YOU 2.0 ~ That’s You … but Stronger!

I recently spent five incredible days being trained by some wonderful people from The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC.)  I was immersed in the world of strengths, which is clearly their area of expertise.  Funny thing is that for the past several years, I thought I knew my strengths.  As it turns out, I had much to learn…

Simply Strengths

Buckingham’s Simply Strengths workshop is really a well-designed multi-media journey that takes you through a powerful process to identify the specific activities that strengthen you.  Now, I have to pause here to tell you that I, like millions of others, have done the StrengthsFinder assessment.  I walk around with my ‘Top Five’ in my planner, so I can be sure to leverage them whenever possible…and it’s been empowering! 

But, what I learned is that StrengthsFinder makes an excellent compass, and Simply Strengths provides a highly detailed road map.  Both are valuable in their own way, as long as you understand how to leverage them appropriately.  One provides great direction, the other guides you much more specifically to get you where you want to go.

The Process

After literally “busting” several myths that keep most of us from leveraging our strengths more intentionally and more often, the workshop guides you in coach-like fashion to dig a whole lot deeper than you’ve likely done before.  By digging deeper, through Buckingham’s process, you clearly identify the specific activities that strengthen you.

Here’s a total sidebar (but weirdly-related) comment… I had to giggle during this part, because of an impression I do for my four-year-old daughter, who is knee-deep in her Disney princess obsession.  I conjure the voice of one of my favorite characters from “The Princess and the Frog” — a wise-old woman, known as Mama Odie.  She exclaims to the main character, Tiana, “Girl, you’ve got to dig deeper!!”  She then goes on to explain, through a great song, that “you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find out who you are….when you find out who you are, you find out what you need.”

Funny that somehow in my mind I made a connection between a Disney character and one of the most highly-valuable business exercises that I’ve learned to date…but the concept is SO true!  It’s only through detailed awareness that we discover what will truly energize us and therefore maximize our productivity and effectiveness.

Again, I’ll reiterate that I *thought* I was there – I completely thought I had great awareness….yet this process still let me to some clear “a-ha!” moments with regard to my strengths; what they are, specifically, and how I can spend more of my time using them.

Weaknesses

And then, we went to the dark side (cue the Star Wars music when Darth Vader enters!)  We went to the place that all the strengths critics have been wanting to go…we talked about our weaknesses!  And if anyone thought the strengths identification was powerfully effective, I’ll bet you’re at least as affected by the process to discover your weaknesses (because we don’t often like to talk about them!!)

But we do like to STOP our weakness, or at least minimize them and their negative effects.  And Simply Strengths again hits a home-run in teaching participants the process to do just that!  Did I mention that this was powerful?!?!

Keep the Change!

After identifying strengths and weaknesses and learning how to change behaviors, participants are then provided with tools and resources to help them have important conversations with teams and further develop their new behaviors with new habits.  This is the sustainability piece, and it’s highly impactful because any training is rather meaningless unless it “sticks” with the participant.  Changed behaviors must be a piece of the puzzle, and Buckingham again nails it with simple but effective tools to help people do this.

So…bottom line? 

I walked into the two-day training as one person, and I left the training as another.  I left there as me…only stronger, more confident, more energized, more purposeful, better equipped and with a greater hope for my future and the positive impact I can have.  (For those that know me, you know that I’m already motivated and optimistic, so when I say “more” here, I’m talking big-time!)

Marcus Buckingham is truly the master of our generation as it relates to strengths.  I’m not aware of anyone else who has written more or knows more about the topic.  All the years of research from his days at Gallup, as well as the additional research and talents from his staff at TMBC have culminated into this workshop.  It is meaningful.  It is powerful.  It is potentially life-changing, and the impact it could have on an organization that sends its leadership team through this?  Well, I would have to believe it would be nothing short of transformational.

Because I’m so passionate about this, I feel strongly that I need to include a few disclaimers.  First, I am in no way being paid or asked by TMBC to endorse the Simply Strengths workshop or to write a review of any kind.  I am doing this because I believe so strongly in the power of its potential on people and organizations.

Second, I was trained and certified by TMBC to facilitate the Simply Strengths workshop for any company that would feel they would benefit from me delivering the content.  This is also NOT a reason why I am writing this.  I’m writing it because, if you know me, you know I am passionate about leadership and the positive impact that leaders can have on people.  Simply Strengths is the best tool I’ve found for leaders to engage in truly meaningful discussion with their people to engage them, motivate them and increase their productivity.  It provides the greatest opportunity for a personal and organizational WIN-WIN that I’ve seen.  And that, my friends, is why I feel obligated to write this!

I encourage you to leave a comment below or e-mail me at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com if you’d like to talk more about Simply Strengths…or you can feel free to call me out for making a Disney reference, or for gushing about Marcus Buckingham (yes, I do think he’s brilliant and cute too!) or for wearing my heart on my sleeve like I always do!  Whatever – bring it on.  I’d love to talk more about it!!

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners and Founder of the non-profit group, Authentic Leadership Cincinnati.  She is passionate about helping leaders (even great ones!) maximize their effectiveness, as well as their positive impact on both people and business results.

Seriously…a Revolution?

I often tell people that what I’m trying to do is start a revolution.  It’s a revolution of character-based leaders – ones that value their people as much as they do their results.  It’s all about leaders who first authentically model the behavior, then inspire and motivate their people to reach their greatest potential.  It’s about leveraging strengths and appreciating each person for their unique value.  It’s about leadership at all levels, engaging people and allowing them to lead from who they are and not what (title) they are.

Why “Revolution?”

I’m intentional when I choose the word “revolution.”  I do it for a few reasons.  First, it gets people’s attention.  Most people will think, “Seriously, a revolution?”  Man, that’s a big thing!  (I like that, by the way!!  I like to get people thinking big!!!  And I, personally, like to have big goals to strive for!)

“Make no small plans for they have no capacity to stir men’s souls.” Anonymous

Second, it causes people to think about the topic of character-based leadership.  After all, revolutions are started over things that people are REALLY passionate about, and they tend to be things that will bring about significant change.  So, if I’m committed to a “revolution,” then people will want to know what it’s all about…and so they stop to consider this thing called character-based or authentic leadership.

A Revolution of Many Leaders

Now, let me be sure to clarify.  I’m not on this mission alone.  There are what I would call “famous” revolutionaries who have been at this for a while.  I think of the great Peter Drucker, who stood out early-on with his people-focused approach.  And, of course, there’s one of my favorite leadership experts, John Maxwell, from whom I have learned a great deal.  Marcus Buckingham focuses more specifically on people’s strengths and a motivational approach toward leveraging them.

Then, there’s the leadership practitioners and corporate leaders, like myself, who not only value these concepts but are willing to ‘stand for’ them in an effort to inspire others to do so as well.  There’s a large group of these leaders in the Lead Change Group, led by my good friend, Mike Henry.  Mike is a man of great character, and he has built the largest national group (that I know of) to further develop and support character-based leaders.  He is creative in leveraging technology to support his mission and to facilitate a lively community, and he’s making a noticeable impact.

Locally, here in Cincinnati, I’m also surrounded by people who model this behavior and are willing to collaborate to help the revolution spread.  There’s Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati, which is a non-profit group formed last summer.  We’re now a gathering of more than 300 local leaders who are interested in creating a community for development, support and encouragement of Authentic Leadership.

Then there’s the local individual leaders who stand out in my book.  John Baumann is the CEO of Ampac Flexible Packaging and founder of the non-profit, Higher Branches, a community created for mentoring and ‘sharing life’ between varying socioeconomic groups.   John is an astute businessman, capable of turning around a company and leading it to great success.  He is also a leader in the community and a loving husband and father.  John is a good friend, a model and someone I am privileged to learn from.

My friends at Centennial, Inc. are also authentic leaders who truly partner with companies to help them find the best leaders to take their organizations to the next level.  Led by two generations of the Sipple family, Centennial infuses values, ethics and a solid understanding of talent management to rise above the sea of recruitment firms who claim to partner with their clients, but actually fail to do so.  Mike Sr. and Jr. are generous businessmen, willing to make connections and always provide value.  They have been tremendously supportive of my business and mission, and I’m grateful.

Lastly, I’ll mention Tom Sutton, Owner/Operator of a local Chick-fil-A store location in Eastgate.  Tom is a career military man who has brought his leadership to Chick-fil-A, a very values-infused fast-food restaurant chain led by Dan Cathy.  Tom has traveled the globe, helping entrepreneurs learn how to run successful businesses and how to create a great workplace environment.  Locally, he is equally as generous to everyone he comes in contact with, and he is an eager contributor to the authentic leadership revolution.

Tom, John, Mike and so many others, are all contributing to the success of the local Cincinnati Chick-fil-A Leadercast event on May 7th.  The day-long leadership event includes ten world renowned leaders who are building on a theme of being “The One.”

Authentic leadership is about being the one.  The one organization that leads by example. The one team that maintains focus amid chaos and courage amid adversity. The one person others look to for strength and guidance. The one who casts vision. The one who offers hope.

Together with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing, we plan to help build healthy leaders.  We’re looking at the whole person, realizing that in order to be the best leader, we have to be our best on all fronts – physically, mentally, spiritually. 

We hope this day will provide leaders with the encouragement to be the one….and to join the revolution!  We eagerly await, and we look forward to serving you, your people and your leadership development. 

Yes, a revolution has indeed begun!  I’ve taken a lead position, and I ask you to join me!  The impact we make together will be a legacy worth our efforts!

What can you do in your community and in your business to model and promote character-based, authentic leadership?  Think outside the box and consider what influence you can have.  Share a story, an idea or a simple comment – I’d love to hear from you!

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners and the Founder of Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati.  She is passionate about helping leaders and organizations reach their greatest potential.  Feel free to contact Erin directly at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com.

Ten Treasures to Take Away from 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, many people find themselves pondering the events of the year.  The economy (and its negative ripple effect) certainly proved challenging for all of us.  As always, though, it’s never all bad.  There were positive highlights, a-ha moments and wonderful surprises too!  These are some of my greatest treasures of 2009…and the lessons I’ll take with me into 2010 and the years to come.

Have a Plan.  Be Intentional.

If I had to choose a favorite word for the year, “intentional” is it!  More than ever, this year I was intentional about writing a plan and intentionally going after it!  There is something powerful that happens when you put something in writing – it somehow forces more commitment.  Keeping those commitments top of mind (by having certain items posted in front of me!) motivated me to be more intentional with every action and word.  The result?  Exceeding the goals I had set for myself this year!

Having a vision and strategy are the critical beginnings of your plan.  You must have something to aim for, or you’re likely to remain in the world of status quo….or worse.  It’s still a tough economy out there, and it requires innovation, creativity and the best of what YOU can bring to the table.  Think about what you can do and how you can accomplish it.  Put your plans in writing, and be intentional about accomplishing them.

The Power of Identifying Strengths and Leading with Them

Late last year, with the help of StrengthsFinder 2.0, I identified my strengths, and as Marcus Buckingham suggests, I put them to work!  It’s not that I learned something totally new about myself, but I did find it helpful to confirm and even re-affirm what I thought.  In many ways, it was a confidence-builder that challenged me to push myself further by leading with those strengths. 

I also discovered that natural strengths come fairly easy to you, but as such, you may not fully recognize them (because the assumption is that they come easily to everyone else too.)  These typically are the “gifts” that most other people notice about you, and these are likely your best strengths.

It’s critically important to identify your strengths.  Also ask what others’ perceptions are about your strengths – you may learn something about yourself!  They key here is self-awareness, and it’s a necessary component of great leadership.  You must know your own strengths, weaknesses, passions and values to build the best teams (and you should know theirs too!)

Twitter – An Education and a Community-Builder

 

One of the greatest surprises for me in 2009 was Twitter.  What started as an “experiment” mostly driven out of curiosity, turned into one of the most impactful decisions I made this year.  It sounds hard to believe, I know.  I still can’t believe it either…but it’s true.

My strategy (yes, having a social media strategy is critical!) was two-fold: 1) Go beyond the Greater Cincinnati market to include experts, innovators and mentors in my inner circle of influence; and 2) Be intentional with communication that would be helpful, impactful and inspiring to those that follow me.

This strategy enabled Twitter to be become a powerful tool for me.  Not only have I had the privilege of learning from experts that I wouldn’t otherwise interact with, but I have also met some amazing people and formed communities around particular interests.  The interactions are personal, collaborative and useful in numerous ways…and they help me to be a better, more impactful person.

Lead Change Group….and LeaderPalooza (a sneak-preview into 2010!)

One community, which has a presence on both Twitter and LinkedIn is the Lead Change Group, led by Mike Henry.  The group is focused on character-based leadership, and Mike (who I met via Twitter) and I have become friends and encouragers of one another, based on our shared leadership interest.

What started as a few tweets in early spring has turned into real collaboration, powerful idea-generation and mutual support.  Together, along with what could be quite a large gathering of leaders, Lead Change group is creating a leadership conference (LeaderPalooza) that’s being cast as “Not Your Mama’s Leadership Conference” in February of 2010.  There, attendees will be leveraging an Open Source format to create impactful content, ideas and deliverables, driven by a passion for character-based leadership.

Lead Change group is a virtual community.  Mike and I, although we talk fairly regularly, have never met in person.  Many leaders and practitioners who I’ve come to appreciate through this group have impressed me through phone conversations, blog articles, webinars and more….but we’ve never met in person.  The energy has been building, and LeaderPalooza is going to be the unleashing of all these people coming together for the first time.  Great things are going to result from this…

The Value of Blogging

The combination of creating and sharing relevant information is what blogging is all about.  This, too, was another valuable and extremely impactful lesson this year.  Not only did I start blogging (which is great practice for the book that I hope to write someday…) but I also identified several blogs that I read on a regular basis.  These blogs are written by experts in their respective fields, and they share valuable insights, experiences and statistics that I learn from every day. 

I read once that if a leader ever stops learning, then he/she should stop leading.  Blogs, written by informed and educated leaders, are one additional way I continue to feed my intellect.  I hope that what I write and share is valuable to my readers as well!

Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati

This group, started on LinkedIn, has proven to me that there’s a real thirst for great leadership that is focused on positively impacting people, as well as results.  Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati was launched in late-Summer, and today there are more than 250 group members!

Authentic Leadership was born out of a call to action I heard at church over the summer.  The speaker encouraged everyone to take action – don’t just talk about making an impact on your community – DO it!!  I didn’t sleep well that night, and the very next day, I wrote the vision and mission for this group that would attract business professionals who would embrace character-based leadership to make a difference.  The revolution began this summer…

With the help of an inspiring and highly-successful Board of Directors, Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati has had regular interaction on LinkedIn.  We’ve hosted two well-attended and highly-rated in-person events this year, and we’ve only just begun!!  The Board has some amazing ideas and plans to implement in 2010, and as the programming continues, Cincinnati will be able to demonstrate the powerful impact of leaders helping people reach their potential.

Lunch with John Maxwell

It’s not often that I’m “star-struck,” but I have to admit, I was more than honored to be extended an invitation to have lunch with John Maxwell.  John is, in my opinion, a prolific author and speaker, and one of the leadership experts after whom I model my own approach.

During lunch, John was kind enough to openly answer questions and share his experiences with an intimate group of people.  Many of his words continue to resonate and inspire me, and his direct communication provided encouragement to move forward with my purpose.  Every day, I find hope knowing that, like him, I am working to further develop and empower leaders from a perspective that’s rooted in Bible.  Keep it up, John!  I’m grateful to have your example as a guide!

Surround Yourself with Good People

What a true blessing it’s been for me to be surrounded by friends, family, people willing to collaborate as well as those willing to hold me accountable and with proper perspective.  This, I believe, is a necessary component of success for several reasons.

Perspective can be easily lost in day-to-day activities and challenges.  I’ve been so fortunate to have good people to remind me of where I ‘really’ am and to provide alternative perspectives when I may not have seen other options.  (Knowing this, I have been intentional to surround myself with smart people!)

The other great advantage is a sounding board.  My own personal “Board of Advisors” includes people who know me well, speak the truth with love and have strengths where I may have weaknesses.  Their advice has helped me to grow, learn and avoid mistakes I may not have even known I could have made.  For all these wonderful people, and their willingness to be helpful to me, I am eternally grateful.

With Risk, Comes Reward

As a stereotypical “type A” personality, I have always thrived on a good challenge…and I really enjoy exceeding expectations whenever I can!!  But taking on a good challenge is still different than taking on a risk.

In 2008, I thought I would be able to successfully launch a new company.  2009 is really where I had to prove it, though…and in a really tough economy.  Some called this a very risky thing to do, since I left a stable job with a wonderful company to launch Sagestone Partners.  I always looked at it as a “calculated risk,” and I tried to include everything in the plan to ensure that the company would take an upward trajectory…but, of course, I don’t know everything, nor can I predict the future…so, yes, there was a risk. 

As I was researching my decision, one consistent piece of advice and encouragement I received from many other CEOs was that, in fact, THEY didn’t know everything, either.  They knew what they needed to know, and they knew where to get help and support for the rest (see the point above on surrounding yourself with good people!)

So, ultimately, I took a risk, but 2009 has been a tremendously rewarding year!  I have learned more than ever.  I have met wonderful new people from networking in person and via social media.  I have better balanced my personal and professional life.  I have been blessed to see a positive impact I’ve been able to have on clients.  I was honored with an amazing award for women business leaders.  And more than anything, I’ve grown my faith…

You Must Believe

I saved this one as my last point, because it’s most meaningful, and I also hope it has a resonating effect with readers.  Every person will eventually crush under pressure without a strong belief system.  That systems needs to include three things:

  1. Belief in yourself, that you were uniquely created for a purpose that only you were intended to do.
  2. Belief in the people around you, that you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people who can be trusted and relied upon to celebrate the good times, comfort you in the bad times, and steer you in the directions that help you to reach your potential.
  3. Belief in something bigger than all of us, that provides greater hope than people can generate.

 These are the things that I cherish from this year; things that will stay with me forever.  What resonated with you?  What unique experiences or lessons will you take from this year?  How can you use this information to make 2010 even better?  I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment!

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about leadership and helping people and companies to reach their greatest potential.  Please visit www.sagestone-partners.com for more information.