[Erika] offers simple, straightforward, and, most important, effective steps for a creating a community in which people are so fulfilled and so productive that they achieve superior results. James A. Autry, author of The Servant Leader


About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.
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Archive for February, 2007

Feb
27

Playing Catch-up

I like it when big, dinosaur-like companies notice the mammals entering the food chain, and don’t immediately dismiss them. In fact, I think it’s their only hope of keeping up in the evolutionary race.

Microsoftgooglewanteddeadoralivebetterde

So, when I read this article today about Microsoft acknowledging that watching Google has been a “wake-up call” for them, I thought — OK, now it gets interesting.

But here’s where the hard part begins. It’s one thing, when you’re big (really big!) and wildly successful, to recognize that the competition is doing something to which you need to pay close attention. It’s quite another to actually respond: to move yourself out of your pre-determined path and do something different. It’s like turning a battleship.

I’ll be watching carefully to see what happens now…

Posted in Current Affairs

Feb
25

Acknowledging “What Is”

I just read today about the memo from Howard Shultz of Starbucks, lamenting that the “romance and theatre” have gone out of their stores and that expansion and efficiency measures have “diluted the brand.”

Interestingly, when the memo first appeared on starbucksgossip.com. many people thought it was a fake — assuming that a positive, visionary leader like Schultz would never express such harshly negative thoughts about his own brainchild.

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I was thrilled when I found out the memo was real, and it increased my respect for Schultz (already high) dramatically. When Jim Collins talked about “brutal facts” in Good to Great – noting that great companies perfect the art of looking at uncomfortable data without flinching – it made perfect sense to me. The most effective leaders I know are those who let in both the bad news and the good; who don’t make the mistake of thinking that telling themselves that nothing is wrong makes it true.

This kind of equanimity is particularly hard for me in my own life (though I’m quite good at helping clients to do it!) and over years of working to improve in this realm, I’ve decided that this ability – to be truly honest about one’s own current state – is essential to success.

I think it’s only possible to get where you’re trying to go when you can see where you’re actually starting from. So, good on ya, Howard – I hope your executives respond with open eyes and ears, so you can all get back on track toward your envisioned future.

Posted in Current Affairs

Feb
24

HBR and GGE

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OK, this is going to be just pure bragging. I found out yesterday that the March issue of Harvard Business Review has a quite positive review of Growing Great Employees. Here’s what they said:

More than any other business activity, the management of people gets at fundamental tensions of human life. Business is hard enough without the insecurities of both boss and employee. So it’s refreshing to see a book that delivers current thinking on personnel practice while prodding managers to recognize the tensions. Andersen, a consultant, likens managing people to gardening and puts the art of listening to others — and to oneself — at the heart of each step. She challenges managers to reflect on how much they truly seek the success of their employees separate from the demands of their own egos. This well-illustrated book still has the relentless optimism of most advice books, but managers who read carefully will take a sobering message to heart.

I’m thrilled that the reviewer, John T Landry, picked up on some of the essential points of the book: that it helps managers focus on the fundamental nature of people management, which is about the essentially complicated arena of human interaction; and that listening is at the heart of successfully navigating those interactions.

Posted in Media

Feb
22

A Great Sorry

OK, check this out. Two people sent this to me today. I think partly because I had a previous post about JetBlue and partly because I did one about apologies.

This is perhaps the most nearly perfect apology I’ve ever seen, which was part of an email sent to JetBlue customers from David Neeleman, JetBlue Founder and CEO:

Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.

You deserved better – a lot better – from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.

I believe him. Anyone who thinks that apologizing makes a person seem weak – here’s an opportunity to let go of that belief.

Posted in communicating

Feb
21

Work Poetry

Tonight, for your reflection, two utopian haikus:

Imagine a world
Where all are paid a good wage
To do useful work

If bosses were fair
And cared about their people
Work would work better

I invite you to focus on how to make this happen, instead of complaining about the fact that it doesn’t.

Posted in Work

Feb
19

As You Think

Today my business partner Jeff and I were talking with our publicists about the media effort for my book, and at one point Jane, the head publicist, was talking about the JetBlue meltdown. She noted articles she had read about how various JetBlue employees tried to address the situation and help the customer — how the problem was one of policies and systems that weren’t up to the situation, vs. inept or uncaring employees.
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I offer this as a testament to one of my basic beliefs, which is that most people want to do a good job at work. Various people, over the years, have accused me of being foolishly naïve in holding this belief, and have waited with glee for me to be proven wrong. In actual fact, as time goes on, I’ve had the truth of this belief demonstrated to me over and over. And I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons I continue to observe people wanting to be good at their jobs is that I continue to assume that they want to be good at their jobs.

This may sound mumbo-jumbo-ish or solipsistic, but I actually think it’s quite practical. Example: I believe that my waitress wants to be a good waitress, and so I treat her as though she wants to be a good waitress, and – far more often than not, she is, indeed, a good waitress. What does this mean, practically? Well, if she – for instance – doesn’t bring me something I’ve asked for, I assume that she’s forgotten and will want to correct her mistake once she’s reminded. So I catch her eye and say something like, “Oh, could you bring that wine when you have a chance?” And 9 times out of 10, she’ll say, “I’m sorry – I’ll get it right away,” and does. And probably apologizes again when she brings it. Problem solved, belief reinforced.

Now, let’s pretend that I’m assuming, instead, that she’s lazy and stupid and doesn’t want to do a good job, and needs to be prodded, pushed and punished into doing the right thing. If she doesn’t bring the wine, I might call her over to the table and say, severely, with a frown, “Where’s my wine? I asked for it 10 minutes ago and I’m still waiting.” She’s much more likely to respond coldly, or with an excuse. She’s also likely to walk away thinking I’m a jerk, and to be less attentive for the rest of meal. My negative belief is reinforced.

Much of the time, people rise or fall to the level of your expectations. As a manager, believing in people’s potential, and wanting to help them succeed, will take you a lot farther and get you much better results than thinking they’re lazy and need to be watched every minute so they don’t screw up.

And as for those poor JetBlue employees, I hope the company really does “reboot its systems” (in the words of their president) to support them in their quest to be great employees…

Posted in Leading People

Feb
17

One For You, and One for Me

When my kids were little, they used to ask me for story after story at bedtime. I created a kind of game where I’d say, “OK, one super-fast story, then we’re done.” Knowing what was coming, they’d giggle and agree. Then speaking as quickly as possible, I’d say something like, “Once upon a time there was a king and a queen. A monster almost ate them but they got away, and lived happily ever after. The end.” Still giggling, they’d snuggle into the covers and be happy to go to sleep.

Interestingly, this almost always worked. I have a theory: it’s called “the principle of horse-trading.” If you give somebody something they want (a story) in return for something you want (a quick end to the bedtime ritual), everybody’s happy. It may sound foolishly simple, but it almost always works.

On the job, managers all too often say to employees – in effect – “Give me something I want” – period. (The implication being – “I shouldn’t have to offer you anything because I’m already giving you a job”). Then they wonder why they get resistance, resentment, foot-dragging, sabotage, and people looking for other jobs.

My point of view? Giving people as much as you reasonably can of what they want is good business. It feels fair, it’s motivating to people, and it gives you, the manager, huge street cred. It will come back to you the next time you have to ask for something and really can’t offer anything in return.

Posted in Leading People

Feb
15

8CR Redux

A few weeks ago I sang the glories of 800CEOREAD. Today I got to spend the whole day with them, and now I think they’re even cooler. The entire staff decided to do a Social Style workshop with me (you can find out more about what that means in Chapter 6 of my book, if you’re interested), and a wonderful time was had by all.

The guy on their staff (you notice I’m keeping your secret identity secret, RS) who does InBubbleWrap put up a post about our day together, so I’m returning the favor.

Ceoreads

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Posted in people

Feb
13

China and Everybody Else

Just heard some personally exciting news today: Changchun Publishing has acquired the Chinese rights to my book, Growing Great Employees! Ever since reading The World Is Flat, I’ve been thinking about managers in India, China and other “flat world” countries, and their need for management skills – both business management and people management – and hoping my book might be useful to them.

I know the idea of millions of smart, capable professionals in India and China is scary to some people (regardless of Friedman’s assurances that there’s more than enough wealth and opportunity to go around), but I have a feeling this shift in the world’s economy could create many kinds of healthy competition that are good for everyone. Just today, I read an article on Personnel.com, proposing that British managers need much better training if the UK is to remain competitive with India and China.

Maybe the acceleration of business development in these distant countries will provide the needed impetus for US businesses to do a better job of hiring and training excellent people managers. Americans seem to want to win at everything: here’s a useful way to direct that competitive urge.

Posted in Current Affairs

Feb
12

Inspiring Leaders

A colleague and I are leading a session today and tomorrow for a wonderful group of 40 women, all of whom are part of a program through WICT called Rising Leaders.

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I’m so impressed and inspired by these women. They’re all midlevel managers in the cable industry, with demanding jobs and busy lives…and they’re so sincere about wanting to grow. They want to be good managers of people, good business people, truly ethical leaders. In ten or fifteen years, I predict that many of these women will be in very senior positions.

I feel honored to be supporting them, and I feel tremendously reassured to know that women like this will be the leaders of the future.

Posted in Leading People