Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Grades, autonomy and authenticity

Image courtesy to WikimediaGrades are great of if you get A’s, especially if you’re among the few who get an A+. Even if you get an Aor a B+ they can still feel good.

Grades are less fun when you get a B or a B, and they start to become painful if you get a C or less.

Instead of inspiring us to bring out the best in us, to nurture our own aspirations and values, to reach out for our own desires and dreams, grades teach us to strive for the goals others have set. They turn autonomy and authenticity into compliance, sometimes even fear.

What if every student always gets an A? By default? What if the student and teacher collaborate to figure out what the A is for? What if they clarify the observations underneath their appreciation? It might be the speed of their work. Or the congruence between their writing and the dictionary’s writing. Or the autonomy they pursued when they handed in an empty paper.

There is always a unique contribution, a precious quality in every action.

My dear friends, what would your A stand for? Maybe for your efforts to stay focused, your willingness to work on hard stuff, even if your attention is drawn elsewhere? Maybe for your ferocious trying to get it, even when you struggle? Maybe your courage to make mistakes and keep on trying to capture a new skill?

Thanks, Marshall Rosenberg for your work on Nonviolent Communication and for your revolutionary insight to speak from our hearts and our needs, instead of our evaluations and rewards.


You want help to appreciate your efforts to learn? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session. I would be delighted to talk with you to see if and how I can help.

How to change commitments and maintain connection

CommitmentI take my commitments very seriously. My yes is a ‘yes’ forever. At least, as long as they work for me. If they don’t, I do my utmost best to make them work until I give up and walk away. Just like that. “I want a divorce.” “I’ve found another job and am gonna leave.” “I’m moving to the USA and won’t be your big sister anymore.”

Balancing autonomy and togetherness

Gosh. Even after all those years, it hurts. My heart aches with all the broken commitments that were so important to me. I wished I had known thén what I am starting to learn now: how to balance my need for autonomy and pursuing my own dreams and my need for connection and supporting what you want.

I suck at that. I tend to accommodate others. And if  my needs go unfulfilled for too long I assert them. And forget those of others in the process. I just can’t believe that I can have my autonomy ànd our togetherness.

Asking support for our needs

So when I noticed how overwhelmed I feel with all the empathy calls, mediation triads and business support groups I’m in, I decide to drop one. Just tell my colleagues “Hey, I need more spaciousness, I have too much on my plate, I’m getting out of here.”

And so I do. I tell Adam that I want to end my participation in our collaboration. He empathizes with me. Then I ask how that lands for him. (I have come that far!) He feels sad and a sense of loss, he values our connection. As I listen to him and feel touched by his feelings and needs, something dawns on me. Something new I learned in Mediate Your Life. What if I include his needs in my choice? What if we work together to find a strategy that supports all needs? Not just mine, not just his, but ours?

I feel surprised. This is new territory for me. Instead of dumping my choice and running away, I engage the other person in finding a strategy that works for both of us. I let the results follow the relationship.

Including all needs leads to better solutions

It works out beautifully. We decide to talk once a month, and experiment with a new format. Then evaluate and maybe adjust the agreement. This solution is better than anything I thought of before, because it not only supports our needs for autonomy and connection, but also for learning and challenge.

Gosh, it sounds so simple. It probably is. But for me it is revolutionary: I can hold on to what is important to me ànd maintain the connection. I can have the best of both worlds.


You want help to change your commitments? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to brainstorm together how to do that ànd include the needs of others.