Coaching for Nonprofit Leaders

Transform Conflict into Collaboration

Are you making these five mistakes when asking for what you want?

Last week I was in an online marketing training. One of the participants shared that she saw me peeing while on Zoom.

Ouch.

Of course I felt embarrassed about it. But that feeling passed pretty quickly, as there were only eight or nine participants on the call and I expect to never see them again.

As soon as I hang up, I realize that the session has been recorded. The recording will be available to all the previous, and current, and future participants in this program.

At least 230 participants so far and counting.

My anxiety peaks, as I realize that I am the only participant with her full name visible under her screen!

I am in a bind about what to do.

I can wait and hope I will be saved by some technological issues, like the recording failing. Then I don’t have to ask for help and reveal my embarrassment even more. But, it would leave me at the mercy of random events.

Or, I reach out to the virtual assistant, face more embarrassment as I share my blooper, and it can’t get fixed. But, I create the chance that it will.

I choose the second option. Even though it seems an unpleasant choice.

Pauline and Sinian, troopers as they are, laugh out loud and reassure me that the participants’ screens don’t even show up in the recording.

Making requests always involves sharing vulnerably and honestly what you’re feeling and needing. It always involves undressing emotionally, not knowing how the other will respond to your nakedness. You might get a better outfit, or you are laughed at.

But making requests is not a random thing, where you are dependent on the mood and goodwill of others. Successful requests follow a reliable pattern. There are simple steps to significantly increase the chance that you will get what you want. And the good thing is that you can do it in a way that feels like a gift to others!

In my online presentation “Effective Communication for Leaders in Nonprofits and Education”, you will:

  • Hear the five biggest mistakes when asking for what you want
  • Understand what Santa Claus has to do with requests
  • Connect the dots between a bougainvillea and request
  • Learn from the vegan who gets the best dish in the steakhouse
  • Get 10 words to improve your requests

See you Tuesday, April 28, 8:00-9:00 am CST on Zoom. (Make sure your camera is off if you’re peeing.)

Sign-up here.

You don’t have a negativity bias, do you?

This pandemic triggers all kinds of feelings in me: anger, sadness, fear, panic, shame, guilt, and a lot of “shoulds” about how I should help more. These are feelings and thoughts that I am not such a fan of,  especially when they come in huge quantities.

I know from reading and listening to Rick Hanson that our brain is wired for the negative. He calls it velcro for the negative. According to him, we need four times more positive than negative input to counterbalance this negativity bias.

So I started a mission to look at all the “positive” conditions for my happiness. And who is a better role model than Julie Andrews playing Maria in the Sound of Music, singing “These are a few of my favorite things”?

Inspired by the lyrics I look at all my favorite things. Like the purple bearded irises in my yard. I planted them in December. And even though I tried to take care of them, they didn’t do much. All the irises in the neighborhood have been blooming like crazy, and mine just stood there as green stalks in the ground.

Until a few weeks ago. Suddenly they started blooming like crazy.

Do you have a similar situation? You think you’re taking care of your supervisees, but they still are overwhelmed and stressed out?

Or you try to empathize with your board, and they just keep telling you that you don’t understand the relevance of the issues at hand?

And even though you want to add value, does your supervisor tell you that your input distracts the team from the main focus?

Or you keep trying to keep a balanced perspective, while you wobble from an angry donor or disappointed stakeholder to the next?.

Whatever your intentions are, maybe you don’t see the results you’re trying to create. No joyful lawn of blooming flowers. Just stalks that seem to stand still.

Join my discovery webinar “Effective Communication for Nonprofit Leaders”. We will address how “resulting” can get in the way of our most excellent choices, intentions, and efforts.

As a result, you might enjoy your connections with those around you, let go of the outcome, focus on what’s at hand, and go to bed rejuvenated after smelling the flowers.

Free webinar “Effective Communication for Nonprofit Leaders”, Tuesday, April 28, 8:00-9:00 am CST.

Sign-up here.

A bee is waking me up

Buzz, buzz, buzz

It’s 3:00 am. I am woken up by the sound of a bee. I feel tired, and turn on a light to see if the bee is inside and I need to take it out.

Nope, it is outside, hovering in front of its hive.

My fatigue turns into sadness. An outcast is desperately trying to get back in. Bees are sensitive, smart, and social, so I am sure they have a kind of mechanism to punish members. Ostracizing could certainly be one of them. It’s effective for humans, why wouldn’t it be for bees?

Hanging out on the porch

At 7:00 am no buzz. I feel relieved. Thank God, maybe the bee was accepted back in.

When I tell my husband, he laughs. He tells me that Texan beehives get hot in summer, and sometimes bees hover in front of it to cool off, especially right before dawn. Like hanging out on the porch, before we had air conditioning.

Empathy and Sympathy

With a mixture of amusement and embarrassment, I realize I confused empathy with sympathy.

I thought I was respectfully understanding what the bee was experiencing, as if I was walking in its shoes (flying in its wings?). Instead, I was sympathizing: not walking in its shoes, but running away with them, and thinking they were mine. I was superimposing my experience of fitting in, as a lens to look at its experience. Because I was ostracized as a six-year-old, and stood apart, doesn’t mean that others who stand apart, are being ostracized. Probably not this particular bee.

Empathy is not better than sympathy

It’s just different. Empathy helps to respectfully understand someone else’s experience. Sympathy is more about creating closeness by sharing our own experience: “I think I know what you’re talking about since I think I’ve been in a similar situation.”

And since our situation can be different from theirs, sympathy can create as much confusion as understanding. It shifts the focus to us, instead of maintaining it on our partner. It’s more about being understood than understanding.

If you want to understand your team members, empathy is your tool. When you listen for and accept their reality as is, without imposing your lens on it, you can more effectively help (or empower) them resolve whatever issue they’re talking about.

With empathy I could have provided shade for the beehive. With sympathy I would try to mediate between the bee community and this single bee (if there is even such a thing as bee mediation).

Empathy can be learned

For some of us empathy may not be our go-to strategy when we listen. We may “react, before reflect”. If you want to learn to “reflect, before react”, I’m your girl. We can work on specific tools and skills to support you be the team leader you want to be. I’m sure you can learn to be more effective, create better results, and go home fulfilled and satisfied.

Schedule your discovery session to start working with me.

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Screaming in giraffe

Adrenaline rush

I’m biking on Duval Street. It is a busy two-lane street, where cars drive 40 miles per hour on average. Since there are no separate bike lanes, I choose to bike on the sidewalk, to keep me safe. As always, I am alert and careful. Especially for cars backing out.

But this one I didn’t see coming. Out of the blue, a black pick-up truck backs out of it’s parking spot at at least 20 miles an hour.

I hardly have enough time to turn my handlebars, jump off my bike, and land on knees and palms on the gravel surface. I feel a bruise growing on my right thigh.

The truck driver probably doesn’t notice me and keeps backing out. “What an idiot! He didn’t look over his shoulder and blind spot! He’s incompetent and a danger to other cyclists!” Infuriated I jump up and bang on his window. “What?” “You almost hit me as you were backing out!” “Are you okay?” “Hardly.” “I’m sorry” and he drives off.

Nonviolent Communication?

When I tell my friend about this incident, she asks incredulously “I thought you were practicing Nonviolent Communication?” “Yes, but this is screaming in giraffe.”

Now I realize I was not. I was just screaming.

Four steps to get support for unmet needs

Screaming in giraffe means we use force to draw attention and support to our needs. Usually we sense urgency about this. I believe there are four elements of successfully screaming in giraffe (versus just screaming):

  1. Awareness of our needs being unmet.
  2. Enough self-acceptance and compassion to see our needs as beautiful(instead of a deficit, as if there is something wrong with us for having those needs, as if we’re ‘needy’).
  3. Transform any enemy image of those, whom we think are responsible for our needs being unmet, so we can ask for their support to meet our needs (how do you think I did on that count?). Like offering our requests with Santa Claus energy.
  4. Openness to explore strategies to meet as many needs as possible: ours and those of other stakeholders (that’s way harder when you perceive urgency).

Listening to unmet needs

When we hear someone screaming in giraffe, it helps to listen for unmet needs. Rather than focusing on how they express themselves (which might just sound like screaming), we can use empathy to deepen our understanding of their experience, listen for needs, and figure out strategies that meet as many needs as possible.

Live the life you really want, with yourself and others

I believe this process helps us to live the life we really want and create the closeness and authenticity we long for.

Contact me

Let me know how this landed for you: I would love to hear from you.

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Shame, Creative Tension, and More

All my commitments fly out the window: “I reflect, before I react.” “I see the positive in every person and every situation.” “I accept myself unconditionally, especially when shame arises.”

In a second. I have nothing left but a puddle of shock, fear, shame, and anger.

‘Tragic expression of unmet needs?’ Never heard of it. All I hear are criticisms, demands, evaluations. ‘Seeing our interdependence?’ Not today. I take her remarks personally and my mind races with defenses, counter arguments, attacks. ‘Empathetically guessing: “Are you feeling upset and scared? You want more respect and safety?”’ My mind draws a blank.

All I can do, is stare at her moving video image on my computer screen and desperately (and thanks to my Sangha, moderately successfully) try NOT to express the angry, anxious thoughts clamoring to come out of my mouth.

I barely succeed in saying “I love you” at the end.

After we hang up, I feel deflated, discouraged, hopeless.

My thoughts are: “What a fool I am for believing I could create a warm, extensive community that includes me, my husband, my family, and friends. What an utter idiot I am for having that crazy dream, trying to get my reality closer to my vision.”

The emotional tension is so intense that all I can think is “Give up, give up, give up. Pack your stuff and fly back to the Netherlands.”

And then I also think of something I read in Peter Senge’sThe Fifth Discipline”:

“The juxtaposition of vision (what we want) and a clear picture of current reality (where we are relative to what we want) generates what we call ‘creative tension’: a force to bring them together, caused by the natural tendency of tension to seek resolution. The essence of personal mastery is learning how to generate and sustain creative tension in our lives.”

“People often have great difficulty talking about their visions, even when the visions are clear. Why? Because we are acutely aware of the gaps between our vision and reality… These gaps can make a vision seem unrealistic or fanciful. They can discourage us or make us feel hopeless… If we fail to distinguish emotional tension from creative tension, we predispose ourselves to lowering our vision.”

This was a literal and figurative call back to reality. Apparently I am not anywhere close to seeing my vision fulfilled. My reality is very different from where I thought it was. Yes, this is a set-back, and yes, I feel discouraged about it.

And that doesn’t mean that my journey is in vain. It means the difference is a learning opportunity for me. Where am I on the path? How do I work -not fight- with the obstacles I face? How can I be more creative, resourceful, and whole?

How can I make the journey the reward?

And with that inquiry I shift to feeling a little more settled, at peace, and hopeful.

Let me know: how do you work with creative tension? I would love to hear from you.

Am I deserving of appreciation

Friday January 5, during Shabbat service, I was formally welcomed into the community of the Jewish people, making myself available to “become a partner with God in the work of creation and in the healing and redemption of the world”.

It is a festive, joyous evening of community and celebration. My husband is there, my stepdaughter, my friends Jen, Margaret, her kids and parents-in-law, and of course my congregation. We sing, we pray, we hug. My stepdaughter and I lit the candles to welcome in the Shabbat and recite the prayer. We are a bit nervous about whether we remember the whole Hebrew blessing. My husband reads one of his poems to express how I have contributed to his life. The congregation president reads one of my blogs. She thought it was the best way to describe how I show up in life. My stepdaughter jumps up and shouts “Yeah, Elly”. The cantor sings a song about being held by the wings of Shechinah (Spirit) and says I am a gift to the congregation.

I feel a bit shy with this shower of appreciation. I think of a quote by Marshall Rosenberg:

“For many of us, it is difficult to receive appreciation gracefully. We fret over whether we deserve it. We worry about what’s being expected of us… Or we’re nervous about living up to the appreciation.”

These people who share their appreciation, do they know that I have lied? That I get angry and yell? That I have people I let down? That I have done things I feel ashamed of? Would they still appreciate me if they know the whole truth about me, and nothing but the truth?

Maybe. Maybe not.

As I sit there and receive congratulation after hug after welcoming, I start to relax. Yes, I have done things in my life I wished I could undo, and I have desisted from doing things that I wished I had done. That’s the truth. And even though that is correct, it is also incomplete. Because I have also helped others, listened to my friend’s suffering, refrained from saying hurtful things, committed to a 95% vegan, eco-friendly, fair-trade diet, tried the best I could.

As I open up to the appreciation and love, I see more clearly that I have contributed to other people’s needs. I see that I have the capacity to make life more wonderful for others. And since I already am aware where I have made life more miserable for others, receiving appreciation helps me better see the whole picture of who I am and how I show up.

How does this land for you? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.