Are You Giving or Taking…or Stealing?

My family and I went out for frozen yogurt the other day, and I was appalled by the behavior of a grown woman who was also there with her family.  This yogurt establishment was kind enough to have small paper cups by each yogurt flavor.  The generous intent, of course, is for patrons to be able to taste the flavor, ensuring they’ll love their yogurt selection before filling their regular-sized serving cup with it.

We watched from our table as one woman went back to the same yogurt machine more than a dozen times with her “tasting cup.”  She would fill the cup, stacking the yogurt as high as it could stand, immediately put her mouth over it before it toppled over, take two more bites from the remainder of her cup, and then go back to the same machine for more.

This is stealing, was all I could think.

She didn’t need to, either.  She was clearly financially able to pay for it.  In fact, her husband and children had tasted and purchased yogurt.  Not her, though.  She just kept going back.  Again and again with her paper cup.  Each time, enjoying her yogurt, and each time, making me more and more uncomfortable.

This is a small business.  In a competitive market.  In a tough economy.  And you are STEALING from themWhat you are doing is WRONG, I wanted to shout!!

My husband and I used it as a learning opportunity to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong, and then we quickly left.  I couldn’t watch it any longer.  (I did discreetly notify the owner on our way out, though.  I felt it was the right thing to do.)

Then I started wondering…how many times are people really stealing when they don’t feel like they are?  How many times do we just take, when we should be giving something in return as well?

Do you give your best at work every day?  Do you perform like the person you sold them on in your interview?  Because that’s what you said you would do.  That’s what you’re being paid to do.  Are you taking money for a service you promised, but not delivering to the extent of your word?

What about at home?  Do you take things from your spouse without showing appreciation?  Are your children giving you unconditional love without you paying them enough attention back?  What else do you happily receive, without thinking about how you can give back?

Are there areas in our life where we’re just plain stealing, without giving the proper reimbursement that is due?

On this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to think about this.  Consider where you can give more than you receive, because at the end of the day, everything comes at a cost.  Don’t try to steal it.  In the end, the price could be so much more costly than you’d ever want.

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.

You’re Welcome…or Are You?

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

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

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

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

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

Dondi personifies a wonderful leadership trait.  She is welcoming.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You a Win-Win Leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership and Wineries –The Art and Science

Buoncristiani Family Winery (


My husband and I share an appreciation of a robust and full-bodied red wine, so it only makes sense that we celebrate our anniversary in Napa Valley wine country.   (That’s the excuse we use to return to this gorgeous part of the country each Fall.)

Over the years, we have changed our “strategy” for the trip as we’ve learned more about wine, as well as our tastes.  In the early years of our marriage, our Napa trips included visits to wineries that most everyone has heard of.  Now, eleven years later (minus a few years dedicated to growing our family) our tour includes only small-production, mostly family-owned wineries.

Why the change?  It has to do with the wine-making and the personalized effort by the winemakers.

Unlike many large wine producers who leverage more automated processes and are able to taste only a fraction of each vintage, small wineries often leverage the talents of a wine-maker who gets very intimate with each and every barrel. 

Because the wine-maker can see and taste how each barrel has developed individually, they can nurture that particular barrel to produce more specifically-desired flavors.  They can leverage the art of wine-making a bit more than some larger wineries, which have to rely more on the science of wine-making.  That science tells them what actions will produce typical results, and they can follow those rules to produce a decent bottle of wine…most of the time.

Leadership can be similar in some ways.  There’s definitely a science; certain facts that seem to be absolutes for great leaders and their surrounding teams:

  • They have clear vision and can inspire and motivate others to bring it to completion.
  • They engage and empower their employees, even choosing to follow them when the strengths of others can be maximized for the greatest benefits.
  • They are honest and demonstrate their integrity and trustworthiness with both their words and consistent actions.

It’s hard to dispute any of these fundamentals of leadership.  What can often times be the great variables among leaders, though, are the aspects that may be more of an art; meaning there aren’t consistent “rules” on how you can accomplish these tasks.  They are more individualized to the leader and to each of their people.  However, when done right (and authentically,) they make a tremendous difference.

The art of leadership, like wine-making, often embodies the practice of giving more personal and individualized attention.  Some aspects of this art include:

  • Connecting with people at a meaningful level; versus just communicating to them.
  • Understanding value systems and individual motivators as a basis for building into, rewarding and celebrating your people.
  • Maintaining an “other-focused” view, serving the needs of your people instead of fueling your accomplishments

Of course, the goal for leaders is to master the perfect blend of art and science.  Certainly, we all value structure and consistency…but when blended with just the right amount personalization and flexibility, the result is always a best-seller!!

Now, for your input!  I’ve started the lists.  What would you add to the art and science of leadership?  What aspects of leadership do you think should embody a more personal approach?  Consider the difference it could make in your workplace.  The results could be more savory than any fine wine!

The photo included in this blog post is from Buoncristiani Family Winery and shows the four brothers, who are all involved in the art and science of the business!  They are one of our favorites!!  We especially love their OPC, Cabernet Sauvignon and The Core is amazing!!

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

Are People in Your Focus?

I love this time of year more than any other.  The weather is crisp and requires warm sweaters that feel like an all-day hug.  Twinkling lights and decorations adorn our normal living spaces and bring added color and cheer to our surroundings.  And what I love most is that most people turn their attention to others.

The holidays remind us to give of what we have and to share with those less fortunate.  Food, clothing, warm coats and gifts are rounded up, as many groups organize drives to help meet these needs.  We begin thinking more about the people around us, and we wonder, “’what do they like?” or “what would bring them joy?”  We consider year-end giving and where it can have the greatest impact on people’s lives.  Our companies throw parties of appreciation and give bonuses for jobs well done.

And then comes the New Year….and often these people-focused behaviors come to pass, just as the former year is left behind.

I’d like to ask everyone to consider how would your world differ if you spent more time focused on others?  If your behavior was maintained throughout the year, how might others be impacted?

Who are the people you affect – at work, at home, in your community?  How do you build into them…or are your arms only open to receiving?  What can you offer them that they will value?

As you’re planning your goals for 2010, be sure to include time and energy for people.  I can assure you that you will reap great reward from your efforts.

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about Leadership and building into people and companies to help them reach their greatest potential.  For more information, please visit

Leadership with Breakfast Soufflé and a Fluffy Pillow

Ken & Susie Pope - Proprietors, Cedar Gables Inn

Ken & Susie Pope - Proprietors, Cedar Gables Inn

Along with two other couples, my husband and I recently traveled to one of our favorite destinations, Napa Valley.  The scenery is picturesque and romantic, the air contains the sweet fragrance of grapes and the vineyards produce some of the best wines in the world.  As if that’s not enough to throw me over the top, we typically splurge further by staying in a bed & breakfast. (When is it NOT a good idea to begin your day with French toast soufflé?!!)

 This trip, in particular, was extra special because we had much to celebrate with our friends, including our 10-year wedding anniversary, two birthdays, two promotions, several awards/honors and supportive friendships that have made impactful differences in each of our lives.  With this in mind, the six of us traveled to California ready for the time of our lives!

 We arrived on the front doorstep of the lovely Cedar Gables Inn, where my husband and I have stayed before.  We came back because we love the historic home, the decadent breakfasts, and most of all, the innkeepers, Ken and Susie Pope.  They have mastered the art of making their guests feel spoiled while still providing a comfortable, at-home feeling, and they engage with their guests in a way that makes the B&B experience that much more memorable.

 What great stories Ken and Susie have to share too!!  Not only is their home rich with history, antiques and unique conversation-starters, but Ken and Susie have a romantic personal story that seems fateful in how it led them to become the owners of Cedar Gables.   In addition, their story paints a perfect picture to display the attributes of successful leaders.

 Leaders Must Have a Vision (one that they’re willing to go for!!)

 Prior to purchasing Cedar Gables Inn, Ken and Susie had never owned a B&B.  They had a keen interest in one another early in their dating relationship, but they faced the challenge of work schedules that demanded them during opposite hours of the day.  Knowing that wouldn’t help them progress in their relationship, Ken suggested that they make some changes and perhaps find something they could do together.  Not long after they analyzed their strengths, passions and values, they landed on the idea of a B&B, knowing that it would provide a forum for so many things they loved, including each other.  Voila!  A vision was born, and they went to Napa Valley to pursue it.

 Leaders Must Have Passion

 “Nobody can be successful unless he loves his work,” says David Sarnoff.  Ken and Susie chose to be B&B owners and operators based on their passions and interests.  Ken is the ultimate handyman – not afraid of plumbing, electric or even architectural design.  He loves to dabble and upgrade, restore and refinish, and he’s even happy to accommodate the necessary evils of owning a home built in the 1800’s.

 Susie is gifted and passionate in other ways that make them the ideal complement for their profession.  She is a fabulous cook, creating a nice variety of indulgences for breakfast, happy hour, and even a late-night sweet treat.  In addition, she has the warmth and hospitality of your very favorite Aunt, who makes you feel special, cozy and loved.  My friend, Pam, joked that if she ever got sick, she would want to come back, just so Susie could take care of her!  We all quickly agreed that Susie has a gift for making you feel spoiled!!  There’s no doubt that it’s also her passion – it so clearly shines in her!

 Leaders Must Be Willing to Take Risks

 Given that they had never owned, operated or worked for a B&B in their past (Susie had never even stayed in one!), Ken and Susie took a calculated risk in purchasing their own.  Within a short time period, they both sold their homes (did I mention that they had only been dating for a few months at this point?), made an offer on the Inn and had read every book about B&B’s they could get their hands on.  They knew that Ken had a good business background in addition to his passion for handywork, and Susie could leverage her passions in addition to her experiences at a culinary school.  With the combination of their skills, experiences, passion and knowledge, they were comfortable with the level of risk.  In 2004, they became the owners of Cedar Gables Inn and began to live out their dreams (a great payoff for risk!)

 Leaders Must Be Able to Roll With the Unexpected

 As B&B operators, your life is anything but yours and your time constraints can change at a moment’s notice!!  Ken and Susie are the most accommodating people I’ve met.  They simply roll with their guests, either jumping in to share their wonderful stories, or stepping back to allow a romantic couple some quiet time.  They host evening happy hours, and, yet again, they roll with whatever happens.  Only a few may show up and enjoy the freshly prepared appetizers and zesty lime tea or local wine.  On the other hand, everyone may show up, enjoy the food, drink and conversation.  If that’s the case, then Ken pulls out his acoustic guitar, and provides light music in the background…and he’ll stay and entertain until your heart is content.  They just roll with it all, always smiling, always accommodating, never allowing you to think for a second that you may be putting them out.  They do their jobs well, with passion and excellence.  Ken says “I tell Susie, if it ever feels like work, we’re done with it at that point.”  It’s this joy that makes their work not feel so much like work…and that allows them to roll with the unexpected.

 Leaders Must Be Extraordinary

 To be engaging, inspiring and motivational, leaders can’t be just like everyone else.  It takes a special person – one that is willing to go above and beyond, one that is willing to take the responsibility for the vision and one that will make the journey enjoyable.  A true leader is a ‘special breed;’  someone extraordinary.

 Ken and Susie fit this description and are the ideal innkeepers, as a result.  They are living their dreams, and everyone who comes to visit simply gets to be a small part.  They don’t feel that way, of course.  There’s no doubt that they would tell you that its every guest that’s making their dreams come true.  They are totally selfless, generous and completely outward-facing – a demonstration of servant leadership at its finest.

 Nobody will leave the Cedar Gables Inn unhappy, if Ken and Susie can help it.  The morning of our departure, we had to leave about an hour and a half before breakfast was served in order to catch our flight home.  I let Susie know that she shouldn’t expect us, and without hesitation she announced, “Well, then I’ll just serve you an hour and a half early!  You have to have full stomachs when you leave my bed and breakfast!”  And indeed we did!!  With one last fantastic meal, freshly brewed custom blend coffee and a few more stories, we left our fairytale setting knowing we’ll be back again…

BRAVO, Ken and Susie!  Can’t wait to see you again!

 Do you know leaders like Ken and Susie – ones that go all-out, with passion in their belly and joy in their heart?  What difference has that made for you?

 Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners.  She is passionate about developing people and companies to become their best through leadership, talent management and motivation.  For additional information, please e-mail Erin at or go to

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

A Recipe for Great Leadership: Eat Mor Chikin!


What a great pleasure it was to hear the story of Chick-fil-A this evening from some of the company’s leadership team, as well as the President/COO, Dan Cathy.  They are going out of their way to make a difference in the lives of their employees, customers and anyone with whom they come into contact.  It’s a pretty tall order for a fast-food restaurant…but this is clearly a fast-food restaurant like no other!

 We Care About You…

I was fascinated as Cathy began his speech with “the first thing I want you to know is that we genuinely care about you personally.”  OK, so that’s not what I was expecting from a fast-food executive.  I was expecting a history of the company, possibly some ups-and-downs, how they prevailed in the end and now he has a family fortune and can stop working.  Success, right?!  That’s not their story.  In fact, there was only a little bit about their history as a business.  Their stories related more to their family and how they value their relationships.  Sure, they are a very successful company, but it’s clear that their definition of success does not revolve around amassing a financial fortune (although I’m certain they’re doing ‘just fine!’)

 When the leadership team of Chick-fil-A says they care about you, they’re serious.  And they’re not just saying it, they’re doing it.  Yes, they’re putting their philosophy into action.  By saying that they “care,” they are taking action to influence and impact people’s lives in positive ways.  The areas that they have identified as most important are: Live, Love and Lead.  Here’s what they say about each of these areas:


An important indicator of health is your energy level.  It ensures you have the ability to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.  The key: incorporating healthy habits into your day that will help you maintain the energy level you need to be successful.

 To support the “Live” initiative, Chick-fil-A employs a full-time Wellness Director.  Elizabeth David has helped to create programs and facilities for the company, including an 11,000 s.f. fitness center, exercise classes, a Corporate team of runners (more than 200 people!) for the Disney marathon and mountain hiking expeditions, to name just a few.  They have a belief that in order to be the best version of yourself, you have to be “Fit to Lead.”  As an avid cyclist and runner, I would have to agree!!


Our marriages and families are incredibly important to us.  But between the hectic pace of our lives and the constant demands on our time, we can risk neglecting what is most to us.  The key: slow down and refocus on the significant relationships in your life.

To help ensure that love prevails, Shawn Stoever, a Ph.D. specializing in marriage and family therapy, is on staff at Chick-fil-A.  He serves as the Senior Director of the WinShape Foundation, a non-profit ministry of Chick-fil-A focused on “building relationships and transforming lives.”  This organization was founded by the same folks who founded Chick-fil-A, Truett and Jeannette Cathy.  Today, they have been married for more than 60 years, and their children, who currently lead Chick-fil-A, have been raised to value marriage and family.  They clearly support the belief that happy marriages are the foundation to so many other successes, including business success.


At Chick-fil-A, we believe leadership is endemic to each of us.  We all lead someone or something in our lives.  This is so important that we not only provide leadership training to home office staff and Operators, but also partner with others who are experts to bring leadership training to Chick-fil-A.

 Cathy shared a few stories of leadership at all levels within their organization.  This included him sharing real, local examples of customer-written letters, praising staff for the difference that they’re making in their customers’ experiences.  He even took time to acknowledge these employees (who were surprised by the letter!) in front to everyone, and he asked them to stay after the event so he could thank them more personally.  First-class!!

 Their leadership training is obviously building into their staff, refining their skills and teaching them how to provide the best service possible.  Cathy shared with the audience the basis of that training – it comes from scripture: If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:41)  From that, they launched their training program, “Making the Second Mile Second Nature.”  WOW – it’s no wonder you get great customer service there!  Talk about going above and beyond!!

 Dan’s Passion

Dan Cathy has been the President and COO of Chick-fil-A since 2001.  He spends most of his time on the road, visiting store locations and interacting with his team.  He is an engaged and caring leader, whose desire to build into his team is evident in both what he says and does.

 I have always been a firm believer that success will follow a strong passion for something.  Cathy has led the Chick-fil-A organization to many successes in many ways.  So, what’s his driving passion?  His personal passion is to see the fulfillment of the Chick-fil-A Corporate Purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.  To have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”

 Way to go, Chick-fil-A!!  Kudos to your vision, great leadership and wonderful team!!  You are an inspiration, and you are, indeed, having a positive influence!!  THANK YOU!!

What are your company’s principles founded on?  What kinds of things does your company do to build into the employees?  How about building into your customers, or even the community?  I’d love to hear some great examples of other companies that should be honored and held as an example of true success!!  Leave your comments here!!

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about leadership and developing people to their greatest potential.  For more information, please visit or e-mail Erin at

Authentic Leadership – Worth the Risk?

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Each summer, the senior pastor at our church takes some time off with his family to relax, re-charge and re-build himself with lots of reading.  It’s a fabulous idea that helps him to be his best – and our entire church body benefits from his renewed enthusiasm and knowledge for months and months after his return.

 Another side benefit we get is the great opportunity to hear guest speakers during the time he is gone.  I always find it refreshing to gain the perspective of others.  These people are typically very involved in the church and its mission, although they often are “normal” people who do not have seminary degrees.  Instead, they are often people like you and me, who are trying to get through this thing called life in the best ways possible.

 This week, the speaker wasn’t quite as ‘regular’ as the rest of us, because he has some celebrity status.  Brad JohansenLocal 12  Sports Director and official “Voice of the Cincinnati Bengals” spoke to us this weekend about “Loving Your Neighborhood.”  (I should mention that our current message series is entitled “We Love Cincinnati” and is aimed at inspiring and motivating the people of our city to get involved in making Cincinnati be the best it can be!)

 I’ve heard Brad speak on several occasions and have always been moved and inspired.  This week I was particularly impressed as he spoke with such passion, transparency and authenticity.  I kept thinking to myself – “This is a real risk for him.  He’s a public figure.”

Brad’s message related back to the biblical journey of the Apostle Paul through the Bible.  Along with a large group of family members, Brad recently visited Turkey, and he shared pictures of the city of Ephesus, where Paul had written to the Ephesians.  He showed us the coliseum where Paul spoke, as well as the prison where he was jailed.

 In his letter to the Ephesians, Brad taught us that Paul expressed four things we can do to love our neighborhood:

  1. Make an investment in the neighborhood and people.
  2. Be authentic.
  3. Show acceptance of others.
  4. Begin with greater love in your own home.

His interpretation and teaching was right on spot.  He backed it with much scripture to ensure the teaching was an accurate biblical message.  What really moved the audience, though, was the emotion and vulnerability that Brad expressed as he walked us through the above four points from the stage.

 Nobody has to tell Brad that he is in the public eye.  In a sense, he is always on stage; and not just for the weekend church services.  As a celebrity, he carries the burden that people will always watch his moves and likely (although sadly) be ready to pounce on him with criticism.  And yet, he took a risk this weekend, and he very genuinely and passionately displayed his faith, even ending his message with a very pointed call to action.  It was both impressive and inspiring!!!  It was also an awesome display of leadership!

 I would be willing to bet that at some point, Brad thought through a risk-reward analysis of sharing so deeply and transparently, given his position.  Instead of letting the fear of criticism drive his behavior, he took a strong leadership approach.  Brad made a decision that the reward of following through on his faith and beliefs was worth the risk he would be taking by sharing so openly from the stage.  One comment he made, in particular, stands out in my mind:

 “I thought I had to change my job to be in ministry, until God taught me that I’m already in His ministry.”

 What he meant by that was that he is in a position to lead in everyday life and in everyday situations.  In fact, we all are.  AND, we can make a real impact if we’re authentic, just as Brad demonstrated by sharing real stories and speaking from the stage.

 I applaud Brad and encourage him to continue what he is doing, both in our church and in his neighborhood.  Although he works in a profession that is often cluttered with fake people, personalities and appearances, Brad is authentic to the core…and he’s not afraid to show it.  Because of that, he is a leader in our community and a wonderful example for all of us.  Because he lives what he believes and demonstrates that, not just through words, but also in his actions, he is a leader that we should follow.

 By the way, I WILL be switching to Channel 12 news from now on.  He took a huge risk, and because of his integrity, he most definitely earned my respect!

 Are you leading with authenticity?  What risks did you have to consider before doing so?  What reward was the payoff?  I’d love to hear how you weighed your decision and what impact your decision had!  Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!!!

 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

Yes, YOU Can Be a Leader!!!

Check out my blog contribution to the Linked 2 Leadership community!! It’s a fabulous group that provides great opportunity to learn more about leadership!

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