathe through it. And chocolate LOL.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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