Episode #070: Susan Coleman: Coaching Women’s Leadership Teams: A Case Study from Afghanistan

Can team coaching help address gender inequity in our societies? What role do women’s leadership teams have in transforming our society and in building sustainable peace? Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast to explore these questions and more with special guest Dr. Susan Coleman!

Dr. Susan Coleman is the Host of The Peacebuilding Podcast, an internationally recognized mediator, and a team and systems coach with more than three decades of experience. She specializes in the field of peace building, conflict resolution and strategies to build common ground. Her recent focus is on women’s leadership development.

In this episode of the TCZ podcast, Susan shares her journey from a corporate attorney working on litigation to discovering the world of integrative negotiation at the Program on Negotiation, to pioneering work in the field of intercultural negotiation and conflict resolution training at Columbia University and the United Nations, to developing as a systems intervener blending a range of methods including training, coaching, consulting, mediation and facilitation; to developing as a Gesltalt-based practitioner and ICF certified coach; to her current focus on supporting women’s leadership development as well as being the Host of The Peacebuilding Podcast. Susan also shares a recent powerful team coaching case study working with senior women leaders in the Afghan government as a consultant for UN Women and team of other coaches and consultants. Themes covered in the episode include: self-management as a team coach; blending a range of methods in team coaching interventions; the role of vulnerability in team coaching; women’s collective leadership development; embodiment in team coaching; team coaching in peacebuilding settings and more.

This is an inspiring episode that reveals the value that team coaches can play at even the highest levels of society and government as well as the need for team coaching at the leadership level in our countries. The is an episode that you will surely not want to miss!

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Resources Mentioned

  1. http://thepeacebuildingpodcast.com
  2. susan@thepeacebuildingpodcast.com
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanwcoleman
  4. http://cglobal.com/consultants/susan/

Listen to the Episode:






Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Susan Coleman, M.P.A., J.D., ICF Certified Coach

  • Host of The Peacebuilding Podcast: Susan’s interest in creating The Peacebuilding Podcast has grown out of a three-decade career as a specialist in the field of conflict resolution and strategies to build common ground.
  • She is a lawyer, mediator, large group facilitator, leadership, team and systems coach, runs workshops in intercultural negotiation and communications, and has been highly trained to intervene in complex systems at the individual, group and organizational level.
  • She has worked with organizations, communities and people worldwide with on the ground engagements in 27+ countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
  • She designed and delivered the first negotiation and mediation program for the United Nations Secretariat and, with Ellen Raider, the first certificate program in conflict resolution for Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
  • Clients have included the United Nations worldwide, the Government of Switzerland, the New York City Board of Education, American Express, the Colombian Government, NASA, Columbia University and the United States Department of State. She has an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a J.D. from Hofstra School of Law (Law Review Honors), multiple post-graduate certifications from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and the Organization and Systems Development Center, and is an ICF certified coach.
  • Ms. Coleman resides in the Hudson Highlands north of New York City where she regularly contributes to creating a greener and more sustainable community.
  • Journey in Coaching & Teams:
    • Set up foundation: North Star Fund – creating a new type of structure (community funding board) to give money
    • Early focus on international development: Colombia
    • Raised to be a corporate wife: economically privileged but not gender-wise
    • Went to Hampshire College for undergrad
    • Went to law school and became a corporate lawyer
    • Went to Kennedy School of Government at Harvard: discovered Program on Negotiation; committed to focus on intercultural negotiation and conflict resolution
    • Connected with Ellen Raider in New York City and co-founded Coleman-Raider International: developed a collaborative negotiation, conflict resolution and intercultural communication program at Columbia University and at the United Nations Secretariat
    • Found her way to systems intervention: Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and Organization and Systems Development Center
    • Views herself as a mediator and coach: one focuses on putting out fires and one focuses on helping people go to a higher place
    • Conflict as an opportunity for transformation or change

Part 2 – Coaching Women’s Leadership Teams: A Case Study from Afghanistan

  • Women’s empowerment and equality: a major theme in peacebuilding and key to international peace and security
  • President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, commissioned the work: skill building as leaders and to build them as a “team”–common purpose to elevate the status of women
  • “The Fierce Mothers of Afghanistan”
  • Project with women in the Afghan Government in collaboration with UN WOMEN
  • Four consultants & coaches working on the project: Susan the overall coordinator/lead
  • Context of insecurity: how to manage one’s own anxiety as a team coach
  • First work with the group–2 cohorts (senior and mid-level ministers/civil servants) in Tajikistan:
    • 3 day workshops for each cohort
    • Translated everything into Dari
    • Leadership development: diplomatic protocol; public speaking (how to give speeches involving gender issues); negotiation and conflict resolution skills
    • Teaming: working towards a common and compelling purpose around women’s development; helping the group form connections; complex challenge given different political alliances
    • Coaching the team of consultants/coaches
    • Count to 21 exercise: embodiment – feeling oneself as a group
  • Second phase of work with the group in Kabul:
    • 3 day workshops for each cohort
    • Training and coaching components
    • NBI Thinking Preferences Assessment – translated into Dari
    • Transformational leadership, public speaking
    • Wanted experiential types of learning
    • “Finding Our Voices” session led by Susan – river of life journey; asked all the men to the leave the room; Susan did some sharing of her personal story in order to help open the door; other women began to share in a deeper way during the session; psychological safety/vulnerability/risk-taking/trust-building
    • Women used Viber throughout the session to share images and texts
  • Susan proposed ongoing team coaching for the senior leaders group in particular
  • Insight from Susan’s podcast: connecting women’s peace builders from around the world: Afghanistan, Ireland, Colombia – connecting women’s voices around the world via podcasting

Part 3 – Parting Advice

  • Contacting Susan:
  • For every bit of work we do on ourselves, clearing out our own channel, the better and  more clearly we can show up in the world as a coach and be of service
  • Don’t minimize the importance of doing the work on oneself
  • Coaching and team coaching is an incredible peacebuilding tool: about collective leadership and collaboration
  • Team coaching is very needed with high level leadership teams: they need to model collaboration

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