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! **

norad-tracks-santa-photo-by-ladydragonflycc-turkey-time

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 eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com.    

Leadership and Wineries –The Art and Science

Buoncristiani Family Winery (www.buonwine.com)

 

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 eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com.

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…..it’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 eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com