In this continuing series, we are highlighting Partners and the skills they bring to the SVP Portland Partnership.
Richard Eaton (or Dick to his friends and co-workers) is from Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. After gaining sales, marketing, and management experience in the corporate sector, Dick committed himself to executive leadership coaching and team development as Chief Energizing Officer and Executive Leadership Coach at Leapfrog Innovations. As a management consultant who specializes in organizational behavior and leadership coaching, he has practiced an SVP-like model for years–helping enhance the capacities of leaders and improve the performance of teams and their organizations. He has always maintained two or three pro-bono assignments along with his paying gigs. So, when he moved to Portland around a decade ago, he sought out connections to find somewhere to volunteer his time.
Q: How did you discover SVP?
A: When I moved here, I didn’t know one single person except my three kids and my ex-wife. So, I started from scratch networking, which was really stimulating and really different, having been in Boston for most of my adult life.
I was looking around for interesting people and I came across Terry St. Marie and his blog about leadership. I reached out to him cold. We became friends and we’d have coffee every once in a while. He was very connected into a number of different communities. Through him I got involved with Oregon Entrepreneur Network. And he was the Board Chair of SVP Portland. He reached out to me one day and suggested it would be really good if I talked with Mark Holloway (then-CEO of SVP Portland) about leadership coaching.
Q: In essence, then, you were going to work with SVP as SVP works with its Community Partners, to help SVP become a stronger and a more effective organization?
A: Exactly. I have certain criteria for the assignments that I take pro bono, and I really do resonate very powerfully with the venture philanthropy model and the brilliance of that. It just makes so much sense. And particularly, because I work with a lot of people who are in the latter stages in their careers, and they often ask: what do I do with all this experience and skill and talent that I have? I really connect with the practice that SVP applies and so that’s one of the reasons I chose SVP — this is a really powerful approach to helping.
Q: Are they other ways you found alignment with SVP?
A: I was very attracted by the discipline that SVP has around being focused on one thing. Preschool readiness for all makes a lot of sense to me. It wasn’t on my radar before. But then, reading the research and hearing the why behind the goal, it rang as powerfully important. And I was very much drawn to the organization by the combination of Terry and Mark’s commitment and passion.
Q: Are there ways that SVP has changed you?
A: My experiences with SVP have further opened my eyes regarding my privilege as a white male born into comfortable circumstances. Through discussions, interactions with staff, Board members and Partners, presentations, and workshops I’m becoming increasingly aware of the lenses through which I see the world and how others see and experience the same world. This is changing the way I listen, perceive, and behave… and is just the starting point for continued learning and shifts I am committed toward.
Q: We know you’re someone who loves to continue to learn and grow. What is it that you hope to gain through your engagement with SVP?
A: In addition to the above, SVP has created (and will continue to create, I’m sure) lots of opportunities for me to stretch and grow and enhance my capacities as a coach/facilitator/consultant/human capital developer. Having the opportunity to be the executive coach for Mark and Lauren, invest in team development for the internal team, facilitate Board meetings, work with Partners to add coaching skills to their toolsets, and contribute to the Marketing & Development Committee — these are all opportunities for me to learn and grow by helping SVP build its own capacity to serve Community Partners and the greater community.
Q: Tell us about your interests outside of your work. We’ve heard you referred to as a modern-day Renaissance man.
A: Outside of my focus on my 3 kids, I like to paint, throw pottery with my wheel, I am a Reiki Master (which is a type of energy healing), and I love to play pickleball. I have played tennis, squash, and ping pong, but about four years ago I ran into pickleball in Lake Oswego. There’s tons of laughter, it’s very social, and you can play at any level. There’s not a lot of running but you need to make quick movements. It’s great exercise and it’s fun.
I’ve been painting for about 20 years. It is a spiritual journey for me, a way to understand myself. It awakens me to my own thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. I was an art history major and I know what good art is, but for a long time didn’t feel like I was making it. But I have gotten better over the years and now more often than not like my paintings.
Right now I have two paintings hanging at the Oregon Society of Artists. Twice a year they have a show that artists can apply to be included in. They have a jury which selects the paintings for the show and also which ones get awards. I was awarded 2nd place in the current show. If you go to my Instagram, there is a picture of me with a mask with the award. And the painting actually sold, which is very gratifying.