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 March, 2007


So I Said to Myself…

You know you talk to yourself, right? Don’t worry about it – everyone talks to themselves. However, I’m continually astonished at the degree to which our self-talk — that internal monologue that runs pretty much continuously inside our heads — becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Walk into an interview saying to yourself, “I bet I’m going to blow this…they’re going to hate me,” and – voila – you blow it and they hate you. While leading a project team, if your internal mantra is “We can’t do this…we’ll never be able to do this”; odds are, you’re right.

As I observe this dynamic (not only in others, but in myself), I see the power of our belief in these negative assessments. We say we can’t, we believe it, and it affects our actions and our emotions in ways that lead to the bad outcomes we predict. For instance, in the interview where we predict failure for ourselves, our belief in that interior message causes us to behave in a stiff and clumsy way; to blank out when asked questions; to respond defensively…and we don’t get the job.

Unfortunately, the opposite isn’t always true: super-positive self-talk doesn’t necessarily yield good outcomes. Most of us have watched with a mixture of bemusement and pity as delusional American Idol contestants with no discernable talent confidently declare their imminent stardom.

In this, as in most things, the most effective approach seems to be the middle path. If you can revise your self-talk simply to be as accurate as possible, that seems to work best. For instance, in the interview situation, you might counter your I’m-going-to-blow-it self-talk by saying to yourself instead, “Being interviewed is nerve-wracking, and I’m nervous. But I know I’m qualified for this job, and I believe I’d be a good fit for the company. I’ll do my best to stay calm and open, and to present my strengths well. That’s all I can do.”

Try it and see how it works: let me know…

Posted in learning


Delivering on the Promise

Link: Center for Companies That Care.


While wandering around on the internet tonight, I found out about this very cool organization called the Center for Companies That Care. It’s a non-profit organization “dedicated to encouraging and celebrating businesses that prize their employees and are committed to community service.”

I often rant on the topic of companies that purport to believe that “employees are our most important resource,” while behaving in ways that contradict that statement on a daily basis.

It’s both resfreshing and inspiring to me to find an organization that was created to support and reward companies for delivering on that promise. The Center has a yearly honor roll consisting of companies that best follow their “10 characteristics of a company that cares.” Their list is quite clear, and it focuses both on how the organzation treats its own employees and how it operates as a member of the community or communities within which it does business.

I invite you to use the link above to take a look at their website. If your company does well in this regard, perhaps you could nominate it for the Center’s honor roll. If your company isn’t doing such a good job, maybe you can email the Center’s URL to your HR person….

Posted in Organizations


Power of Listening

I’ve said for years, to anyone who will listen, that listening is the single most powerful way I know to demonstrate trust and respect, and reap the rewards that come from creating that kind of environment.

This weekend I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who had just bought my book and read the first chapter, which is about listening. He manages a big car dealership, and has one salesperson who hasn’t been doing very well. He told me that, after reading about the power of listening, he had decided to focus more on listening to this employee and see if it might help. In a recent one-on-one meeting, he told the employee he wanted to be better at supporting his success, and asked the guy what he could do. As the employee realized that my friend was actually listening and interested in what he was saying, he started to open up. Finally, he said, “I don’t feel like you take me seriously as a salesperson. It’s like you’ve already decided I can’t succeed.” My friend, stunned, realized it was true. He committed to supporting the employee’s success more actively, and thanked him for being honest.

Later that day, someone he knew came in to buy a car. Ordinarily, my friend said, he would have turned the sale over to one of his two best salespeople to close. Instead, he gave it to this employee, who completed the sale. Later, the employee came into my friend’s office and thanked him profusely, noting how much it meant to him to get this sign of my friend’s support.

I was so touched and pleased to hear this story — this is exactly why I wrote the book.

Posted in Leading People


Ethics Wins

Link: LRN | Governance, ethics and compliance applications and services. – August 3, 2006.

I was thrilled to find this article, as I was wandering around the internet tonight. The basic message is that ethics are important to American workers – in many cases, more important than pay. The research cited in the article shows that organizations with an ethical corporate culture are better able to attract and retain high-quality workers and ensure their productivity.

This certainly lines up with what I’ve observed over the past couple of decades: that when people work for companies that reflect their values, and where they feel both trusted and trusting, they put down roots and thrive. It also resonates with my own personal experience. In my company, we really try to practice what we preach. We communicate as we teach others to communicate; we manage as we encourage others to manage; we make every effort to acknowledge our failures and mistakes as well as our successes, and to keep helping each other learn. And I cherish, on a daily basis, this foundation of integrity. It provides for me – and I believe for our whole team – a safe haven, a home base from which we can grow. I find that because I don’t have to protect myself from untrustworthy colleagues, I can put all my energy into serving my clients, creating new intellectual property, growing the business with my team.

So, it makes sense to me that this should be so for others as well. I’m pleased to find that this research proves once again that businesses can do well by doing right.

Posted in Organizations


Cultural DNA

Last week, in my post about the Forbes intereview I got to do with Danny Meyer, I started to talk about “core competencies,” and I told you I’d come back to it. So, here we are.

Ten years ago, the idea of core competencies was fresh, and people had few pre-conceptions about them. Now, sadly, the idea has been run through the HR-jargon-mill in many companies, and turned into something very complicated and theoretical, with little bearing on real life. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, though – at heart, core competencies are a simple and very useful thing.

Core competencies are “capabilities every employee needs to succeed in a particular group or organization.” For example, a company that manufactures life-saving medical devices might decide that one of their core competencies is “precision” – that every single employee needs that capability as part of his or her make-up in order to support this company’s success. A team that invents children’s toys, on the other hand, might choose “playfulness” as one of their core competencies — they’re saying that playfulness is essential to the kind of workplace they’re trying to create, essential to individual and overall success.

These core competencies can become shorthand for the “cultural DNA” of your workplace: the things that make it unique and valuable. If you’re a manager, it’s extremely useful to define that cultural DNA by deciding what kind of a workgroup, what kind of a team, you want to establish — and articulating the core competencies people will need in order to support its creation. What’s essential to you, the environment you want to create, and the results you need to get? Teamwork? Accountability? Process-orientation? Flexibility?

I’ve found that, when managers choose the handful of capabilities that best represents the workplace they envision, it gets much easier to find, hire and develop the people to help achieve that vision. I invite you to think about that — and let me know what you come up with…

Posted in Organizations


800-CEO-READ Blog

I’ve written before about the folks at 800CEOREAD, for whom I have tremendous respect. Jack Covert, his partner, Todd Sattersten, and their great team not only provide a wonderful service to the business community by offering great customer service and discount prices on books (any quantity, anywhere in the world, standard or personalized), but they’ve also become the go-to resource for insight into which of the thousands of business books published every month are worth reading and why.

So I find myself both humbled and honored to find that Jack has chosen Growing Great Employees as his “Jack Covert Selects” pick for today. Thank you, Jack.

Posted in Weblogs


kurtandersen.com – Home

Link: kurtandersen.com – Home.


Ok, I confess. Today’s post has nothing to do with making work better. It’s pure, unadulterated family pride. I’m writing to brag about my brother Kurt’s great new book, Heyday (the link above is to his website).

It’s everything a historical novel should be and almost never is: it functions as a true time machine, pulling you all the way into its time (1848), its characters, and their view of the world and each other. It’s just wonderful.

Read it!

Posted in Books


Forbes.com Video about Growing Great Employees

Link: Forbes.com Video Network.

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Forbes with long-time Proteus client Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. We talked about the book, and about how Danny has worked with us over the years to help them create a culture of good people management and great employees.

Danny is a gifted leader, in addition to being a lovely human being, and one of the things he and his team have done really well – he talks about this in the video – is to make explicit those characteristics that are most essential to the organization they’re trying to create. As Danny said, to get it out of his head and articulate it clearly, so that everyone is clear about what makes them who they are. He credits us with helping him see the importance of doing this; I credit him with truly understanding the importance, and then translating it into reality by building it into every aspect of his organization, from recruiting to hiring and training, to how they develop and promote their employees. You can find out more about how he does that in his book, Setting the Table.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about this idea of “core competencies,” and how you can use them to create the workgroup, department or organization you want.

Posted in Media


IndustryWeek : Innovation From The Ground Up

Link: Gardenpro

I’ll use my gardening analogy again. You can get expensive plants and give them shots of cutting-edge fertilizer, but if you don’t create a good environment – nice rich soil, a garden reasonably free of predators and disease (esepcially when they’re new) – they won’t thrive.

Similarly, you can hire smart, creative employees, and try all kinds of whiz-bang “innovation initiatives.” But if people are dismissed, ridiculed or punished for their creativity (especially when their ideas are new); if they’re not listened to, or given credit for great ideas — their creativity will never blossom to benefit the organization.

Posted in Leading People


An Entrepreneur’s Journey: What is the role of business?

Link: An Entrepreneur’s Journey: What is the role of business?.

I’d like to refer you to the post above. The author, who is an entreprenuer and CEO of her own company, talks about how many people see business as inherently bad, and feel that if someone succeeds at business they’re somehow suspect; selling out.

She notes, though, that business is at its heart the coming together of people as a creative and productive act. and she encourages her readers to see business in a more hopeful light. I very much agree with her. And, at the same time I know that the real goals of any business can get buried in fear, subsumed in politics.


However, I feel that part of my work (a big part ) is to remind people that they can use business to achieve things that are meaningful to them. In my practice as an executive coach and organizational development consultant, I begin with the premise that I’m there to help my clients – as enterprises or as individuals – clarify and then move toward their hoped-for future. I further assume that this future they want will include their whole lives: work, play, family.

In short, why should business be anything other than a vehicle for creating the lives we most want? To make business separate from the rest of life seems sad and counter-intuitive to me.

I do believe in the power of self-fulfilling prophecies: if we approach work as a battlefield, where only the wily and hard-hearted survive, that is what we’re likely to experience. If we approach it as an opportunity to work with others to achieve goals that are interesting, useful, or helpful – again, that’s what we’re likely to experience.

Posted in Work