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. 



Unless You Lead…

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

This weekend, I took my kids to see the new Dr. Seuss movie, The Lorax.  The show is colorful, musical and intentional with its message of preserving Earth’s resources (and not allowing greed to get the best of us.)

Since seeing it, I keep thinking about the Lorax’s use of a single, powerful word: UNLESS.

Most of us typically think about what –if…  We can let our imagination and dreams run wild with what-if scenarios.  These times can fuel our creativity and help us to innovate, challenge ourselves and even better prepare for what may lie ahead.

What-if thinking can help us ponder so many possibilities.

It’s interesting, though, to consider a different perspective.  The Lorax’s challenge: unless.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s just not.” ~ The Lorax

In addition to dreaming about the what-if we do scenarios, should we also be thinking about the consequences of what if we don’t?

What if we don’t do what’s right?  What if we don’t do our best?  What if we don’t help others?  What if we don’t care?  What if we don’t stand up and lead?

What if nothing gets better UNLESS you do something?  What if YOU are the catalyst for positive change?  What price does your company, your co-workers or your family pay until you do something?

Is it worth it?

I want to challenge you today to fill in this blank with a situation or relationship that you want to see improved…

Unless I care…unless I lead…unless I take that first step, (fill in the blank) may not change for the better.

I may not be The Lorax, and I may not speak for the trees, but I’ll speak for the leaders of this world, and I believe you are one of them.

Will you care a whole awful lot?  … Because I think you can make things better.  I think you can hit the spot!

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. 

Don’t Let Your Strength Be Stolen

Something happened this week that I naively thought wasn’t very likely.  During the middle of the night, while my family and I slept, someone entered our home and robbed us.

I feel violated.

I’ve had so many emotions running through me this week.  I suppose that’s natural, and I should give myself a little grace.  I’m definitely a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of person, but this was shocking and scary… and downright creepy.

A stranger was in our home.  Uninvited.  Unwanted.

As I’ve had a few days to process this, I’ve decided that although I feel somewhat helpless and powerless, in reality, I do still have a choice and some control in how I react to these events.

This is life, right?  Granted, it’s an ugly part of life in our world today, but bad and unexpected things happen sometimes.  And we just can’t let them keep us down.  We can’t let them change us forever; not in a way that detracts from enjoying the fullness of life, anyway.  Life was meant to be enjoyed, after all.  I believe that’s how it’s supposed to be.  It’s how God intended.

So, I have a choice to make.

I can live in fear.  I can lose sleep.  I can become paranoid.  I can continue to take my safety for granted….or…

I can celebrate that my family is safe and unharmed.  I can expand my faith and be grateful to God for keeping us under His watchful eye.  I can be proactive – and much smarter – about protecting my home, my family and our safety in the future.  I can communicate to our local friends and create a more robust neighborhood watch.

I can, and I have.  I have already done all of these things.  I’m determined to make changes, and I’m ready to make a difference in my community too.  I will persevere, and I will be stronger because of this.

That’s one thing I refuse to let this robber take. He may be able to get away with taking some of my things, but I will not let him take part of me.  I am still me, and I’m no less passionate, creative or driven to make a difference because of what happened.  I am the same leader today that I was earlier in the week.

If I let him take part of me, then he wins.  Evil prevails.  And that’s just not the way I like stories to end.

I’m a sucker for a happy ending…and guess what?  This is MY life, so I get to write the story.  I get to determine how this ends.

And in my story, love wins.  Faith wins.  Community wins.  Strength wins.

Enjoy my electronics, thief, that’s all you’re getting from me!

What about for you?  Has anything totally unexpected or shocking ever happened to you?  How did you persevere?  How did you keep your strength?

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. 

What Are You Closing Out of Your Circle?

I want you to think back to elementary school gym class for a second.  Remember when you had to get all the kids in your class to hold hands in a circle?  Inevitably, a perfect circle would be formed…And then a few more kids, who were off dilly-dallying somewhere, would show up and try to force themselves into the space that now doesn’t have enough room for them.

The gym teacher would then have to ask everyone to take one giant step backwards to open up the circle.  One big step backwards made all the difference.  Suddenly, space opened in the circle and everyone could be included in the game.

Consider this for a moment: Do you regularly look around to see if you’re closing anyone out of your circle?  What would one giant step backwards open up for you?

In business, new employees (whether new to the company or new to a team) should feel welcomed and encouraged to jump into projects and begin contributing.  Often times, fear of stepping on others’ toes holds new employees back.  Fitting in, navigating office politics or worrying about a first impression seem to take a priority, and so it takes months before the business gets the true benefit of that new employee’s strengths and fresh perspectives.

As leaders, we should encourage everyone not to hold back.  Always speak up, always contribute an idea – even if you’re new, even if it sounds crazy and even if it comes from the most unlikely person.  We should create a positive, energetic and creative environment that draws people in and includes their strengths, ideas and feedback.  A closed circle blocks all of these things, but one step back could create a new dynamic that feeds everyone’s success.

In life, we should look to see who the newcomers are to our neighborhood, church, school, community or sports organizations.  Do you seek these people out and see how you can help them feel more comfortable?  Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?

What if that new person has something great to contribute to your community?  What if they’re just the kind of friend you’d love to be around?  What if they could enrich your life?

You’d never know unless you opened your circle to them.

Perhaps people come into our circles for a reason.  Perhaps they’re sent to us with purpose and a plan.  Perhaps it’s fate, or perhaps it could be dumb luck.  Regardless, take that step to open your circle.  See what happens when you invite others to the game.

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. 

Leading Change with Style!

Change.  Most people hear the word and immediately feel their stomach tighten.  We brace ourselves for it, don’t we? …Because we assume it may be bad.  Or hard.  Or both. (UGH!)

For those that follow me on this blog, or Twitter, or Facebook or LinkedIn, you know that my family and I moved to Dallas about six months ago.  Yes, it’s already been six months!!!

Talk about change!  The move brought so many changes – some planned, some not planned, but mostly all good things.  Hindsight allows me to see this.  Fear and self-consciousness preventing me from enjoying some of these changes at the onset (lesson learned!)

About a month into our new community, I realized I needed to do “something.”  I needed to do something that would satisfy my need for connection – the kind you get in-person and in your own neighborhood.  You know what I mean, right?  I’m talking about feeling totally comfortable “borrowing” an ingredient instead of going to the store; letting your kids go play inside someone else’s house and knowing they’re well taken care of; or just seeing someone outside and spontaneously starting a Friday night, multiple family night of fun.  See what I mean?  Total comfort, connection, grace and love.

I knew I would have to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  That was the first step – get courageous.  Then, I had to push myself outside of my “normal” thinking.  What do I need to do differently to get the results I’m looking for?  I need a great conversation starter that most women can relate to or enjoy.

Enter Stella & Dot.  This has been a game-changer for me in more ways than I expected.

I’d been enjoying Stella & Dot’s fashionable jewelry for years, so I thought why not represent the company and have a great reason to casually hang out with other women, meet their friends and expand my community?!!  I’ve been able to do just that and have gotten to know some really wonderful women I otherwise would not have met.  That was part of my proactive plan…but I have gotten so many other benefits as a result of my out-of-the-box thinking!

Stella & Dot is an example of female leadership at its finest Founder and CEO, Jessica Herrin and Chief Creative Officer, Blythe Harris are seriously motivated, creative, highly educated women who are most concerned with helping women increase confidence, feel worthy and independent, and grow skills they can be proud of.  Awesome, NYC-designed jewelry just happens to be the medium they’re leveraging.  These women are innovative industry-leaders, and their business acumen is putting the company in the press’ spotlight on a regular basis for its success story…and I get to learn from them every day!

The business model also puts me in a great position to lead and mentor other women.  This is a passion of mine and something I have spent time and energy on in my leadership company, Sagestone Partners.  I wasn’t thinking about jewelry as a way to put me in this position, but I now have a wonderful opportunity to build into women and to be purposeful about helping them achieve their own definition of happiness and success.  This really fuels me, and I’m finding that it’s a significant benefit to women who want to find more meaning and purpose in their lives.  Again, the jewelry is the vehicle to helping women understand what they want from life.  Who knew this would happen?  But what an outstanding opportunity to create a legacy!!

I’ve had a few people ask me if I plan to continue doing both Stella & Dot, as well as Sagestone Partners, and the answer is unequivocally YES!!!  I am currently coaching executives, doing keynote speeches and developing training nationally.  I’m grateful that my business is strong and yet flexible so I can balance work and family in a way that makes sense for us.  Stella & Dot only adds fashion, fun and more opportunity to do what I love while connecting with other women, and I have to add…the extra income is nice icing on the cake!!

When I think about this huge life change for me and my family, I could have sat back and let life lead me where it may.  But I’m not wired that way.  I’m wired to be a leader.  A positive change agent.  A role model for my children.  A partner to my husband.  A builder and supporter of successful, happy women.  A value-adder.  I’m someone who wants to make a difference, and only I can take the initiative to lead that charge.

I am a woman and I am a leader…and I’m going to lead change with style…and fully enjoy the ride!!  Want to join me?

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. 

A Loss for the Broncos; A Win for Tebow’s Leadership

Talk about a blowout.  The New England Patriots did just about everything right in Saturday night’s NFL playoff game.  If you’re a fan of the Denver Broncos, not only were you disappointed in such a butt-kicking loss, but you were saddened to see their ‘against-all-odds’ run, led by quarterback Tim Tebow, come to an end.

Like most of the world, I am fascinated by the media attention given to and the resulting impact of Tim Tebow.  This athlete is like no other quarterback, sports professional or even celebrity we’ve ever seen!

Because of his outspokenness, Tebow caused John 3:16 (his favorite Bible verse) to be a top-trending search on Google.  And, this isn’t the first time he’s done that, either.  His name is adorning headline after headline – some reinforcing his encouragement, some criticizing it.  Nonetheless, he’s without a doubt one of the most talked-about people in our nation right now.

There’s just something different about him, don’t you agree?  It’s that something that has everyone talking.  I think that something is his leadership.

Tebow demonstrates leadership in a way we don’t often see, and from a position that hasn’t often been leveraged to this extent off the football field.  He is an outstanding model of four key leadership principles that we can all learn from.

He’s not afraid to be different. 

How many people can really say this?  Not many from what I’ve seen.  We all have these “little voices” in our heads that undermine our confidence, and instead of allowing us to stand-out, cause us to conform to everyone else.  We want to be liked and accepted.  We want to be in the “in-crowd.”  We want to fit in with everyone, perhaps being at the “top” of everyone…but not so much that it would cause us to be different.

But the best leaders, the ones throughout all of history that we can all point to, they are all different.  They are non-conformists.  They are passionate about their different way of thinking.  They know it’s their difference that will make all the difference!  Abe Lincoln took an unpopular and different stance against slavery; Martin Luther King, Jr. had a different dream for equal rights; Steve Jobs took a different approach to give most people access to computer technology; Tony Hsieh addressed customer satisfaction differently by creating and nurturing a happy workforce.

The list could go on, but the point is clear: confidence in thinking differently breeds innovation and change.  You can’t be just like everyone else and lead people to someplace new.  For Tebow, it’s leading people to Christ, and he’s not afraid if that makes him different.  (By the way, he’s also proud to be the first homeschooled athlete to win the highly notable Heisman Award, because it provides a great example of homeschooling success, for both academics and extracurricular activities – another big difference versus “traditional” thinking.)

He models humility and service to others. 

Tebow is known for serving his teammates, his community and children with severe illnesses.  He easily gives away credit where it’s due, and his interviews reflect a heart not eager to be famous, but rather to make a difference.

For every game, Tebow brings a sick or terminally ill child and his/her family to spend time with him before and after the game.  He genuinely cares, and although he wants to win a football game, he seems more passionate about putting a smile on a child’s face.  His actions inspire long-time sports fans and writers alike.

During a game, he is known for encouraging his teammates, giving grace when mistakes are made and keeping energy levels up.  When a perfectly thrown pass is dropped by a receiver, Tebow is likely to help his teammate blow off the mistake, because he “still needs to catch the game-winning pass.”

Like a great leader, Tebow makes his presence known, not for self-serving purposes, but to somehow make life better for those around him.

He provides hope and vision.

There are so many things about Tebow that seem to be “unexplainable.”  His unorthodox style of quarterbacking has experts both baffled and frustrated when it results in a win for his team.  He helps us to believe in the unbelievable – for some, perhaps a step into Christian faith, for others, a simple belief that the underdog can win.

Tebow has overcome doubters and obstacles all his life; starting from birth, when his mother was advised to abort him after receiving medical treatment when she didn’t realize she was pregnant.  During his college years, he received numerous awards and honors, including launching a non-profit on campus and making philanthropy “cool” for college kids.

As a professional NFL player, Tebow, who may not be the most consistent quarterback, uses the platform to provide hope to fans, viewers and teammates.  He often comments about the importance of relationships he has built with his players and coaches.  And, perhaps, most importantly to him, he is helping millions of people to believe in something bigger than themselves.  He is consistent in his behavior and words, making it hard for people do doubt his belief or intentions….which only leaves them with hope that maybe, just maybe, there could be truth in what he is saying.

Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying, “a leader is a dealer in hope.”  Tebow provides a vision filled with hope.  His actions even have coined a term called “tebowing” and he is one of the most popular NFL players, with his jersey and fathead likeness flying off the shelves.  It’s hard to argue that people don’t want more of what this leader is dealing.

He is passionate and purpose-driven.

Millions of people are Googling Bible verses.  Sexy magazines are polling people about the value of virginity and waiting until you’re married.  People everywhere are seeing the value of giving back, or even just being a person of integrity.  Tebow is making values seem “cool” and it’s motivating people to mimic him.

Like all great leaders, Tebow is passionately focused on his purpose.  He is unabashed about it, despite heavy criticism by some.  The criticism doesn’t sway him.  Ever.  He is focused, fully-believing in what he’s supposed to be doing with his life.

Tebow’s unwavering may be what is most convincing to others.  His confidence and passion in his purpose seems to stir something in all of us.  After all, don’t we all want to better understand what we’re here for?  Purpose is something that most people want to better understand and claim for their own lives.  Tebow seems to know his with clarity.

People want to follow a leader who is this sure, this passionate about his purpose.  We want a piece of the dream, and we want to be marching behind someone whose intentions are this clear in getting us there.

Tebow many not be the best NFL quarterback in history, and who knows if he’ll even be a starter next season.  Regardless, he’s made his mark on the world, and he’s made millions think and hope.  And, I don’t think he’s going away any time soon.  I think he still has more leading to do.

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.

Leadership Lessons from a Christmas Crisis

Happy New Year and welcome to 2012!!  I’m excited to begin the next chapter of life, and I’m planning for (not wishing or hoping for) my best year ever.  How about you?

I have to admit, 2011 didn’t end as I had thought it would.  This was my family’s first holiday season in Dallas.  Given that this is still a transition time for us (we’re recent transplants,) I wasn’t expecting that it would feel like the last three decades of Christmases, surrounded by family and more friends than I can count!  Oh, this Christmas….this one was different for sure, but not in the way I had expected.

On the Friday before Christmas, I awoke with the worst headache (my first red flag, since I don’t tend to get headaches!)  Over-the-counter pain relievers and sinus/allergy medicines didn’t provide any relief as they normally would have, and the headache worsened as the day went on.

By evening, the pain had gone into my neck and back, in addition to encircling my head.  My lovely date night with my husband included a wonderful dinner and tickets to Les Miserables (our favorite musical.)  I only made it to the Intermission, when I apologetically looked at my husband and said, “I can’t take the pain anymore.”

We went straight to the Emergency Room.

After a CAT scan, blood work and two spinal taps (the first one didn’t garner any fluid) they admitted me into the hospital to spend Christmas weekend with a diagnosis of viral meningitis.

I allowed myself to mourn and be sad for only a few hours, and then I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and considered what I should be grateful for and what I can learn from this situation.  It’s amazing how we can find leadership lessons just about anywhere, if we only look….

Listen to your body.  Hear what it needs and take care of it.  You can never be your best – even with all the talent and passion in the world – if you can’t physically do it.  Your health is vital to your success!

I had no idea what was wrong with me…but I know my body.  I knew my morning headache was unusual and as the symptoms increased, my gut kept nudging me to get help.  I’m so glad I listened!

By the way, your body sends you more subtle messages too.  It doesn’t just speak to you in emergencies.  Do you listen when your body says it’s tired, hungry, in need of movement, relaxation, creative stimulation, or even a good cry?  Your body tells you all these things and more.  If you want to bring your best to the New Year, you must be in tune with your body.  Listen to what it says and respond accordingly.

Advocate for yourself.  Communicate clearly your desired outcome and any obstacles you need help removing.  Nobody can help you get there, if they don’t know where “there” is or what’s getting in your way.

After arriving in the ER, they quickly did a CAT scan of my head and told me it showed that I had sinusitis.  I have allergies, and I often suffer from sinus-related issues as a result.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew without a doubt this was more than a sinus issue.  I clearly and confidently communicated that although my sinuses might be inflamed, this was not what I was feeling.  I detailed my symptoms again and asked for additional tests.  This little “push” got further action and results.

Do the “right” people know what you want in your future?  Are you asking for help from people who actually have the power and authority to help you?  Never just assume that people know what you want.  Be sure you’re communicating your goals, your confidence and your intention, so others can help!

Don’t let fear make decisions for you.  My advocating got me additional testing in the form of a spinal tap.  I was afraid to allow them to puncture my spine, but that’s exactly where I found my answers.

I could have said no.  Frankly, I wanted to say no after they explained it to me.  I had gotten epidurals before with the birth of both my children.  Both times they hit nerves, and I knew they’d be going even deeper with a spinal tap.  I was already in so much pain…did I need to go through more?!?!  I did, and logically, I knew it.

You will never make a clear decision when you allow fear to drive you.  Fear is powerful, and often not in good ways.  It impairs your judgment, squelches healthy risk and holds creativity prisoner.  It can be a bad four-letter word and should not be empowered to drive your actions.  Don’t give into it when it’s not necessary!

Social media is powerful!  Once I got settled into my room, my sweet husband brought me some personal items, including my iPad.  He quickly took my picture and said, go ahead and post it on Facebook.  He knew it was the quickest way to send a consistent message to many people at once, and he knew those same people would encourage me and give me strength to deal with this crisis.

My darling husband knows me well enough to realize how much I value community and connectedness.  This Christmas was going to be hard, just being away from the home I have known for the last 30+ years, but to be isolated in the hospital on top of that…well, that just wouldn’t do!  He gave me the exact tool I needed to fuel my well-being; instant connection with people who love me.

This, by the way, turned out to be my best Christmas present!!  I was able to keep everyone updated on my prognosis and recovery, but equally as important, I received more loving and encouraging wishes through Facebook than I could have ever imagined!!  People were coming out of the woodwork to pray for me, make me smile and coach me through the process of healing.  I am convinced I would have remained in the hospital longer without this chicken soup for my soul.

Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or some new-fangled site I don’t yet know about, think about how you could use it to more effectively communicate, demonstrate leadership or rally the energy of many toward a common purpose.  I’m telling you, bringing people together has power, and social media brings people together!

A grateful attitude lifts your spirits and inspires others.  While I was being nurtured back to health by many supporters, I did my best to remain positive and show them and everyone helping me how sincerely grateful I was.  As it turns out, people felt inspired by this.  They felt as though I was somehow being courageous and optimistic, and it even caused some people to take action on things in their own lives!!  Wow, I love how attitudes can be contagious (better than the virus, right?!)

Good or bad, I have found that the people around you not only react to your attitude, but it affects them too!  What kind of effect do you want to have on the people around you?  Do you want to infect them with the germs of negativity, or do you want to lead people to a better place?  Either way, you’re “catchy,” so be mindful!

Today, I am home recuperating with just mild headaches and stiffness, along with some “normal” (for me) sinus congestion and fatigue.  Each day I feel better and better, and each day I have reflected on the blessings that came out of this chaos.

I am amazed by and ever-so-grateful for the wonderful (and cheerful) care provided by every single professional at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.  I am blessed beyond measure to have a supportive and loving family (my children opened Christmas presents on my hospital bed instead of immediately under the tree, my husband was a thoughtful and outstanding care-taker, and my mother made sure I didn’t need to lift a finger for the four days she was here.)

My spirit is renewed by the power of love and community, as well as the connectedness and communication brought by social media.  My belief in leadership is stronger than ever.  And this New Year has begun…bringing us all a fresh start, a clean slate, a new chapter to begin writing…

What leadership lessons will you take with you on your journey?  And where is your journey taking you?  I’d love to hear!!

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.

It’s Up to Us to Teach Our Kids to Lead!

There’s a very powerful video on YouTube, featuring a kid named Jonah.  This video is going viral, stirring quite a reaction in people.

I’m one of them.  I haven’t stopped thinking about Jonah since I viewed the video this morning.

I’m a mother of two kids; one boy and one girl.  I want the best for them, and I don’t mean material best.  I’m referring to happiness in life.  I want that more than anything for them.

I want them to know who they are and to be proud of that.  I want them to feel good about their efforts, even if it doesn’t win them first place.  I want them to follow their passions and to feel exhilarated – not ashamed – of the journey!  I want them to know what it feels like to be flawed and yet fully loved by family and friends, and I equally want them to know the joy of sacrificing for others.

I want to give them the best odds for success in life, and so I teach them about leadership. And doing what’s right. And faith.  And service.  And kindness.

But sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority.  Bigtime.  And my kids feel it sometimes too.

You see, I watched this video and I thought about how many campaigns I’ve seen against bullying.  I’ve seen the commercials, the celebrities speaking out, the “how to spot the signs” education for parents.  It’s all good and important and worth your time…but…

What’s missing?

How many parents, coaches, pastors, youth workers, counselors will watch this video and talk to their kids about their words and actions?  Everyone’s worried about “what if it happens to me or someone in my family?”  We’re all playing defense.

Does it occur to adults that someone’s kid is doing the bullying?  And it might be yours or a kid you know?  (And you can help stop it!)

How many adults will talk to their children about the power of words?  Do you discuss the negative impact of name-calling, teasing, ostracizing and laughing at others’ expense?  Do you explain that it can be hard to bounce back and that sometimes those effects can cause kids to cry, get depressed or, God forbid, take their own lives.  Do you describe the weight of the guilt they could feel, or the school and legal ramifications they could face if something harmful should result?  It’s a reality these days, and kids need to know that their bullying can have major consequences.

I don’t see it happening.  And it needs to change.

I was told recently by someone in my own neighborhood that I “just need to understand children – especially boys.  They look for the weakest one, and they go after him.  It’s just how kids are.”

You know what?  I don’t buy it.  I don’t believe that babies come out of the womb with a survival of the fittest instinct.  Our ability to think, to process information, to have feelings and emotions, to rationalize – – that’s what separates us from animals.  So, I’m not accepting this.  Not for second.

We live in a competitive world.  I get that.

I see parents pushing their kids to be the best at everything they do.  I see them holding their kids back to be bigger and better in sports.  I see the trainers and tutors being hired; not because their kids need help, but because they’re being pushed to be in the “elite.”  I see kids totally stressed out and not having a clue what “downtime” or imaginative free play or a neighborhood pick-up game is like.  (Those, by the way, are my best memories of my childhood!)

Parents are pushing their kids hard and fast.  But where is the push for character, integrity and values?

I keep laughing that I’m the “crazy lady” who is screaming as my kids run out the door.  I yell be kind, thoughtful and encouraging!  Our house rule is that if what you’re about to say or do can’t fall into one of those three buckets, it’s not worth saying or doing.  Of course, they’re kids, and they’re not perfect, but I figure if I keep trying and repeating, it will sink in.

In addition, this is also posted on our refrigerator.

We have an opportunity – NO, it’s a responsibility – as parents and as adults.

It’s up to us to teach our children.  To guide them, and to show them what being a great leader looks like…and it’s not about domination, degradation and defiance.

Leadership is about value  –  you acknowledging and engaging the value in others, and them willingly following you for the value you bring to them.  At any age, and in any position in life – this is leadership.

We are all different.  We all have value.  We are all needed for what we bring to the table, and we CANNOT all be alike.  Diversity is what makes life beautiful.  Diversity is what makes companies smarter and more successful.  It takes all of us to succeed and to make life work.

Who is willing to teach their kids this lesson?  Who is willing to love their children, even if they choose not to be “perfect” in your eyes?  Who is willing to demonstrate love and acceptance and ask that their children follow their lead?  Who would be willing to apply ramifications for anything otherwise?

I will.  Will you stand with me in the hopes to make a change?  Our kids and our next generation of leaders is depending on us.

Today, we are the ones with the power to influence and to set the example.  It’s up to us, and so I ask you…will you take this on with me?  Will you fight for the lives of all of our children?  Will you fight for what’s right?  Because, we live in a competitive world, and it will take all of us…

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.

Connection: You Need it Just As Much As Your Cell Phone Does

In just a few days, it will be my firstborn child’s eighth birthday.  I still vividly remember our first “meeting.”

Within minutes of being born, the nurse handed me my son with the instruction to hold him skin-to-skin on my chest.  Instant love – and human connection – began with this little person.  As his mother, I satisfied his very first need in life, and his cries quickly quieted.

Connection is a basic human need.  We all need it at some level; nobody is exempt, and we never outgrow the need for it.

If you think “I can do it all by myself,” you may be able to limp across the finish line, but you’ll never truly thrive or give your very best performance without being connected to others.  Somewhere along the way, you would have benefitted from the love, support, encouragement or advice from another….or you could have been the giver of these to someone else (which is just as energizing, by the way!)

In business, we often hear executives complain that it can be “lonely at the top.”  Not necessarily, wrote Monica Diaz in her blog post.  That is, unless you’ve built a pyramid to get you there, instead of engaging and valuing your people.

As people, we were all (regardless of our job titles, positions or experiences) created to be in community.  We need that human connection and encouragement.  I believe it’s part of our design, and as such, it’s a necessary component for us to become the best version of ourselves.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another… (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Can you imagine how things might improve if we connected to others regularly with the intent to encourage each other?

As a leader, you should encourage people by specifically calling out their strengths and identifying opportunities where those strengths can be further leveraged.  You should be working with people to set a vision that is challenging and rewarding, instilling hope and encouragement along the way.  You should be building confidence and teams, cheering and celebrating milestones and successes.

A manager early in my career once gave me this advice: when you’re trying to accomplish a goal, get people in the boat with you.  If you fail, they’ll understand clearly why, because they were part of it.  If you win, the party at the end is always better!

All of these things require an investment in people.  They require your time, your heart and your personal connection.

What would happen if you stepped away from your computer, cell phone or spreadsheet to deepen your connection with the people around you?  What if all of your team members made a commitment to behave like a true community and encourage each other regularly?  What if these behaviors spilled over into your personal life?  Would anything be different?

If you want your future to look any different than it does today, then now is the time to act.  Today is the day to start working toward your vision.  Consider the benefits of strengthening your connections.  Consider how much more a team could accomplish than the efforts of just one.  Consider how rewarding it might be to help someone with a basic life-sustaining need.  You could be just the leader to do it.  Go connect and see what happens!

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.

What Influences Your Leadership?

One of John Maxwell’s more famous quotes is “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”

I agree with this philosophy.  Influence causes people to willingly follow you; not because they have to, but because they choose to.  Influence sways people.  It impacts them, possibly even enough to change a belief or a behavior.  A strong influencer can gain much power, and an ethical influencer will gain people’s trust as well.

But I wonder how many leaders are also looking inward?  As you’re busy trying to build and extend your influence outwardly, how much attention do you pay to what’s influencing you inwardly? 

I believe it’s important to understand, and to be intentional about, what builds into your beliefs, opinions, values, thoughts and behaviors.  It’s those things and people that you surround yourself with – your environment – that ultimately seep into who you are and what you become.  These are your influencers, and you need to make good choices with them if you intend to get closer to your goals.

I’d like to suggest that you take some time to consider who and what is influencing you.  Are those things challenging you develop and grow?  Are they bringing you closer to a goal?  Are they helping you to become a better leader or person?  Are there things or people you are letting “in” that you shouldn’t?  Are there things or people you are shutting out that could help you improve?

Basic journalism teaches us to investigate and bring out the details of a story by asking the “5 Ws and How.”  It could be beneficial to apply them here too, as you challenge yourself in this discovery.

WHO – Who do you admire most and why?  Are you spending time with them?  Have you asked them to help you develop the skills you admire about them?  Are there people you associate with regularly who aren’t in alignment with your values?  Do you seek different viewpoints from people who have different backgrounds and experiences, but who share your same values?  Find those people who will sharpen you like iron sharpening iron.

WHAT –  What are you reading, watching and listening to?  How are they helping you to grow or achieve?  What gaps have you identified between where you are and where you want to be, and what will help you close the gaps?  What things distract you from meeting or advancing toward your goals?  What affects  your mood, energy level and creative vision?  Understand what makes a difference for you.

WHEN –  When are you most productive throughout the day, and are you using your time wisely during that period?  When do you rejuvenate and are you allowing yourself the time to do so?  When is it easiest for you to lose focus of your goals and how can you keep yourself on target?  When do you feel drained and can you minimize those times?  Manage your time wisely and effectively.

WHERE –  Where do you need to be to get your best work done?  Where are you most likely to get distracted from doing the tasks that need to be completed?  Where in a current project would you benefit from leveraging the expertise of someone else?  Where would you like to be five years from now and what tools, resources and people will help or hurt you from getting there?

WHY – What’s your why?  What drives you to become better and who will support that?  And who won’t?  Your values and beliefs carry your why.  They fuel your purpose.  Be clear on your purpose and communicate it to others for buy-in.  If you’re not clear or passionate about your why, you can kiss your own influence goodbye!

HOW – How will you accomplish your goals?  What does your plan look like and who will be a supporter or an obstacle?  How can you further develop and grow as a leader?  How will you manage your plan?  How will you remain accountable to your plan?  Who and what tools can help you?

Go ahead.  Really think about each of these questions.  Consider what people, tools and resources are positive influences, as well as what takes you further away from your goals.

Keep in mind that you want to increase your own influence as leader.  You’ll be most effective when you become clear on these questions and you build a support system for your success.  And don’t forget, sometimes the best solution could be letting go of something or someone, too.  It might be hard at first, but it will be worth it in the end.  You’ll find you can move much faster without someone or something holding you back.

Now is a great time to begin this process.  Be ready for 2012.  Identify exactly what will help you to meet your goals and surround yourself with those influences.  Immerse yourself, and I can promise you’ll see results!!

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.

Word Up for 2012!!










It’s almost the end of October, and most of my clients are in planning phases for next year.  They’re determining strategies, developing budgets and considering necessary organizational changes.

I, too, challenge myself to think about how I want to grow personally, professionally, spiritually and as a mother, wife and friend.

There’s been one simple thing I have done for the past few years that I’ve really enjoyed.  I have selected one word to focus on for the year.  This word, in essence, becomes a theme for me.  I give it a level of importance and priority, and I work hard to synchronize my thoughts and actions to it.

It’s just one word.  But the power of a word can be amazing.

“Used correctly and positively, words are the first building blocks for success and inner peace…”

This quote was written by Kevin Hall in his book, Aspire.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it – it’s one of the best books on my shelf.  In it, Hall explains the power of words and how we can use words to become more purposeful in life and business.  He’s right on.

In 2010, my word was “intentional.”  My focus on this word forced me to be more planful with my time; keeping it consistent with my priorities.  It made me stop and think before communicating; trying to ensure that any message could be received the way I intended.  I paused so much that year, wondering do I really want to that? before taking next steps.  Talk about the power of a word!

This year, my word was “connection.”  I’m a true extravert by definition; I’m energized by being around people.  They are my fuel, and I acknowledge this as an important part of who I am.

Because of this, I wanted to challenge myself to better understand how, with whom, why, how deeply and how effectively I am connecting with others.  Are my connections in alignment with my values and goals, and if not, what do I need to change?  Again, powerful learning for me!!

I haven’t chosen my word for 2012 yet.  I’m still thinking about what would provide the best challenge and reward for me.  I’ll keep you posted, though…and don’t be afraid to ask me about it as we near year-end!!  Hold me accountable!!

What about you?  What word could make a difference in your life, career or business?  What would happen if you focused your energy around just one word – one really powerful word?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and plans…

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.