PNDC for Financial Services Professionals

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (2) short biographies for Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter, Ami Atkinson Combs, who are the primary master teachers of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ process developed by Sharon; (3) a partial client list; and (4) comments from financial services professionals.

The overview starts with the introduction from the landing page and then continues with more information. You can start with "More . . ." if you've already read the introduction. You can also return to the landing page to access additional information about workshops, training topics, conferences, and coaching.

Training & Context Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments from Financial Planners

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Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Financial advisors, whether working in major institutions, small businesses, or independently, are often in the position of advising clients who have unrealistic ideas about what is possible in terms of achieving their financially related goals, and thus, may be resistant to advice. This is true regardless of the financial realm, which may be investment, business or personal loans, tax issues, retirement planning, wills, trusts, or financial issues related to divorce. In many cases, conflicts between couples or among business partners may add additional layers of conflict, defensiveness, and power struggle. Having non-defensive communication skills can give financial advisors vital tools needed to move past conflict and empower clients to make wise decisions.

More . . . For those who work in larger financial institutions, the cost of poor communication is also high in terms of employee relationships, job satisfaction, performance and retention. In Sharon’s training programs, she clearly outlines the dynamics of defensiveness and then presents methods of communication that can be used to diffuse power struggles, whether subtle or blatant. While financial planners do not necessarily have a background in communication, the skills presented will give options for (a) asking questions that get at underlying issues, (b) giving feedback so that clients feel respected and listen, (c) stating opinions clearly without getting bogged down trying to convince clients of the wisdom of the advice, and (d) setting clear boundaries so clients take more accountability and make increasingly competent decisions.

Using these skills, financial planners can guide clients in a decision making process that will bring them the best benefit, while honoring their value systems. In the short and long run, the client relationships work more smoothly and clients are more likely to respect the wisdom of the financial advisor, creating good word of mouth advertizing.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison, an internationally recognized communication consultant, is an award-winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Sharon is a pioneer in the development of methods for eliminating defensiveness and was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute. She speaks at conferences and provides training programs for corporations and small businesses, as well as professionals from more than a dozen fields, including law, healthcare, education, and government. She also speaks at national and international conferences. While she has developed cutting-edge theory, her methods are hands-on, practical and straightforward. She is honest and direct, motivating people tp take accountability and be proactive in their skill development.

Sharon's clients include Kaiser Permanente; Nordstom, Regional Diversity Managers; Wells Fargo; the United States Department of Justice, Stanford University, The Smithsonian, and the Centre for Dispute Resolution, London, England.

Ami Atkinson Combs, Director of IPNDC, is a graduate of Mills College and co-author of the audiobook Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. As Sharon’s daughter, she has been an active participant in the years of discussion as Sharon envisoned and refined the PNDC Communication model. Ami has also done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School.

Ami’s innate understanding of systemic patterns in communication is alsp a cornerstone of her work with organizations, helping individual teams as well as the organization as a whole to strengthen their communication internally and with their client base. She offers coaching and trainings for educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations. Her clients include: General Dynamics, CA; Lockheed-Martin, CA; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; and CCG Systems, VA.

Sharon and Ami are dedicated to creating leadership with integrity and building strength of community in every environment.

Partial Client List

Sharon’s clients include both large and small financial institutions and associations, including

  • Ernst and Young, Wells Fargo
  • Lane County Credit Association, Eugene, OR
  • Oregon Business and Education Center, Portland OR
  • Oregon Tax Association
  • UCSF Medical School, Financial Officers
  • Gallagher and Associates
  • Oregon School Business Officials
  • The Pacific Northwest Credit Conference
  • Babcock School of Business Management, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • IRS National Conference on Small Business & Self-Employment

In addition, Sharon and Ami work with financial planners who specialize in working with divorcing couples. She was a keynote speaker for the Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts national conference. She also provides conference speeches and smaller training programs for financial planners who are members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. In this context they work as part of a team with attorneys and coaches who are guiding families through a divorce process with the goal of constructive resolution. They act as “neutrals,” advising families with the goal of creating sound financial planning during the process of divorce.

See More Complete Client List

Comments from Financial Planners

PNDC has had a profound impact on how I pursue difficult conversations with my clients. Being an investment advisor, my relationship with my clients is very intimate. We, as practitioners, can see attitudes and behaviors that can be self-defeating for our clients. With PNDC I am able to have meaningful exchanges with my clients without defensive blocks. These interactions typically result in life changing insights for all of us. PNDC gives me the "guts to go there" with those around me.

—Marjorie Bennett, CFA, Aegis Capital Management, Inc.

As a leadership consultant I have pioneered the introduction of global diversity and leadership development programs in the US, Canada, Africa, and South and Central America for companies such as Shell Oil, Hewlett Packard and Proctor and Gamble. I have extensive training in the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process developed by Sharon Strand Ellison and have found it to be invaluable in my work. The process offers tools for removing obstacles to understanding across lines of differences in viewpoint, position, vested interests, and culture. Using these non-defensive skill sets, people are able to connect on a deeper level and engage in a creative problem solving process that resolves difficult issues and addresses the widest range of needs possible. 

I am currently the Talent and Development Consultant and Executive Coach for the South American Region at EY (Ernst and Young). I brought Sharon in as part of our talent management process to provide training for managers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The focus was on giving and receiving feedback more effectively during performance reviews. The training she provided was extremely impactful, participants were able to apply the skills immediately and talked about the positive results they got when giving feedback in ways that inspired employees to receive feedback instead of resisting it and be motivated to make suggested changes. I highly recommend Sharon’s work to any organization that wants to enhance performance.

—Mercedes Martin, Talent Development Consultant and Executive Coach, South America Region, EY (Ernst and Young) 

The PNDC process I learned from Sharon enabled me to engage in and maintain a constructive dialog during an especially difficult period at work. Employing PNDC enabled me to keep the points of discussion moving forward in a neutral, non-threatening and effective way. I was able to achieve a positive outcome to a situation that I think otherwise would have devolved into typical power politics with the core conflict left unresolved. I credit PNDC for enabling me to keep my workand career on the trajectory I wanted. In my opinion, learning PDNC is an invaluable skill set for any professional working in the financial
services industry.

—Kari Hovland, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank

With the external pressure of meeting deadlines in our financial planning and tax-consulting firm, we sometimes find it hard to remember we are on the same team. Sharon's workshops have helped us function as a unified team and given us techniques for relieving our clients' stress as well. We have offered our staff workshops with other consultants, and I can say that the unique benefit of Sharon's is that she gives direct, practical techniques that can be used immediately.

—Nancy Gallagher, founder of Gallagher and Associates

I have had the good fortune to study Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication with Sharon Ellison both in a large group and small group environment. Sharon is an excellent facilitator in both forums. Sharon can both keep the group on task yet follow the important threads that lead to deep learning. At the end Sharon is able to neatly tie the threads together and I always feel I take away a new learning experience. In addition to her leadership skills Sharon provides a level of comfort and safety that helps to create a more effective learning environment. Sharon clearly presents concepts and responds to questions and/or resistance with useful exercises always in a respectful, sincere, and honest manner.

My profession involves working with divorcing couples and teams of professionals. My specific area is finances. The PNDC process has helped me to facilitate more effective meetings with the spouses and help them to communicate what is important to each of them. Finally, on a personal level, I have used PNDC with my relationships with my husband and other family members. I have listened to the parenting tapes and quite effectively set boundaries with my son.

—Natalie A. Leininger, CFP, CDFA

As a financial planner working in the field of family law, our role as a neutral means we are often meeting with couples in conflict without the supportive presence of a second team member. Being able to facilitate difficult conversations and handle unanticipated emotional expressions or outbursts can be tricky to address and remain neutral. Sharon teaches skills that not only help us know how to respond appropriately but gives us skills needed to help us better understand the clients and build trusting professional relationships. As the awareness of the collaborative model in family law increases, more are drawn to seek it. With a larger pool of clients also comes an increase in difficult cases. We need to continually improve our communication skills and practicing Sharon’s Non-Defensive Communication process is the perfect way to improve our ability as financial professionals.

—Lisa A. Schneider, CFP, Schneider Financial Advisors, AIG Financial Advisors, Inc.

Your program was a major drawing factor assisting us in getting the greatest percentage of first-time conference attendees at the Pacific Northwest Credit Conference in the last 10 years. Conference delegates were very appreciative of your information and expertise and are already putting the information to use. You had practical ideas that not only help us do our jobs, but also to communicate in a compassionate way and avoid the stereotype that people in finance often face of being "cold" and caring more about money that people!

—Robin Ashburn, Credit and Financial Development Division, Conference Chairperson, Eugene, OR

The material you presented for us was outstanding, both in content and visual aids. The content was clear and easy to follow. There is lots to unlearn and lots to practice. I look forward to using my tools for communication in a "new" and more empowering way.

—Georgianne Teller Singer, Account Executive, Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc.

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Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

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"In my opinion, learning PDNC is an invaluable skill set for any professional working in the financial
services industry."

—Kari Hovland, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank






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