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IOA Conference Highlights – Robin Hood and the Boss Whisperer


The International Ombudsman Association recently completed its annual conference with 400+ attendees (the largest conference to date) in downtown Richmond. There were many “highlights” to the conference and let me share a few.

One afternoon session led by Teresa Ralicki, CO-OP (ombuds at University of Colorado – Denver) and Adam Barak Kleinberger, CO-OP  (ombuds at Boston University) found us in Sherwood Forest where Robin, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and King Richard found themselves in need of ombuds services. It seemed they were’t getting along and needed a confidential, informal, independent, and impartial resource to help sort things out. Enter the ombuds! The session was done in “fishbowl” style with “actors” playing the roles while attendees jumped into the scene as ombuds. Teresa and Adam facilitated the start/stop action and It was both hilarious and serious work to help this band of merry folks. There was some excellent demonstration and discussion around ombuds strategy and tactics.

Another outstanding session was a plenary talk by Dr. Laura Crawshaw who founded and leads The Boss Whispering Institute that focuses on research, training, and coaching of the abrasive leader.  Dr. Crawshaw first defined what she means by an abrasive leader as “any individual charged with managerial authority whose interpersonal behavior causes emotional distress in coworkers sufficient to disrupt organizational functioning.” And, then she proceeded to explain why folks act in this manner, how they often don’t know they are perceived as abrasive, and how they can be coached and change to become better leaders and workers. I think King Richard, Robin, and the Sheriff could have used her help!!!

Finally, a highlight for me both professionally and personally was that I joined the IOA Board of Directors after being elected earlier in the spring. The IOA Board includes members from across the US and the world and we got right to work with a Board development meeting and interactions with members throughout the conference.

While there are even more highlights, I’ll save them for a later post. In the meantime, as two ombuds from a federal agency that will go unnamed explained – When you are not sure where to go, Go ombuds!