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A Discussion with Dr. Colette Nichols on Encouraging Wellness in One’s Workplace

I was born in Los Angeles and I went to Westmont College for my degree and studies in Political Science and Economics/Finance.  I completed a Master’s and PhD in Organization & Management from Capella University.  Now, I am a finance and operations consultant and senior executive based out of Los Angeles. Throughout my career, I […]

Dr. Colette Nichols
Dr. Colette Nichols

I was born in Los Angeles and I went to Westmont College for my degree and studies in Political Science and Economics/Finance.  I completed a Master’s and PhD in Organization & Management from Capella University.  Now, I am a finance and operations consultant and senior executive based out of Los Angeles. Throughout my career, I have worked heavily in the healthcare and technology fields for both for-profit and non-profit organizations.  At my last position, where I held a unique dual title of CFO & COO for a large public hospital in Greater Los Angeles, I inherited a $2.7MM bottom line and turned it into $64MM in 18 months.  That’s the kind of results I can achieve with my skills in developing high performing management teams.  And, for as long as I can remember, I have had this long passion for giving back through community involvement, volunteerism, and mentoring young women in their careers. In 2019, I founded The Empower Foundation where I work with partners and charities who share the same goal of building hope and empowering communities. The foundation’s three major community missions are homelessness, vulnerable children, and health.

What do you love most about the industry you are in? 

In the healthcare space, it is the chance to improve the health of my community and making a difference.  There is enormous opportunity in Los Angeles to improve the health status of vulnerable populations, like children.  For example, food insecurity is a social determinant of health and in Los Angeles 29.2% of households are food insecure.  That’s from the Key Indicators of Health – Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Report 2017.  So, these are the kinds of opportunities that exist to make a positive difference.  In all other aspects of my work, I get to create solutions to complex problems with my clients and grow their organizations with them beyond our wildest dreams.  It’s incredibly fulfilling.

How do you motivate others? 

You lead by example.  Meaning, it’s not what you say it’s what you do.  How you carry yourself and adhere to the Mission, Vision, and Values.  And that’s how you motivate others.  Through leadership and having a bold goal and vision that people can understand and get excited about.  I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that it’s what I do, not what I say, that people respond to in terms of leadership.  And I have an inclusive, compassionate, human approach to my management, and I put high value in the worth of the individual.  And I know how to get out of the way.

Who has been a role model to you and why? 

One of my CEOs is my role model and mentor, and still is to this day.  He always told me that what a leader does is take care of his people.  The whole time I worked for him, he looked out for the welfare of his team.  And, he taught me that if you take care of your staff, they can take care of their patients.  He did this in many ways, but he always had an open door and wanted people to feel comfortable coming to him for help or a second chance.  He leads by example.  He says what he means, and he means what he says.  He values the worth of the individual in such a way that they set a higher standard for themselves … more than what any manager could set for them.  He treats people with enormous respect, while keeping his eye on the goals of the organization.  No one wanted to let him down because of trust and respect.  And we all felt – at every level of the organization – that our contribution mattered, we were valued, and that we were part of something bigger than ourselves.  Another piece of his skill that I think is extraordinary are his instincts and ability to read and solve complex issues with stunning accuracy.  He could break down complex situations and look at them from all the viewpoints.  He is an incredible listener, empathetic, and able to diagnose where people are coming from.  His instincts, and his ability to understand the human factors, help him navigate and bring solutions that brought people together and united around.  I watched time and time again people move from their self-interested positions into cohesive positions that benefited the organization.  He was highly visible, and everyone had access to him.   His communication style is also extraordinary.  In real time, he can articulate his vision in a grounded way and create a story that everyone understood quickly and rallied around.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

It’s not easy.  I didn’t learn this until I recently had my daughter, Livvy.  When I was in the earlier days of my career, I’d love to say that I had balance, but I didn’t.  I worked hard.  Now, I still work hard, but I’m able to put it into perspective.  That’s just a part of age and learning life’s experiences.

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader? 

I’ve been able to create high performing management teams throughout my career. I have an open, compassionate management style and energy beyond what you can possibly imagine.  I’m a coach, a mentor, and a role model.  And I try to create a culture where everyone is empowered, while we focus on achieving stellar results.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?  

I’ve always had to take care of myself since I was 17.  Nobody gave me anything, I’ve had to achieve everything on my own.  So, I profoundly understand adversity because no one was there with a silver spoon to make things easy for me.  And there was a three-year period in there where I had to grow and transform into myself.  I had to let go of a lot of old beliefs that I had been clinging to, which created enormous personal growth for me.  And I had to shed some elements that were present in my life at that time that were trying to diminish, demean, and control me.  Which was very scary because it really meant embracing the unknown. Through that, I’ve transitioned now to be a mother, a professional, a philanthropist, and balancing all those things.  And I think for the first time, I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have been.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten? 

To always involve myself in pursuits that are bigger than me.  To be kind to fellow man and look beyond myself to the bigger calling that we all have.  It’s never been about me.  And I’ve never lost sight of that.

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned? 

Never, ever, ever give up.  You always find another way.  It’s that tenacity, the work ethic, and the belief in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.  When you have moments of weakness, there’s this inner voice that says you don’t give up.  But you’re human, so there are times you must lean on your network of friends and colleagues.  But, in your basic makeup, you must have the core value that you never stop fighting. 

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?  

Outside of work, I love a diversity of activities.  I’m this multi-faceted menu of dichotomies.  There are things that I get excited about and I jump right in.  I got certified as a sommelier and scuba diver.  I have this enormous curiosity.  I love to travel – I’m the girl that jumps on a plane to go play golf at a course I learned about.  I golf avidly.    I’m a hardcore romantic.  I love to dream big about possibilities.  I love music – especially the 70s, smooth jazz, Michael Jackson, and old school R&B.  I just discovered Jose James, so he’s now on my Pandora Stations.  In a heartbeat, I go to the Hollywood Bowl for different artists.  I love to learn new things.  My values are authenticity, family, honesty, integrity, trust, and stability.  And I’m playful, fun, and very active and spontaneous.  I guess I just have a lot of depth and a lot of soul.  And everything I do, I do with my whole heart, mind, body, and soul.

What trends in your industry excite you?  

It’s ever-changing.  Every day there are new challenges and new complex issues that require all the skills that I’ve learned.  I never get bored, and that’s the theme or the trend that really excites me and keeps me motivated.

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