Sara Emmanuel

Sara Emmanuel
Office Manager/Marketing Manager of Scherer Construction

Describe your role as Office Manager/Marketing Manager of Scherer Construction.

I wear many hats, but my two main responsibilities are office management and marketing our company. I became the office manager in 2007 when our office manager at the time, Vikki Godshall, passed away. She was a close friend and my mentor, so stepping into her role was a challenge; I had big shoes to fill. She was driven, reliable, very detailed oriented and always gave 110 percent. Even though my title changed and I acquired new responsibilities, I continued to assist my colleagues in our company with bidding, project management, IT and completing requests for qualifications. As our company continued to grow and our services expanded, I realized there was a sincere need for a marketing person. Since I had an artistic background, the basic knowledge of marketing and a passion for sharing our story, I took on that role as well in 2010. During the last seven years as the marketing director, it has been my job to continuously educate myself on the best practices for branding our company.

As an office manager, by definition, my role is to provide leadership, guidance, coordinate and direct all resources and support for our staff, manage office operations and procedures, oversee IT and implement procedures to improve productivity and customer service. In terms of marketing, I create brand awareness for the company, client relationships and the management of all marketing efforts such as public relations, market research, graphic designs and creation and organization of all collateral material.

Describe your leadership style. How do you lead and how do you tackle challenges?

Being the oldest of six children, I started off as a leader by necessity; it is just a role you wind up with. Of course, my style has changed significantly since then, but even when I am asked today how I lead, it’s hard to pin it down – it’s just been a way of life. I recently helped coordinate an event called Leadercast, (which I highly recommend for anyone who is in a leadership role or just wants to better themselves) and one of the speakers illustrated the perfect description of my leadership style: Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand and a best-selling author, defined leadership as you would in the creation of a story. In every story, you have a hero, you have a problem that needs to be solved and then you have a guide. The guide is the one who helps the hero on their journey to becoming the hero. They help the hero solve the problem that saves the day. They are the ones who realize the story is not about them; it’s about building up and supporting the hero. I completely identify with this because my fulfillment and my joy comes from being the one who helps the hero become the hero.

I somehow always fell into a leadership role – I would look around, see a need for someone to step in and take the reins and before I knew it, my hand was up. Inevitably, I almost immediately had a crushing sense of “what did I just do?” I knew I was going to struggle to get the team to buy in, to get the troops to charge forward with me, to gain the respect necessary to lead effectively. Imagine William Wallace screaming across a battlefield at the opponent with no army behind him. I was just a guy in a skirt, full of intention, lacking soldiers.

That’s when I started searching and rediscovering who I was and who I wanted to be. I also started educating myself on what being a good leader is by attending leadership seminars, reading books, listening to TED Talks and watching those who I felt were very good at it. Through my journey, (and I’m still learning) I have found that leading is mainly about serving others. It’s about the CEO approach, continuously elevating others, and giving them the tools and resources they need to succeed. It’s about doing what’s best for the team or the project you are working and playing whatever role is required of you. It’s realizing once again that it’s not all about me, it’s about everyone else.

I love a good challenge, and I hit them head on. Being challenged pushes me past my everyday skills and makes me step out into the unknown. I like this because this is where I get to really grow, learn, and become better.

How have you learned to build up confidence as a leader? What leadership skills can people who aren’t natural leaders develop?

Having confidence is a big part of being a leader and I think mine is built on three things: The first is being unafraid to just jump in with two feet and do what I think is right, whether it’s for my family, my team or the job at hand. You must believe that you can do what it takes to get the job done. The second is from trial and error and taking those challenging situations head on. I have made many mistakes and some not so great decisions. It was really scary because the outcome fell on my shoulders. This is where it is important to have a supportive team who will give you the support you need no matter what. Finally, probably the most influential aspect of how I have built up my confidence as a leader has been from watching my boss. As the leader of a $40 million company, confidence is a must. A good example of this is during the downturn of the economy in 2008. He was forced to step out into unchartered waters and continue to lead his team through the unknown factors waiting in the recession. He faced many challenges, took them head on and, though the future was uncertain, he led our team through it with a level of confidence, both in himself and the team behind him, that I hope to achieve one day. I learned more about leadership from him during those years than any other.

The best advice I can give those who struggle leading with confidence is to listen to that voice in your heart that you just can’t ignore, make that decision, and take ownership of the outcome.  

How do you facilitate unity within a group?

To create unity, you need to have the backing of the group. They need to carry a level of ownership and trust in your leadership, so that even if they don’t necessarily agree with you, they will still stand by you because they know where your heart is. I think this goes back to the CEO approach and creating an environment where people feel they have a sense of worth and importance to the group. As a leader, your role is to maintain the overall goal, but you must also be a team player. I can recall a time or two when I didn’t agree with the choice or direction my boss chose for the company, but because of the strong sense of unity within our core group and my level of trust in his ability to lead, I put on my marching boots and fell in line behind him.  

What do you think your strengths are and how did you identify them?

I would say my strengths are in problem solving, providing direction, organization and planning. I am also equal parts visionary and strategist, so I always find myself focusing on the whole picture, identifying potential problems and coming up with a way around them. I’ve always thought of myself as just a worker bee because I love helping wherever I can and being a good team player, but I constantly have this drive to do more and be more. It wasn’t until a company strategic and leadership training seminar several years ago that I truly understood what my strengths were and how I could utilize them more effectively, in both my personal life and career. I knew what I was passionate about what environment I thrived in, but being able to clearly identify my strengths and my weaknesses has made all the difference in who I am today.  

How have your setbacks and weaknesses made you stronger?

I see my weaknesses as a way to grow and become better, a better co-worker, a better friend, a better wife, a better mother. There are many weaknesses that I have been able to convert to strengths, but there are others that I know will always be part of my evolution and will continuously be a drive for me. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I have a hard time saying no. I love being involved and jumping in to help, but then the setback is that I find myself wearing too many hats. I end up feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin and frustrated that I am not able to give 100 percent to each person or aspect in my life. I recently heard a quote that said, “if you say yes to one person you are saying no to someone else.” This really hit home and made me take a step back and look at who or what I was saying no to. I realized that I needed to create a plan or a road map that I could not deviate from. I am now working on setting limits for myself and adjusting my priorities. I’m able to evaluate. Is this high on my list of priorities? Does this fit in with my plan? Is this worth not having time to focus on something I’ve already deemed important?  If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, I let it go. Having this map helps me focus my energy on what is truly important to me.

How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?

When I think of a fierce woman, I see strength, courage, passion, loyalty, sacrifice and humility. Being fierce means you lead with conviction and heart and learn to overcome obstacles and barriers. It is not about fame or recognition but about serving others and doing what’s right no matter what.