I recently had the privilege of sitting down with hospice social worker-turned- badass executive coach, Lori Eberly. Her well-received book Fuckery, discusses the perils of rudimentary habits that damage trust within the workplace and offers advice on how to change the behaviors that create this toxic environment. She currently is the founder of Radius ECD, an executive coaching and development firm located in Portland Oregon.
Now before I dive into the interview, I felt I should add this in as a full disclosure. Sitting down with Eberly was somewhat nerve-wracking due to this being my rookie debut into the world of interviewing, but her radiance was as infectious as her knowledgeable words were inspiring, and thus made for a pretty damn good article, if I do say so myself. Her refreshing perspective and earned success have set her apart in her field as she continues to lead by example fostering positive work environments and reminding everyone there is absolutely no place for so-called fuckery.
From starting out in social work to becoming an author to starting a coaching firm, you have had an interesting career. Do you think that you have one calling or are you constantly evolving, professionally speaking? Do you think that this current profession you have is your “calling”?
In my twenties, when I had an undergrad internship at hospice, that was definitely what I would call my first calling. I was placed there my senior year and definitely had the experience of “this is the work that I was meant to do”. I worked there for a long time and I left not because I fell out of love with the work, but because I had a terrible boss. I honestly did not think that I would fall in love with new work the way that I had with that career.
Just earlier this week after I met with a client, I walked back to my car and thought to myself “Oh my God, I love my job.” Both of career paths allow me to utilize my very best strengths and skills, provide me with a great sense of purpose both professionally and personally, and allow me to witness very personal “aha moments.”
How do you think your transition from one “calling to the next” was in your own experience? Seamless? Bumpy?
Nothing about growth is ever seamless, and it’s only when you look back you can see how the parts created the path. With all the buzz around ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’, in the same way that we continue to grow and evolve as people, our careers do alongside us.
And this notion that there is a personal self that is completely separate from the work self is a complete myth. It doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some boundaries or that who we are with our friends or with our families is not nuanced from the way we show up at work… I also have also said that “Everybody wants to be the phoenix rising, but nobody wants the fire.” My biggest periods of growth have actually occurred because of fuckery I faced in the workplace and that generated deep personal growth.
You worked as an executive coach in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. for 3 years before launching your company. What was a valuable lesson or experience that you had that still stands out to you today as a foundational moment in your career?
The first three years of my coaching and consulting career did involve more global travel than currently because I worked in tech for so many years which is such a global industry. I bring a lot of curiosity to the work that I do and I also try and make a real effort to identify that professional leadership, at least in Portland, Oregon or the US, which is where most of my current work is. It operates under an unspoken rule that leaders look like “x”, with “x” being alpha white men who maintain the ‘stand on top of the hill with your sword drawn and the army behind you’. And there are certainly very capable leaders who can use that model, but I work with a lot of introverts where charisma and braun is not their go to.
And I work with a lot of women who lead in a way that may not fit the acceptable definition of what leadership is and I ask clients, who are racially or ethnically or otherwise different than me, “What box are they actually trying to fit into and do they have access to that? “ In the end, it’s about being intentional, knowing where your strengths are, and knowing where your gaps are and using those to make up your own definition.
What was your motivation for launching Radius ECD?
My motivation was that the first several years that I moved into executive coaching and development, I was freelancing for someone who had been at this work for 30+ years and 100% of the those client referrals were in tech, which I loved because I got to work with really smart people. Because I had a background in social work, I also wanted to remain connected to nonprofit and local community organizations and that needed to be a part of the work that I did. I also wanted to generate more business here in the local area and not limit myself to just the tech industry. So in 2014, I launched Radius and it was largely me for the first couple of years and now I have several other partners who provide coaching and workshops and assist me with organizational development.
Who has had the biggest influence on you and where your career has taken you?
The first person that comes to mind is Jon Sabol because he’s been a part of my career trajectory for so long. He became a friend and mentor and co-author of Fuckery. The way that Jon has influenced me is largely due to co-authoring because writing a book with someone is such an incredibly messy, honest, painful, and delightful collaboration. I feel like he knows me very well both personally and professionally and our natural defaults are complimentary.
So for example, when we were developing the Communication Matrix, it is my tendency to lead with discovery and to really build relationships that come from a place of trust. That’s my path to communicating assertively. His default is leading with direction and what we call the long sword and watching him do that so effectively and his clarity, his focus, his mastery of strategy has given me an inside view to how brains, different from mine, operate.
What are some simple tips that readers can do to help amplify this culture of collaboration and engagement within the workplace that you talk about in your book?
Well, the premise of the book can be summed up in what we call the fuckery expression, not to be confused with an equation. And that is that in the numerator, you have the sum of all your success factors. And that includes your personal success factors like your character traits and your privilege and your education and experience, essentially every individual thing that has helped to make you individually successful plus everything that has made your current team successful in business, successful in your reputation in the community, all of that stuff, is in your numerator. If we want to grow that success, we have to look at what divides, and fuckery divides.
So, in the denominator is where all of our habits that damage trust live. And if we are not equally paying attention to what trips us up, what gets in the way of trusting relationships with our stakeholders and with our customers, then we will continually divide all of that success we’re experiencing.
And then along the way, we are helping the reader to understand how to improve their assertive communication, which is a tool that’s going to be required to master leadership by looking at both how we hold ourselves and others accountable while simultaneously building the community around us and being an active collaborator.
So you mentioned accountability, and I think that that’s something that a lot of people can apply to not only their professional careers, but also their personal everyday lives. I think that even personally speaking as you stated in your book “mistaking activity as accountability” is something that a lot of people get wrong. What do you think is the most important or one of the most important factors in ensuring accountability for yourself, a topic you discuss a bit in your book?
That connects me to the badge of honor that it is to be busy, to work 80 hours a week, and then the word of the moment “hustle” and to be in this constant hustle. And part of what I’ve learned at Pregame is “Why are you hustling? And are you hustling on the right things?” And, in addition to that, the importance of self care that it isn’t only about the hustle, it’s also about rest, and it’s about play. And that’s the only way that it’s sustainable.
As far as accountability, the most accountable leaders that I know are models of personal ownership and if you’re not willing to own, not just take credit for all of the great work and brilliant ideas, but all the mishaps and mistakes and failures along the way, then you will fail at holding other people accountable.
The truth is, if I’m highly accountable there is no room for blame. There are no excuses. There is no dancing around what we didn’t do well.
It takes an incredible amount of confidence and awareness to look at where we dropped the ball, or where we threw somebody under the bus. This is where our fuckery shows up. And I think knowing how to be accountable, while simultaneously knowing you can’t do it alone is one of the greatest challenges of leadership.
How would you personally define success?
My definition of success is a felt one. It’s not attached to a revenue goal. It’s not attached to the number of clients I have or how recognizable these business names are. Success for me is knowing that I showed up in every sense of that word and by doing so allow your clients to do the same.
Any “Red Light!! Never Do This?!?!” Advice?
It is going to be something around fuckery. One of my greatest lessons learned that can only be learned through experience in my opinion is that as we age, we have less tolerance for bullshit and no job and no toxic environment is worth the price tag of selling your soul.
Learn more about Lori and her work at radiusecd.com