Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

“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.

Taking the leap

It is Jugglefest and Noah offers a workshop big-ball-balancing. I’m curious enough to watch others do it, but too terrified to try it myself. At age 12, I do a head roll and land on my neck. I can’t breathe or move for minutes and think I am gonna die. I don’t, but I never completely overcome the fear for acrobatic stunts.

But now Noah is here. He tells me how to get up on the ball and extends his hand. His presence helps me take a risk and go way beyond my comfort zone. I trust that even though I might hurt myself, I won’t harm myself.


I realize that when we have the support we need, we can do things we never thought ourselves capable of. We can expand our self-limiting beliefs and do things that fear keeps pushing off to the back burner of our aspirations. Those Big Hairy Audacious Goals come within arms reach with enough support.

We might fail at reaching them -even more than once- but we learn from the failure, not die from it.

Having needs doesn’t mean we’re needy

The challenge for many of us is to ask for support in the first place. We belief that having needs, means we’re needy. That asking for help, means we’re weak. Making a request, shows we’re incompetent. And some of us have come to believe that we’re unworthy to ask for anything to begin with, that our needs come second place to everyone else’s.

We struggle to see our needs as beautiful, human, and universal. We don’t realize that getting support for our needs, means we’ll be happier. And that when we are happier, we are so much more giving and less self-centered. We see asking for support as an expense to others, not an investment in our community.

Seeing needs as beautiful, human, and universal

Imagine a gardener who takes care of a bougainvillea. She doesn’t criticize the bougainvillea for needing eight hours of sun, or very specific amounts of watering, or severe trimming right after the last frost. The gardener supports the bougainvillea with delight, because she knows that if she takes care of the bougainvillea’s needs, it will bloom exuberantly.

We are not bougainvillea’s. We are human beings with a rich, sometimes painful, history. Some of us need support to see our needs as beautiful.

How to find support to see our needs as beautiful

  1. Search for people, communities, and living beings that you feel safe with. It might be your aunt, your mindfulness community, your therapist, God, your dog.
  2. Bring awareness of the acceptance, support, and respect you’re receiving and let this restorative healing experience sink in. Connect to your physical sensations, feelings, needs and take a deep breath.
  3. Once you have experienced that your needs matter, ask someone you trust for help, even if it is just for a simple ask.
  4. Celebrate that you did! Whether or not your request got support, you took a step to live the life you really want, with yourself and others.

Contact me

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

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