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Meet Nicole Leighton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Leighton.

Nicole, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve had a pretty zig-zaggy life and career story that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve been in LA (Greater LA) for nine years, which is a long time for me to be in one spot (I seem to be genetically wired for wanderlust). Originally from Canada, I moved from Vancouver, BC to LA when I was offered a corporate job in the gaming arm of Disney (Disney Interactive Media Group).

My corporate background has varied, having started my career in stockbroking in Canada, moving into account management in Australia, working for the Australian Stock Exchange, then making my way into the recruiting space when I took a job at Electronic Arts in Vancouver. I discovered and absolutely fell in love with coaching while I was working at EA.

Fast forward ten years from my job at EA, I’ve left the corporate world and now coach and consult full-time, working with small/creative/biotech startups and coaching individuals and leadership teams. I am an executive and leadership development coach. To throw a bit of what my Canadian friends joke is ‘typically Californian’ in there, I also facilitate mindfulness meditation, have a mad passion for astrology and metaphysics, and feel strongly that my Astanga yoga practice is a huge and crucial part of why I can travel through life feeling mentally, spiritually and physically well. I often incorporate all of this into my coaching.

And just to keep things real….and really busy, I’m a single mom of two teenagers, a senior in high school and a senior graduating 8th grade this year. Teenagers keep everything real!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In conversation with a client many years ago, he shared a philosophy that shifted the very foundation of how I view life. He told me that he always looks at life’s big opportunities and decisions in the context of what kind of story it would make when he is 80. That is how I try to live….by the kind of story I would like to be able to tell about a particular situation, decision or opportunity that I’m faced with. Deciding to live by that rule is easy. How it plays out…not always so easy, but it has been quite the ride!

I’ve found that has made for big adventures and yes, there have been struggles. Moving continents and countries, living through life’s trials, trying my best to raise good humans, moving on past divorce, facing that 40-ish-year-old ‘Midlife Unraveling’ (as Brené Brown has coined for us) all make for a few more gray hairs and some big ah-hah moments, but I wouldn’t change a thing. And committing to living my fullest life, so that my story at 80 is funny, bold and audacious, and full of adventures and many failures that I can laugh at (and say I’ve learned from)….the struggles (and many gray hairs) are worth it.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
In 2010, after discovering that coaching was something I felt incredibly connected to and wanted to do, in some capacity, for the rest of my life, I trained to become a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) through Coactive Training Institute (CTI). My main coaching practice centers around leadership development coaching but my previous career in Recruiting creates a really great opportunity for me to be of service to people in their own career development and/or transition. My clients run the gamut of the ‘client demographic’. I coach executives, leadership teams in small tech and biotech, new leaders, engineering students and professionals who want to create space to sort out ‘what they want to when they grow up’, regardless of whether they are in their early 20s or in their 50s and beyond. I’m a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through International Coach Federations (ICF) and also really appreciate being part of that community of professional coaches. I feel incredibly grateful to have my professional tribe be one that is intrinsically motivated by the same ‘call to be of service’ to people, organizations and communities.

My consulting work often threads coaching through it. If I’m consulting with small tech start-ups as they start to scale and need to consider introducing some structure (I always lean to the lightest possible amount of structure), I help them build talent systems, train and develop their leaders, coach on performance development, communication skills and how to have tough and productive conversations. Most recently, I contracted with a biotech startup to be all-things-talent-related…coaching, HR, recruiting, conflict resolution, team building, engagement….if it’s a leadership team that is truly talent-focused, it feels like a gift to be able to play in that space with them.

I’d say I’m most proud of the people I get to work with. I belong to a professional community of inspiring people that I get to collaborate with. I have clients who are brilliant and motivated to really show up for themselves and their worlds, in all aspects of their lives. And I have the privilege of holding space for people who want to do the brave and courageous work of living self-actualized lives. I’d say what differentiates me as a coach would be that I tend to have a Mama Bear style of coaching: fierce love, compassion and the occasional butt-kicking when it’s designed as part of the coaching alliance. And, inevitably, mindfulness and living a whole and balanced life (which, of course, will mean different things to different people), becomes part of that equation.

What were you like growing up?
Well, my family would tell you that I was VERY sensitive and tended toward perfectionism. I would definitely agree on the sensitivity and I’m grateful that we are now able to have more contemporary conversations around Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and introversion/extroversion.

I suppose that I could also agree about having been a bit of perfectionist…..if I’m honest. But I’m MUCH better now. I spend a lot of time evangelizing the gifts of failure and I am masterful at it, myself! I believe that if we are never failing, we are probably not reaching as far out as we can to do and be what we really want to do and be. I also think that sometimes making a mess of things can offer huge opportunities for growth…..and for great stories when we’re 80.

When I was a kid, I was always looking for connection and always trying to figure people out. I think I was a quasi-psychologist by the age of 10, just trying to understand my own family and my place in it. So, it’s not all that surprising to me that I spend my days being witness to people that are motivated to figure their things out and live their best versions of life and career.

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Headshots by Ziva Santop

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