Our Ethos: Strother Gaines

Our Ethos
Minute Read

2021 marks the third year of Ethos as a company. To celebrate how much the team has grown since its beginning, we want to spotlight all of the talented and hardworking individuals who make up our team!

Over the next month, we will discover what each team member enjoys most about working here and what their personal ethos is.

This week’s highlight is Manager of Training and Consulting, Strother Gaines!

Describe your role at Ethos.

I’m the Manager of Training and Consulting, so I’m responsible for production work in both branches of Ethos. I help manage clients and support everyone else on the team in both moving their projects forward and creating a positive work environment. Alida has lovingly branded me the FUNcle of the organization. However, I will soon be transitioning to a consultant role as I make my way back to school for a dual MSW/MBA. While my duties will be changing up soon, my FUNcle status will remain forever.

What made you want to work at Ethos?

Alida and I met at a conference where we were both speaker fellows. I’d like to think we both had an immediate respect for one another, and she was just starting a program at Georgetown in D.C. where I lived at the time. We stayed in touch, and when Ethos was on the hunt for a manager, she reached out to me, as I’d expressed an interest in being a contract facilitator for Ethos if there was ever a need. She asked me to go through the interview process, and we could “see what happens,”

Well, here we are! I saw the opportunity to learn a ton in a short amount of time working with the Ethos team. I basically consider this my pre-grad-school-grad-school. As I angle to integrate therapy into my coaching and experiential design work, I knew having a stronger understanding of DEI principles in practice and in the corporate setting would be hugely valuable to me moving forward. As a Queer man, I’ve always been concerned with social justice and the marginalization of others. As a business owner, I’ve always been concerned with best practices and strategy. I thought working in DEI, in particular with the Ethos team, was a way I could forward both of those passions.

What has been your favorite aspect of working at Ethos?

🐙  ← Inside joke.

In all seriousness, our clients have been truly lovely and inspiring people to work with, but my favorite aspect is getting to work on a team so passionately committed to a goal and also truly wonderful to be around. In my coaching practice, I didn’t have a team to collaborate with outside of those I paid to work with me (a la my coach and consultants), but having a team (particularly a Slack lovin’ team—my GIF game is 🔥), has been really fun for me.

What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

I don’t think it counts as a listed project, but I’ve loved doing team development. It’s a small but mighty team, and it’s a really exciting change of pace for me as a coach and a leader to work so closely with each individual. Using StrengthsFinder as a starting point and then my ontological coaching training to provide support to everyone on the team has been my favorite part of work. From career planning with Lexi and Ponde to strategy sessions with Alida, I’ve really enjoyed these moments of thinking critically and creatively about where we’re all headed both as individuals and as a company.

What do diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging mean to you?

I grew up in a little, tiny rural town in Kentucky. There’s not a lot of diversity there, as you can probably imagine, and I spent a lot of time trying to change who I was to make sure I fit in. I never begrudge anyone who has to do that (sometimes that’s a safety issue less than a popularity issue), but being in a group where you know you’re the odd one out can be challenging, especially if the group isn’t working to find ways to help you feel included.

After leaving my hometown, I’ve always tried to surround myself with a wide range of people. At TBD Immersive (the theatre company I was the Artistic Director for in D.C. pre-pandemic), we often would refer to ourselves as “D.C.’s Island of Misfit Toys,” and I’ve always really resonated with those types of people. I think groups, individuals, companies, etc. are all more interesting when surrounded by or composed of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, but we can’t have that if we’re not turning our eye towards championing equity, intentionally creating inclusion, and fostering belonging.

I’m glad that some have begun adding the B (belonging) to DEI because I remember always feeling turned off by the idea of “acceptance” in the early stages of my coming out. I don’t want to be “accepted” as if I’m a problem that you’re dealing with; I want to feel like I belong and that I’m welcomed. DEIB, I think, is a progression.

Create a diverse group, be sure you are equitable in your treatment of that group, find ways to include each individual, and help them feel not only included but like an invaluable part of the group.

What does the word “ethos” mean to you?

I find myself in our sales meetings saying the phrase, “The ‘ethos’ of Ethos is…,” pretty frequently. I think that an “ethos” is a great way to develop a north star for how you make decisions. There are so many challenging choices to make in life. Where do I go? What do I pursue? Who do I surround myself with? If left to chance, or if we’re always deciding in the moment, I think you miss out on some directionality. Your “ethos” helps you have a standard or a metric you use to navigate your life. Clarity of vision is something I work on with clients all the time and knowing what values, beliefs, and strategies guide your choices is invaluable.

What is your personal ethos? How does it show up in your everyday life?

In my workshops, I often talk about the idea of, “It’s a feature, not a bug,” when it comes to the things that make us different. Many of us spent a lot of our lives being told we’re “a little too much” or “not quite enough,” and I think that messaging encodes itself into our brains, making us search for what’s wrong with us as opposed to what’s right with us. Just like the X-Men, I believe the thing that makes you different from everyone else is the thing that makes you powerful. A strong brand both attracts and repels people, and a strong understanding of self will do the same. Focus on the things that you want, the things that make you unique, and lead with that. This not only attracts the right people into your life but also helps get rid of those that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place. Let your freak flag fly and carve out the space that actually fits you—not the one you’ve been shoved into.

Photos by Tembo Tones

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