√ 23 Years with Nonprofits
√ Certified Coach
√ Credentialed Mediator
√ Masters Political Science
Based in Austin – Specialized in Empathy and Self-Compassion
Elly van Laar is CEO and founder of Elly van Laar Coaching, an Austin business specializing in leadership development and conflict training for nonprofit leaders. She is a recognized expert in Nonviolent Communication, mindfulness, and self-compassion.
Over the past 24 years, Elly has worked in and with nonprofits. She has been a frontline worker, Director of Programming, and been a Board member of the Austin Mediators Association and the local chapter of the International Coach Federation.
In addition, Elly is a frequent speaker on empathy, emotional regulation, and conflict resolution. She belongs to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Blossom mindfulness community, volunteers at the Austin Dispute Resolution Center, and offers meditation classes in jail.
Elly holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University, the Netherlands. She is a certified coach and a credentialed mediator.
And if she is not coaching or mediating? Then you can find her on her meditation cushion, visiting friends and family in the Netherlands, trying new vegan recipes, juggling. Or, hanging out with her fan and teacher, her husband David Nayer.
To find out more about Elly visit www.ellyvanlaar.com.
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You get support to explore your deeper purpose at work, see if you’re the right fit for your agency, take steps to move up the ladder. You walk away with a greater sense of meaning and satisfaction.
Conflict is a chance to explore how to collaborate. Mediation helps each of you to be heard and understood. As a result, you have more trust and good relationships get better.
I was so pleasantly surprised at how much progress I could make. I didn’t realize I had that much potential for growth. I kind of didn’t realize that I had not yet peaked in my ability to communicate with others. And that’s something that was really insightful.
The other thing that I really benefited from was understanding that while my intentions are good, the way that I present my intentions, was a barrier for me getting through to people. I’ve had three meetings this week with one partner that’s been the most challenging for me and doors have opened.
Having some guiding questions or some norms to keep in mind when I’m working with difficult people, that is really beneficial.
So being able to stop trying to force my own beliefs and values and my expectations, excellence, or accountability on others. When I let go of trying to hold other people accountable to the same standards I hold myself, I began to view them with a little bit more optimism and kind of have a little grace with the way in which they interacted with me.
And when I stopped trying to get them into my boat and decided to just go ahead and get in their boat, that was where we had a breakthrough.
I now have regular standing meetings with that person who is much higher than me on their organizational chart than I am in mine. And they have connected me to key doers and movers and shakers within their organization to start getting things done. But just being able to communicate more effectively got the right people in the room, things started happening. And as a result, on a systemic level, we can affect change that will be beneficial.
Coaching has been most beneficial to me as a middle management person. It can be a very difficult place to be when you’re in the middle because you have responsibility for others and yet you are still responsible to someone else. So for leaders who are in the trenches right now and they’re struggling with goal displacement or they’re struggling to align across their organization up or down, this type of coaching can help you find the words that they can hear. To speak in a way that they will listen in the midst of crisis.
I immediately felt rapport. Immediately I felt like I can be 100 percent vulnerable, 100 percent honest. And that is something that is very unique. And to be able to establish that from day one was really powerful.
I feel a sense of renewed purpose for the work that I do and commitment to my own values. I have really appreciated working with you. It’s been very helpful and very grounding.
I didn’t know if coaching would be productive, or practical, or a good use of time or money, things like that.
My experience of coaching was hugely positive. Very, very helpful. None of those doubts came true. Just the opposite.
Elly had good questions that got me thinking. I didn’t always go into the session, knowing exactly what I needed to talk about. Just because in the rush of the day, I wasn’t always able to come to that ahead of time. But it ended up being a really, really important place for me to be able to reflect on my work, reflect on events that had happened at work, reflect on my priorities, my style, what I wanted, and my boundaries. I always felt that there had been a transformation of something. That I’d gained a new perspective on an issue or a problem, and that I had some kind of practical steps to be able to do something better moving forward.
I think it’s really important to take that time to do it, even though it’s not always easy. Especially when there is a rush and so much demand for me in my daily life at work. But I think it actually is a hugely important thing to do and commit to. To be able to step back and have Elly, the coach, help me through gaining a different perspective and objectivity, so I can step outside of it.
And then for me, a big part of it is also connected to Nonviolent Communication and having an opportunity to know that I’m working with somebody who’s being really conscientious about how she’s communicating, and how she’s working with other people. So that piece also really had a lot of positive learning for me.
One specific example that we worked on was around creating undisturbed work time, where I close my door and say that I can’t be interrupted. It used to be that I had really a complete kind of open-door policy where at any time, at any point, people could come in. And I think after we had talked through different parts of that, I came to the realization of how important it was going to be for me to set aside time where I was able to work through what I needed to do, with enough time to be able to do it, without being interrupted.
Some of the things that we did together I found very powerful, emotionally powerful. Elly always had creative and engaging exercises that helped me process challenges on emotional and cognitive levels.
Coaching seemed like a little bit of a scary thing. Perhaps you would be diving into my leadership or work, and really kind of being super critical of it. I was just a little bit nervous that I was going to feel like everything I was doing was wrong or that I just could be so much better than I was. It was just kind of a little bit of a fear of the unknown. What is this going to look like? What am I going to get out of it?
I loved it. I loved it. I mean, I think that it ended up being so much more than I would have ever thought that it could be. It really gave me some benefits that I would not have imagined and I found in it a really great relationship with you that allowed me to look at the work that I was doing and look at the direction that I was going professionally through a little bit of a clearer lens. I feel like it helped me to discern some things in a better way and then really think about how to move ahead. What kinds of things I wanted to change on my team and in my department, what kind of things I wanted to change as far as relationships go with other co-workers or my supervisor or people that I supervise and really look at those things like I said more clearly, and then be able to make changes to get them to be what I wanted them to be.
Some of the results I was creating in the coaching were really tangible things. Like structuring some team meetings or team training, and also kind of developing a little bit of a framework for how my team sees case management and what we’re doing on that side. How we would describe it to ourselves, how we would describe it to funders, so actual tangible things that came out like meeting wise.
I think the other real benefit was just a different way of thinking about things. So thinking about when maybe there’s some conflict in a team meeting, thinking about that conflict in a different way and more as an opportunity to figure out how to collaborate. And I really liked the stuff that we did around Nonviolent Communication, really thinking about the needs and strategies. And I think once I started seeing conversations with people through that lens, it really changed those conversations and made them to be a little bit more collaborative. I felt like I had more empathy for the people that I was working with, whether that be co-workers or clients, and then be able to not even problem-solve, but just kind of solution-find together to figure out what met both people’s needs. And that the strategies sometimes are going to be different, but that we needed to really look at what are the actual needs that we were trying to address.
One example would be helping me to think about my relationship with my supervisor. So I work really well with my supervisor. I really enjoy her. She’s great. But you helped me to see that some of the needs that she was trying to fill were different than some of the needs that I was trying to fill. We were trying to work on how to work well together and how I could trust her. And what I think you helped me see in this conversation was that it was that the strategy that she was using was not a strategy that I felt necessarily comfortable with, but that the need that she was trying to fill for herself was something that I understood and that I thought was also an important need.
And so it helped me to then be more compassionate towards her and have more empathy towards her, and then ended up having a really good conversation with her and saying to her, well, when you do this thing, act in this way, or prioritize a relationship over maybe truth-telling, it makes me feel like you -blank- make me feel like I can’t trust you. And we just ended up having a really good conversation, where she was very able to be really honest about what she felt some of the downsides were of valuing relationships over truth-telling and how that affected how she saw that that could potentially affect my relationship with her and her relationship with others.
So it really helped me to work with my supervisor better. Which was huge. It was really, really good. It’s interesting always to think about making a good relationship better. We end up a lot of times focusing on the really problematic ones. But this was really something that already worked well. But there was a little bit of tweaking that could have been done and was done, and I feel that I have a better and stronger relationship with her because I understand more where she’s coming from and why she’s doing certain things.
I can say I know that I trust this person. I know that this person is going, to be honest with me in the end, but that what she’s choosing to do right now is for a reason and that she does have the residents’ and the staff’s best interest in mind. Just her strategy is different than mine in achieving that.
And to really think about where do I want to be in 10 years or 20 years? Those were some of the most important and interesting exercises for me. To really think about long, long term goals and how what I was doing now could potentially get me to where I wanted to be
I love coaching. I mean, you should pat yourself on the back Elly.
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It was absolutely worth my money. There were conversations that gave me far more insight into working with particular individuals, in my job situation, some very challenging relationships. I got far more insight into those interactions and that was so useful at the moment.
And then also the kind of reflective, creative work, really the work to discover. What do I want to be doing: how would I like to earn money for work? I feel like I had a lot of confidence in the outcome. I feel like it was well-thought-out. The process was awesome. I was encouraged and challenged to do that kind of deep, reflective work. And the outcome of that has been worth it.
It wasn’t just about work. It wasn’t just about the job search. It overlapped into how I related to myself. That was part of what gave me the space to be considering a job change while expecting a new child on the way. In many other situations, left to my own devices, it might have been: “No, that’s the wrong decision. I should stay in the job that I have. I should…” Whatever. In working with you, I had the freedom and confidence to consider doing different work.
The trend has continued where I am earning more, compared to when I was head of a high school. I’m earning more with a lot less stress, in less time and with more satisfaction. I feel really satisfied and fulfilled. I feel like I’m making a positive impact on not just the students at my school, but teachers around the area, the larger area of Austin and beyond.
You held space for that transition without attachment to it turning out a particular way. I left feeling empowered that it was still my call to make. Like a different kind of coaching. Not: “I’m going to tell you what to do, and you should do it.” But you’re going to make space for me to make the choices that are there to be made for me. And then also to reflect on them as in a reflective conversation.
I felt honored, supported, heard, empowered to be more graceful than I would have been otherwise through those transitions.
The coaching experience was wonderful. I always felt like we could look at things from a different perspective. I felt like Elly heard me very deeply and helped me explore things in different ways.
I felt supported when Elly named what I was feeling, and sat with me in that feeling, and helped me examine some of the thoughts that were underneath that feeling, to keep it from being too vague or difficult to handle.
It was the ability to name a specific experience. And in reflecting on it, I was able to see what created it. And Elly offered compassion for it and helped me offer compassion to myself for it. It’s always been a wonderful experience.
I think Elly role models the way to be present to other people. So if I were going to be with someone else, how I might hear them deeply or listen more closely to what was going on in someone’s life. To maybe hear beyond the words. Maybe just be present to feeling what might be going on for the other person. So it not only helped me, but it helped me think about how I wanted to be with other people.
My experience has been wonderful. So I’ll be totally candid. I felt safe immediately. When we did our empathy pairing, I worked with Elly. And the truth is, I’ll be honest, I felt like at the end of that hour that I’d never been heard as well as I had during that hour. Never in my life. That was honestly a fairly profound experience. I felt very heard and very accepted by Elly.
“I began the mediation process hopeless, and through Elly creating a ceremonial space to share grievances, I ended with hope for a renewed relationship. Through Elly’s mediation, I was able to understand and communicate with my sister in a way we had not been able to in several years. Elly skillfully navigated us through tough emotions and ensured that all parties felt heard. Once we felt heard, it was a lot easier to think about solutions. Thanks to Elly, my sister and I are talking again.”
“I have really enjoyed the sessions I have attended. It’s been a unique experience. Not like anything else I’ve seen or heard of. I’m meeting with total strangers, but within 15 to 20 minutes, I feel connected, more connected with them than with a lot of people that I’ve known for years. And that’s pretty magical. And it’s done in a very matter-of-fact way.”