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“Listen. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” (Condescending smirk.) So goes the biggest lie ever told; a statement that’s often used as a permission slip to be ruthless. And almost always uttered by someone who holds power to make a decision that adversely impacts someone who doesn’t have power.
If you blend your work with your passion, you know how fortunate you are, and the outcome is very “personal.” Similarly, if you’ve ever worked in a toxic environment you can vouch about how that negativity-filled “business” cloud follows you home. Your joy and energy don’t distinguish between the two.
I’ve openly shared how I’ve consistently relied upon the guidance of coaches and mentors throughout my entrepreneurial evolution. I champion trusting those who’ve been there before and not doing it alone, and I’ve followed that advice.
It’s also no secret that I’ve spent the past few years (and will continue!) actively implementing antiracist practices throughout my company’s operations. And this week, I’m joined by my coach in equity-centered leadership, Trudi Lebron, to kick off our business and mentorship pod.
By the time Trudi was 16, she had two children and had dropped out of high school. With the odds against her, Trudi earned her B.A., then her M.Sc., and went on to build a million-dollar coaching and consulting firm. (Oh, and her Ph.D. is in progress.)
Today, Trudi is the CEO of Script Flip, LLC, the creator of The Institute of Equity-Centered Coaching, and the author of The Antiracist Business Book. And it’s my absolute honor to have Trudi share some of her brilliant wisdom for responsible leadership because any alternative will no longer suffice.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The gift of taking the elevator up
- Managing outcomes instead of people
- Sharing your weekend plans for intentional downtime
- How NDAs contribute to a culture of silence & control
- A lobster appetite on a fish stick budget
Listen to the Full Episode:
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Featured on the Show:
How do your organization’s intercultural practices measure up? People will continue to expect more from their leaders and the companies that empower them. I can help you be a pacesetter. Let’s chat already!
- Sundae’s Website
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae Bean – YouTube
- Wisdom Fusion Project
- Trudi Lebron – Website
- Trudi Lebron – Instagram
- The Antiracist Business by Trudi Lebron & Arlan Hamilton
- The Institute of Equity-Centered Coaching
- Script Flip, LLC
- Liberatory Leader Mentorship by Trudi Lebron
Catch These Podcasts / Articles:
- Business Remixed Podcast with Trudi Lebron
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 10:00 pm in New York, 4:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 9:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to IN TRANSIT with Sundae Bean. And I’m actually really IN TRANSIT right now as I sit in a temporary apartment as we just landed in Switzerland. And in addition to being in transition, I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed through any life transition.
One thing I’ve realized throughout the years is that you never know who will walk into your life and completely change it. I just had this conversation with one of my sons this morning about the importance of relationships and mentorship and what started as a simple informative one and a half hour workshop turned into a year-and-a-half mentorship and it has been transformational for me. And I don’t mean transformational in a sense of you go to bed a caterpillar and you wake up a butterfly. I’m talking about a slow one. One that is cell by cell, one by one, and is still ongoing and so much further to go.
So it is my absolute heartfelt pleasure to have my mentor in Equity-Centered Leadership here today and the author of a recent hit: The Antiracist Business book, Trudi Lebron, welcome to IN TRANSIT today.
Trudi: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here.
Sundae: It’s been so incredible to get to know you and to watch your journey and the impact that you’re having in so many people’s lives. I’m just so excited about the work you’re doing because it is literally changing the trajectory in which we do business. And specifically for me, when I watch the coaching industry. So it’s so amazing to watch you walk with integrity, and live everything that you teach.
So before I get into more with you, Trudi, I’m going to say more for our audience, who isn’t as familiar with your work. Trudi LeBron is the CEO of Script Flip, LLC and the creator of The Institute of Equity-Centered Coaching. By the time Trudi was 16, she had two children and had dropped out of high school. As you can, imagine she says, all odds were against her. But that is not the case. Trudi today runs a million-dollar coaching and consulting firm helping entrepreneurs and coaches, build antiracist businesses and become equity-centered coaches, and as well as leaders, through her certification programs, consulting packages and executive coaching.
Trudi holds a BA in Theater, a Master of Science in Psychology, and is currently ABD in a PhD program in Social Psychology. Needless to say Trudi is the real deal.
So Trudi, it’s so wonderful for us to connect. It’s been a few months since we’ve spoken. I have mentioned this to you before, but I want to mention it to the audience as well. It’s kind of a behind-the-scenes thing that happened for me when we started working together and it says something about this idea of transformation. When I started working with you was originally around coaching, right? In terms of how to show up during this crisis. And then I did It’s called AIM, a six-month program, where we dissected Whiteness, we looked at liberatory leadership. We looked at, how to show up more equity-centered in our work, and then you and I end up working one to one.
I don’t know if I shared this with you, but when we were doing AIM, I was in a very old mode of like, show up to class ready to learn. I wanted to study, I wanted to learn the material. It’s like, “We’re not going fast enough. How do you know what can I memorize? Let me get the good grades.” I just noticed that impatience. Not not not strongly but I noticed something quiet inside of me and then that’s something that you did talk about in our work together. And what dropped for me during that first phase was the importance of this work being embodied.
Sundae: Right. It’s all in your head. It’s like in your cells. It’s in your heart. It’s in your body. And that was a totally different kind of learning. I think I was finally ready for that, and that is transformed also how I show up for my own clients. Giving myself permission and helping them create space for that more embodied, slower, less cognitive learning. So I just wanted to share that with you. That’s where that transformation began with me, but your work is about transformation. I’m going to read an excerpt from your book. You said, “The solution is that we become antiracist leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, coaches, service providers, workers, and creators. It’s that we see our work as a piece of the puzzle to creating a more equitable world. A world where a person’s life outcomes are no longer statistically predictable by their race and their zip code. It requires a transformation of the way we do business.”
So Trudi, how did you go from your childhood upbringing to being someone transformational in the business space and coaching space?
Trudi: I think, for me, it was being raised in a home where my mom was very justice-oriented and worked in nonprofits, and I was literally raised in nonprofits. I would go to work with my mom. I would take all the summer camp programs and all the after-school programs and literally every program that this agency offered, I kind of was raised through it. And I didn’t know anyone who had had their own business. I only knew people who work in businesses and who were leaders in nonprofit spaces. That and like teachers, were was only people I knew. And so, I grew up thinking that I would probably work in the nonprofit world, and I did for a long time, and I really started to bump up against my dreams, honestly, right? My mom used to pick on me all the time because she would say that I had a lobster appetite and a fish stick budget.
Trudi: Because we grew up lower-working-class people. Income unstable at times, you know, all kinds of things. And so – but I wanted a big life. I wanted to travel. I wanted to have nice things. I wanted a dress in like fancy clothes. I just wanted to eat at fancy restaurants. I don’t know where those things came from. Probably just TV, I didn’t know people were doing it. And then the reality of working in nonprofits, working for very little and realizing that I had invested all this time and this education which was the thing that I was betting on was gonna pull me out of poverty. I had these two kids, that was it. If you grew up in the 80s, you were sold the tale that you just graduate from high school, go to college and everything’s going to be okay. And I just was like, “Oh, that’s not true,” it’s not.
And so I had to start to learn to make money on the side to supplement my income. And so when I was in college that looked like being a teaching artist and driving all around the state and teaching theater classes. And then when I was in, working in nonprofits and had accumulated a good degree of experience and education, it was consulting and going into places and training. And I started to realize how much money people were actually making, who were successful in consulting and training. And so I started listening to podcasts and thinking about lifestyle design the mid 2000’s or people are blogging a lot and podcasting is like becoming popular, and being exposed to a whole world of entrepreneurship, of online business, of personal development. All these things and realizing a couple of really important two really important things:
- That the world of online business and personal development was really incredibly innovative and aligned in terms of the things that I wanted for my life. But really missing some critical components around justice and equity, things that I had been doing for years at that point. No diversity, very little People of Color as leaders in the space, and that was an issue for me. And then kind of another side of that.
- And then kind of another side of that. The second thing that I noticed was that all of these wonderful principles around online business and personal development were not like I wasn’t seeing them in the nonprofit world. So really good business strategy around like, innovation and being lean, and all of these things were like, just not but the nonprofit world are very much like, “This is how we’ve always done it in. This is just how it’s going to be.”
And wanting to be a bridge, wanting to kind of help people. Because at this point, I was starting to see some success with my consulting practice and I wanted to help some of my friends., locally, people that I have been working with for years who were people with master’s degrees and all this experience, all this professional experience, and curriculum designers and wanting to help them be able to start their own businesses. But knowing that they were not going to go out and do that because they thought that making money was bad. They thought that business was so complicated and hard and I was seeing that that just wasn’t the case. And so I just wanted to take some of the best of what I was learning from this kind of start. ip entrepreneurship world that I was being exposed to and bring it into the social justice field and vice versa.
I wanted to take some of the principles around social impact and equity and inclusion and injustice and I wanted to bring it into the business space because I just saw so much opportunity for that exchange of ideas. And that’s where, yeah, that’s kind of where it really started as just wanting to do that. And then the more I leaned into entrepreneurship, to online business, to coaching, to personal development, it was consistently reinforced that the issues with diversity, equity and inclusion were so prevalent. And that I also had this really unique intersection of experiences that positioned me really well to be one of the leaders driving that conversation. Yeah and I just kind of went all-in.
Sundae: That’s wonderful. No, it’s wonderful and so important, right? Because when I think about, when we learn strategies, let’s say for business owners and then we share with our clients, we’re actually replicating the bias that is handed to us, And one of the things that you do really well is saying some of the strategies that are recommended to be successful in business just don’t work for everybody.
And I think we have a responsibility as business owners, as service providers to do justice for people’s integrity, for people’s humanity. And that diversity life experiences and that is what I think. And you outline that really well. In the book, I’m going to plug the book many times shamelessly throughout this podcast. You haven’t asked me to but I will do that gladly because you mentioned that in the book about what is missing in the conversation. And so if people are missing in the conversation, obviously there Is important elements of the conversation that are just unspoken and–
Sundae: Totally. So that’s why I think you do so well. And what I love about your life is you talk about radically imagining a world that’s different from what we created and you’re doing it.
And the other thing that I’ll add is that when you’re trained in like adolescent youth development, non profit work, program design, all of these kinds of things, in particular, diversity, equity, and inclusion. You start to ask questions as part of your regular practice. Like, what are we not seeing? Who’s not at the table? What are we assuming? And this decision, this real practice of inquiry that was so natural that when I started to be more in business and entrepreneurship, I was bringing those questions that hadn’t been asked. And so what happened is that I became this filter, learning things from people who didn’t have that kind of experience and asking those questions myself and filtering out. Like, “Okay, this is the stuff that’s really embedded in whiteness and toxic capitalism, and oppression and exploitation. But here are the lessons that are worthy.” That if we start to like, add some of the other things that we know, we really get something new and that it would serve way more people.
Sundae: Right? That’s wonderful. So you mentioned, a few concepts there and I think so everybody is on the same page will be important for us to have a shared definition of some of them. One of them is Equity, right? And the other Antiracism. We can talk about Toxic Capitalism and Liberatory Leadership in a little bit. But let’s start with some of the basics. Do you mind just giving your definition of those two concepts?
Trudi: Yeah, so Equity is about the things that we do to help people get to the same place. And so I like to talk about equity in contrast with equality, which is something that we are all very familiar with. Equal is about everybody getting the same thing. Equity is about helping people get to a place where they have the same thing. Because just because you give people the same thing doesn’t mean that they can use it the same way or that that’s going to get them to the same places.
What we know, if you know more than two people in your life, you know that not every strategy works for every person the same way, right? Some people need a little bit more support to get to the same place. So equity is all about the things that we do, to help people and to create environments and systems where people can get to the same place. And often times, on a grand scheme, the same place, this idea that we live in a world where people’s outcomes are not predictable by their race and zip code means that we all have access to a life where our basic needs are more than met. That we all have housing and education and food and all of the things that we need to just have good lives. Enjoyable lives. Yeah. So that’s what equity is all about.
And then, so Antiracism, is the things that we do, the practice that we have, the ideas that we perpetuate that help to dismantle racism. Anything that creates a situation where People of Color are disadvantaged and there’s so many applications of that. Just about everything is influenced by White supremacy and racism. But so antiracism is about the antidote to racist beliefs, and action and philosophy and ideas.
Sundae: So it’s not just not being racist, it’s not right dissipating in racist systems. It’s actually dismantling racist systems. And I think just so everybody’s on the same page, one thing that I’ve noticed is not everybody has the same idea of what White supremacy means. So White supremacy, when some people hear they think of white hoods and Ku Klux Klan but it’s way, way beyond that. Can you give us a quick definition of that?
Trudi: Yeah. And thinking of the white hoods and Ku Klux Klan, that’s a manifestation of White supremacy, right? Those are behaviors and practices that people take on because of White supremacy. White supremacy on its own is the idea that White people are just inherently better, smarter, stronger, more worthy of protection, more worthy of ideas. And that everything that comes from White folks is better. And is the norm and so, everything else becomes judged in contrast to a culture of Whiteness.
And so that is, you know what I love about that description is that if we allow it to – now, White supremacy is a huge issue, right? And if we can think about it in this way that I just described, it actually takes out, I think some of the anxiety around it. I think it can just be this very practical thing. It’s like, “Oh, all it means is that we are advantaging or placing in a hierarchy, placing White people and White culture and White ideas ahead of everybody else.” That’s all, that’s what it means. And then all of the other things, all the violence that comes from it, really just comes from this idea that “White folks are better.” And there’s been so much across our history to reinforce that and to – I mean we’ve had whole sciences at one point that were created to try to convince people that White people based on their skulls or whatever were smarter. Just lies, lies. But that has so much ramifications in our history. Also that’s what white supremacy is.
Sundae: And I want to just add in terms of often times, completely unconscious.
Trudi: Oh yeah.
Sundae: You think it and you don’t think it. It’s somehow embedded subconsciously and as an interculturalist, I remember going through that process of like, “Oh being on time is a cultural construct.” Punctuality, we just decided that five minutes was the polite range, other cultures decided 15 minutes or four hours was the polite range, right? And we see that. We can accept that globally when we travel. “Oh yeah, they do it here. The way they do it there.” But when it comes to something where it feels part of our identity can feel really threatening, but the same ideas apply, some people got together and agreed that this is the right way.
Trudi: That’s it, right? Yeah. And the other thing is that, even when this is a great example, even when folks – because you don’t have to be a White person to buy into White supremacist ideas, anyone can. But the idea that when we go, let’s say you adopt that punctuality as like the standard if you go somewhere else and you say, “Oh, that’s just how they do it here,” and you accept that, you still are kind of putting this, you know, “We do it the right way.”
Trudi: “And here, it’s different, but it’s not but our way is actually the right way.” It’s usually not like, “Oh, we’re different.” Like I am the one that’s different. Or maybe there is no right way, maybe they’re all just different ways and what we should be doing is being in a relationship with people when we schedule meetings to talk about like, “What’s the buffer here?” It is time-sensitive, is it, you know, like being in more close relationships so that you don’t bump into some of the issues that people face when they’re holding someone else to a standard that is really just a personal preference.
Sundae: And what do you agree on as an intercultural community. Yeah.
Sundae: Yeah, we could talk about that the entire time there’s a lot of layers there. I want to go a little bit more into your book and how you talk about antiracist business, specifically. Well, one thing I want to just mention is you talked about when we have processes that are let’s say antiracist or equitable. When we do something that sort of creates fairplay. The image that you and I talked about in class was looking at a baseball field and how high is the fence and what do you get to stand on to see, the tall person has anything to stand on but the shorter person does. When we make accommodations that are equitable, actually everybody benefits.
Trudi: Yeah. Everybody benefits. So the way that I talk about this in the book is I’d like to kind of give this metaphor of an elevator, most people have been in an elevator. Elevators are required in most places and buildings that are over two stories high, commercial buildings, especially, so that people who cannot go up and down the stairs can get access to the upper floors. But everybody takes the elevator. It’s not only for people who cannot go up and down the stairs, everyone takes the elevator and in fact, having the elevator in the building so that everyone can use it if they want to use it or need to use it improves the experience of the building.
And that is the case I think across the board. When you start to think about building a company, a business, an institution, whatever size, even a non-profit, really anything that gathers people. When you start thinking about how people will engage in the space and what you’re going to need to provide so that they have equitable access that they can fully participate, it makes the experience better for everyone because everyone now can be contributing at a capacity that they wouldn’t be able to contribute if you had these like inequities. And I think that that’s you know, when we look at any of the data around companies that are diverse that have better outcomes and better problem solving with it. There’s all this research around the benefits of it. What is true is that you get that – you only get those kinds of benefits when the environment isn’t just diverse but that is equitable, right? It’s not just that people showed up. It’s that people are contributing. And so if you don’t have an environment or if you only have an environment where people get to show up, but they can’t contribute you don’t get any of the benefits of having that diverse equitable space.
Sundae: Absolutely. And that’s very connected to the point that you make about business is personal.
Sundae: And we’re taught that it’s not, right? I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in with people who say, “Well, it’s business. It’s not personal.” And you break that down. You look at that myth and debunking. Can you share just briefly about what you mean when you say, “Business is personal”?
Trudi: Yeah. It’s just business, it’s not personal is probably, the biggest lie that is told in one of the biggest most frequent lies that is told in business. Because we look around all over the place and we see that that is just not true. There is evidence that that is not true everywhere, right? So, for example, we do things in our company’s, a lot of times when people are starting businesses, they’re building businesses based on a passion or a personal thing that they feel connected to. And so they want to go out in the world and solve a problem or fill a gap in the market. It’s something connected to them personally when they’re building a team, they’re looking for people who are not just skilled, but who they are going to like to spend time with, who they believe in. We get to know our colleagues. We know our colleagues’ partners and children. We ask about the weekend, right? We go and make business deals over dinner after talking about all kinds of personal things.
So business is extremely personal. Also, the implications of business are personal.
Sundae: And when you show up, it’s only personal because it pays your bills, feeds your family.
Trudi: Right! 100%.
Sundae: It helps fund if you want further education like there’s nothing more personal than that.
Trudi: There’s nothing more personal than that and that when we hire employees, especially if we’re paying people full-time salaries and benefits, and vacation time, our decisions are very personal for that, for the team, right? So the environments that we provide for them are extremely personal. If you’ve ever worked at a toxic work environment and you go home, you know that that is having a personal effect on like the rest of your day and how you’re able to show up for the rest of your life. If you’re in a toxic work environment.
Alternatively, if you work in a place that’s very liberatory and open and flexible and connected, it impacts how you’re able to be in the rest of your life. Business is only not personal – I have consistently seen this. It is only not personal when someone who holds power is making a decision that negatively impacts someone who doesn’t have power.
Or someone is being advised to do something – and I hear in the context of coaching like, “Oh you have to make that decision, don’t worry about it, it’s not personal, it’s just business.” It is said, I think the intent behind it is to ease the tension for the person who has to make that decision because they know that the decision that they’re about to make is going to have a personal effect. It is exactly personal. And I think, I don’t think that we have to abandon the personal relationship of business to make hard decisions. If you have a business or if you’re a leader in business, hard decisions is part of what we do, But because we have perpetuated this myth that business is not personal, I think it gives people permission and a little like – a little bit more of ruthlessness around choices that they have to make and it gives them a cognitive out. It gives them this out that they’re like, “Oh, I actually don’t have to worry about that because that’s not my responsibility, it’s just business.”
Sundae: Right. Absolute.
Trudi: What if we didn’t write, what if we say, “Oh, this is personal. I still have to make the choice.” But how does that impact the way I show up for that choice? How does it impact the way that I communicate about that choice? How does it communicate? Or how does it impact the way that I create a buffer around this decision to lessen the impact for people? If we allow business to be personal and if we see the personal impact and kind of personal relationships in our hard decisions, we show up for them differently.
Sundae: Yep. Totally. We allow humanity.
Sundae: Absolutely. So I think you do the same thing when we talk about capitalism, that when people criticize capitalism, they’re not actually criticizing capitalism. They’re criticizing toxic capitalism.
Trudi: Yes, yes.
Sundae: And because capitalism, like you said, “How about just commerce? How about we just buy stuff and trade stuff and give money and value?” Because I think when people hear the word, when they talk about capitalism, there’s fear there, like, wait a minute. So my father helped get me through college, thanks to trading services, you know what I mean? So people take capitalism so personally, so, can you tell the difference between, when you say, when people talk about capitalism and they’re attacking actually toxic capitalism, and what you mean by just commerce?
Trudi: Yeah, I totally get, the feelings around capitalism. It is complicated. And of all of book that chapter the took the longest for me to write because of the research that was involved in that chapter and because of the work and intention that I wanted to put into translating because, it is a lot of language. There’s a lot of words and a lot of policies and a lot of things. And what I was able to distill is that basically capitalism is a terrible word because it includes way too many terrible things that are not– oftentimes that are not similar, right?
So capitalism can be and is just an individual person’s ability, like legal to start a business and charge. Just that. Just understand that that is not the case In some places. That you can’t just open your doors, hang the sign, and just be open for business, that’s not the case everywhere. So the fact that we can do that, that those of us who can, that we are able to is a function of capitalism
Wonderful things. The wonderful opportunities. Now, the problem is, is that people’s ability to consolidate well and exploit other people, and not pay their fair share, not contribute to society in ways that other people are, that is also a function of capitalism. So, when people say, “Oh, I can’t stand capitalism, capitalism is the root of all evil,” It’s the idea that we do have laws that allow some people to exploit other people.
I just think that it’s really important that we’re clear on the parts that we want to that are most insidious and that we are clear about the protections and rights that having an economic system, that allows us to start businesses and take care of ourselves independent from the state, that there are good things in that.
So, this is why I’m a pretty firm stance on, I don’t identify as an anti-capitalist. The problem with anti capitalism I see it – is that it doesn’t solve for some of the social problems that I personally am most concerned about.
So, for example, just if we, threw capitalism away and went to another economic system, we still would have racism. We would still have White supremacy. We would still see disparities. I certainly don’t trust and have no reason to trust that if we change our economic system to one that is more socialist in nature that we still wouldn’t have people exploiting their power. I’ve no reason to, it is actually likely that we will continue to see that.
Sundae: I’ve seen that in Europe, I’ve seen very socialist societies economically have great examples of obvious racism, right? So you’re right. That is not the economic system that would automatically change another operating system. And so say just commerce, like it’s just Commerce. It’s just an exchange of services for value.
Trudi: And that idea of just commerce is both this practical exchange of goods and services, right? That is important. But also this bigger – I imagine it and this is something that I say in the book, that there’s an element of this. And this is very inspired by the work of Adrienne Maree Brown who says that, “People who are engaged in liberation work that there’s an element of science fiction to it because we’re imagining what these things could be.” We’re taking from what we know and but best practices and we’re like advancing work forward. We need a quantum leap, but while we have, in terms of our tools is to make progress one step at a time.
And so what I’m kind of future casting is this idea of just commerce potentially as an economic system that centers justice and creates an opportunity for people to have businesses to make money, to live, to do all the things that we need to do with an economy but are measuring the success of that economy by a whole holistic sense of indicators that would include, sure how much money is moving around the economy. But also what are the racial disparities embedded in that? What does our education system look like? What does our criminal justice system look like? How is that impacting our economy? So looking at having a way bigger perspective on evaluating the health and wellness of a nation where, yeah, we’re looking at far more than just like the stock market, you know–
Sundae: What, I think when I look at that and I look at the detail, what I’ve learned with our work together and then I see what you mention in the book that as a solopreneur individual business owner, it’s more, like, “What are some of the practices that I’ve just accepted that are actually toxic?” Let’s just say, like an NDA, we’re like a silencing agreement of you can’t work for this person afterwards, or you can’t do this or you can’t say this. That is more on the spectrum of toxic and less on the spectrum of the human side, Right?
Sundae: And I’ve been in situations where people that have worked for me, were unable – we couldn’t work together for a period of time because they said they couldn’t work for this person and that person and it restricts someone’s employment opportunities.
Trudi: 100%. And some of these are like, so oppressive. I’ve seen cases where people were asked to sign non-competes, pretty broad non-competes for a number of years. And in some cases it’s tied to like a severance package. Like, if you take the severance package and for two years you can’t work in this field. And if you can’t work in the field that you’ve invested your education in like what are you to do?
It’s nonsense. I think that those kinds of things are rooted in some of the worst parts of us.
Sundae: And that’s, and that is where until you question that you just accept it. Like, “Don’t ever work for my competitor,” right? Like, don’t work in the field, which is hard. So that’s – I think It’s important.
And I want to just make sure because I know our time is kind of getting a little bit tight here. I wanted to make sure that we talk about your bigger vision, just briefly talk about “Liberatory Leadership” and that kind of encompasses what all of this is about. Whether it’s a business or you’re a service provider or an NGO. How do you define liberatory leadership?
Trudi: So again this is one of those areas that is really formative, right? And so I think about Liberatory Leadership right now as this way of being, a style of leadership and style of organization that centers not only your own liberation but the liberation of other people. And so what you seek out – and so to people who are in for me personally and people who are engaged in this work, very intentionally, the questions we’re asking is like; How do I make decisions about my business, about the way I work in my business, the way my team works in the business, that maximizes opportunities for people to maintain their agency and their self-determination? AND that still allows the company to function at this high level and to fulfill our obligations. But that the environment doesn’t have to resort to toxic oppressive practices. Workplace practices in an effort to contain quote-unquote control like the team.
And so, one of the things that I think about is; How do we manage outcomes instead of managing people? How do we create schedules and ways of working that allow people to kind of take care of themselves during the day? Whether those that have kids at home or appointments. How are we most flexible while maintaining just this high degree of like – without compromising the way that we function. And continuing to call into question and really think about; Why am I making decisions the way I’m making them? Where did they come from? What am I assuming? Just continuing to bring that inquiry into the way that we not just lead our businesses, but also lead our life.
Sundae: Absolutely. And my guess and I would love to see some research on this over time. My guess that those who are working within a liberatory leadership framework are more committed, more engaged, maybe healthier, maybe stay longer, retention. My guess is that when you allow someone’s full humanity that they show up more at work, it’s that simple.
Trudi: I would make that guess as well. I think what’s hard about it is a slow process, right? And so again work because of a culture of Whiteness that really prioritizes and privileges and kind of holds up as the standard. This like hustle culture, the fastest person to win the race, whoever can make the most money the quickest, leverage, everything being efficient. That all there are parts of all of those things that can really interrupt equity and really rest on practices that do lean into that, like exploitation, oppression, power and control, ways of leading and they’re so normalized. So normalized. So liberatory leadership is about being in the practice of undoing all those things and finding more ways to work and lead and motivate others and create business systems that allow for that kind of maximum agency and flexibility.
Sundae: I hope that we look back on this in 30 years and go, “I can’t believe that we used to be there.” I hope that it’s just like a no-brainer. And 30 years when I look at history, 30 years is nothing. But I’m hoping that you see a shift and I think because I’ve lived in the European context for a long time, I know it is possible to live with so much more balance. I have seen that. There’s always these jokes about the out of office notices from someone in Europe is, “I’m camping until September, see you later,” and in the US it’s like “I’m having kidney surgery but you can reach me on my phone.” I know there’s different ways of doing it but we just all have to we have to have systems in which were given permission to do that.
Trudi: Yeah. And for the leaders, I just want to say that the part of this that really like requires good, intentional leadership is that this way of being has to be architected, right? So, for example, I was with a client recently who was talking about vacation time and their team and how someone on their team never takes vacation time, and I was like, “Well, what’s your responsibility in that?” As the leader of the company, you can passively say, “Okay everyone, we want to support work-life balance and make sure you put in your vacation time,” really passively. Or you can sit down with your team and say, “I don’t have vacation time requests, it’s mid-year, from you, you, and you, I need those today. Let’s sit down and look at our calendar, figure out when this is going to happen.” And like really leading that and creating the space for it and supporting people’s decisions. It’s not enough to say like, “Oh yeah, I want people to use their vacation time.” You actually have to go in and support people in executing it.
Sundae: It’s so much more. There’s so much more nurturing I think because you are nurturing a culture, you are creating it is a culture and we all have to shed what we bring with us as expectations from a place of fear, from a place of experience, from a place of our own cultural norms. And I think that’s one thing that as a leader in my own company, I had to learn, I have to invest there to nurture that culture in my community. I can’t just recruit well, I have to then create culture once we’re there.
I want to make sure we have a couple minutes to just focus on you for a second. One of the things that I always do with guests is ask about their own places of being IN TRANSIT. And I talk about ATT which is Ambitious Transformation in Transition. I’d love to hear from you. Where are you IN TRANSIT right now in your life and your work or wherever you feel like sharing?
Trudi: Yeah, so I just announced a year-long transformation project actually. And so what has become clear in the last couple months is that I really need to move into a space where I have the time to invest in like creative projects and more idea generation, more writing, instead of being so embedded in the day-to-day of the company. We’re just kind of at that point. And because I’ve seen people go through this kind of transition where you know the demands on their time are increasing, their company is growing. And what sometimes happens, I’ve seen that the number of times, is that they get the entrepreneur, the leader of the company gets too busy and all of a sudden it seems like they’ve disappeared from their company. And they’re not like seeing clients anymore and they hired a bunch of staff.
And so that can often leave people feel like the rug was pulled from under them like that they maybe they bought something thinking one person was going to deliver it and they didn’t. Or the person is so day-to-day and operations of the company that If they’re gone, now, things are falling through the cracks and they just didn’t realize how much of an impact that would have. So I know that that’s where – that’s kind of what it’s happening.
And so, instead of just seeing what happens and riding it out, I’m being really intentional. And so I’ve told people, I’ve written to our community, email community. I’ll be talking about it a lot this year is that I’m going on a one-year transition plan. So that the fall of next year, actually, September 11th of next year, which is the 10 year anniversary of the company that I am going to remove myself from the day-to-day operations, and teaching in our certification program.
So right now, I deliver a lot of the teaching in our coach trough. I see a lot of clients during the week still. I’m very involved in our consulting clients and I want to reduce the number of hours I spend coaching within a year by like 70%. Between 50 and 75% of my coaching hours, coaching, teaching facilitating will be cut. So I’ll have about 25% of what I do right now that will be dedicated to a mentorship that I run called the Liberatory Leader Mentorship. And so I’ll continue to do that and a couple of strategic kind of coaching partnerships with our bigger, more complex projects.
And then we’re going to kind of train our, not train but transition one of our team members into more of an operations director role to kind of run the day-to-day. We will add some teaching staff to our – add faculty members to teaching. So that’s a big transition that I’ll be navigating. And that I really want to do transparently over the course of the year.
So this year will be a lot of that, a lot of work, a lot of all hands on deck, and then I’ll take 8 weeks about, at the end of the year. So once we have like a big 10-year anniversary celebration and then I’ll take two months off. And when I come back again, it’ll be in that role of visionary, creative, strategic thinker. Still CEO but with someone who’s really kind of running the day-to-day operation so that I can be thinking about growth and doing more speaking and writing and things like that. So that is yeah, that’s a year-long transformation that were just kind of rolling off.
Sundae: It’s a lot. So what are you doing to shape that? So it’s going in the direction that you envision for you personally, a person?
Trudi: So what that looks like is we’ve rearranged this our schedule so that I have so that we have really clear times that I’m like teaching with clients. My availability is like really clear and then we have the days that I’m not. That the task is going to be that when I’m not that the team tries to run things without me. So putting these scaffolds in place, communicating with clients, to set the expectation with clients, really over serving the clients that we’re going to have this year, because the idea is we’re about to graduate our first class of students, officially. And so we’ll have some of those people are going into, just a couple of people who’ve been through our program are going into a fellowship so that they get mentoring and training to become faculty members. So really having this intentional training of people to be able to deliver the content with this clear intent that they’re gonna take over these classes. So that’s a big one.
Also, being really intentional about my downtime. So I started something a couple months ago, where I email our community every Friday and I’m like, “Hey, here’s my weekend practice. This is kind of what I’m doing.”
I’m reporting out on, if I worked too much or plan to work. And what’s great about those that people have started to write us back and share what they’re doing on the weekends, and just having again, being really intentional about how we’re spending time. Because there was a couple months ago where I was like, “Oh I’ve worked every weekend for the last few months.”
Sundae: That’s too much.
Trudi: And I just wasn’t being intentional about it, right? So yeah just increasing the intentionality around capacity and space. Planning to do more, train the trainer type activities this year, and really getting clear with the team on what are the things where they have ownership in power, what I don’t need to be involved in. And really training people to think, to understand how I make decisions so that they don’t have to ask me to make them so that they just kind of have more of a roadmap to decide and how to make decisions not the way that I would make them but in a way that is aligned with our company values and what the company requires them to do.
Sundae: That’s massive. So the one question I was going to ask is what’s considered “ambitious” for you right now and for me, that whole story feels very ambitious.
Trudi: It’s ambitious, very ambitious. It’s a little scary too because it’s ambitious technically, right? It’s a big lift and then like emotionally, there’s this part of it that’s ambitious that is going to require me to really trust a system, trust the system that we build to continue to work without me. And I think in coaching, this world that we live in, that we work in, it’s so easy to build something that just becomes all about the personal brand of the person. And the intention was always that this company would be something that was team led. And although there are things happening in my life that are definitely more – that kind of live in like the personal brand thing, essentially what we’re talking about over this year is separating my personal brand from the company brand. There’s some ambitiousness around just the emotional part of that, I’m gonna have to let some things go.
Sundae: Trudi, you’re like the head chef of a high-quality slow food restaurant.
Trudi: I love that.
Sundae: You’re so intentional in the selection of your ingredients. What you’ll be serving people, their experience, the quality that comes out of your kitchen. So to speak. That’s what you get. And I think you have such a unique combination of the equity lens, and the business lens, and the coaching lens that I see why you do consulting in other fields as well, because that adds so much value, long-term sustainable impact.
And this is something I didn’t say to you. When I started reading this book, I actually teared up and it shocked me. I was like, surprised, like, “Why am I tearing up? I’ve read this material.” But I think what it was is I realized that our work together changed the trajectory of how I show up with the people that I lead inside my team, with my clients and how I want to engage, also with other businesses. And it is one of those changes that, like I said, it’s not a caterpillar to butterfly overnight. It’s one of these small cellular things, but I know in 5 years, in 10 years, the trajectory has been shifted for me.
So I just want to thank you for that as well. It’s really amazing what you’re doing.
Trudi: Thank you. Thank you.
Sundae: I know that our time is coming to a close. I’ll make sure that people can find your book and your podcast and your site and your coaching resources in the show notes, but please go ahead and tell people the best way that they can learn more about you and your work.
Trudi: The best way is to come and hang out with me on Instagram. So come follow me on Instagram. Send me a DM. I check my DMs and respond to them. Definitely, the best place to come and just start to get familiar with the community.
Sundae: It’s wonderful. So thank you Trudi for today. It’s meant the world to me to have you here,
Trudi: And thank you for having me.
Sundae: Thank you for those who are listening. This is a lot if this is new to you. If you are new to this context, I encourage you to check out Trudi’s book, her podcast, or Instagram, all of that, and hang out in the space. You’re going to learn a lot in a way that is truly transformational.
You’re here with me Sundae Bean with IN TRANSIT. And I’m going to leave you with a quote that I found at the start of Trudi’s book by Angela Davis. And I know it’s something that Trudi lives by based on what I’ve seen. “You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world and you have to do it all the time.”
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