Is it Time to Do Some Pruning?

I was pruning my rosebushes this weekend, trying to promote some new flower growth.  This is an important thing for most flowering plants, because they’ll continue to send energy and nutrients to all parts of the plant – even the diseased and already-bloomed parts.  The plant doesn’t know it’s wasting fuel and energy.

When you prune properly, you help your flowering plants to use their energy wisely.  The plant can no longer waste, so it only flows nutrients to areas that can really flourish.  As a result you see the fruits and blooms of energy well spent!

This same concept applies well to leadership.

As I’ve witnessed and worked with newer leaders and leaders with increasing responsibility, this seems to be one of their greatest challenges: knowing where and how to spend their time; understanding where they can be most effective.  One of the biggest barriers to their success is that everyone wants a piece of their time.  Everyone.

A great leader knows where to prune.  They’re able to assess what needs to be off-loaded or delegated, and when they should just plain say “no!”  They know where to target their energy instead; where they can make the greatest impact.

Here are four categories of “disease” that require pruning for the health of your leadership, team and organization.  Leaders should explore these carefully to determine what makes the cut!

  • Time-Wasters – anything that makes you busy but can’t be traced to productivity. And don’t think for a second that building necessary relationships falls into this category! That very much factors into your success and productivity as a leader!
  • Energy Vampires – the people who bring you down every time.  They make you feel “less than” on a regular basis.  Instead, surround yourself with positive people, as well as those that will challenge and support your growth and learning.  Oh, and make sure you eat and drink to support healthy energy levels too…and I’m not talking about pounding Red Bull, either, by the way!  (Caffeine SO dehydrates you!)
  • Bottom Feeders – those low performing, never going to get out of your bottom 10%, but takes up so much of your time and energy employees.  Sorry, it’s the hard truth.  They’re probably not in the right job, and frankly, you’d be doing them a favor by letting them go, so they can perform well (and feel better about themselves) in the right position!  Then, you can invest your time more wisely with your superstars and up-and-comers who bring results and energize those around them.
  • Culture Killers – any people or practices that do not align with what you preach about your culture.  People whose actions don’t support the culture only contaminate others – and this disease spreads.  You can’t let them infect others.  And, you must look closely at your policies and practices too. Many times they don’t encourage behaviors that would help the culture to flourish.  If they don’t, they’re not needed anymore.

If leaders can pinpoint these and carefully prune them, they can focus their energy on vision, positive momentum and growth, building teams, culture and leadership.

It’s widely known that you can identify a tree by its fruit.  Only with careful attention, proper pruning and focused energy on the right things can the fruits of success grow.

Is it time for you to do some pruning?  What other signs do you look for?

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker.  Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life. 



Who is Your Fanbassador?

My family and I are hosting an Ice Cream Social later this afternoon.  We’re going to share our very favorite, hometown ice cream with more than 50 friends in our new community.

Graeter’s ice cream is widely known – and loved – throughout the Midwest.  Even Oprah endorsed it as “the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.”

Recognizing their loyal following, the family-owned company is leveraging their fan-base to help soften and ultimately open new and larger markets across the country.  Their strategy is brilliant and closely related to an approach I often use to coach clients.

Graeter’s is leveraging Sponsors.

On their Facebook page about a month ago, Graeter’s announced that they were looking for fans in several specific markets.  Their shout-out called for people to step up as “Fanbassadors;” people within those markets willing to host others for the sole purpose of introducing them to Graeter’s famous ice cream.

I am a native-Cincinnatian, and I jumped at this chance to put our name (and taste) on the line and to bring something we love to our new home city.  Luckily, we were selected, and we received a Fanbassador package in the mail with coupons, balloons, stickers and more.  And we feel privileged by this honor, because we know people will discover something new to love!

Graeter’s could have just as easily – or possibly more easily – hired a market research company to investigate these new markets.  They could have studies trends, demographics, competition and more.  I’m sure they are doing these things, too…but what I love is that they’re asking and leveraging the people who love them the most to prepare the market for them; to help sponsor their success.  There’s no better endorsement!

They know our passion will come through.  In fact, Graeter’s gave us five free pints to throw this introduction party.  I bought another eighteen pints on my own, because we’re so excited to invite my children’s classmates!  We’ve got skin in the game.  We’re willing to risk our reputation on something we believe in.

Why? Because, we want a Graeter’s ice cream shop here!  We believe it will add value to our neighborhood.  It’s not just about us – it’s about a greater good; what’s good for the area (and an old-fashioned ice cream shop with homemade chocolate is a good thing!)  It supports family, tradition, quality ingredients and simple charm.

Sponsors are willing to attach their name to you.  They take actions to help you successfully progress in your career.  They know that doing so will help the organization overall, and so they leverage their position, contacts and knowledge to help you grow.  A sponsor is your Fanbassador, and they should help you open new doors.

Consider where you want to go next in your career.  What does that look like and who would be willing to help you get there?  Studies show that Sponsorship can increase your ability to get there.  Who would be willing to buy eighteen extra pints for you?  Ask them specifically to sponsor you (as opposed to, or in addition to mentoring you!)  Someone this excited about you will surely help you get there!!  (And Graeter’s, we can’t wait to be at your Grand Opening in Dallas!) 🙂

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and is a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker.  Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life.

Do Your Actions Support Your Values?

I dropped my daughter off at elementary school the other morning and had to do a double-take on a mother who was just coming out of the school.  What made me look twice was her outfit.

She wore a very fitted designer t-shirt (huge logo on the front.)  That wasn’t so bad…except that the length of her shirt exposed her entire mid-section.  Combined with her low-rise jeans, she was exposing quite a bit of skin…to drop her children off at school.

I wondered immediately, what message is she trying to send?  Is it about designer fashion?  Fitness or weight?  Wanting to be desired or praised by others?

I thought about her children, and I wondered if she thought of them when she got dressed.

I bet she doesn’t want them to get their confidence from wearing certain labels or from having a specific appearance, I thought.  As a mother, I have to believe she wants more for them.  I have to believe she wants them to be authentic and to be liked and valued for who they are; not what they look like or wear.

But weren’t her actions speaking louder? And weren’t they sending a conflicting message?  How will her children understand what’s truly important?

Does this ever happen to you?  Are your behaviors in alignment with your values?

Whether we are leaders in our homes or leaders in an organizational setting, we have to model behavior that is consistent with our values.

People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.  ~Lewis Cass

Actions do, in fact, speak louder than words.  People see what you do, and if it doesn’t align with what you’ve said, then you’ve immediately lost their trust, their admiration, and their willingness to follow.  And worst yet, your words have lost their meaning and value.

What effect would that have on your company?  Your team?  Your family?

As we lead, we must consider our priorities, beliefs and values.  They cannot be swept under the rug.  They must be lived.

What values does your company profess?  Putting clients first?  Treating fellow employees with respect?  Being thrifty with spending?

What values do you uphold as a family?  Kindness to others?  Integrity?  Always doing what’s right?

Take a few moments and think about your actions over the last week.  Are you living out what you claim to hold important?  It’s a tough question we should all challenge ourselves with.  We are, after all, human.  We can, so often, get distracted or derailed.  What’s important, though, is that we recognize it, and then we commit to making the necessary changes to bring us back to the best of who we are.

Support what you say.  Model your values.  Let your actions do the speaking, because they’re what people hear anyway.

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and is a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker.  Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life.

You’re Welcome…or Are You?

This week, our family brought home a new puppy.  “Nati,” as we call her, just may be the sweetest 12-week-old boxer we’ve ever met.  She left her home that included her two brothers from the same litter and both parents.  Now, she is the newest one in our home, and it’s our job to make her feel welcomed, loved, safe and secure.

We’ve been cognizant of this, knowing she must be a bit frightened in unfamiliar surroundings with all new people (and no other dogs.)  For the past few days, we have adjusted our normal routine to make sure Nati feels confident and knows that she can flourish in our family.  We want to bring out her puppy playfulness and diminish any fear and skittishness.

As many of you know, I recently relocated to Dallas from Cincinnati, where I grew up.  I’ve been pushing myself “out there” to meet new people and get connected in my local area.  I also reached out to several social media connections and friends-of-friends who share similar interests.  Even for an outgoing extravert like me, this can be a little intimidating at times.

Several people have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome here in Texas.  Dondi Scumaci, in particular, has increased her supportive and encouraging communication with me.  We’ve never met in person; only through Twitter and Facebook.

Did I mention that Dondi doesn’t even live in the DFW area?  She’s actually in San Antonio but often comes to this region for business and the airport.  That didn’t matter to her.  We are “close enough,” and she offered to meet in person once I feel settled.  This means so much to me, as I admire her professionally and personally; not to mention the fact that I know she is very busy.  And here she is, going out of her way to increase our connection and welcome me to her state.  I’m impressed.  And I’m deeply grateful…especially since everyone I reached out to didn’t take this same initiative.  (One person even “welcomed” me by excitedly trying to sell me a seat at an upcoming seminar she was hosting.  Did she miss that I was looking for connection?)

Dondi personifies a wonderful leadership trait.  She is welcoming.  

When we are welcoming to others, we encourage them to put fear aside and contribute the best of who they are.  We help others to feel comfortable, confident and free to offer opinions, ideas and thoughts.  We encourage creativity, innovation and diversity.  We don’t need everyone to be “just like us,” and we value those differences.

Here are some questions to consider, as you think about how welcoming you are as a leader:

  • Do you seek out people that are new to your organization or new to a position?  Do you go out of your way to ease their fears and bring out their strengths?  Do you offer assistance in breaking down barriers and obstacles to help them become more successful more quickly?  Do you offer to help get them connected to valuable resources more quickly?
  • Do you seek out diversity of thought, background, experience, gender, ethnicity, appearance?  What do you do to invite people “not like you” into the conversation and do you try to learn from their unique perspective?  Do you celebrate them and their ideas?
  • Do you seek to add value in every personal encounter?  Do you regularly ask, “How can I help you?” or “What can I do to help you be more successful?”
  • Do you very simply smile and make direct eye contact?  Do you know people by name and/or know a few personal things about them?  Do you ask open-ended questions and sincerely listen to their responses?

In every situation, both professional and personal, we should all strive to make people feel welcome and to welcome their thoughts and ideas.  Leadership is not about you; it’s truly about everyone else.  The more you show them you care, the more they will give you their best in return.

Do your best to look for someone who may need to feel welcomed.  Be a leader.  Be an example.  Be an inspiration.  Be the bright spot in someone’s day.  Be the one.  I welcome you to try!

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and is a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker.  Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life.

Are You a Win-Win Leader?

Leadership is such a hot topic these days.  I notice that it still means different things to different people.  It manifests in unique and authentic ways for each individual.  It can be seen at all levels of an organization and even outside of traditional corporate settings.

In all of these variances, there is at least one thing that should be consistent.  We should always be intentionally seeking a WIN-WIN scenario.  I don’t consistently see this, though…do you?

I see leaders interested in a WIN for themselves or for their organization.  They want the best deals from their vendors, even if it doesn’t equate to a good partnership or smart business for those “partners.”  They want long hours and multiple jobs performed by each employee, even when their employees are over-worked and under-appreciated.  They look for service and benefits from everyone else, without considering how they can make a contribution in return.

Likewise, I see generous and selfless leaders that are more interested in giving than receiving.  Often times, they’re so focused on others that they can neglect themselves and their own needs, and sometimes even their organizational goals.  They might serve to their own detriment. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of servant leadership, and I believe firmly in the value of giving to others…including times when the giver doesn’t benefit at all (other than from the wonderful effects of giving!)  I would like to suggest, however, that our first goal should always be to seek the WIN-WIN.  Yes, I do believe there are times when we can all walk away winners!

It seems to me that not enough leaders are starting out with this as their first and foremost goal…and it should be (because I think there are more out there to be had!)  Your employees and vendors should truly be winning partners in your efforts.  You can serve their needs and get value as well.  It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad leader.  In fact, if you can accomplish WINS across the board, I’d say you’re a pretty fantastic leader!

So, how can you set your sights on the WIN-WIN?  Consider these three steps and a simple acronym:

What does the ideal state look like?  This is the question you should always ask, instead of just following suit and doing things the way they’ve always been done.  Look at each new situation and think outside of the box when considering solutions.  While status quo is the easiest scenario, it’s often not the best one.  Consider what would create a winning scenario for each of the players involved and see if that can be accomplished.  Who cares if it hasn’t been done before?!  The question is can it be done? When your goal is the best-case scenario, and that scenario is focused on providing value to each of the parties involved, you just might find that you get there.

Include others’ needs in your goal.  It’s not just about you.  You must consider the needs and goals of others as well.  How can you accomplish what you need while providing for one of their needs at the same time?  This is what partnership and teamwork look like.  You must work together toward a common goal.  How can you encourage higher levels of engagement and partnership, so that in the end all parties are motivated to get results?  What do they need to accomplish in addition to you?  Make sure you understand that clearly.

Never be too stubborn to compromise.  (That’s spoiled four-year old behavior!)  Prioritize your needs and goals and decide what’s most important to you.  What’s a must-have versus a nice-to-have?  Be ready to consider what you may have to sacrifice in order to achieve the larger WIN.  If you’re clear on your goals and their rank order, you might see that certain sacrifices are well worth their price to achieve something you value much more.  It makes the negotiating effort worth it and the celebration a great WIN for all!

If you sought the WIN-WIN in every situation, would anything be different?  What if your organization created a WIN-WIN culture?  What would need to change and how might this new organization be different?

Erin Schreyer is a certified Leadership Coach and Strengths Trainer.  She is President of Sagestone Partners and Founder of the non-profit organization, Authentic Leadership Cincinnati.  Connect with Erin via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or email.

Could 2011 Be the Year of The Incredibles?

With the freezing temperatures as of late, we’ve nestled into a warm family tradition of Friday night family movie night.  We all snuggle on the couch together, covered in a blanket, and we watch a movie that we’ll all enjoy together.

This past weekend, we chose the Disney/Pixar hit movie, The Incredibles.  The plot, in many ways is the biography of Mr. Incredible, who for several reasons (against his will) chooses to disguise his superhero identity and live a life as a simple insurance agent, known as Bob Parr.  Bob’s wife and children, who also have super powers, hide their special skills too and do their best to fit in as “normal.”

Although Mr. Incredible tries to appear as if he’s like everyone else, hiding the best of who he is slowly sucks the life out of him.  He’s unhappy, he’s not as good of a father or husband, he gets out of shape and he’s frustrated with just about everything and everyone.  He knows he has so much more to contribute; so much that can make a difference, but he’s lot allowed to bring it.

Does this sound like your workplace?  Does your company stifle people, or do they bring out the best that everyone can offer?  Do the leaders challenge and energize everyone around them, or are they slowly sucking their life out?

To read the remainder of this post, please click here to go to Achieved Strategies, where this entire post is hosted, and where I am honored to be a guest blogger in a great series, called “Revive & Thrive.”

Want to do the Right Thing? Either Engage or Please Quit!

As a Leadership and Talent Management Coach and consultant, you can probably guess that I spend a significant amount of time focused on employee engagement issues.  Sometimes, it’s the company that comes to me, asking how they can get their people more connected, more inspired or simply retained.  Other times, I find that I may need to suggest and encourage a company to give a little more attention to employee engagement (or lack thereof.)  Either way, it’s corporate change that I’m often asked to facilitate.

Today, I’m taking a different approach, because I don’t think it’s completely the responsibility of your company to engage you. 

You’re an adult.  A professional.  You have a responsibility too!

When you were hired, you likely went through an interview process, where you were able to share success stories and talk about how talented and effective you are in your profession.  Undoubtedly, you “sold” your employer on the idea that you could make a difference and have a greater impact than the other prospects.  You demonstrated that your “A” game can get results!  Congratulations!! 

I’m wondering… years later…are you still bringing your “A” game?  You’re still getting paid, right?  Your company bought your bill of goods, so to speak.   They agreed to pay you for what you said you would deliver as an employee.  So, is that what you’re giving them?

If you’re not fully engaged in your current position, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to get passionate about what I’m doing at work?  What’s missing?  What do I need more of?  What do I need to minimize?
  2. Talk to your manager about what can change – your role, tasks, projects, etc.  What are the possibilities today and as you grow?
  3. Try to better understand your “purpose” at work.  How are you impacting your company’s mission and/or the people around you?  Are you affecting positive change and can you get excited about it?

 If you work through these questions and are still unable to get excited about what you’re doing, you need to realize that you’re taking advantage of your company. 

What you’re doing isn’t right.

If you went to the doctor because you weren’t feeling well, and the doctor didn’t do everything he or she could do for you, I suspect you wouldn’t be very happy.  Well, you’re supposed to be doing everything you can do for your company while you’re there.  It’s not any different.

Studies suggest that unengaged employees are costing companies thousands of dollars a day.  Unengaged employees can actually be more costly to a company than actual turnover, because they aren’t as productive as they should be, yet they remain.  It’s wasted spending, quite frankly.

Please, if you’re not fully engaged where you are, and you can’t get passionate, then stop taking advantage of your company.  Stop doing things you can get away with, because you’re not getting micro-managed.  Stop taking and start thinking about giving.  Do the right thing for your company and every other employee there.  Give your best; bring your “A” game….or give your company a break and just quit.

It’s a controversial stance I’m taking, I know.  I do believe it’s the ethical thing to do, though.  What else would you offer to the conversation?

 Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners LLC, a Cincinnati-based firm focused on Leadership and Talent Management.  Erin is Founder and Board President of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati, and she’s passionate about helping leaders maximize their effectiveness, influence and positive impact they can have on both people and business results.  Reach Erin directly at