Episode 004- Working With Senior Women's Leaderships Team to Build Peace In Afghanistan

Episode Summary

Is empowering women, especially in conflict-ridden societies a peacebuilding initiative? Can developing collective leadership among women, especially at senior levels in governments, be an important way to move towards a more peaceful and collaborative world? Coleman believes the answer to these questions is yes and that women’s leadership and empowerment is perhaps one of the most important peacebuilding initiatives we can undertake on the planet today. In this cross-post from the Team Coaching Zone Podcast, Dr. Krister Lowe interviews Coleman about her professional journey through the fields of commercial litigation to discovering the world of integrative negotiation at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard, to pioneering work in the field of intercultural negotiation and conflict resolution training at the United Nations and Columbia University, to her present focus as global coach, mediator, public speaker and Host of this Podcast. Coleman shares details of her recent experience working with the most senior women in the Afghan government, a project sponsored by the Office of the First Lady of Afghanistan and UN Women Afghanistan. She describes the difficulties of working in a war zone, the powerful inspiration of the Afghan women with whom she worked, as well as the intervention design and program. Coleman’s professional focus includes women’s leadership development, coaching and mediation of senior teams, large group facilitation and collaborative negotiation skill development. The Afghanistan work blended all of these as is elaborated upon in this podcast.

Show Notes

* 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.

* 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 a 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.

* Find Susan at The Peacebuilding Podcast and also at C Global Consulting.

Show notes by Henry Heintzman, intern to The Peacebuilding Podcast


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