Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

√ 23 Years with Nonprofits
√ Certified Coach
√ Credentialed Mediator
√ Masters Political Science

Specializes in Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Elly van Laar specializes in leadership development, mediation, and group facilitation 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 a Board member of the Austin Mediators Association and the Austin 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 mindfulness community, offers meditation classes in jail, and volunteered at the Austin Dispute Resolution Center.

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

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Plus: simple steps to use them.

As a bonus, you’ll get more or less bi-weekly conflict resolution tips.

Valuable content, which I continue to read with interest. Intelligent pieces about the different secrets. The relatively short paragraphs are pleasant to read, with beautiful, visual descriptions. The tone is nice, clean, and friendly. Even the invitation to unsubscribe is fresh and original.

Titia van Rootselaar

Mindfulness trainer, CompassieTraining, Alkmaar, Nederland

Your newsletters are just getting better and better. Super applicable to me.

Abigail Harris

Executive Director, Provender Alliance, Portland, OR

VIP Coaching

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.

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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.

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Group Coaching

You meet with other nonprofit leaders and work on your individual goals and challenges. You receive support from your peers and from me. Maximum of eight participants.

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Coaching seemed like a little bit of a scary thing. Perhaps you would dive into my leadership and be 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 a fear of the unknown. What is this going to look like? What is it? What am I going to get out of it?

I loved it. I loved it. I mean, It ended up being so much more than I would have ever thought it could be.

Coaching gave me benefits that I would not have imagined. I found in it a really great relationship that allowed me to look at the work that I was doing and the direction that I was going professionally through a clearer lens.

Coaching helped me to discern things in a better way and think about how to move ahead. What I wanted to change on my team and in my department, in my relationships with other co-workers, my supervisor, and the people that I supervise. And then be able to make changes to get them to be what I wanted them to be.

One of the things that we worked on together was structuring team meetings and training. And develop a framework for how my team sees case management and what we’re doing on that side. How we would describe it to ourselves and to our funders. That was an actual tangible thing.

I think the other real benefit was just a different way of thinking about things. So thinking about conflict in a meeting with multiple people in a different way, more as an opportunity to figure out how to collaborate.

I really liked the stuff around Nonviolent Communication, thinking about the needs and strategies.

Once I started seeing conversations with people through that lens, it made them more collaborative. I had more empathy for the people that I was working with, whether that be co-workers or clients. I then was able to not just solve problems, but find solutions together to figure out what met both people’s needs, even if the strategies sometimes are going to be different.

We didn’t only focus on problematic relationships, but also on relationships that worked well. I understand where people are coming from and why they’re doing certain things.

As a consequence, I trust them more. This means that if they make a decision that I’m not entirely sure where they’re coming from, that I don’t push back as hard. Even if I might talk to them later about it, I know that they are going to be honest with me and have the residents’ and staff’s best interests in mind.

This whole idea of Nonviolent Communication and the needs and strategies, that has made me more empathetic, more compassionate, and more able to step back a second and look at these different strategies and figure out: “What can we do to meet both person’s needs? Is there a strategy that could do that?” That has made my relationships more stable.

I love coaching. I mean, you should pat yourself on the back Elly.

Sofia Barbato

Director Supportive Services, Foundation Communities, Austin

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.

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Megan Elkins

Director Talent PipeLine Success, Workforce Solutions, Capital Area Austin

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.

Niko Hilgerdt

Pedagogical Leader, Austin Waldorf School, Austin

You can schedule a free discovery session to see how we can work together

No strings attached. And you even get my free weekly tips for better communication and conflict resolution!

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.

Eric Mann

Math and Computer Science Teacher, Longview School, Austin

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.

Jen Collins

Associate Professor, Texas Tech University, Health Sciences Center

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.
Doug Byron

Broker Associate, Realty Austin

“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.”
Radha Newson

Yoga teacher, Self-employed

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.”
Jon Freeman

Software Consultant, Freeman Consulting LLC