Ladyboss Feature: Nicole Turchin

As a co-creator of Sunshine & 79, Nicole Turchin is using her passion for helping people to bring laughter, compassion and camaraderie into the workplace. 

Tell us about Sunshine & 79.

Earlier this year, my friend and business partner, Kurtis Karn, and I launched an employee experience company called Sunshine & 79. The idea for our company came to us in 2018 when we were asked to develop a workshop for my previous organization, CoreLink Administrative Solutions. The workshop we created was on the topic of purpose, and as we built it, we realized how scary some of these words are in the workplace and in life.

We decided we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to take these topics that employees navigate personally and professionally and make them a little less intimidating and a lot more fun, with a bit of edginess. We wanted to bring laughter into the workplace in the most unexpected of ways. We wanted to give companies the opportunity to build their people and their teams through an experience unlike anything they’ve seen before.

Today, we conduct interactive funshops (yes, funshops!) for companies of all sizes focused on learning, that get employees away from their desks to build camaraderie and trust with one another and have fun. We tackle topics like communication, influence, dialogue, recognition, gratitude, conflict, bias, self-care, potential, blame, and so much more. These funshops are typically considered part of a company’s retention strategy and are looked at as an investment in employees as humans, not just payroll recipients. Companies we work with are usually very surprised to see how relatively inexpensive it is to help employees feel valued and appreciated through opportunities to grow, which encourages them to stay and thrive versus finding that value somewhere else.

I stepped into this after almost 20 years of working in various capacities in the marketing communications world. Over the past several years, I’ve developed a deep-rooted passion for helping people think differently, recognize their talents and the talents of others, and understand the influence they have in their own lives and on others.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?

I love that I get to connect with people and help people think differently. We’re hearing a lot these days about the usual buzzwords of leadership development, culture, and employee engagement. For me, we have a real opportunity to help companies not develop leaders or create culture or engage employees but rather, support companies in giving their employees an experience that places the responsibility of development, culture, and engagement in their own hands. I love being a part of re-framing an individual’s mindset so they can see the impact they can have in their inner circle, their workplace, their community, and the world, when they choose to show up in their personal and professional lives in a really great way. We don’t consider ourselves coaches or consultants, but rather partners in a cooperative experience designed to give employees amazing opportunities.

How would you define your leadership style?

I want people to know they are supported and cared for. The people we work with are first and foremost, humans. They have families and friends, joy and sadness, and incredibly full lives. As leaders, we need to recognize that in order to retain top talent, we need to allow people the opportunity to balance their lives. We need to support the whole human, not just the working professional. We need to show empathy, kindness, and compassion, and we need to do it every single day. It’s our responsibility to connect people to what inspires them, and I love doing that.

As a leader, I’m also not going to tell people what they want to hear because it’s the easy option. I’m going to have conversations with people that are tough and it’s because I care about them. If I feel, as a team, we’re not stepping outside of our comfort zone enough – perhaps we’re pushing “the easy button” on a few things – I’m going to challenge our status quo. I’m going to push people just a little bit further than they think they can go because I know they can get there.

How has your leadership style changed throughout the years of managing a team? What do you wish you had known day 1?

I’m no longer embarrassed to admit that I used to think being a leader meant being stoic. I had an imprint in my mind of what a “traditional boss” looked like and while I never felt comfortable there, it was hard to step outside that.

In 2017 our yellow lab, Josephine, died and it changed me as both a person and as a leader. I worried about how my team at the time would see me if they saw me emotional in the office. I didn’t want them to see me as human because I didn’t want them to think I was weak. When I came into work after losing her, the outpouring of love I received from colleagues brought me to tears. In hindsight, that milestone in my life made me a stronger leader. It showed I have emotion, I have pain, and I can accept compassion. It was really a turning point for how I lead, and I have the people of CoreLink to thank for that. The love they showed me gave me the bravery to encourage others to be themselves. It’s a true gift that I received and that I’m now able to give.

What does being a Ladyboss mean to you?

It means being authentically me. It’s not easy preserving the things that are important to us when we’re trying to manage our lives, and often, the lives of others. If we aren’t true to who we are, we’re going to lose ourselves, and that’s an absolute loss for everyone. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is, “I’m unequivocally certain the Nicole I see in the office is the same Nicole outside of work.” I believe that’s true and it’s because I work diligently at it.

Being a Ladyboss also means I have the courage to admit faults, celebrate success, and continuously learn from the brilliant people I’m surrounded by without fear of competition or rivalry. It means I can support people and be supported for all the right reasons. It means I can be a foundation for others without cracking my own.

What is the best advice you have given or have to offer?

When I was at CoreLink, we talked a lot about leaving our legacy. My best piece of advice is to remember that every day, you’re choosing what your legacy looks like. The ripple you’re leaving is owned solely by you. I’m inspired by the people who despite the curveballs life throws at them, continue to show up every day with a spirit of positivity, collaboration, commitment, and joy.

What top 3 pieces of content would you recommend to Ladybosses?

I’m a book reader and my all-time favorite book is The Last Lecture written by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. Randy also has a lecture on YouTube called, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams that I absolutely love.

I’m currently enjoying No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently about forgiveness as I think it’s imperative to building healthy workplaces.

I’m also addicted to any video produced by SoulPancake (you can find them on YouTube). They are easy to watch and easy to share!

What do Ladybosses need now more than ever?

Calm. We need to manage the busy out of our lives to give ourselves the opportunity to reflect, relax, and unwind. It is so vitally important that we secure our oxygen mask before helping others, and so often, I see the exact opposite happening. It’s not okay to take care of others at the expense of ourselves. When I meet with people and I hear they are busy, I ask, “Why are you so busy?” And then I challenge them to take something off their plate. It’s a small step, but it helps bring the calm we so desperately need.