CEO, Ladies Leading Leadies
Okay let’s be real, I am a dork — but a passionate dork. I busted my butt in school and college, kicked ass (and continue to kick ass) in the nonprofit sector, but I’ve always kept an eye on the fun of life. I’ve always believed that impactful work is fueled by the experiences outside of the office.
I try to travel as much as humanly possible, and one of my wedding vows (cause this is just so me) is that I vowed to plan the absolute most amazing trips of our lives without my husband having to lift a finger. Sounds selfless right? Well it’s not, I’m a control freak and totally get my jollies from planning my fun to the T and seeing the people I bring along for the ride light up with excitement and joy as they experience my plans coming to fruition.
This pure joy of planning and structuring has helped me tremendously as I’ve grown as a leader, and help others grow as leaders, but is also something I’ve learned to be aware of to avoid letting that control freak mute others creativity and innovation.
But how does all of this relate to my journey with Ladies Leading Ladies? How does this set me up to help you and your teams in your leadership journey? Well here’s my professional and honest bio to answer that question:
“Nikki is fueled by the missed opportunities she has witnessed and lived through herself, by her optimism that the workplace can be better for her and the next generation, and by the incredible energy of the women she surrounds herself with every day.
Nikki has her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and a Master of Public Administration. She has worked in victim advocacy, workforce development, social services, economic development, and philanthropy. She currently serves as a Commissioner for the Fresno Housing Authority, a Board Member with the Child Care & Development Local Planning Council, and a founding committee member of Dress for Success Fresno.
In the past she has been a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow of the Women’s Foundation of California, an honoree of Fresno’s 40 under 40 at age 28, and the recipient of the Women’s Empowerment Award at Central Washington University. She brings this breadth of experience and passion to her everyday challenge of helping women find their voices and lead both professionally and personally.”
I aspire to be a go-to, accessible resource for women and non-binary folks to advance their careers and become the leaders they wished they had when they were coming up in their careers. I aspire to help men to let go of stereotypes and stigmas attached to beingan assertive male leader, and instead follow what the data shows actually creates the most successful leader while growing and developing their teams of women and non-binary people. My goal is to continue growing Ladies Leading Ladies to best serve companies across the country to be successful in today’s marketplace and with today and tomorrow’s workforce. I’m committed to doing all of that while continuing to invest in my personal growth, my health, and my family.
My biggest success was detaching myself from my abusive father after 30 years of martyring my life to save him from his mental illness and drug addiction. It was an incredibly painful process and I mourn that father-daughter relationship (as I was a true daddy’s girl), but I’m so proud that I’ve learned that I cannot save or change anyone that doesn’t want to change. I’ve learned that my worth is not tied to someone else and that no one, blood or otherwise, is worth sacrificing your mental health.
Same as above. The moment I had to walk into a court room for the 6th time in a year just to get a damn piece a paper to ask my dad to stay away from me, was one of my weakest AND strongest moments. I felt like the system wasn’t made to protect me but instead my abuser, I was broken mentally and physically, but I was propelled forward by knowing that myself and my family deserved protection.
Everything happens for a reason. It’s incredibly cliché but I truly believe it and it drives me every single day. If I’m struggling or feeling beat down, I search for the lesson, the reason, why I am going through whatever I’m battling. I stay patient until I can find it and that continued learning and perseverance helps me through my toughest times.
I am blessed to be surrounded by SO many amazing women in my community. I am continually inspired by my mother, my friends, and the many badass female professionals and entrepreneurs in Fresno. But I’m also a huge Marie Forleo fan, love Emilie Aries of Bossed Up, am in awe of Michelle Obama, am challenged and fired up by the passionate Brittany Packnett, and love watching my great friend Diana R. Diaz build her dreams and support Latina women through The RAWW Network.
Close the gender leadership gap for women and non-binary people.
What am I doing today to serve women, build my business, invest in the people I love, and invest in myself?
Following up with the needs of my ladies in The Leadership Project. What is going great, and what is tripping them up? What can I do to help them grow?
Serving as a Commissioner with our local Housing Authority.
Have faith that everything happens for a reason, even our struggles. Stay patient and stay open, you’ll find the lesson for everything you go through.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
That we’re scrappy! We’re always the underdog which means we’re innovative and know how to get the job done with little help. Don’t underestimate us! (Fresno, CA)
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
Oh man, it’s absolutely HORRIBLE from a health perspective but I LOVE a good chicken fried steak for breakfast. The best one I’ve ever had is from a little dive in Portland, OR – Dockside Restaurant. Fun fact, it’s where investigators found the evidence that Tanya Harding’s husband conspired to commit the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Sleeping! I am intent on getting 7.5 hours of sleep every night so I head to bed about 10pm-ish and wake up at 7am. With that amount of time in bed, my trusty Fitbit lets me know that I’ve gotten 7.5 hours of sleep. Seriously, DO NOT underestimate the power of sleep to being a great leader!
10:00 AM – I’ve finished my workout by this time, so I’m usually holding meetings with clients or responding to emails.
12:00 PM – One of the perks of being a solopreneur is being able to be at home many times during the lunch hour. I looove those days at home where I can whip out my PlateJoy app and create something delicious to recharge myself at lunch. But if I’m out and about, you’ll find me at Heirloom Eats in Fresno having a spinach and bacon salad and whatever seasonal tea they’re serving.
7:00 PM – If my husband is home, we’re either making dinner or we’re out to dinner together. We LOVE eating, and eating well. If my husband is at work, I’m either binge-watching my favorite shows that he hates (Grace & Frankie or This Is Us) or I’m out having a girls night to refuel.
11:00 PM – I’ve been fast asleep for awhile! That regular bedtime and wake time helps my health, my focus, my motivation, my creativity, and most importantly it helps me to manage my anxiety and mental health. Cannot be pushed aside!
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Ha! Well as you’ve learned, I get enough sleep that I don’t “need” anything to get me through the day BUT I am a huge tea lover. My go-to is a London Fog or a Honey Joy from Kuppa Joy Coffee.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
My favorite Instagram is @eggnogthebulldog. If I’m on Instagram it means I need a pick-me-up and Eggnog and Igloo always pull through for me!
What should everyone try at least once?
Meditation! If you’re nervous or don’t think it’s for you, try a guided meditation through an app like Simple Habit. I use Simple Habit every day to get my head right and manifest my dreams into reality. Oh, and before I started it I thought people who meditated were crazy, woo-woo hippies – so just give it a chance.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
In a new city. I love the hustle and bustle of a downtown. It’s not my everyday environment so throwing my headphones in and taking a walk to find the best coffee shop, restaurant or speakeasy while just taking in the vibe is my absolute favorite.
My Native AdVice:
How did you get into the industry?
I worked in a leadership capacity in the nonprofit sector for about a decade. I got the chance to work with families working to make their lives better, survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and with governments and businesses to bring more jobs to our region. I saw so much passion and dedication in the nonprofit sector, but I also saw so many untapped leaders – especially women. I realized that my strength through any position I held was to create and develop teams and leaders, but that was only moving the needle so much when only 4% of Forbes 500 companies have a female CEO. So, I decided it was time to take my experience and strengths out on my own where I could bring leadership development to women across the country. I now speak, train, and coach women to grow as supportive leaders across the country both in-person and online.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Building an audience does not happen overnight! You have to start your career speaking for free and consistently providing free and valuable content online. Don’t think that you have to do it all yourself – tap your own strengths and then tap other’s strengths to help you in the areas you may not be as strong in. There’s only so much time and brainpower in each day!
Any emerging industry trends?
Companies are really starting to realize that the data isn’t lying to them – effective teams are based on effective leaders and effective leaders focus on building relationships with their teams. What’s even better is that relationship-building is something ingrained in women from a very young age, and companies are realizing that these ingrained characteristics are actually what their leadership needs more of – that’s where I come in. Not only to help grow women and non-binary folks as supportive leaders, but also to help men break out of the stereotypical authoritarian “boss” role and build the skills to focus on their people to bring about more success than they ever thought possible.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
My clients walk away from their experiences with me with a wealth of tools to implement right away with their teams as well as a lot of internal reflection work to do with themselves. I ensure that my services all include a mix of self-reflection and tangible tools to implement day-to-day as a supportive leader. When clients take full advantage of my services they walk away confident, empowered, and equipped to build their teams to their optimal success, increasing effectiveness, efficiency and company culture.
How do you motivate others?
It’s incredibly important to understand that each person you work with is an individual with individual strengths and an intersectional identity. No two people, or employees, are the same and they shouldn’t be treated as such. I made that rookie mistake many years ago, thinking that I was the best leader by treating everyone exactly the same to ensure fairness. That’s just silly. You need to adapt projects and duties to each of your uniquely capable and skilled team members so that you can reach optimal success. When people are able to do what they do best every single day, they are more engaged and more motivated and that’s exactly what your team needs to be successful.
What Else to Know?
I’m speaking at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference on March 15