Could 2011 Be the Year of The Incredibles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Your Workplace Reflect Freedom?

As we head into a long July 4th weekend, we can’t help but to reflect on our freedom.  It’s such a precious thing, freedom.  Yet it’s often taken for granted…or worse…not granted at all.

When we consider our country, the land of the free, there is so much to be grateful for.  And there are so many wonderful leaders that stepped up at one point and took a risk to ensure that we were provided these freedoms.  There are great leaders today, too.  Ones that stand tall with great vision, and ones who take a stand for what they know is fair and just.

In our workplaces, we can also be leaders who encourage certain freedoms.  We can model what it looks like to be trustworthy, transparent and reliable.  And in doing so, we can set a trend where we trust our peers, co-workers and teams to do the right thing…and therefore allow for freedom.

As I was considering a list of freedoms that leaders should encourage in their organizations, these are the ones that came to my mind (in no particular order.)  What would you add?

  • Freedom to flex work hours to accommodate family and lifestyle, while still meeting organizational goals.
  • Freedom to come to leadership with new ideas and opposing viewpoints.
  • Freedom to do things differently by leveraging personal strengths to achieve goals.
  • Freedom to leverage social media to communicate professionally and to help build brand awareness for your organization.
  • Freedom to have a healthy work-life balance that allows employees to properly re-fuel their energy levels.
  • Freedom to trust people and let go of control.
  • Freedom to celebrate great accomplishments and milestones.
  • Freedom to say (without judgment,), “I don’t know” or “I can’t handle any more” or “I made a mistake.”
  • Freedom to be compensated fairly, equitably, and even sometimes generously.

Before you leave the office for the weekend, consider your workplace and what freedoms you have.  I’d love to hear your comments regarding what you would add to this list.  I’d also be thrilled to hear success stories of how companies have provided more freedom and had positive results for doing so.  It’s by sharing successes that others will become less fear-focused and more freedom-focused.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  And my sincere thanks to so many leaders, both civilian and military who protect our freedom every day.  I’m grateful.

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

Mary Poppins on Leadership

I recently attended the Broadway tour of Disney’s Mary Poppins with my son.  We had such a special evening – just the two of us!  I joyfully watched his expressions of amazement and wonder as the magic of Mary Poppins unfolded on stage.  I have to admit, I enjoyed it every bit as much as he did!!  It was creative, colorful, perfectly cast and well-performed. 

In addition to the pure entertainment value, I was thrilled to realize that there were some valid connections that could be tied back to great leadership!  As a multi-tasking mom and a leadership practitioner, I decided to seize the opportunity to leverage the metaphors!

A Spoonful of Sugar

The children in the story are in need of a new nanny.  They’ve gone through quite a few, it seems, because they are demanding, rude and thoughtless.  As the story progresses, we see that other nannies respond to the children with equal disrespect and disregard.  As a result, the children are unhappy and the nannies quit their position.

What Mary Poppins teaches everyone in a widely familiar tune is that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  What she means by that is simply that we don’t need to yell and thoughtlessly demand to get results.  Instead, we can speak with kindness and achieve the same result.

Leaders, be aware of your word choices; not just in how you speak, but also in how those words are received.  Your language should be inspiring and engaging, bringing your team together to work toward a common goal. By choosing a positive, motivational approach, your team is much more likely to jump on board and contribute their best.

Anything Can Happen if You Let It

While working with the children, one of Mary Poppins’ greatest obstacles is getting the children to think differently and use their imaginations in ways they had never done before.  She consistently reminds them that “anything can happen if you let it” and the song reprises several times throughout the show. 

I took the time to reinforce this song and theme with my son too!!  Why?  Because, isn’t it so true that we are often our biggest obstacle?  Our perceptions of what is holding us back are often in our mind.  Many times, we accept them as true without even trying to test if our perceptions are accurate.  And often, they’re not.  We underestimate the people around us, as well as our own abilities…or, sadly, we just accept these misperceptions, because it’s easier than trying to test them.

Leaders at all levels who recognize the need for change need to go for it!!  If the need is compelling, don’t just let it go; take the risk to speak up!  Begin to make the case, have discussions with your team and your peers; get others in the boat with you!  If you’re seeing something “new,” it could be the exact thing that’s needed to take your company to a new level!

With a proactive approach (if you’ll empower yourself or one of your employees!), you can clearly demonstrate your value as a leader.  You can leverage your strengths, as well as the strengths of your team.  A fresh, creative approach is often what’s needed to launch a huge success.  As Albert Einstein once pointed out, “insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”

Build Your Replacement

During Mary Poppins’ time with the Banks family, she does an excellent job of sharing wisdom and encouraging each member of the family to leverage that wisdom in their own role.  In doing so, each one of them gains confidence, shifts perspective and begins to take on more responsibility.  In essence, they learn and grow.  So much, in fact, that in the end, they decide that they no longer need a nanny to handle the issues that have been solved or the tasks that they can now effectively manage on their own.

Mary, like a great leader, thought about the succession plan.  She thoughtfully considered who needed to grow in what areas and she worked to help develop them.  After building into them, she effectively replaced herself, knowing she would need to move on to another family in need.

Carl Rogers, an influential psychologist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee said this about leaders…

The most effective leader is one who can create the conditions by which he will actually lose his leadership.

Leaders, one of your most important jobs is to bring out the best in everyone around you.  It will positively impact the organization and each person individually.  You should be constantly looking for new ways to challenge your team and to help them grow and succeed.  Have regular discussions about strengths and how you can most effectively deploy each person and stretch them in areas they’ll enjoy most.  In time, you’ll have the best succession plan with a seamless implementation!

What can you do to insert a little more Mary Poppins into your organization?  How can you think differently or encourage others to do so?  If you follow her approach, the result could be as she is – “Practically Perfect,” as the song goes!!!

Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners, a firm specializing in Leadership and Talent Management.  Erin is a certified Coach, as well as a certified Strengths Trainer.  Her focus is on helping leaders – even great ones! – maximize the impact they have on their people, as well as their business results.  For more information, visit or reach out to Erin directly at

YOU 2.0 ~ That’s You … but Stronger!

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

Simply Strengths

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

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

The Process

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

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

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

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


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

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

Keep the Change!

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

So…bottom line? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are One of a Kind, and I’ll Lead You that Way!

This past weekend, I went to the History and Science Museum with my family.  My kids paused at the exhibit that explained, “You Are One of a Kind!”  The display showed graphical images of DNA structures and genetics.  It also included a large hand with the detailed patterns of its fingerprints.  My kids were amazed that no two are alike; that every single person is unique.

This fact of nature can provide quite the challenge for leaders.  How could you possibly treat everyone as unique?  After all, you may have a large team that reports to you.  Then, of course, there are corporate policies and procedures.  Let’s face it, they exist to ensure that you treat everyone the same – no preferential treatment and no discrimination. 

So, should a leader even consider “individualizing” their people?  How can it be done in a way that keeps your HR team happy at the same time it increases the effectiveness of your team?

I’d like to offer four ways that leaders can further motivate their teams by better understanding them as individuals:

Discover Their Strengths

There’s a reason why StrengthsFinder 2.0 has been a consistently best-selling book.  We all want to better understand our strengths, and we want to use them!  Of course we do!  By using our strengths, it allows us to have a posture of confidence, which further promotes our motivation and desire to be engaged.

Gallup research shows that organizations offering strengths intervention are 12.5% more productive, 9% more profitable, with 15% less turnover than organizations offering no strengths intervention.

Leaders, this is great news!  By understanding individual strengths, you can empower each person to use them more consistently and more effectively.  You can build better teams knowing there is great strength in a particular area or complementing strengths across the board.  You can challenge your people in a way that motivates them instead of frustrating them, and you can also discover when you should be following your people instead of leading them – it may turn out that someone has a strength where you have a weakness, and that can be a rewarding win-win!

Understand Communication Styles

We all process information differently in our own heads, and like most things that come in…they also come out.  Some people speak with an excruciating amount of detail; others prefer the ten thousand foot view.  Some want to provide constant updates; others just want to let you know a milestone has been achieved.  Some people like to provide feedback; others won’t offer an opinion unless prodded.

Leaders need to understand their own communication style, as well as that of their people.  Nobody wants to be misunderstood or unnecessarily frustrated, and we all know that choosing the wrong words, tone or frequency can cause this.

Explain to your team how you would like them to communicate with you.  How often do you want updates, in what form, with what level of detail?  Help them understand how to meet your expectations, so it doesn’t become a stressor for them.

Likewise, you should try to understand their needs.  Does someone need more direction, feedback or a higher level of detail to produce the results you’re looking for?  Does someone else’s personality suggest that you’re better off honing your listening skills, versus your speaking skills?  Is someone prone to getting their feelings hurt, or do they just want to be spoken to with logic?

By better understanding what your people want to hear, as well as how they naturally express themselves, you can become far more effective in building relationships and accomplishing common goals.

Be Flexible

Not many people enjoy the feeling of being handcuffed, with no freedom or flexibility.  Nor do many enjoy being droids – simple task-masters, following detailed direction with no need to think creatively or leverage their own skills and talents.

Leaders, work with your team to create a vision.  Be sure they have the necessary tools and support to be successful.  Be sure they’re focused and motivated.  Then, let them do their jobs the best way they know how.

Be sure that your team understands the milestones and deadlines  – in fact, work together with them to set these dates!  Empower them to get there, but don’t micro-manage the process.  Let them know they are trusted, and they will want to show you that trust was appropriately placed.

Again, if they’re leveraging their strengths and you’ve agreed upon the necessary communication, it shouldn’t be too difficult to be flexible with their approach.

Show Your Appreciation

It’s so important for people to feel appreciated.  It’s a large part of what keeps them motivated.  That’s why it’s critical to understand how people feel rewarded and accomplished; what do they value?

While a financial bonus may work well for one, an unexpected day off might be more highly valued for another.  Some may appreciate a big fuss and an award recognition for their contributions; others may prefer a quiet donation to their favorite charity.

Leaders, if you don’t know the answer, then ask your people what they value.  Tell them you think they’re doing great and ask them how you can best demonstrate that.  Your appreciation is no reward, if they don’t get the message.

What other strategies can help leaders more closely connect with their people?  What additional benefits can be achieved by these and other approaches?  How can you become a more personal leader that values the thumbprint of each person on their team?

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

Do I Have Food Stuck In My Teeth?

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


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


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


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


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


Why is awareness so important for leaders?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

How Aware Are You?

Today’s blog post is from my good friend and coaching colleague, Elaine Suess.  She and I are excited to be collaborating and leveraging each other’s strengths this year (and hopefully beyond!)  Elaine has built a very successful career leading people and initiatives with great companies such as GM and Hillenbrand.  She is wonderfully creative, strategic and innovative; and she is deeply entrenched in giving back to our community as well.  Enjoy her first post on Authentic Leadership….more are sure to come!!

Recently, I received a card from a former boss of mine named John. His card brought back memories of another manager of mine.

Before I worked for John, I managed the chemical product line in the Service Parts division of GM. I enjoyed what I did, and worked with a great team of people. The chemical product line team was almost all women – much different than my early days at GM where a roomful of 50 included only three women. And my product line manager was also a woman whose name was Jane.

Jane surprised me one day when we were standing between our attractive heather-gray cubicles (the offices of the 90’s and today!). We were talking about the product line when she told me matter-of-factly that she thought I was bored with my job. The comment was clearly not made during a review. It wasn’t said in a threatening manner and there was no blame attached. It was just a comment, but boy did it get my attention! 

The reason I remember that comment many years later, is because with that observation, I had the feeling that Jane knew me better than I knew myself. What did she mean by the remark, and what was I supposed to do with it?

When I came to work every day, I was heads down, intent on expanding and growing my line – identifying and buying new products, marketing the current line and focused on profitability. But after giving it some thought, I realized Jane was probably right. It wasn’t that I couldn’t learn and grow any further in my current job, but the real challenge of wrapping my arms around something new and kicking into high gear had abated somewhat, and I decided I was indeed ready to move on, with her encouragement.

 Biggie-Sized Awareness

Do you see yourself anywhere in this situation? Does your team feel you know them better than they know themselves? Whether you’re “the boss” or leading from the middle, it takes a special kind of leader to listen and observe to that extent.

 What can you do to “ramp up” your awareness-o-meter!?

Know thyself – Self-awareness is key. Simply being cognizant of what is sometimes referred to as your Big Five Personality Factors can help you with self-awareness, and in turn help your team.

The Big Five are: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability.

Know thy people – The fact that we’re all so unique is a blessing to be sure, but those same differences can make it a challenge to recognize the strengths and needs of each of your team members.

Do you want to take the time time to observe and listen, or will you make the time? This year, this month, this week…how about today? You can start making and stop taking!


Self-awareness and people-awareness can oftentimes produce results far beyond our expectations! Awareness creates happiness – and that’s nothing to be afraid of, right?

Just be(a)ware of great outcomes coming your way!



Listen with Abandon

Now, about the author of that card whom I initially mentioned… John was the Director of New Initiatives, and the internet was “new” back then.  I knew nothing about it – hadn’t been on it and didn’t have a home computer (so this was a few years ago). But Jane and John knew I had the skills to manage, and the desire to learn. At a time when approximately 3% of people in the US had home computers, I got to manage and set the strategy for and The Internet was an open frontier, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. When they promoted me out of the job, they replaced me with two people. Thanks so much Jane, for observing and listening!

Elaine can be contacted at  Her Twitter ID is elainesuess, and she is also on LinkedIn. 

Sagestone Partners is a leadership and talent management coaching firm.  We are passionate about people and helping them to achieve their greatest potential.  For more information, please visit our site:

Ten Treasures to Take Away from 2009

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

Have a Plan.  Be Intentional.

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

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

The Power of Identifying Strengths and Leading with Them

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

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

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

Twitter – An Education and a Community-Builder


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Value of Blogging

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

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

Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati

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

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

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

Lunch with John Maxwell

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

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

Surround Yourself with Good People

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

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

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

With Risk, Comes Reward

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

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

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

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

You Must Believe

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

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

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

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

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

Seeing Signs of Life? Create a Greenhouse for Growth!

green shoots

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

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

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


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

 Start with Analysis

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

 Embrace Change

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

 Implement Change, See Greater Value

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

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

These can be real killers:

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

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

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

5 Steps to Building a High Performing Team


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

 Build A Community with a Purpose.

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

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

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

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

 Be Approachable and Demonstrate Integrity.

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

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

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

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

Ask and Listen.

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

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

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

 Hold Each Other Accountable.

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

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

 Celebrate Successes All the Way to the Finish Line.

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

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

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

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

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