More women than ever now create their own working life, through entrepreneurship, innovation, collaboration, creating charity projects and NGOs, community building, and the arts. Working around traditional employment models offers tremendous freedom and accelerated learning; however, the entrepreneurial path can be really lonely! Denise Nickerson and Michelle Guiliano, who are based near Geneva, Switzerland, talked with us about how they have designed their own working lives. They also lead a group of thousands of women who, like them, are creating new ways of working and seeking something more when it comes to achievement, career path, and possibilities for better working conditions* and professional success. We hope you will enjoy getting to know them and encountering some of the women from their network in this issue of Sovereign.
What is the driving force behind your consulting and coaching company, Salt?
Denise: We wanted to live and work from the heart, outside constraints of traditional models of education and working that simply aren’t working. We decided that from the beginning of our collaboration, that part of our time, energy, and earnings would always be dedicated to helping others – we didn’t want to wait one minute to make a difference either! So many people say to themselves, “Someday I’ll help others, someday I’ll invent this or that, someday I’ll write my book” For us, someday is today, every day! In our very first year in business together we ran a local-global fundraiser: providing coaching to 30 women-owned businesses and raising enough money to send 55 girls to school in developing countries through a girls’ scholarship program**. Our professional focus as coaches is to uncover human potential – by connecting people to their mission in life, we heal insecurities and support so much creativity and action. By the end of our third year in business, we created the Women Rock Network. In 2020 we’ll celebrate Salt’s 5th birthday!
Michelle: Parents everywhere, like me, have had to make hard choices about when and where they work and how much childcare they can invest in to support their careers. Women often bear the brunt of professional compromises where childcare is concerned, due to the global persistence of unequal opportunities and unequal pay. I sacrificed years of professional life to raise children while my then husband travelled for work 50-70% of the time! The pain and insecurity of unemployment and under-deployment of women is real, especially for the talented, the inspired, the educated, and those with a mission to change the world. It is why true feminine leadership is needed – for men and for women. With our work, we want to equip people to succeed in ways that strengthen relationships and heal social inequalities.
How did you end up working together?
Denise: We each had solopreneur companies before Salt. Michelle had an award-winning eco-ethical product and I was a writer and educational consultant. For me, besides my admiration for Michelle, there were two key factors: 1. I became an entrepreneur because I love people and I ended up alone at my computer most of the time – it didn’t suit my personality or my mission and 2. I kept encountering the same human concerns from clients and audiences wherever I went – concerns about emotional intelligence, character, and motivation that coaching can resolve. I felt an intense calling to have more of an impact on hearts and minds. Michelle’s energy and ability to activate absolutely everyone was the perfect complement to my skills. She gives me courage to stand up and lead in ways I wouldn’t on my own. I know she has my back – always! She’s one of the strongest people I have ever met – her resilience and endurance are legendary!
Michelle: I have been a coach my whole life, and my previous, product-based business was a self-imposed learning challenge. I learned how to design and manufacture a product and ramp up distribution and sales. Meanwhile, I had been looking for a business partner for years. I wanted to change directions and to support inspiring leaders but I knew I would need to find the right person to work with. It had to be someone with integrity and credibility. I started to attend some of Denise’s talks and was so impressed with her brilliance and ability to make everyone feel wonderful. She’s extremely intelligent and she simplifies the most complex and emotionally difficult topics with grace and poise. She never compromises her femininity and commands respect through her expertise. I’m so glad we decided to try working together years ago after we both took a Tony Robbins coaching course. We had so much fun studying and honestly, I’ve never enjoyed my work as much I do now!
You both have made a commitment to be more visible, why is that?
Michelle: Sadly, my dad passed away suddenly just over a year ago. He created and led a communications company in the USA for almost 40 years. The videos of his creations, presentations, workshops, seminars and the many speeches he wrote that were delivered by business leaders and politicians are not available to the public. He cared so much about his work and his employees and often worked to the point of burnout. We’re looking for ways, like getting on video and our new coaching column, to make a huge impact in a sustainable way. We want to leave a legacy; and, we want to enjoy life now in good health!
Denise: We are also committed to “walk the talk!” We ask our clients to let go of perfectionism, to be vulnerable, and to be strong enough to welcome feedback and put it to good use. We challenge people to stand up for what they believe in, and to take action to make a difference in the world. We help clients put their work and themselves “out there” for the world to see. Our coaching has more power when people see us making a commitment to face the same challenges. How can we help organisations with issues like leadership and teamwork if we aren’t leading something or living and breathing teamwork in our own work and lives?
Tell us about your women’s network:
Denise: We named the group “Women Rock” for all that phrase evokes – from a woman rocking a baby, to rocking the stage, to rocking her career, and her life. It takes courage and authority to “rock” anything. There’s another meaning there too – someone’s “rock” is a strong, grounded, and steady person you can count on. The women in our network lift each other up. They work for the planet and for their neighborhoods. They love their families at home and their extended families abroad. They face challenges and pick themselves up to love and to serve. They support one another in sisterhood, and give each other strength. They know that real success in life can only come when love is the guiding principle. They come from over 60 countries, so truly, they rock the world!
Michelle: Women need a safe place where those considering launching their own project or business can get inspiration from others – and where everyone can get kind and honest feedback. We share our joys and struggles and we support each other’s projects. Because the women in the network have so many ties to other countries, it provides exciting opportunities for those members who are scaling up their businesses to reach new markets too! We’ve established group culture with entrepreneurial spirit of self-starters, people, like us. who embrace technology and innovation, care about quality of life and working sustainably, and are passionate about making a positive impact.
What’s your coaching message for our readers?
Michelle: Walk through the fire. With forged poise and presence, step into your power. Take a stand for yourself and others.
Denise: The power of feminine leadership is available to everyone. Face fear, risk vulnerability, share your gifts, connect from the heart, own your wisdom, and create with passion.
Michelle and Denise are both originally from the USA. Michelle has two Danish-American sons and Denise has a French husband and two Franco-American daughters. They laugh uncontrollably on a regular basis, sing, and converse about everything while they work on creating, and they deliver heart, soul, and laser focus when they are client-facing. They bring love to all that they do. They have a boutique consultancy, Salt Consulting & Communications Ltd. (www.salt.consulting), where they live their mission to foster lifelong learning, balanced leadership, and to unleash human potential.
Michelle and Denise work as coaches, facilitators, speakers, and trainers for a select few private clients each year as well as in multinationals, SMEs, UN Organisations, and NGOs. Michelle is an athlete and former Ivy League coach and often speaks about the lessons from endurance sports that can take life, work, and businesses to new heights of success. Fulbright Scholar Denise is the author of Education Guide Switzerland (2012, 2014) and speaks on character strengths, mindfulness, and ways we can all better care for and leverage our brains!
Through their program Coach Within® they have trained over 100 sports coaches, including Olympians, Olympic Coaches, and National and State-level coaches in human development topics like active listening, empathy, educational pathways for athletes, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and high-performance culture. Their curriculum has been approved by Swiss Olympic and used to re-certify professional coaches up to the global level through FIFA.
Each year, they take between 6 and 15 women leaders with legacy and impact projects on a luxury long-weekend retreat through their program Living the Feminine Future™ with a goal of building an exclusive network of 100 powerful and passionate women leaders and changemakers around the world. This project also includes the development of unconscious bias training programs through story sharing and case studies. Balanced leadership training for men and women about developing the important qualities of feminine leadership can heal the world without de-valuing the masculine.
You can experience Michelle and Denise’s coaching through their new column with Sovereign Magazine, in print and on-line, called First Class Coaches! (link) Just send in your coaching questions! Those who send in questions, challenges, and ask for advice are also entered into a regular drawing to win a free strategy coaching call with Michelle and Denise. You can also join their online program, The Integrity System™ (www.theintegritysystem.com) to have access to a life-changing work-at-your-own-pace program providing guided meditations, training sessions, case studies, challenges, and more.
Contact them to speak, moderate, emcee or facilitate at your next event – we can’t wait for you to experience the positive energy they bring to everything they touch! Their kind of Salt, well it’s just like stardust!
Due to the difficult working conditions in Switzerland as evidenced by the Glass Ceiling Index, Women in Switzerland are planning a nationwide strike on June 14th, 2019. Switzerland comes in at a dismal 26th place of ranked OECD countries for markers of gender equality at work https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/03/08/the-glass-ceiling-index.
**The scholarship program is through the wonderful global charity Room to Read https://www.roomtoread.org/impact-reach/toward-systemic-change/girls-education-program/