Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Packing up is never easy, I know, but I have to go

With my red marker, I write E8 on the top, short, and long sides of my moving box. In my notebook, I write down the number and exact contents: coaching, personal development, and psychology books.

It seems such a simple idea, but it would never have crossed my mind. I saw my friend do it when I helped her move three months ago. And mèn, I love knowing where my precious box from St. Petersburg, my party stuff, and my Rummikub game is.

My husband suggests stacking the books in two columns on opposite sides of the box. That way you reinforce the corners and increase the strength of the box, avoiding total collapse in the middle of the move. I flunked science in high school, so that’s a great tip.

The New York Times quotes therapists and psychologists who share that moving is an intensely emotional experience: “It is filled with symbolism, the hope for new beginnings, crushing disappointments, loss, anxiety, and fear.”

I agree 100%. But packing and moving together makes it 200% easier. You can look at the challenges from multiple angles, build on each other’s ideas, and hold space for all the feelings that come up in the move.

Other things are easier too when you share the experience. The one thing that the participants in my Leadership Circle love the most is realizing that they are not alone in their struggles and challenges.

These are some of the issues that they have in common:

  • The overwhelm of facing the constant pressure of taking care of your team and moving the agency forward, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night to finish up,
  • How to deal with conflict within your team, or with your supervisor,
  • Grieving the loss of colleagues who you got close to,
  • How to balance being a professional and having feelings on the job,
  • Create support systems for your team so they don’t get burned out by trying to save the world.

You might have different ones. But I’m pretty sure that there are others like you who struggle with it.

In the first week of May, we start a new circle. Six bi-weekly sessions. Are you a person who contributes to others?

Schedule your free discovery session to talk through how you could help other nonprofit leaders.

P.S. Read the New York Times article about the psychology of moving.

P.P.S. This weekend we are moving into our new home, two houses down the block. But you can still reach out to me by phone and email: 512-589-0482 |

What does a birdfeeder have to do with being a leader?

Birdfeeders are great for attracting birds. With the right type of bird seeds, you get Northern cardinals, house finches, sparrows, American robins, Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens, cedar waxwings, eastern phoebes, orange-crowned warblers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and yellow-rumped warblers.

Don’t think I’m some kind of bird wizard. I just use the Audubon app to identify my visitors by putting in their color, size, feeding behavior, and range of habitat.

I love the hussle and bussle around the birdfeeder. The live stream of bird interactions, altercations, hierarchy, courtship, and mentoring of adolescents is quite addictive.

When nothing is going on, I read the Audubon magazine to satisfy my bird craving.

As a result, I now know that the black-capped petrel’s habitat is the open ocean in the West Indies. It nests around steep forested cliffs. It used to nest in burrows on the level ground till exotic predators were introduced on their islands.

And I read about the dangers of birdfeeders. If you don’t clean them regularly enough, they collect molds that are toxic for birds. Shocked, I rush outside to take it down and clean it.

I never realized that the right kind of seeds is not enough to keep birds happy. If I hadn’t stumbled upon this article, I would never have known how unconscious I was of my own incompetence.

And I would never have become consciously competent if I hadn’t read their suggestions about birdfeeder cleaning.

Are you, too, unconscious of your incompetence? If it is about birdfeeders, you can click on the link to the Audubon website at the bottom of this email.

But if you suspect you have areas in your leadership role where you are unconscious of your incompetence, you need something else.

You can read a book about leadership, like The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. You can explore your enemy images with Byron Katie’s Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. And you can seek feedback from your peers.

In my leadership circle for nonprofit leaders, you come together with five to seven other leaders. You share your struggles and wins. And you can ask them for feedback on your actions.

You might cringe thinking about receiving feedback because so often it is critical and judgmental, pointing out all your mistakes and faults.

No worries, in the leadership circles we agree that we respond more like the Audubon magazine: observational, informative, and empowering.

Participants in my current circle find reassurance that they are not the only ones struggling. They feel inspired hearing how their buddies deal with those challenges. And they value the feedback that helps them be the kind of leader that attracts the right team members and keeps them safe.

Schedule your free discovery session to explore how the circle might help you become more consciously competent.

And this is the Audubon website. Be careful, you might get hooked!

“It’s okay to be white.” Really?!

There’s a Ziploc bag on our lawn. With a stone in it. And a leaflet. “You don’t have to feel guilty because you’re white”.

I see one on my neighbor’s lawn too. And on Gloria’s. And Gregg’s. And Matt and Mei’s, and their four and six-year-old daughters. I pick them up one by one, I don’t want the girls to accidentally see them.

Some have the most egregiously racist cartoons I have ever seen. Worse than the ones I’ve seen from the early 1900s. Some have a swastika. A white mother, her blond hair braided in typical nazi style, holding a white baby. Underneath it: “Stop white genocide”. Sender: the Aryan Freedom Network.

My amygdala is running in overdrive, triggering my flight reaction. My prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are taking a back seat.

I text some trusted neighbors for advice. Within minutes, it is reported to the police and the Anti-Defamation League. Two hours later we have an impromptu neighborhood gathering with our council member Kathie Tovo.

When I arrive, I see some 40 people in the circle. Kathie shares that we are not the first neighborhood to be hit with these hate bombs. My neighbors respond resolutely that we will do what it takes to keep our neighborhood free from hate, racism, and white supremacy.

When I summarize what everyone has said, it is clear which actions we agree on.

We put up signs “Neighbors United Against Hate” and “All Are Welcome, Except White Supremacists”. A group app is created to keep each other informed. We reach out to those most at risk. A meet-and-greet is adopted as common practice.

When I leave, I feel so grateful that we came together to listen to each other, generate new ideas, and came up with a plan.

You too might benefit from the wisdom of others: your neighbors in the nonprofit world.

Your rock will be different than mine.

It can be a CEO who is constantly pushing through new policies and pushing out your colleagues as a result. Or the nagging thought that you don’t bring enough of yourself to your team. Or the hours you spend to resolve conflict within your team.

But like the Ziploc bags, there are overall similarities between them.

Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to people who have had a similar experience? Someone who can listen and maybe share how they responded?

Coming together won’t change your situation, but it can be so empowering and relieving to know you’re not alone.

The Leadership Circles for nonprofit leaders offer that. In April I start a new one. Contact me if you have an interest.

Schedule your interview here.

Do you keep pushing things to the backburner?

Our landlord is coming over to walk through the house and yard to see what needs repair after the winter storm.

We haven’t had visitors for a year. The house has experienced a “Covid effect”. Items are scattered within easy reach, the living spaces are clean enough for our standards, and the off-camera parts are less presentable.

Just like Zoom-calls: our hair is combed, teeth are flossed, and our shirt looks clean, but we might be a little long between showers, our favorite sweatpants have holes, and the back of our hair isn’t trimmed.

In the few days before his visit, everything comes to a halt and we begin a decluttering and cleaning frenzy. By the time the landlord arrives, it’s as shiny as if Obama himself is coming over for a photoshoot.

We feel utterly satisfied with the result.

But not so much with the process.

If only we had listened to KonMari and gave everything away that didn’t spark joy. If only we had kept a regular schedule for cleaning and tidying. If only we had kept our backlog of chores in check.

If only, if only, if only.

In the busyness of everyday events and without the impetus of visitors, we were absorbed with what was right in front of us. The urgent distracted us from the less urgent, although equally important: order, harmony, and peace of mind.

I wonder if I am the only one who postpones the less urgent in favor of the urgent because we don’t see the price we pay for the postponement?

If you want to make sure that the important things get done with less stress, a coaching package might be your thing.

Some clients tell me a weekly review of their circumstances and choices is the best thing they have done for themselves in a long time.

Like having a visitor come over, the scheduled sessions of a package help you become clear about your intention, values, and priorities. As a result, you know what to ask for, of yourself or someone else, to accomplish your goals, and when to relax and celebrate you moving toward them.

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.”

Do you want to talk about how this might work?

  • Email me
  • Or call me at 512-589-0482
  • No strings attached, I always like talking to you even if you end up not working with me.

P.S. Current packages have 6 sessions to be scheduled within 8 weeks for $840. Only sign up for it, if you believe the value you will get is worth 5 times your money.

P.S. The idea of the urgent and important comes from general Eisenhower.

The man with the hat

My neighbor is a journalist. He covered the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and “You Can’t Close America” protest.

He tells me how he has learned to move through high-intensity events with an acute sense of how to dodge bullets, cans, pushbacks, arrests.

He also shares one of his tricks: he wears a cowboy hat.

He doesn’t really know what that does, but I have a guess. I think it stands for being a cowboy, a native Texan, being on the side of the Lone Star State. I associate it with being a conservative, probably Republican. And also being an individual, somewhat friendly, who likes beer and barbecue.

I imagine that the hat is ambiguous enough to make him a neutral observer. People open up to him, they feel comfortable enough to share what’s on their minds.

And hearing their perspective, values and wants, thoughts and feelings, his hat helps him to be a better empathizer.

You might wear a hat too.

Only yours is invisible. It might be the hat of the team leader, the Director, the CEO. Your hat might signal authority, job reviews, evaluations, or power.

And as a result, people might change how they interact with you. They guard bad news. They put things in a positive light, so you will support them in their individual goals. 

When people are less honest it is harder for you to empathize. With less information to understand their experience, you make your own guesses about who they are and what they want. Guesses that might be more grounded in your own history than their present. With less empathy, there is less honesty. The cycle escalates.

Empathy and honesty go together like two wheels on a bicycle.

Sure you can move forward on a unicycle. It is just way harder. It takes much more practice, a willingness to learn by falling, and a mentor.

In my free webinar: “Align your actions with your values” we explore what you can do to be more empathetic, even if the other person isn’t completely honest.

  • Get one super-simple step to start your empathy workout, which you can use in each and every situation

  • How to empathize with someone you dislike, keep your balance, and hold onto to your truth

  • Why bathroom breaks are probably the best back-up plan to restore your calm when everything else fails

  • A better understanding of your biggest obstacle in empathizing with those who trigger you the most

  • How a three-word question will help resolve the tension in a few seconds

  • Why accepting your current reality is helpful, even if you struggle to empathize with challenging people

  • The fun of failing over and over again, taking your efforts lightly, and build your empathy habit over time

Saturday, July 11 at 1:00-2:00 pm CST. 

Join me.

Thank you hubbie, David Nayer, for your quick and awesome edits and teaching about empathy and honesty.

Frequently Asked Questions:

“Will you be supercritical of my work or leadership skills, telling me how I should improve myself?”

Sofia, Director Services for a Housing Nonprofit in Austin, had that same fear. She was nervous that she was going to feel like everything she was doing was wrong or that she just could be so much better than she was.

But as soon as we started working she loved it. She told me that it ended up being so much more than she would have ever thought that it could be.

The coaching relationship really gave her some benefits that she would not have imagined. It allowed her to look at the work that she was doing and look at the direction that she was going professionally through a little bit of a clearer lens.

It helped her to discern some things in a better way and then really think about how to move ahead. What kinds of things she wanted to change on her team and in her department, what kind of things she wanted to change as far as relationships go with other co-workers or her supervisor or people that she supervises, and then be able to make changes to get them to be what I wanted them to be.

She and I worked on structuring team meetings or team training and developing a little bit of a framework for how her team sees case management and what they’re doing on that side. How they would describe it to themselves, how they would describe it to funders. As a result, she got two grants that she applied for, even though she was honest about the limits of the contribution they could make.