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Case Study

The Institute for Defense Analyses

Substantial improvements in strategy, team performance, change management, leadership, trust, and collaboration at government nonprofit.

The Institute for Defense Analyses

The Challenge

The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in Washington DC needed to 1. update strategy and goals, 2. align with fellow stakeholders driving cross-functional change initiatives, 3. integrate new leaders after a restructure, and 4. improve leadership, collaboration, influence, and cross-organizational relationships.

So IDA’s VP of Operations, Linda Huntt—a proven leader throughout her career—engaged THC on two occasions. She singled them out because of their overall leadership-development prowess—especially in national security as government contractors. And while Linda’s team worked well together in many ways, they needed help uncovering blind spots, so they could function at an even higher level, improve alignment, and boost trust.


Among THC’s solutions:

  • Facilitated a meeting with Linda’s leadership team and had everyone take the Everything DiSC® profile.
  • When Linda inherited another team to lead—a new group she’d never worked with—THC again facilitated an Everything DiSC® profile session. And asked her direct reports to vulnerably share their thoughts on Linda’s style as a learning exercise.
  • Facilitated a conversation about team behaviors and norms.
  • Created space for authentic, open, and vulnerable conversations among old and new team members.


About the experience of working on multiple levels with THC, Linda shared how they “bring a refreshing depth and breadth that allows them to relate from the people side and the tech side.” And she appreciates how deep the coaching talent bench at THC is, given her a broad range of approaches and personality types from which to pick.

The eye-opening Everything DiSC® profile work, where her leaders openly shared their personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and potential conflict areas with each other, Linda says, ensures that she and her teams better understand each other, meet one another where they are, and learn to collaborate as more effective leaders. THC used the Everything DiSC® survey as a starting place for encouraging more authentic, open, and eye-opening conversations among team members.

As for her own journey as an executive: Linda said that as a result of her 1:1 coaching with Lori Heffelfinger, she’s learned a great deal about herself. She’s broadened her ability to show up confidently and authentically—which tremendously boosts team trust. She added that between Lori’s and James’ different styles, and ability to read the various players in the room and respond accordingly, they “catch it all” and described their style as a kind of sympatico you don’t often see in business partnerships.

"When half of our leadership team at TIFF turned over, we needed to build new layers of trust, create a climate for healthy debate, and create mechanisms for healthy conflict. After vetting a number of similar firms, we hired The Heffelfinger Company. They didn’t push their own agenda and listened closely to what we needed —a custom teaming program, not something off the shelf. We hired Lori and James because they were flexible enough to design something customized and had the skills and experience to deliver it. I can tell they truly cared about supporting what we needed. As a result of this program, our leadership team now has much more purposeful meetings. Everyone’s clear about what topics need discussion and debate. People are more engaged, and know they need to come to meetings ready to share thoughtful points of view, not stand by and listen."
Kane Brenan, CEO, TIFF Advisory

The THC-facilitated meetings at IDA also:

  • Integrated Linda’s two teams into one—with a foundation of agreed-upon norms
  • Helped each leader openly share personal and professional challenges—which fostered deeper team trust and collaboration.
  • Enhanced individual’s abilities to lead, influence, support, collaborate, and be vulnerable—both in and beyond Linda’s teams.
  • Fostered greater awareness of roles among Linda’s team and change leaders.

IDA continues to hire THC for meeting facilitation, team coaching, and executive coaching, with each coach curated based on skill sets that align well with the organization’s diverse employee base of highly educated tech and non-tech professionals. Linda’s also tapped Lori to heighten her own leadership skills and those of her team.

"I think ‘listening deeply’ in consulting is just table stakes. Lori Heffelfinger transforms listening to an entirely new level. She hears what’s being said—and what’s NOT being said. She has the courage to say what needs to be said and do it thoughtfully, carefully, and honestly—in ways you can hear. So she can spot blind spots. She also notices body language and how it supports—and sometimes contradicts—our words. Lori’s high IQ and EQ translate into great communication skills, credentials, and the courage to help move our teams forward at Sysco. In fact, given the impact Lori’s coaching made on how my teams and I show up and drive business results, other executives within the company decided to hire Lori, too. Finally, I’d add that Lori and her business partner James Jackman run a well-oiled organization. As a client, I am always kept in the loop on how each coaching assignment is going. The Heffelfinger Company team clearly care deeply about their organizational development work. People, including me, want to be around them and their compelling insights."
Michael Fischer, Sysco’s VP of Global Talent Management
"Lori’s greatest strength is that she reads a situation and personal dynamics extremely well…she thoughtfully and carefully acts on her perceptions to maximize the growth of others. We were recognized by the LA Business Journal for Best Place to Work in Los Angeles because of her work with our Principal Group."
"I can safely say that I would not have been promoted to a new position without the skills and approach that I learned with James. This has been the single most impactful engagement that I've had in my career!"
CFO, University

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