Do I Have Food Stuck In My Teeth?

After any meal, we’ve all had to ask, “Do I have food stuck in my teeth?”  It’s a common problem that can happen to most of us… and when it does happen, we’re frequently unaware of that horrifyingly large broccoli morsel that’s now front-and-center of our smile! J


We have to ask others, because we just don’t know what they can see that we, ourselves, cannot.  It’s also important to ask, because other people rarely bring it to your attention (even though it would prevent you from feeling SO embarrassed!)


I use this analogy, because it’s common….just as common as leaders believing that their perceptions of themselves and their organizations are spot on.  The truth is accurate awareness can be hard to capture, and it takes work. 


We all do and say things that affect those around us.  Hopefully, we’re authentic and consistent, so we’re easy to “figure out.”  But there always seem to be things that we do that we’re not even aware of.  They may not even be intentional, but things can spin out of control from just one simple misunderstanding.  


Do you recall the sitcom, “Three’s Company” with John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt?  I loved that show.  I laughed at every episode. If you look back, you’ll notice a common theme.  Almost every single episode was a result of someone projecting an image, saying something or doing something that was not what they intended.  They had no idea that someone misunderstood, and it turned into a comedy of errors.  That’s fun to watch on a sitcom, but it’s not what you want happening with your business.


Why is awareness so important for leaders?


Awareness allows us to lead with our strengths and empower others’ strengths.  It’s so important to know when to lead and when to follow.  You can engage and motivate people by leveraging them where you need them most AND where they are most skilled.  This brings out the best in everyone and produces greater results.  Self awareness, as well as team awareness is critical to implement this strengths-based approach.


Awareness allows us to address issues.  As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  But guess what?  If you don’t even know it’s broken, then you don’t know to fix it!  Think about taking golf lessons.  One of the first things commonly done nowadays is to video the client’s swing.  Why?  Because people, although controlling their body, may not realize how their unintentionally moving throughout their swing!  They may not even accept it until they see it….and video doesn’t lie.  We have to be aware (or be made aware!) to change behaviors or offer the right support.


Awareness leads to continual improvement.  Similar to the point made above, if we’re aware (and accurate in that awareness) then we know what to address for improvement and further development.  Don’t just assume you have the most accurate assessment of yourself, your organization or your clients – ask them!!  By asking for honest, direct feedback from others (and letting them know it’s safe to do this!) you’ll better understand others’ perspectives, improve your performance and better meet their needs.  Tools such as 360 degree assessments and “Voice of the Customer” surveys can be valuable in gaining this insight.


Awareness strengthens relationships.  As you become more aware of yourself, your actions and words and how those are received, it allows you to make choices that will better serve your team.  In addition, with more awareness of one another, your team is also enabled to be more understanding of (and even appreciate!) each others’ perspectives and styles.  This could lead to breakthroughs in team-building, employee morale and motivation.


If you want to be the most effective leader, be sure that you have a keen awareness of your style and how it’s received by others.  Ask your employees – at all levels – about their opinions and feedback on the organization.  What do they love?  What would they change?  Find out from your clients why they work with you, how your serve them better than competitors and what more could you be doing for them?  The answers to these questions will help you and your organization create the best strategies for success!


As a leader, what’s one thing you can do this week to test if your self-assessment is accurate?  How can you ensure honest feedback?  Also consider, how can you provide feedback to someone else (the truth with love) to help them improve?  Please don’t let them sit there with broccoli in their teeth!!


Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, a leadership and talent management coaching firm in Cincinnati, OH.  Erin is passionate about helping leaders to maximize their effectiveness, to make the most positive impact on their people and to successfully grow their business.  She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati, a non-profit organization formed to develop, encourage and support values-infused and people-focused leadership.  Erin can be reached at

Leadership Lessons from a Century


"Female Cyclist" by Michael Lee

"Female Cyclist" by Michael Lee

This weekend, I accomplished something I had never done before.  After months of training, I completed my first “century ride” – that’s 100 miles on a bike, for those that may not know the cycling terminology.  On one of the most beautiful days I can remember in Cincinnati, I spent more than six hours on my bike, riding next to my husband through rural towns north of Cincinnati.  It was both tiring and exhilarating!  During the hours that I pedaled, my mind wandered, as I thought of the many leadership analogies I could draw from this experience.

 Leaders Set “Stretch Goals”

 The best leaders are not happy with the status quo.  They look for ways to stretch themselves and their teams.  By pushing a little further, they know they can get the best out of everyone, including themselves.  Yes, sometimes this means taking on a bit of risk; going to places they’ve never gone before…but leaders know if they’re not moving forward, they’re stagnant.  John Maxwell said it best, “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”

 Prior to this weekend, the longest ride I had ever done was 65 miles.  Could I do 35 more miles?  That’s a big difference; a lot of miles, and I knew it would require more than I had ever given to this sport.  It was a risk to some extent.  I didn’t know if my body could handle the physical requirements.  I’ve had both back and knee trouble in the past, but I weighed the risk and made the decision to go for it!  I’ve always loved a good challenge – and a century would definitely provide a challenge!

 Leaders Create and Adhere to Strategic Plans

 A critical success factor of leadership is, of course, leading the team to the end goal.  Once a stretch goal has been set, leaders need to figure out the best way to achieve that goal.  They need to think creatively and strategically, and they need to keep everyone on track and focused on how to get there.  As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry states, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

 Once I made the decision to do a century ride, I turned to expert cyclists and experienced centurions for advice on training plans, supplements and tips for success.  I drew up a plan, marked dates and mileage on my calendar and forced myself to adhere to it.  Life doesn’t always make it easy to follow a plan, and the many distractions of work, friends and other responsibilities sometimes made it quite difficult…but I knew I needed to follow the plan to accomplish this goal and to give it my all.

 Leaders Know How and When to Remain Steady

 We’ve all heard it before – “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”  Even with the best strategic plans, there’s always something that will come across a leader’s path to make them question the route they’re taking.  Unless there is a very compelling reason to change the plans, leaders have to maintain confidence and a strong backbone to follow-through on the plans that have been made.  They need to be able to discern between a bump in the road or a huge roadblock that requires redirection.

 During the course of the bike ride, there were several bumps in the road – a pothole here, a tree root there, or perhaps a squirrel scurrying across the bike path.  Regardless, I had to remain focused and balanced on the bike to keep my pace and to not lose control (which can be tricky sometimes when you’re down on your handlebars and your feet are clipped in!!)  Not only that, but there was one point where the bike path had a large intersection of paths that continued in several directions.  We had to make a decision on which way to proceed.  Ultimately, we chose the path that would ensure the end goal – 100 miles –without question, could be attained.

 Leaders Remain Focused When Times are Tough

 There’s an old saying, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring.  They are merely recognized there.”  Essentially, it’s not the win that makes us champions; it’s the endurance, the training, the focus!  Every leader will face challenges and may feel discouraged; however, staying true to a good plan that incorporates the right elements will eventually bring the desired results.  Leaders must exercise the right combination of focus and patience to endure these low points.

 Likewise, I can tell you that miles 80-85 were tough for me.  I began to question myself, my strength, my endurance, even my training plan.  Did I do the right things?  Had I done enough?  Am I really prepared to finish this?  At mile 85, my body got a second wind and my spirit, as well, was lifted.  “I can do this!” I told myself…and I was grateful that I had stayed the course.  My patience and endurance had been rewarded with the return of a good rhythm that carried me through to the end.

 Leaders Find Ways to Motivate and Encourage

 While it’s important to stay focused and to be prepared for obstacles ahead, leaders know that they have to keep their team motivated and engaged along the way.  They encourage and reward the right behaviors displayed by their team.  They celebrate milestones and small successes along the way.  This positive reinforcement helps fuel the team for the larger goals that still lie ahead, and it also helps them to enjoy the ride along the way.

 For me, one of the motivators along the ride was the scenery, as we approached each new town in this rural part of northern Cincinnati that I had never seen.  I could easily imagine how these towns were bustling with activity along the former railway, which was now the bike path we were traveling.  There were beautiful, restored farm houses, quaint little communities and colorful fields of crops and flowers.  I couldn’t wait to go another mile ahead to see what awaited us in this beautiful countryside that looked so different from home.  It was, indeed, a reward for me to see the creative pictures nature would display.

 Leaders Know When to Lead and When to Empower Others

 The best leaders aren’t just leading; they’re building future leaders, and essentially creating their replacements.  They empower their teams, leverage their individual strengths and allow them to shine and gain credit to advance the team as a whole.  Author and Leadership expert, Sheila Murray Bethel writes “If leadership serves only the leader, it will fail.  Ego satisfaction, financial gain, and status can all be valuable tools for a leader, but if they become the only motivations, they will eventually destroy a leader. Only when service for a common good is the primary purpose are you truly leading.”  In other words, the benefit should be for the good of the team, and sometimes that means the leader may be a follower instead.

 This is an important lesson in cycling.  Although it may appear to be an individual sport, the truth is that it’s highly dependent upon the team as a whole.  The key to cycling success is knowing when to draft.  Cycling teams ride in a line, with the leader taking on the wind resistance for the team.  Those following the leader get the benefit of the aerodynamics and don’t have to work as hard.  Just before the leader has exhausted himself, he pulls out of the lead spot and the next rider, who is more refreshed, takes the position for his team.  I experienced the benefit of this when following behind my husband, and I admit that I was grateful to take the ‘back seat’! (I’m pretty sure he was happy to help me accomplish my feat as well!!)

 Leaders Create Peer Groups

 Just as the power of drafting shows the benefit of a team, leaders should identify individuals and peer groups where they can go for support.  Sometimes, leaders need a sounding board and a group of trusted advisors outside of their own organization.  These ‘peer groups’ can foster brainstorming, creative problem-solving or simply provide encouragement during a difficult time.  The resulting camaraderie can help leaders to stay fresh and positive for their teams.

 At first I was giggling at myself when I made the decision to bring my Blackberry along for my ride.  I did it primarily to bring along my community of Twitter friends; thinking it might be fun to share my experience, and knowing that I am blessed with a group of supportive friends there.  As it turns out, I tweeted about four times during the ride.  Each time I picked up my Blackberry to send the latest update, I was amazed and overwhelmed by the outpouring of supportive tweets purposefully crafted to energize me in my endeavor.  I literally felt as if I had a cheering section full of people who believed in me.  For this peer group, in particular, I am profoundly grateful.  The fuel was effective, indeed!

 Leaders Celebrate the Win!

 At the end of a long project, there is nothing that caps it off better than celebrating the win!  Leaders focus on the positive efforts and events that got them to a successful completion.  They celebrate the achievement with their team, and they give credit where credit is due.  Of course, there may be things that could be improved for the next project, but a positive leader will focus on what went well and encourage those behaviors.  They end the project by praising and rewarding the efforts – celebrating the victory! 

 As I neared the finish line of my event, I had a huge surge of adrenaline that pushed me over the line with one final sprint – a strong finish! (WOO HOO!!)  Within seconds I was giving thanks and praise for a healthy body, a supportive husband and friends, and a picture-perfect day for our ride!  We packed up our gear, drove home to our family and celebrated the accomplishment together…with hugs, kisses and chocolate mousse cake to top it all off!!  What a fine way to end the day and my first century ride (and yes…I will be doing another!!)

 Leaders – how are you stretching yourselves and your teams?  What are some of your strategies for success?  I encourage you to share your stories here to inspire others!

 Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about helping people and organizations achieve success and become their best.  You can find more information at

“Mac-Daddy” Servant Leadership


I recently had a surprisingly bad experience with a sales telemarketer for a television service provider (who will remain unnamed.)  He asked to speak with my husband, and I politely replied that he wasn’t home and asked if I could take a message.  He took the opportunity to introduce himself and his company, to which I replied, “oh, thanks for your call, but we’re not interested in switching services at this time.”

 Not only did the telemarketer rudely remind me that he didn’t want to talk to me – (he had asked to talk with my husband) but he continued to go on selling…and hard.  He repeatedly asked me how many TVs we own, and I thanked him again and said “we’re just not interested.”  This time his response was, “I didn’t ask if you were interested.  I asked how many TVs you have!!”  Are you kidding me?!!!

 Now, I should probably clarify that I’m typically very nice to salespeople.  My husband and I have both grown careers in the business development arena, so I have a great respect for good salesmanship.  Even though it can get frustrating to receive telemarketing calls at dinner time, I am always respectful to the people on the other end.  I’m sure it’s a frustrating job they have!

 That said, I have always approached any business development opportunity as a Servant Leader, and I expect others to do the same.  By that, I mean that I try to understand what issues a client might be having, and I work hard to deliver a solution that will make their job, life, budget, stress-level easier!!  I’m not suggesting that sales give away their products or services.  What I am saying is that they should approach it with an ATTITUDE OF GIVING.  Fix a need, solve a problem…give benefits!!  Great products and services were created for a purpose (and it’s not just to make money!)  What is the purpose?  Understand how it can benefit your potential customer, and solve a problem for them.  Don’t be aggressive and, for the love, please don’t be rude!! 

 I can tell you that I have shared this story with hundreds of people, even prior to writing this blog article.  Not only that, but I can assure you, I will NEVER pay for this television service.  I finally had to hang up on this person, because he just kept on ranting.  He was on a roll and wasn’t going to stop!  I could sense his frustration and anger, and it was coming through loud and clear with his flippant and rude approach.

 And on the Other Side of the Spectrum…

 The very nice flip side of this story is one that was equally surprising to me.  We recently took our family to BW3’s – the kids love the games, music and casual atmosphere (that doesn’t require them to be so ‘hushed.’)

  My daughter, who would not survive without the staple of her diet, macaroni-and-cheese, politely ordered her food.  I watched as the poor server’s smile just drained off his face as he so very apologetically explained that they had just run out.  This sweet, big, burly man felt awful as my daughter sobbed and felt so defeated!!  He immediately started looking for alternative solutions – everything from other menu options to a run back into to kitchen to just be sure that they couldn’t find ANY mac-and-cheese that could be scraped up.  Bless his heart, he tried SO hard!

 In the end, he came back to our table with the grim news – there just wasn’t any available.  At this point, my daughter, who had calmed herself with the hope of just a few little pasta pieces smothered in cheese, lost it completely.  Her world was officially over, and she let everyone know about her crushing blow.  And now I, her mother who clearly did not have control, was officially embarrassed by my daughter’s response….although, I have to admit, I did feel sorry for her (we had set the expectation that she would get her “favorite” mac-and-cheese.)

 Within 60 seconds, a Manager came over to our table.  I thought to myself “great, here’s a younger man, probably without kids, who is going to tell me that my child should stop bothering all of his other customers.”  And who could blame him?  Frankly, my daughter was a lunatic by this time!!  And…there were lots of other “normal” people there – a large group of guys doing a fantasy football draft, families from a local football team that had just finished a practice, young couples out for a fun night of watching sports and having a relaxing meal.  It was not good, and I was sweating at this point!

 To the contrary, this young man came right over with a deep empathy for my daughter.  He had already been made aware of the situation, and he was here to help – a true servant leader – and heck, a Superman, at this point!!  He quickly assured her that he wanted her to be happy – “that’s my job,”  he said. 

 WOW, I thought.  He views his job not just as running the restaurant, but as providing an atmosphere where people can happily enjoy a meal.  That’s really refreshing!

 Justin Bedl is the manager’s name, and with lightning speed, he left the restaurant, went to a local grocery store, and purchased macaroni-and-cheese for my daughter.  (Can’t you just hear the angels singing?)  Not only that, but he didn’t even come back to take credit for it.  He allowed our server to bring the food to my daughter and reap the benefits of her shining, happy smile.  It wasn’t until later that he quietly came over to check with me to be sure that things were finally OK.

 I can’t tell you how much I appreciated Justin’s thoughtful and giving approach.  His quick-thinking and servant leadership style will guarantee that we return…and highly recommend his store location to others.  Kudos to him, his management team, the kind server (whose name I wish I could remember – he deserves thanks as well!) and all the staff at BW-3’s.  What a great experience we had, thanks to them!!

 The moral of the story is this: when you go out of your way to serve others and meet their needs, people are truly grateful…and they remember it. 

Our ‘incident’ happened last week, and I am STILL talking about it.  I didn’t think I would be impacted that night at a buffalo wing eatery, but alas, I was.  Our whole family was!  A servant leader thinks of others first and works to meet their needs.  Our needs, in fact, were more than met.  And our expectations were greatly exceeded.  Nicely done, Justin and team!

 How can you demonstrate a servant leadership approach in your job?  How about at home?  When and how has a Servant Leader made a difference in your life?  Please share your stories and comments.  I’d love to hear them!!

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about leadership and helping people to achieve their greatest potential.  For more information, please visit

Success Story: How One Company Weaves Values into Their Business


I recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting the Executive Team from one of the most impressive companies I’ve seen to date.  Atkins & Pearce is a Northern Kentucky company with a two hundred year heritage as a leading producer of precision-engineered textiles, specifically braids and fibers (think just about anything woven – from your shoelaces, to the cord handle on gift/shopping bags, to the wicks in candles, to sleeving that lines the hoses in your car…and so much more – it’s unbelievable, really!)

So what made them so impressive, you wonder?  Aside from many industry-specific awards and accolades, one additional thing is their rich history as a seventh-generation family-owned company.  Their story is proudly displayed throughout their offices, showing clearly dated customer orders, old black and white photos and original wooden braiding machinery.  The best display, in my opinion, was an order from Cincinnati giant, Procter & Gamble, which was placed in the late 1800s and which lists the details of the order, including the delivery method – “our wagon.”  WOW – they truly are pioneers in this industry!!

But, that’s not the best or most unique thing about them.  What’s so impressive to me is simply this — they get it.  Since their inception so long ago, they have stood firm, never wavering on their commitment to their people.  It’s evident from everything you see in their offices, to every person you speak with, who gushes with pride about the company.  They truly value their people — challenging them to lead from every level; requiring them to respect each other’s ideas and opinions; and considering what’s best for each other ahead of what’s best for their profit.

Sure, we’ve all seen companies who preach similar things.  We’ve seen corporate mission statements hanging in beautiful lobbies with similar wording.  We’ve seen eloquent language on corporate websites.  The difference is, they live their words at Atkins & Pearce.

How can I be so certain?  Well, I talked to a lot of different people – at all levels – while I was there.  They were kind enough to give me a full tour, including a view of their manufacturing area.  In all, I spent a solid two hours there with their team, and I have to admit, I broke into tears several times (for those of you that know me, this will come as no surprise!)  Let me explain a few things that simply left me in awe…

First, there are some simple facts.  Their average tenure of first-shift employees is 14 years.  As anyone would expect, second and third shift is just slightly lower, but still a remarkable 10 years.  Yes, you heard that right – 10 years average tenure, working non-traditional hours in a manufacturing facility – unheard of!  Their most senior employee just retired this year – get this – after 64 years with the company!!  And their current longest-timer is at 51 years with them!  Put simply, they’re clearly showing their people that they care, because their employees obviously want to stay.

Second, the management demonstrates, through both words and actions, that they care about employees…AND…they require that everyone shows value for each other as well.  They accomplish this through two philosophies that are posted everywhere as a visible reminder, and the messages pervade every aspect of their culture and decision-making processes.  These two philosophies are articulated in their “We Care” statement and their “5+1” mandate.


We are a community of associates who care about each other, our customers and our business partners.  Caring means that we value loyalty and trust in our relationships, that we are committed to doing the right thing, and that we aspire to build something of value that will last beyond ourselves.  Above all we will have confidence and faith that our hard work, persistence in doing the right thing, and our commitment to each other will be rewarded with success.

 The 5+1 program is something that they require of every employee.  They make no exceptions, and they clearly explain that if you can’t honor this, then you’re probably not going to be a successful employee at Atkins & Pearce.  The point of the program is to promote collaboration, effective communication and respect for one another.  It breaks it into 5 simple steps.  The “plus 1” requires the employee to put these points into action.

  • Adopt a Standard of Persuasion
    • Convince People that you are not out to cause problems. 
    • Persuade them to see your view.
  • Offer Fact Based Analysis
    • Gather facts to help your persuasion. 
    • This eliminates the Rumor Mill.
  • Follow Channels of Communication
    • Go Direct to the Source.  Be Direct with one another to build trust.
    • Most Problems are resolved at this level.
  • Innovate, Probe, Problem Solve
    • Be Proactive.  Get issues resolved Right Away.
  • Accept Constraints
    • Sometimes things can’t be perfect.
    • We have to use the resources we have and make the best of them.

 So, where did this great people-focused culture come from, and who drives it?  I had fun asking this question and watching the response from the Executive Team.  It was humorous to watch as they volleyed back-and-forth, with nobody trying to take credit for it, and instead, trying to give credit to someone else.  Ultimately, at the end of the volley, the conclusion was unanimous. “The values come from our people.  It’s simply not a top-down approach.  Our people speak to us about what’s important, and these values have been around the company for many, many years.” summarized Atkins & Pearce President Jeb Head.  “We thrive on candid and open communication with all of our employees.”

The Executive Team clearly collaborates and incorporates everyone’s vision and values.  Each of their perspectives is embraced and viewed as important.  One leader, in particular, who helps to organize this tremendous culture is HR Director, Tonya Arrasmith.  Tonya is yet another shining example of putting the company’s philosophies into action.

Tonya has been with Atkins & Pearce for 17 years.  A high school graduate, originally from the northern Kentucky area, she started with the company as a receptionist.  The company quickly saw Tonya’s skills and potential, and they promoted her into a customer service role.  Over the years, Tonya continued to demonstrate leadership, authenticity, creativity and a strong loyalty to help improve their company.  Jeb Head took notice of this and made a commitment to her, as is the case with every employee, to put her in increasingly challenging roles and further develop her skills.  Today, she is part of the Executive Team and has been in her role for four years.  While she gives credit to Head for where she is today, he, as you would probably expect by now, retorts “Oh no, she did it all herself!”

Honestly, I could go on and on with a million more warm-fuzzy stories that I learned during the course of my onsite visit.  Those stories include how they proactively reach out to veterans to employ them after returning from service; how they go out of their way to care for sick employees or their families; and how it’s important to them to “leave something that will last beyond ourselves.”  Each anecdote is remarkable in its own way, and each one is a clear demonstration of how Atkins & Pearce puts their values into action every day. 

I felt a strong urge to write this blog post and give proper attention and accolades to a company that is truly doing the right things.  I believe it’s important to bring visibility to those that are finding great success by focusing on their most valuable asset – people.  In the end, their bottom line benefits, their people are engaged and excited, and everyone is proud of what they’ve built together.

Tonya and I ended our meeting with me wiping the mascara off my cheeks from the tears of joy that I shed.  I am so honored that they shared their time and their story with me.  There are great lessons in here for all of us, and I commend every Atkins & Pearce employee – all of whom are leaders – for setting a wonderful example for the rest of us to follow.  Tonya ended the meeting beautifully by sharing that “what we’re doing is not just manufacturing products.  We’re making a difference in people’s lives.”  Well said, Tonya.  Keep up the great work!!!

Do you know of other companies that could be shining examples of great leadership and talent management?  If so, tell me about them!!  What does your company do to show employees they’re valued?  How can you lead the charge to infuse more values into your organization?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

For more information about Erin Schreyer or Sagestone Partners, please visit our website at

Seeing Signs of Life? Create a Greenhouse for Growth!

green shoots

Economists say they’re seeing “Green Shoots.”  That means the economy is starting to show signs of new life (thank goodness, this cold spell has been long enough!!)  I’m pretty sure everyone will agree with that!

 So, what do you need to do now to give your shoot the optimum dose of Miracle-Gro? (Because let’s face it, nobody wants the small, wilted stuff – we want to see healthy, vibrant and colorful!) 

How can you best position your organization today to flourish with the economic rebound?


 Here are a few practices to tend your shoots today and encourage healthy growth soon:

 Start with Analysis

  • Take a good look at your business.  What’s working well and what’s not?  What’s in demand? Don’t be afraid to discontinue some products or services – it’s probably good to do this as you change with the times, anyway.  Be current and provide products and services that your customers need (not just the ones you know best.)  Ask yourself, are we offering the right products and/or services?  Are we meeting the needs of our clients?  Does the business leverage our greatest resource – the team’s strengths and talents?
  • Consider your people.  Are they actively engaged and passionate about what they’re doing?  Are their efforts impacting the overall mission and vision of the company?  Are they inspiring others around them to improve?  How are they making your organization a better place?  If they seem to be lagging in any of these areas, I would recommend one of two approaches: 1) Consider getting them a coach who can help them improve and bring our their best; or 2) Consider letting your competition hire them, because you should only want talented people who are totally bought into the vision.  Anything less will cost you time, money and possibly clients.

 Embrace Change

  • Think outside of the box!  Please, I beg of you, don’t be afraid to do this!  Creativity is a good thing, and doing the same things over and over will only bring you the same results.  If you want improvement in your business, people or processes, then you have to be willing to change the way things are being done now.  Brainstorm ideas and don’t allow yourself to think that anything is too crazy during a brainstorming session.  I will, however, caveat that by saying that ideas must align culturally with your organization and your client base.  And, they must create a more positive outcome than you have today.
  • Leverage your team’s knowledge and talent.  Include them in your brainstorming sessions.  Because your people are in different roles, they will have different perspectives.  They may have some great ideas for improvement (or even cost cuts) that you may know nothing about.  Not only that, but their diverse viewpoints will also help you better serve your client base.  Every client is unique, so you will benefit from embracing diverse ideas and thinking.  One additional benefit is that your team will appreciate being engaged and included – they will have greater buy-in to ideas they help generate!

 Implement Change, See Greater Value

  • Your value proposition should increase with each change that’s implemented.  The end result should be noticeable in the value proposition to your clients.  Are you more effective and efficient in dealing with your clients’ needs?  Is your value proposition more niche-focused or unique to your competitors – I mean, really?  Ask your clients – how do they differentiate you and why do they work with you?  Focus on what you can be good at….and then do it even better!
  • Implementing improved “people practices” will result in greater employee engagement, which almost always translates to greater customer satisfaction.  It only makes sense. Happy people who love what they do will transfer that positive energy in each client interaction…and it makes a noticeable difference!  Let’s not forget that happy employees don’t want to leave their company, either.  As the economy begins to come back, the talent pool will get smaller and the great battle for top talent will ensue.  Treating your team well will keep them on your team!  Not only that, it can create demand for new talent.  (Hint, hint: now is the time to be developing and keeping employee candidate relationships warm.  You WILL be hiring again, so don’t make the mistake of losing your momentum!)

 As with any new plant life, you also have to be aware of the latest bugs, plant viruses and adverse weather conditions. 

These can be real killers:

  • Not communicating changes or their benefits effectively
  • Implementing changes that are counter to your organization’s culture
  • Counting pennies today, when the ROI could be so much greater
  • Not motivating while making changes and celebrating when they’re complete
  • Not tracking results – so everyone can see how the changes worked!

 How can you begin this process in your organization today?  Who do you need to empower to take some initial steps?  How can you excite your customers and employees with the bigger and better things that are coming? 

 Erin Schreyer is the Owner/Managing Partner of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  Erin is passionate about building into people and companies so they can achieve their greatest potential.  Find out more information at or contact Erin directly at

5 Steps to Building a High Performing Team


Got deadlines, budget (crunch!) pressures, demanding clients and/or management responsibilities?   Well, then you need to build a fabulous team!!  How can you increase your success of making it most effective?  I believe that the success of a leader and his/her team largely depends on communication.  Not much different than any other relationship, it’s all about valuing people, setting clear expectations and guidelines, and keeping the lines of communication open.  Here are some tips to help…

 Build A Community with a Purpose.

Yes, I used the word community.  People have an instinctive need to be included and connected, so it’s important to facilitate camaraderie, team building and collaboration. Create a real belief that one effective and synergistic team is far more effective than one great leader.  Do team-building exercises, kick off a project with a fun outing or share coffee in the morning together.  Develop some natural affinity in your group, so your team enjoys the “community” aspect of it!  If they like each other and have fun together, they’ll be much more engaged and fulfilled.

 Just as important, be sure to clearly articulate the mission and vision of the team (and have it tie back to the company’s greater purpose!) 

 Teams can only be truly synergistic when they share the same vision and work together to achieve the same result. 

 So, as the leader, have you clearly communicated the vision, purpose and goals – keeping in mind, this is NOT the same thing as task delegation?  This is the entire reason this group is coming together, so be sure you’ve communicated clearly and in language that each individual not only understands, but more importantly, buys into.  Get everyone excited and passionate about the overall mission, as well as their specific role.  Make sure they know how their efforts, specifically, will impact the end-goal.  Be sure they CAN get fully engaged, and if not, find out why.  Perhaps they’re not the best choice for this team and would be better leveraged elsewhere in the organization.  That doesn’t make them “bad” – it just makes them bad for your team and its productiveness.

 Be Approachable and Demonstrate Integrity.

This is a key component – “humanize” yourself!  You may be the leader, but you’re still a person who’s much like the rest of the team in many ways.  Yes, this may mean you have to put your ego on the back shelf, but if you’re not approachable how can you expect anyone to come forward and be completely honest with you? 

 Create an “open door” policy where people know it’s safe to come in with their own opinions.  Let them know that it’s OK to say anything to you(with respect, of course!)  Encourage brainstorming and creative, out-of-the-box thinking.  Verbalize your value of diverse thinking and ideas – it’s not about you – it’s about the success of the team…and with a successful team, everyone wins!!

 As the leader, it’s also critical to model the behavior you’re asking of your team.  Lead by example, do what you say you’re going to do and demonstrate the characters that you want to be reflected by your team.

One of the most important roles we have as leaders is to imprint these values on each new generation of the company.  ~ Orin Smith

Ask and Listen.

Leading isn’t about delegating or handing out orders to get the job done.  Engage your team – ask questions, seek input and ideas, and recognize the value they’re bringing to the table.  Remember, it’s called a team, because it’s not just you!!  Create a team strategy that includes them and leverages their strengths.

Just as important – don’t assume that what’s important to you is equally important to them.  Ask them what’s fulfilling and what drives them.  Seek to understand their value system and what they get passionate about.  Listen carefully to their response and act accordingly…which, by the way, may mean that you change the way you communicate, manage or reward that person.  Respect their differences and embrace the value of diverse thinking.

 MYTH: Everybody is not motivated by the same thing. REALITY: If you want to know what will be satisfying to someone, ask. ~Thad Green

 Hold Each Other Accountable.

Believe it or not, this is a piece of the puzzle that is often missed!  What if we don’t make a milestone?  What if someone isn’t collaborating or contributing?  What if you aren’t helping the team get the support you said you would?  All of these scenarios have the potential to de-rail the team and the progress that has been made.

 Encourage your team to come up with ideas to hold one another – including you – accountable.  If commitments are made, then commitments need to be kept.  The team is depending on it!  Have an open team discussion and ask each team member how they would like to be held accountable.  This let’s everyone know they better stay on top of their game, and it also provides a personalized and verbalized recourse if they don’t.  Team members are less likely to get angry about the “price” if it’s something they came up with.

 Celebrate Successes All the Way to the Finish Line.

It’s likely that the most fun part of leadership is celebrating the success of your team.  Be sure to do this!  As the leader, you are also the “Chief Motivator!”  It’s up to you to keep the energy-level and morale high in order to keep the team fully engaged and performing at its best.  Consider celebrating individual and team accomplishments, milestones and contributions that exceed expectations.  Make a fuss, and make people feel valued and appreciated   Studies show:

 The #1 reason people leave their jobs: They don’t feel appreciated. ~from How Full is Your Bucket?

 Give credit where credit is due…and make it a motivating factor.  Celebrating success is one of the most effective team building approaches, because it provides incentive and fun, which, by the way, may further increase how much your team members enjoy what they’re doing.  Fun at work?!  Oh, yeah, baby – that’s what I’m talking about!!

 Have you or are you building a great team?  Do you continue to build into it?  Consider if your words and actions have a “building up” or “tearing down” effect.  What are some of your most effective strategies?

 Erin Schreyer is the Owner / Managing Partner of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about putting greater emphasis and value on people, communication and exceptional leadership.  Learn more by visiting or reach out to Erin at