Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Transform Conflict into Collaboration

Get moving!

My 90-year old uncle is the first to arrive at my Zoom-birthday party. Then my team leader from my work in mental health facilities. Third, my former buddy from my Dutch improv theatre group and her family.

And my beloved dorm friend, childhood friend, business buddy, brothers, sister+boyfriend, the American exchange student who lived with us when I was 16. The aunt and uncle I was a bridesmaid of at age five. Of course my hubby.

And halfway through the introductions, my parents join with party hats and plastic flower strings wrapped around their necks and sing a birthday song. 16 Screens throw their arms in the air and holler “Hieperdepiep, hoera! Hieperdepiep, hoera! Hieperdepiep, hoera!”

Three times because Dutch people like to party, even if only on Zoom.

And as much as I love all of it, I do miss in-person parties. Nothing can replace a hug, moving around from one group to another, looking into real eyes.

And the normalcy of silent moments, of quiet reflection before speaking.

This last year I have done all my coaching and mediation on Zoom.

It works, surprisingly, very well.

And I am ready for coaching in person.

More specifically, coaching while walking, so we can take our masks off and be safe. (But you can leave yours on, of course)

You might be ready for in-person coaching too and let the natural pauses in the conversation help you reflect on your goals and aspirations.

You might want some outdoor time after being stuck at home behind a computer while trying to homeschool your first grader for a year. Or sixth-grader. Or highschooler.

And even though you are proficient at participating in meetings on Zoom, even running them yourself, you might like to move your feet instead of navigating the software.

Enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of Texas spring after wearing a mask at work all day.

And let the environment inspire you to look at your situation from a fresh perspective.

You choose how long we meet, as long as it is more than 1 hour. You simply pay $175 per hour, prorated.

Since this is a new offer, I will pay for the time I spent biking or driving to our meeting place, as long as it is within 11.2 miles of my home (which will get us to McKinney Falls State Park, yeah!).

This is what Maureen van den Akker, Senior Copywriter at Food Cabinet, said about working with me:

“What I really liked was that you just listen very well. And even though I sometimes found your questions difficult, I could somehow find out more about myself. And maybe start to appreciate myself more in the sense that I am a nicer person than I think I am. I got more out of it than I thought before we started. Those few conversations really took me a step further.

“The main result of working with you is seeing that I am not looking for something that is somewhere far on the horizon, the woman I want to be: confident and comfortable to be herself, who has the courage to be vulnerable. That she is not somewhere far away, but that it is somewhere in me and that it depends more on the circumstances whether she comes out.

“And that I can influence those circumstances. And maybe I can train it too, by taking a step every now and then. Looking for a situation where I feel vulnerable and then noticing that nothing bad happens after all. Maybe that’s how the self-confident me can come up more often.”

Since many of my clients are early morning people, I will meet you as early as 7:00 am.

Do you want to talk about how this might work?

  • Email me
  • Or call me at 512-589-0482
  • No strings attached, pinky promise: I always like talking to you even if you don’t want to take me up on this offer

Broken Bucket

Reusing resources is a good thing. I am convinced of that. It’s good for our planet, for our people, and my profit.

So throwing water out on the lawn seems a good idea to me.

Even if it is dirty water with some Dr. Bronner lavender soap in it. 

Thus, when I finish cleaning the kitchen floor, I pick up the bucket to throw the water onto the lawn. Happy peppy water saving.

Only, the bucket slips out of my hands.

It smashes on the ground and breaks. A crack appears from the top to the bottom. My only cleaning bucket is rendered useless. My intention to save resources results in having to spend time and money to buy a new one.

What a bummer.

Looking at the cracked bucket, I decide to:
1.    Accept the result of my action and the blame and frustration that come up from my failure.

2.    Ask my husband for help. Fortunately, he is happy peppy to repair it with his soldering gun.

Because of these 2 actions, I have a perfectly usable bucket.

Why did this work so well?

Because it includes two crucial elements of repair:
1.    Acknowledging that the impact of our behavior can be very different from our intentions.

2.    Focusing on repairing the impact, instead of dismissing, defending, or explaining our intention.

Psychology research shows that these elements work in human relations as well. It doesn’t matter in which culture you grew up, in which faith, or in which millennium.

Almost everyone responds positively to a sincere effort to repair ruptures in relationships.

By expressing our regret about something we said or did, we convey that the other person matters to us and that they are worthy of support and understanding.

I imagine everyone likes such confirmation.

Without repair, others will trust you less. If you don’t reach out, they don’t get the reassurance that you are conscious of your incompetence, that you want to learn from your ignorance, and that your focus is the relationship, not your ego.

The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge for yourself that you made a mistake and practice self-compassion, so the acknowledgment doesn’t turn into shame.

The second thing is to share your mistakes with a confidant and ask for help. Someone who can listen with empathy and compassion and help you figure out how to repair the rupture.

For people who want support in learning how to have and give empathy and repair ruptures in relationships, I offer a group coaching program: The Authentic Joy Journey, also known as the Pledj-group.

We meet bi-weekly for 12 weeks and we explore and practice these topics:

1. Learning
Failure applause, creative tension, and tiny habits

2. Needs
Self-acceptance, the three levels of needs, and the bougainvillea and purple heart

3. Feelings
Pseudo-feelings, check-engine lights, anger

4. Emotional Liberation
Codependency, quality of the relationship, honesty & empathy    

5. Self-Worth
Shame, self-compassion, and limiting beliefs

6. Autonomy
Interdependence, requests, mourning & celebration, next steps

This is for you if you can joyfully pay $438 and commit the time and energy to this program.

This is not for you if the challenges in your life seem overwhelming. You might benefit more from working one-on-one with me or talking with a therapist or counselor.

In this program, we work on transforming core beliefs that we don’t matter, stop living as if life will start later, and start feeling present, content, and grateful in our day-to-day life.

We will meet bi-weekly on Zoom for six sessions, 90 minutes each. We start in February with a max of eight participants.

Contact me with any questions.

Read more about the program.

Who is your rescue angel?

When I arrived in Austin in 2009, I signed up for an improv class. I had been part of an amateur theatre group In the Netherlands. I played Konstanze in Mozart, Ophelia in Hamlet, and roles in many commedia dell’arte plays. Now I thought it would be fun to be on stage without a script.

After a few classes, I sign up for a student show called the Fancy Pants Mashup. Some 12 students put their name in a hat and are randomly matched to play a scene. As I write my name on a piece of paper and put it in the hat, Eric, one of the other players, comes over to say ‘hi’. We laugh, chit chat for a bit, and go into the theater.

The show begins and the MC pulls out two slips of paper from the hat and invites the actors to play a scene.

With a combination of excitement and anticipation, I listen for my name. My anxiety builds when others are called on stage and I am not. This show was a fun idea, but the more I think about it, the worse the idea seems. All the previous scenes were hilarious, funny, or moving. I fear that mine won’t be nearly as entertaining.

In the last round, the show master pulls out ‘Eric’.

Hum? Two Erics and no Elly?

“I haven’t played yet”, I whisper.

“No, your name is not in the hat. I have ‘Eric’.” He shows me the paper. Clearly, it is my handwriting.


I try to explain that I must have been distracted writing my name as I was talking to Eric. The show master’s eyes light up and he tells me to play a solo about this guy Eric.

Oh no!

Not by myself! My saboteur yells at me: “You’re not good enough to create a scene worth watching!” Etc, etc.

I am worried that on my own, my longing to be funny will get in the way of my spontaneity. But I can’t think of an escape, so I step into the spotlight. I am hoping that I won’t see the 49 pairs of audience eyes when I am blinded by the light.

It helps.

I don’t even notice that Eric jumps up on stage and pantomimes what I say till I turn around. His wordless support boosts my confidence and our scene gets laughs, quiet, and applause.

He is an example of someone willing to help others shine and succeed in their goals.

Maybe you are a bit like me and make one of these mistakes around achieving your goals:

  1. Thinking you have to do it on your own
  1. Shaming yourself for not showing up the way you want
  1. Setting your standards too high

But what good does it do if you don’t ask for help when you need it?

When I realized that it was totally normal to get help to achieve my goals and values, I started to ask for help proactively. Self-worth issues became less relevant, my choices included more perspectives, and I felt more content with what I accomplished.

This happened to the participants of my first coaching group too. The emotional safety of the group helped them accept their shame, fear, and anger. They talked about what is truly important to them. And they found their authentic joy by working through inner obstacles and limiting beliefs.

In January I start a second group: the Authentic Joy Journey.

In 12 weeks you get six sessions with a group of people who are able to create a brave space, listen with empathy, and have enough resources to support you.

In each session, we work on a different theme:

1. Learning: failure applause, creative tension, and tiny habits

2. Needs: the three levels of needs and self-acceptance

3. Feelings: pseudo-feelings, anger, the messenger of needs

4. Emotional liberation: codependency, quality of the relationship, honesty & empathy

5. Self-worth: shame, self-compassion, and limiting beliefs

6. Autonomy: interdependence, requests, mourning & celebration, next steps

This is for you if you are willing to reflect on yourself, go beyond your comfort zone, and are excited to practice radical love.

If you are currently cutting corners, this helps you to trust that it is all there for you and that life is inviting you to go get it.

This is also for you if you can joyfully contribute $438 for the program.

This is not for you if you rather complain and expect others to take care of you.

It’s also not for you if you have too much stress in your life and won’t be able to listen with empathy to others.

I accept eight participants at most and have only five spots left.

Email me if you want to join and we’ll talk about whether this is a good fit for you.

P.S. Watch the video with Eric and me here.

P.P.S. I am appalled by what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. I am intensifying my efforts to be an anti-racist, engage in difficult conversations, and stand up for my values of empathy, compassion, and mindfulness.

P.P.S. You can also visit this page to first get a feel for the group.

Break up?

It’s 5:10 pm. I’ve spent the last three hours sweeping leaves, collecting them in the compost bin, turning the bin upside down when it’s full, then mulching the leaves into the grass with the lawnmower.

I would rather have been knitting, but the leaves in front of the curb were piling up into a border patrol wall. Besides, once I’ve mulched them, dozens of pecans pop up, ready to be tossed in a salad. So the effort is pretty rewarding.

I look at the last strip of lawn covered with leaves. It will take me 40 minutes to get through them. I have less than 20 minutes before sunset.

I want to cross ‘leaf mulching’ off my to-do list, so I use the last of my resources to finish the chore. I mow at jogging speed.

When the mower gets stuck under the lower branches of the mountain laurel, I hunch forward, duck my head, and push my way through.

The mower gets unstuck.

And is dead.

I don’t understand what happened until I see the handle disconnected and loose in my hand.

It powers the deadman switch. Without the switch, the electricity won’t connect. Without electricity, the blade doesn’t rotate. And without a rotating blade, the last strip of leaves won’t get mulched.

The force I used to push my mower through the branches didn’t get me the results I wanted.

Worse, I broke the machine. I panic when I imagine having to spend $199 for a replacement. As I go inside, my shaming thoughts don’t even allow me to relax.

I wonder if I am the only one who gets so stuck on finishing their tasks that they forget to recognize their limits and accept an unfinished task?

Or are there others who ignore their body’s signals because they would rather have it done and over with than look at an uncrossed item on their to-do list?

Maybe your task is about residents who are about to lose their homes. Or clients who will be jobless, unless you spend time mentoring them. Or a nature preserve that is at risk of being turned into an industrial park. Dropout students who rely on your emotional and practical support to help them get to college.

And you might experience emotional, social, and moral pressure to give your 300%. If you’re not careful, you are sliding into exhaustion, depletion, burn-out.

That’s why I am excited to offer a short video-course on self-compassion. In two weeks you’ll get seven videos of less than 3 minutes each. They offer insights and practical tools to nurture self-compassion in your daily life. As a result, it is easier to meet your longing to contribute to your clients or your cause and your own needs for rest and physical well-being.

You’ll learn:

  • How a bougainvillea can teach you self-compassion, even if you don’t have a green thumb and most of your plants die
  • The four elements of self-compassion, how it differs from self-esteem, and the simplest action to nourish self-compassion that is super helpful in any situation and takes only 2 seconds
  • Why sitting on a meditation cushion is not enough to survive these crazy times and why our habit energy can be such an obstacle in trying to be more mindful
  • What you can do to make yourself a priority without feeling guilty, even as you see more urgency of your cause and distress in your clients in this pandemic
  • Why taking care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish and how it reassures others that they can do the same

Email me if you want to receive this course. It is a beta version, so I offer it for a discounted price of $26.10. Plus, I will include your questions, comments, and feedback in the design.

Don’t miss this opportunity, self-care can make you more productive AND less stressed.

P.S. Eventually I overcome my shame and tell my husband about it. He repairs it and we save $199.

P.P.S. I have a 100% money-back guarantee. You don’t like the first video? Let me know, and I’ll refund you (minus any processing fee)

P.P.S. Email me too with your response to this email, I love to stay in touch.

Cockroach in a bookcase

I am on a book binge. I borrow one book after another from the Austin Public Library. Books about bias, behavioral economics, positive psychology, decision making, and coaching.

I like them so much that I order them from my favorite local bookstore so I can reread them whenever I want.

When I pick them up, I can’t help skimming through my new treasures. It takes minutes before I am ready to bike home. I spend the 4.3 miles thinking about the puzzle of how to fit them in my limited shelf space.

As soon as I open the glass doors of my bookcase, I see a cockroach scurry behind Fast Thinking, Slow Thinking. I quickly get my cockroach-catch-cup, slowly peel the books away, trap the cockroach, and take it outside. I trust it will thrive there as well as in here.

When I come back, I see some brown granules on the shelf. I wipe them off. Then I see some brown smears against the back of the bookcase. No problem, my soapy water does the trick.

Now I spot more droppings on the shelf below. Getting concerned I take the books off that shelf too. Then the books on the shelf above. Within minutes, all my books are sprawled around my room, on my bed, the table, the bench, stacked on a stool.

I stare at a bookcase fully contaminated by cockroach excrements.

It takes me the rest of my Saturday to clean up the mess. Not exactly my idea of resting and rejuvenating after a week of hard work. And certainly pretty far from the delight I had when I biked home from the bookshop.

But the worst part is the barrage of shame and self-criticism that comes along with the experience.

I had seen some of the evidence months before. I just didn’t want to spend the time cleaning the brown spot inside the glass door. I had seen a cockroach hide behind the bookcase in the previous weeks and didn’t think much of it. I could have explored these signals but I didn’t want to give up my other plans. I had more important commitments and the task of emptying the bookcase seemed overwhelming.

Instead, I ignore the small consistent clues and they turn into this big mess.

Maybe this is a metaphor for team dynamics?

Your colleague makes a remark that doesn’t land well. Since it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, you shrug your shoulders. Yet, you take it home and fret about it.

Or maybe your CEO offers criticism or raises her voice. You feel startled but don’t know how to share it without hurting the relationship. Instead, you start looking at job listings.

Or a team member comes to you with complaints about another member and you spend hours trying to get them to work together, taking time away from your core responsibilities. You take a deep breath, work harder, and hope for the best.

In Dutch we call those responses ‘little clothes for the bleeding’.

They work only to a certain extent.

Meanwhile, the incidents pile up. And over time the whole team gets bogged down with unresolved issues.

Maybe I can help you with that.

Like cleaning, it might be better to have small, regular sweep-ups that keep a fresh workplace, rather than a big yuck that brings everything to a halt. Maybe you need a mediator. Or someone who facilitates a dialogue. You might benefit from a webinar on self-care. Or perhaps coaching for a key manager who could use a boost of support so she is energized again to inspire her team.

Schedule a free discovery session to explore how working with me can help you keep communication open and clean.

Conflict can feel like balancing on a tight rope

One front foot. Pause, maybe 1-2 seconds. A second foot. Pause, 1-2 seconds. Maybe even three. A third foot, an even longer pause.

The tiny squirrel is now nine feet out on a narrow utility line, some 18 feet above the ground. He has to cross another 35 feet to get to the other side of the line into the tree that he wants to get to.

At that moment a mockingbird swoops in and squawks at him. God knows why. Twice he flies in at full-speed right at the baby squirrel. And the squirrel freezes at his feeble spot on the line.

My heart goes boom, boom, boom.

How I wish I could climb up and bring it back into safety. Instead, I am left on the ground 18 feet below hoping and preparing to catch it if it fell.

A few seconds into the freeze, the squirrel manages to turn around and get back into the tree where he came from. When he jumps into it, I think he’s safe and I continue my morning walk.

The event reminds me of what can happen with people in conflict when they don’t feel safe enough to move to the perspective of the other person.

Some freeze when they imagine what the other person might say about them. Scared that they will only hear how fundamentally flawed they are.

Others swoop in with a list of blame, evaluations, and ‘shoulds’ rather than share their more vulnerable feelings and needs, not trusting that they will be heard with compassion and empathy.

Neither one sees their conflict as an opportunity to improve collaboration. It is more a boxing match on a utility line than a chance to explore the values and norms, assumptions, and preferred strategies underlying their respective positions.

I hear many of my clients struggle with conflict these days, as their challenges increase with economic shocks, social changes, isolation, presidential elections, funding stress, and higher demands for their services.

That’s when a neutral facilitator can help. They create a brave space for each participant to share honestly. They model how to listen with empathy. They accept and work with the triggers that come up. And they support each participant to make requests.

As a result, the participants don’t only solve their problems, they actively find solutions to improve their collaboration.

I just finished a facilitated dialogue between two nonprofit team leaders. This is what they say after our third session:

“Last month was extremely hard to where I was taking it home and I was replaying conversations and it was stressful and almost to the point of me not wanting to work here anymore. So I feel like now we both can come in and do our jobs successfully since we both have huge responsibilities. We’re going through so much right now that in order for us to come in and be the best that we could be here, something had to give with the tension that was in the air. I’m really grateful for our time with Elly and I feel like we both can be more productive in our jobs through this process.”

“We’re both trying so hard and I think that is making the biggest difference. We’re both really committed to making it work. I have way more trust in him than I did before. I’m really hopeful and I feel good about where this is going.”

Contact me if you want to see how hiring me as a facilitator can help you.