Ep. 019: Susan Coleman

Show Notes

The Team Coaching Zone

  • Krister Lowe hosting Susan Coleman on The Team Coaching Zone, a podcast analyzing the art and science of team coaching in organizations. (http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/).
  • Krister met Susan while attending graduate school at Columbia University.
  • Krister became Susan’s assistant at the UN as she trained diplomats.
  • Susan has been a mentor for Krister, with their relationship laying the groundwork for Krister’s subsequent career in team coaching.
  • Susan is the founder of the Peacebuilding Podcast, a project sprung from a thirty-year career in conflict resolution (http://thepeacebuildingpodcast.com/).
  • Susan covets a long list of professional titles including mediator, global consultant, team coach, women studies specialist, and conflict resolution professional.
  • Susan is particularly focused on what she may contribute in the next decade.
  • We need ‘bold and courageous stands’ in our time of global insecurity.

Susan’s backstory

  • Set up the North Star Fund foundation, which develops original ways to allocate money to various organizations in New York City (https://northstarfund.org/about/).
  • Susan then moved to Colombia for sometime—an experience that has left lasting inspiration and direction on daily decision-making.
  • After finishing her undergraduate degree at Hampshire College, Hampshire.edu Susan attended law school, becoming a commercial litigator.
  • Susan ultimately decided—accentuated by smoke-filled boardrooms and dancing gorillas—that she would never feel content practicing law.
  • The International Development Program within the Kennedy School grabbed Susan’s attention (https://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/cid).
  • Susan decided on intercultural negotiation, a practically nonexistent field at the time.
  • Moving to New York, Susan met Ellen Raider, a rare intercultural negotiator.
  • The two created a conflict resolution certificate program at http://icccr.tc.columbia.edu, Columbia University.
  • The idea of partnership is integral to the development and vitality of human interaction.
  • Training, while effective and rewarding, fails to provide whole systems solutions to conflict issues
  • Susan attended the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (https://www.gestaltcleveland.org/).
  • The institute focused strongly on self-reflection and individual development.
  • Amidst some disdain from seasoned negotiators, Susan enjoys using the ‘coaching’ label. Mediation is putting out fires; coaching is taking things higher.
  • Conflict is generally an indication that human needs are not being met.
  • Change must be ‘multi level’, meaning that mediation must be suited to the needs of individuals all the way up through large groups (e.g. countries).
  • Organizational context and support is a relevant, and in some cases, determining factor on the effectiveness of peace building programs.
  • Susan believes that women’s empowerment is a critical, though often neglected facet of human collaboration.

Working With Senior Women's Leaderships Team to Build Peace In Afghanistan

  • The president and first lady of Afghanistan have proved ardent supporters of women’s empowerment.
  • It is the empowerment of women that paves the way towards a society with fewer conflicts.
  • This past fall, Susan worked with the Senior Female Civil Servants, or more informally, the ‘fierce mothers of Afghanistan’.
  • It is not easy being a woman in Afghanistan or the Afghan government.
  • Our western conception of Afghan women does little justice to the integrity and intelligence by which these women conduct themselves.
  • Susan was scared to go to Afghanistan. It is after all a historically violent country.
  • A real need to take up the responsibilities of team coaching—managing both your own feelings as well as the feelings of clients.
  • At the summit the women were split into two cohorts. Three days would be spent with each cohort.
  • Translating proved a cumbersome and time-consuming obstacle.
  • Susan spent much of the first week time building personal connections with the women. Everything was about building in-group cohesion.
  • Tension within the group stems in part from individual allegiances to different factions of government.
  • Susan believes that women in general can be less collaborative than people often imagine.
  • As the seminar progressed the women started recognizing the power of collaboration.
  • Susan noticed an increased amount of focus among group members.
  • With corruption wildly problematic, these women proved the embodiment of integrity.
  • Towards the end of the program, Susan decided to share a few of her own personal stories with the group.
  • It was a perfect example of a coach modeling the acts that they would like to see from their clients.
  • It shows that a lot of positive change actually stems from a willingness to feel vulnerable.
  • Susan hopes that the cohort will go on with prolonged coaching sessions in the future.
  • Susan’s experience in Afghanistan is surely representative of the potential for similar acts of collaboration around the world.