Santa: Generous, Joyful and Just

** This is only a portion of an entire blog post that was published over on the MOAT blog, a wonderful blog about parenting and instilling your kids with responsibility, service and gratitude.  I highly recommend the blog, as well as Kay Wyma’s book, Cleaning House.  It’s an honor for me to post on her blog.  Be sure to subscribe to it too! **


I love this time of year.  There’s so much joy and celebration.  There’s so much to be grateful for.  There’s beauty and twinkling lights all around.

And, there’s something BIG we can hold over our kids’ heads to keep them in line: Santa!  Like most kids, ours are anticipating the best gifts of the year from Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.

I get it.  They’re kids.  They’re excited.  But, should they automatically expect gifts?

My kids are generally pretty good…when they want to be.  They know how to be thoughtful, kind, well-mannered, respectful and encouraging to others.  That doesn’t mean they always do it, though…especially when it comes to the way they treat each other.

They’ve been warned, though…

Click here to continue reading…

Speaking and Living Truth

How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg?  Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

~Abraham Lincoln

This “joke” has me laughing, but it’s really no joke.  It’s actually speaking truth, isn’t it?

How often do we try to fake the truth, calling something that which it really isn’t?  How often do we stretch the truth, bend it just a bit, or leave out particular details?  How often do we portray a much prettier front than what is our true reality?

Here’s the kicker.  Lincoln was right.  Changing a name doesn’t change what it really is.  In other words, what you see is what you really get.  And, actions DO speak louder than words.

I get that we all want to be great people.  I know we want others to be proud of us and our accomplishments.  Humans want to be loved, adored, appreciated and honored.  That’s okay.  It’s in all of us.

What’s most important, though, is what we DO every day.  Consistently. Not what we say….but what others will be saying about us years after we are gone.

Your heart can be in the right place, but your truth is in your actions.

  • Do you love unconditionally? Or do others need to feed your needs first?
  • Are you generous? Or are you fearful to give too much?
  • Do you do what you say you’ll do? Or do you allow other things to get in the way?
  • Do you do what you ask of others? Do you go there first? or is your own comfort more important than others’?
  • Do you prioritize what’s most important to you? Or do your schedule and spending demonstrate what really has you in a stronghold?
  • Are you truly kind?  Or only when it’s convenient or public?
  • Are you thoughtful?  Or does that take too much work?
  • Are you a good listener?  Or do you only pause long enough to think of the next thing to say?
  • Do you give your best to what you do?  Or do you simply do what’s required?

And here’s the biggest question: Do you want to leave a legacy?  Or do you just want to get through life?

Challenge yourself with these tough questions.  Don’t fool yourself or others.  You can call a tail a leg…but when you depend on it to walk, you’ll find that it was really meant for wagging.  The truth is always revealed.

Leadership, Controversy and Chicken

I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while.  I didn’t want to write it.  I really didn’t.  I wanted to sit back, listen to the conversation, watch the controversy and just be quiet.  It’s so much easier that way.  And nobody would yell at me, either.

I think the time has come, though.  I feel compelled to write about my observations, and I hope you won’t yell.  You can disagree, but I hope you won’t become mean and nasty, because I won’t.  And you shouldn’t either.  There’s simply no reason, nor does anger ever solve anything.

There sure has been a lot of anger and emotion in the headlines recently, though, hasn’t there?  Name-calling, accusations, hatred.  It’s a tough world out there, and the media is adding plenty of fuel to this wildfire.  It’s strange to me that they don’t ever try to use their visibility and position to bring people together, but instead create more discord and drama.  Wouldn’t it be cool if the media tried to bring solutions and better understanding?  Sadly, they might not think that’s as good of a story.

Anyway, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m alluding to the comments made by the President and COO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, and the media storm that swiftly followed.

Just in case you’re one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t yet heard, Cathy was recently interviewed by a Christian newspaper.  When asked specifically about his support of traditional marriage, here is how he commented:

“Well, guilty as charged.”

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Almost immediately, headlines surfaced across the newswires, blogosphere, television news and virtually every social media platform.  I repeatedly saw use of the words “discrimination,” “hater” and “bigot.”

I’m now watching as people are boycotting the quick-service restaurant, vowing never to eat there again and discouraging their companies from doing business or maintaining association with them.  The cities of Boston and Chicago have also made public statements strongly discouraging (if not outright trying to prevent) Chic-fil-A from doing business in their markets.  Heck, The Muppets even removed themselves from the kids’ meals.

There’s been a giant reaction, to say the least.

I keep re-reading Cathy’s quote.  Over and over.  I see where he talks about what he’s supportive of, what he’s proud of, and what he believes in.

Where does he say he hates gay people?  Where does he encourage anyone to do or say anything against them?  Where is there any rage in his comment that equals the rage being directed at him and his company?

Doesn’t he have the right to say what he believes in and supports?  Doesn’t he have a right to his faith?  This isn’t his opinion after all.  He even states that his belief is coming from the Bible, the most printed, most read book in the history of the world.  It’s a book, by the way, that is believed by many CEOs.  Should we start exploring who they all are, so we can spew hatred and boycott all of them too?

Now, before you get too deep in your opinion of me, my blog or what you think I’m about to say, let me share a few important facts about me.  I have several family members on both sides of my family who are gay, and I love them.  I don’t believe they chose to be gay.  It makes their lives harder in many ways, and I think they would have chosen the “easier route” if that felt natural to them.  But it doesn’t.  And, so they are who they are, and I love them, without condition.

I also have close friends who are gay.  I love them too.  I don’t judge them.  I don’t feel like it’s my place to do that.  They are wonderful people, and what they do behind closed doors is none of my business.  I don’t want to know what ANY of my friends are doing in their bedrooms, quite frankly.  Some things are meant to be private.

I, personally, am not gay.  I am also a Christian.  I don’t know how I could survive without the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  This world is too hard, and He saves me every day, over and over, and into eternity.  I’m grateful and undeserving.  (As much as I try with my Type A initiative, I am SO far from perfect!)

I don’t have all the answers from the Bible.  I don’t think anyone does.  I don’t think it’s meant to give all the answers, either.  If it did, it would be a science book.  Instead, this book asks us to rely on faith and what we believe about God and his love for us.  We are repeatedly assured that He is our Heavenly Father, and He loves us as his children.

If you analyze Cathy’s follow up comments on a radio show days later, he said this:

“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Cathy believes fully and completely in the Word of God; the Bible.  He is following the guidelines that He believes God put in there for the best life possible; one filled with joy, adventure, hope and abundance.  It’s clear that he believes God defined marriage in the Bible as being between a man and a woman.  It’s also clear that He believes God truly is all-knowing, all-being, fully omniscient.

If anyone slows down to read what Cathy said, it’s important to note that his request is for God’s mercy.  His amazing grace (which I totally need.)  Although perhaps not worded in the most tender way, he is indeed asking for God’s love for those that may disagree with this biblical marriage definition.  It’s quite the opposite of the accusations that say Cathy is “condemning” gays to hell.  In fact, he’s coming to God on their behalf.

Dan Cathy was asked what he believed, and he answered honestly.  He responded according to his values, knowing it might not be a “popular” response.  That’s hard to do, but he acted as a leader.  (He’s not a political leader either, by the way, so he’s not creating any laws to prohibit or allow anything.)

I would also expect any other business owner who supports gay marriage to speak his mind truthfully when asked.  That’s his choice.  He’s free to speak, whether anyone agrees or not.  I would also hope he could speak without fearing harsh ramifications.

Do people really need to suffer for not agreeing with you?  That doesn’t seem right to me.

I’m not an employee of Chick-fil-A, nor am I a theologian, but here’s what I do believe with confidence:

  • God is a loving God.  So much so that he sent his only son to be sacrificed on our behalf.  We are his children and so He loves us unconditionally, always desiring a closer relationship with us.
  • Dan Cathy is a good man with solid integrity.  He runs a fair and valuable service-oriented restaurant business and he works to make a positive impact on people’s lives and in the communities where we live.
  • Gay people deserve God’s love and grace just as anyone else on the planet.
  • God is sad when we suffer or cause other people suffer.  He wants joy for our lives, just as any parent wants the best for their children.
  • Every person alive has a purpose and that purpose is important.  They should focus on how they can have a positive impact on the people around them by leading from who they are and creating action toward fulfilling their purpose.
  • Anger is human, but should be controlled.  Always.

Look, folks.  Here’s what I would encourage you to think about.  Every single day, people are killing and torturing other people.  Young girls are being sold into sexual slavery.  Men are beating their wives.  Spouses are cheating on each other.  Adults are sodomizing children.  Drug dealers are enticing not-yet-addicts.   Factories are enslaving children and immigrants.  (The list goes on…)

These things happen daily.  These need to be the headlines.  (Why aren’t they?) These issues need to be the ones that people are passionately protesting.  This is where we should channel our anger and turn it into positive action!! 

Shouldn’t we focus on stopping people who endanger lives?  Shouldn’t we protest businesses who worship profit over working conditions?  How about stepping up to protect those that are being physically or sexually abused on a regular basis?

Why not allow people to express their beliefs, because we simply want to have that same opportunity?  If you think those beliefs are ignorant, you have that right.  If you want to express an opposing opinion, go for it.   Let’s not slay each other for it, though.  There’s no need to make them pay a price for not believing what you do.

A chicken sandwich boycott will not change Dan Cathy’s beliefs or their policies (which, by the way, are not discriminatory.)  If we tried hard enough, we could find something we don’t agree with in almost any corporation.  Should we boycott everything?  Should we poll everyone about marriage, and if they don’t agree with our opinion, then we break all association?  What about all of our other strongly held beliefs?  Is that the best use of our time and energy?

I wish someone would have asked Cathy if he believes that God loves people.  All people.  Everyone who has committed any kind of sin at any time in their life.  (This includes every single one of us, people.  Regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race or anything else you can think of.)

I think he would have said “yes.”  God might not always love what we do, but He does always love us.  It’s a shame that wasn’t an interview question.  It’s a shame we live in a world of sound bytes.

Love, I believe, is stronger than anything.  Love, I believe, wins.  The Bible even tells us “love never fails.”  In the end, I believe we will all find this to be truth.

Please stop the vengeful behavior.  Lead with love for your cause.

Do Your Actions Support Your Values?

I dropped my daughter off at elementary school the other morning and had to do a double-take on a mother who was just coming out of the school.  What made me look twice was her outfit.

She wore a very fitted designer t-shirt (huge logo on the front.)  That wasn’t so bad…except that the length of her shirt exposed her entire mid-section.  Combined with her low-rise jeans, she was exposing quite a bit of skin…to drop her children off at school.

I wondered immediately, what message is she trying to send?  Is it about designer fashion?  Fitness or weight?  Wanting to be desired or praised by others?

I thought about her children, and I wondered if she thought of them when she got dressed.

I bet she doesn’t want them to get their confidence from wearing certain labels or from having a specific appearance, I thought.  As a mother, I have to believe she wants more for them.  I have to believe she wants them to be authentic and to be liked and valued for who they are; not what they look like or wear.

But weren’t her actions speaking louder? And weren’t they sending a conflicting message?  How will her children understand what’s truly important?

Does this ever happen to you?  Are your behaviors in alignment with your values?

Whether we are leaders in our homes or leaders in an organizational setting, we have to model behavior that is consistent with our values.

People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.  ~Lewis Cass

Actions do, in fact, speak louder than words.  People see what you do, and if it doesn’t align with what you’ve said, then you’ve immediately lost their trust, their admiration, and their willingness to follow.  And worst yet, your words have lost their meaning and value.

What effect would that have on your company?  Your team?  Your family?

As we lead, we must consider our priorities, beliefs and values.  They cannot be swept under the rug.  They must be lived.

What values does your company profess?  Putting clients first?  Treating fellow employees with respect?  Being thrifty with spending?

What values do you uphold as a family?  Kindness to others?  Integrity?  Always doing what’s right?

Take a few moments and think about your actions over the last week.  Are you living out what you claim to hold important?  It’s a tough question we should all challenge ourselves with.  We are, after all, human.  We can, so often, get distracted or derailed.  What’s important, though, is that we recognize it, and then we commit to making the necessary changes to bring us back to the best of who we are.

Support what you say.  Model your values.  Let your actions do the speaking, because they’re what people hear anyway.

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.

Influencing Future Leaders

Photo from the New York Daily News


Rutgers University is widely known as an outstanding educational institution.  The heart of their mission is “preparing students to become productive members of society and good citizens of the world.”

Today I learned that the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA,) which is comprised of students, paid $32,000 to bring Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to campus to entertain their student body.  RUPA used funds designated for student programming.

I’m still amazed that Snooki and the rest of her Jersey Shore friends have the following that they do.  I often wonder how they even got a television show, nevermind the fact that they have gained so much popularity.  I don’t understand why it’s considered entertainment to watch someone drink themselves into oblivion, only to wake up in a garbage can.  Perhaps it’s me, but this is not how I want to spend my leisure time, nor do I think it’s really funny.  (And please note that I am not a teetotaler!  I really enjoy a nice glass of wine…or even two!!)

What makes my stomach hurt even more is the fact that Rutgers paid less – $30,000 – for Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author, Toni Morrison to deliver the school’s commencement address in May.  Somehow, her value does not command the same fee as Snooki.  How is this possible?

My friend, author Rebel Brown, recently wrote a blog post about the media’s responsibility with regard to content.  She makes some great points about the impact of content, and she asks some compelling questions, including “where do we draw the line?”

Personally, I believe in free speech.  I’m not a fan of censorship.  I enjoy having a good time, and I’m all about a good laugh….but I can’t help but wonder what is going on in our American culture when Snooki has more appeal than a Nobel-winning author.

Should we be taking a harder look at what is driving American values?  Why isn’t the prized author, her talent and character a bigger draw?  Is there a red flag here that we should be noticing? 

Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell says, “Character makes trust possible and trust makes leadership possible.”

Are we entering a time where character is becoming less important?  And if so, what will that mean for the future of leadership?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.  I have to admit…I’m left feeling a bit disturbed…

Erin Schreyer is a Certified Leadership Coach and Strengths Trainer. She is President of Sagestone Partners, which provides coaching, consulting, training and speaking services to help leaders maximize their positive impact on both people and business results. Erin is also the Founder and Board President of the non-profit, Authentic Leadership Cincinnati. You can reach Erin at    

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

Leadership Conference? Not Hardly! This Was Absolutely a Palooza!

This past weekend, I traveled to Florida to attend the first in-person gathering of professionals from the Lead Change group.  Focused on the topic of character-based leadership, we gathered together from three countries to engage in passionate discussion and to explore how we could apply our collective knowledge and experiences to make an impact.  This was the first “LeaderPalooza” of many more to come!

Why a Palooza?

I did some Internet searches on the term, “Palooza.”  As a partial word – a suffix – it doesn’t have a definition like a whole word would….but there was some clarification to be found.  In essence, a “palooza” is a celebration, an exaggerated event, or from its origin – a ‘humdinger!’ 

We considered other names, but this was so fitting, given the level of passion, enthusiasm and inspiration that was generated.  And it’s not just about feelings, either….there’s real action coming out of this! 

We have “instigated” something….and yes, the use of this particular word is purposeful.  We are standing on a foundation of morals, ethics and valuing people to inspire a different kind of leadership that has real impact on people’s lives.  Yes, we do want to instigate something…’s called change.  And so, Palooza seems to fit.

So What Made it Different?

For starters, we leveraged an Open Space format.  This is still a relatively newer meeting format, but let me assure you, it works!!  I had never experienced it prior to this weekend, and I’m completely sold on the value of this format.

Open Space values everyone in attendance and provides for greater richness than a ‘talking head’ format.  Because everyone convenes to discuss topics they are most interested in, the level of enthusiasm and participation is noticeably higher.  The format is also reliant upon the contributions of several people, versus the expertise of only one.

LeaderPalooza included an outstanding mix of corporate leaders and leadership practitioners; men and women; different cultures and age groups; and the experiences of many very successful careers.  Talk about a powerful group!  The caliber and ‘mix’ of people was outstanding!

While the diversity of our group was evident, it was equally clear that we had all assembled for a common purpose – to further develop as character-based leaders and to leverage that platform to help make a difference in people’s lives.

With the Open Space format, it seemed as if every discussion built onto what had already been discussed.  We could actually see the progress we were making, and we could all feel the difference in our thinking as we learned from one another and built on to our vision.

Another differentiator was that we took action.  How many conferences do you attend where you listen without participation, get a binder of information, soak in just a few nuggets of information but not really change all that much?  If you’re like me, that’s what I’ve been used to doing.

At LeaderPalooza, we agreed to action steps.  We formed committees that have purpose and deliverables.  We’re taking everything we talked about and we’re putting action to it.  We’re walking the walk, not just just talking the talk.

And best of all, we’ve agreed to hold each other accountable.  Seriously.  When have you ever gotten that from a conference?!  We’ve agreed to raise our own bar, from wherever it is that we are.  And we’ve asked each other to hold us accountable to not letting that bar drop.  It can only go upward, and we’re dedicated to that and to each other. 

WOW.  We didn’t just have a conference, we created a community…one that will encourage, support and help to further develop one another.  One that is committed to action, not just words.  One that seeks to inspire others to reach for more.  One that makes a positive impact and leaves a legacy.

Does this sound like any conference you’ve ever attended?  Do you want to benefit from the momentum that’s been created?  Check out the Lead Change Group on LinkedIn.  Join us on Twitter.  Check out our leadership community, and by all means, join in!!  We’ve started a character-based leadership movement, and you’re invited!  The Palooza is not just about one weekend.  It’s just the beginning…

For more information on LeaderPalooza, Lead Change Group or our local leadership community in Cincinnati, called Authentic Leadership, please contact me 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

Get Rid of the “Turkeys” before They Gobble-Gobble Your Success!


In honor of Thanksgiving, most bloggers, writers and speakers will likely follow the traditional theme for this time of year.  You’ll see thousands of new articles on being thankful, appreciating the little things, coming together with family and the positive effects of a grateful heart.  I am a firm believer in ALL of these things, and I want to be sure I don’t discredit these topics or the people who will take time to create content about them.  I, too, will be taking inventory and counting my blessings.

Just to be a little different (I think it’s healthy to break out of the ‘norm’ every now and then!) I’m suggesting that as you reflect on the things to be grateful for, you should also consider the things that need to be removed from your life.  Let’s call these “turkeys”, and let’s get them out of here before they create long-term damage!

Don’t allow these turkeys to grow and have ‘free range’ on your career!  Watch out for the following things, and if you see them, be sure to shoot ‘em and stuff ‘em!! (This is a metaphor, animal activists, so please don’t attack me!!)

  • Ego and Self-Centeredness.   Sorry, leaders, it’s not about you, anymore.  Your primary goals should include engaging your team, helping them to learn and grow, and keeping everyone focused on a shared goal.  The focus is not you or your accomplishments.  It’s all about the team now, so put your ego aside and provide your team with the tools and resources they need to be successful.
  • Indecision.  Now, more than ever, you are needed to lead.  Do your research, leverage your sounding board and then make a decision.  Go forward with confidence and rally your team to accomplish the vision.  Without a firm decision, there will be no vision to achieve.
  • Negativity.  It takes a positive person to rally the team and set their sights on higher ground.  You need to believe fully in your vision and your people.  A negative attitude will bring everyone down, and focus and enthusiasm will be lost.
  • Ignorance.  This one seems obvious, in general, but I’m specifically referring to ignorance about industry trends and technology advances.  These are two critical pieces…and they move quickly.  As a leader, you need to be aware of the changes and how they can impact your business.
  • Status-Quo.  There’s no driving forward if you’re in neutral.  As a leader, you should encourage your team to strive for more, and your vision should require that everyone stretches just outside of the comfort zone to get there.  The challenge will be invigorating and the reward in the end will be far more beautiful.
  • Culture-Killers.  This is a tough one, but it may be one of the most impactful.  If someone or something is going against your company culture, get rid of it.  Your culture is what people associate with.  It’s why they join your company, and it’s what gives them the bigger picture, even when they have a bad day.  If someone or a specific program is destroying it, I can assure you, they’re not worth the price.
  • Non-Priority Time-Wasters.  As a leader, it’s important that you remain focused on your goals and your people.  It’s a tough market out there, and there’s no time that can be wasted.  Sure, it’s fun to network, send tweets, friend people on Facebook and connect on LinkedIn.  Keep it in check, though.  While these tools can be immeasurably valuable, they can also suck you in and use your time that could be better spent on accomplishing goals.  Be specific about your strategy to leverage these tools and have the discipline to stick with it.

These are the turkeys that came to my mind.  What else would you add to this list?  What are the other things that need to be considered?  Let’s keep watch against these things, so in the end, we have more time to be thankful.

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners, LLC.  She is passionate about excellent leadership and helping people to reach their greatest potential.  Find more information at

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

Success Story: How One Company Weaves Values into Their Business


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Using Your Time Wisely?


Yikes!!  It’s a loaded question…one that’s not so easy to answer, is it?  How do you know if you’re using your time “wisely”…and what does that really mean, anyway??!?

 I’d like to submit that your time should be spent in areas that bring you greater fulfillment.  Hey, we only have one life to live; we’re supposed to enjoy the ride!!  So, how do you know what will bring you the greatest fulfillment and joy?

 Go to the intersection of Strengths, Passions and Values!


 Huh?!  Can you just give me directions?  I’d really like to get there soon!!!

 Sure!  Consider these points:

1)      How well do you know yourself and what’s meaningful to you?  When did you last take time to be introspective and really consider what’s important to YOU (no, not what’s important to your family, parents, kids, church, neighborhood, community, etc…what’s important to YOU, specifically?)

2)      How can you incorporate what’s important into the time and effort you spend at your job, with the people you know and in your various communities?

 Carefully and thoughtfully define each of these characteristics for yourself:

  • STRENGTHS – What are you naturally good at doing?  What positive comments do people routinely make about you?  What do you have a lot of experience doing?  In what areas do you excel or stand out from the crowd?  What accomplishments are you most proud of?  The answers to these questions will very likely fall into your category of strengths.
  • PASSIONS – What gets you fired up and excited (keep it clean, people – this is a family show!)  What motivates you?  When you’re lucky enough to find a few free minutes, what do you spend your time doing?  What do you really care about?  These answers will likely fall into the category of your passions.
  • VALUES – What’s meaningful to you?  What are your priorities?  What are the things in life that are important to you?  What do you want to be known for?  These answers likely comprise your value system.

 When you’ve completed your list in each of these three categories, consider if and how you’re spending time, energy and effort on them.  If you are, then you should be really proud of yourself for doing what’s meaningful to you!  If not, then consider what changes you need to make to allow you the time to spend on these things.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new job, but it may mean that you need to make time for a hobby, volunteer work or some other activity that will bring you greater fulfillment in addition to your career. 

Regardless, the important take-away is to spend some time on YOURSELF and what’s meaningful in your life…..and please, do it without guilt!!  Remember that we’re supposed to enjoy the ride!!!