Life and Career Coach Moniki Cannon Supports Omaha’s Emerging Leaders
News, Summer 2016
BY JENNIFER LITTON
PHOTO BY DEBRA S. KAPLAN
She’s president of the PTA at Miller Park Elementary and coaches her children’s track team. She’s on the Board of Directors at Kids Can Community Center. She sits on boards at the Superintendent’s Advisory Council for Omaha Public Schools and at the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance.
She teaches an after-school girls’ leadership program and serves the elderly in a program at Salem Baptist Church. She serves as the membership chair of the Nebraska Urban League Young Professionals and has served as chair of the Women’s Fund Circles.
This is only a sampling of what 33-year-old Moniki Cannon juggles.
She also co-owns Gunn and Cannon Empowerment Group, a company that provides life and career coaching, with her husband and junior-high sweetheart Jaron Cannon. A mother of two, Cannon says maintaining focus is key. “I can’t be the best business owner, the best mom, the best wife, the best community member all at the same time. What I can do is set aside time for each thing so I don’t overextend myself.”
A graduate of Omaha North High School, Cannon maximizes the few hours she does have with her kids between work and school and track practice. “The time that you do have needs to be quality time that’s spent with your family,” she says.
She’s the mom showing up to track practice in her suit with her laptop and phone, sometimes stepping away to her car to fit in a conference call. But when she returns, the focus is always on her kids. “They have to know that not only are you visible to them, but that you are actually present for them.”
Cannon’s business sense has made a positive impression on her daughter Jayla, 11, who recently started her own babysitting business. “She already has a parent letter. She wants a professional headshot done and business cards.”
When Jayla applied for her school news team, she also showed remarkable professional skills. “She didn’t just apply. She worked through it. She had me proofread it,” Cannon says.
Jayla wanted to make a good first impression for her interview, so she focused on her hair and clothing. “She learned those skills by going with me to speaking engagements. She learned those skills by watching me on the computer. When you talk about work-life balance sometimes that means I’m taking her with me, but I’m teaching her the ropes to run a business, as well.”
Cannon graduated with a master’s degree in organizational leadership from College of Saint Mary. She received her bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Bellevue University. One secret she found to juggling her busy life is to give herself permission to not be perfect.
“Women, by nature, we’re nurturers and we don’t give ourselves permission to sometimes unplug, to sometimes make a mistake. To sometimes not necessarily be the best at every single thing. So figure out what lanes you want to be in and then stay in those lanes.”
Cannon experienced the defining lightbulb moment of her career while working as a senior human resources manager for a Fortune 500 company in Omaha for five years. While she enjoyed her job, she knew that her people skills could be put to better use. She knew that while rising through the ranks in human resources would be desirable, this would add filters between her and those she loves to serve.
Cannon, who describes herself as a minority and first-generation college graduate, says that after assessing her skill sets, she realized her talents needed to be utilized on a bigger canvas. “That larger canvas for me was the community.”
In 2011, she started her own business to empower others and make a difference in Omaha—a place she has considered home since relocating from St. Louis at age 6.
“Once I became authentic to myself and true to my values, that’s when the work-life balance piece truly kicked in for me,” Cannon says.
She strives to be a leader and an extension for those in the community who are underserved and don’t have a level of access to influence different areas or meet new people. She helps small businesses, young professionals and nonprofits. “All things new and underserved. They’re like the underdog. They’re the ones who don’t have the big budget.”
She dreamed big and asked herself, “’Why can’t I go out and be that girl? Why can’t I go out and be that person who is the arm for them, the extension for leadership and development?”
She helps people build resumes and provides one-on-one life and career coaching. She helps emerging managers build skill sets and is a public speaker for keynote presentations, breakout sessions and workshops.
Cannon is passionate about developing young girls into leaders, so she created Girls Lead 365, an organization that teaches girls leadership principles and practices. “Girls Lead 365 is so important to me, to really show them that not only can girls lead every single day but they can connect with women who are leading every single day.”
Cannon’s success in being a leader for others is rooted in her strong family support. Her mother, who recently retired after a lifelong career with ConAgra, helps with the children and shuttles them to practices.
“My mom is very important and vital to our success. She helps me out all the time.” She also is fortunate to have a large network of family helpers in Omaha from her husband’s side of the family.
And lastly, there’s her rock, her support base: her husband of 20 years, Jaron. “He’s the behind-the-scenes guy who pumps me up. He keeps me inspired. He keeps me going when I have my self-doubt moments,” she says.
When life’s not perfect, he tells her it’s OK. “There are a lot of withdrawals being made in the work that I do. I need deposits made sometimes, and my husband and my mom are so big about making deposits and keeping my bank balanced. It’s a nice blend,” she says.
Besides enjoying BBQ, swimming and family time, Cannon is all about her work of empowering others. “This is passion work for me. When it’s passion work, it’s not work. It’s just fun.”
Cannon wants to influence people to take action. “I want to inspire people. I want to empower people and I want to help them influence change in their world.” W