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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Be Bad First

Get Good at Things FAST to Stay Ready for the Future
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Leading So People Will Follow

Proven leadership framework that creates loyalty, commitment and results.
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Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change
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Growing Great Employees

Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers
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Archive for April, 2007



Just got back from vacation (it was wonderful, thank you very much) to learn from a friend that her email-based business book club sent her a chapter of Growing Great Employees this morning. After a little research, I find that there are many such clubs, all sending people chapters of my book today. Don’t know who chooses the books to be on this list, but – whoever you are – I’m most grateful. I hope people enjoy what they read, and are inspired to go out and buy the book!

Posted in Books


Hasta luego


Tomorrow I’m going on vacation with my daughter to Wales – I don’t intend to be online much; I see the next 10 days as a chance to really disconnect, unwind and recharge…all in the company of one of my three favorite people in the world (my husband and son are the other two).

It’s been pretty wild for me since Growing Great Employees was published at the beginning of January — good wild, but wild nonetheless. I need to integrate everything that’s been happening, personally and with my business.

I wish more of my clients would give themselves the kind of opportunity I’m about to give myself: way too many of the executives with whom I work stay firmly chained to their Blackberries and cell phones during supposed vacations. Even if you love what you do, you need time off — otherwise you lose your balance. You get tired and un-resilient in subtle and not so subtle ways; you forget the relative importance of things (the preciousness of being alive, for instance, vs. whether a particular project was completed an hour late); you feel less satisfaction, joy and curiosity.

By Saturday afternoon I intend to be sitting in a cottage in Cricieth, feet tucked up, sipping a cup of tea and talking to my daughter about her wedding plans, with no other agenda in sight.

I invite you to do your own version of that in the not-too-distant future, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

I’ll see you when I get back…

Posted in Travel


Viral Coolness

Just found out something very exciting from the wonderful folks at 800CEOREAD. My ChangeThis Manifesto has been downloaded over 12,000 times since it was published on April 5th. I wrote it to rant about how crazy and unfair it is that most corporations provide so little preparation and support for new managers to succeed. Then I offered a kind of ‘first aid kit’ of stuff from my book, designed to help readers of the manifesto to be better managers.

I can only assume that people are reading it, finding it resonant and valuable, and telling their friends about it. I’m thrilled!

Posted in communicating


Fair Witness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of seeing clearly. Most of us, most of the time, muddle together our observations, beliefs, impressions and assumptions — and call it ‘the truth.’

Robert Heinlein wrote a book called Stranger in a Strange Land. In it, he invents a profession where people are trained to be absolutely impartial in their assessments, and to speak only from their direct experience, without inference or speculation. He calls these people Fair Witnesses. If you point to a distant house and ask one of Heinlein’s Fair Witnesses what color it is, he or she will say, “It appears to be painted white on this side.”

This concept is extremely valuable to me. Whenever I’m in a situation where I really need to have a clear and balanced perspective, especially one where I’m likely to have a strong emotional bias (for instance, where I really want or don’t want something to happen, or where I’m worried or nervous) — I remind myself to be a “fair witness.” I take a mental step back from the situation, and ask myself “Are you stating things as you’d like them to be, or as they really are? Are you neglecting or ignoring facts that aren’t comfortable or convenient? Are you assuming certain things aren’t important simply because you don’t want to have to factor them into your thinking?”

Making the effort to be a fair witness has often kept me from making foolish decisions, acting on limiting assumptions or being misled by fear.

Posted in Thinking


Assuming Positive Intent

Link: The Denver Post – Bank robber? Try a little tenderness.

I love the story in this link. It’s a about a system developed by an FBI agent for reducing bank robberies by dealing with every customer – even the odd or sketchy ones – with “excessive friendliness.” The FBI agent, whose name is Carr, credits the approach with a 45% drop in bank robberies in Seattle over the past year.

This has, in my mind, all kinds of wonderful implications for the workplace….

Posted in people


Important Work: Thank You

Link: Issue Highlights.

Just last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sheryl Silver, a journalist and editor, about an article she’s doing on Growing Great Employees for her career column.

In the course of our conversation, she told me about the work she’s been doing for almost four years, to pass legislation to support early detection of gynecological cancers. She began the work to honor her sister, Johanna, who died of ovarian cancer in 2000.

I was so touched at her herculean effort on behalf of her much-loved sister, and so grateful — as a woman — that she and her colleagues wended their way through all the political and social barriers to getting this legislation passed, that I wanted to share her story with you.

The link above is to an article that gives a bit more detail about the legislation, and here’s some more information about Johanna’s law at Sheryl’s website.

Thank you, Sheryl.

Posted in Current Affairs



Link: ChangeThis :: Growing Great New Managers .

Yet again, I’m indebted to my friends at 800CEOREAD. A few months ago, they invited me to write a ChangeThis manifesto; yesterday they put it up on the ChangeThis website. It was a great opportunity for me to rant about one of my favorite topics: how weird it is that we promote people into management and expect them to somehow – magically! – know how to manage well.

Now, if you don’t know about ChangeThis, you should go check it out on general principles, whether or not you read my manifesto. Their premise is that people are tired of sound bites and polemics, and want an alternative. Here’s how they describe their reason for being:

Weʼre betting that a significant portion of the population wants to hear thoughtful, rational, constructive arguments about important issues. Weʼre certain that the best of these manifestos will spread, hand to hand, person to person, until they have reached a critical mass and actually changed the tone and substance of our debate.

Some of their manifestos are funny, some are irreverent, some are instructive — all are thought-provoking. Yet another cool service the folks at 800CEOREAD are providing to the world.

Posted in communicating


The Employee Factor

Link: The Employee Factor.

Judy McLeish, co-founder of McDaniel Partners, recently asked me to engage in an email conversation with her about the value of creating a good employee experience. You’ll find the resulting interview at the link above. This is a topic dear to my heart, as I’m 100% convinced that the core of any great customer experience is engaged, trusted employees who are supported to succeed and acknowledged for those successes.

While you’re over there, check out what else she has to say…she and her colleagues are doing good work in the world!

Posted in Organizations


Working Happy


This morning I’m on the train, heading north along the Hudson River. Though I’ve taken this route hundreds of times, I never fail to be struck by its beauty and grandeur. There’s something about the Hudson Valley that touches my heart; I feel lighter and happier seeing it spread out before me; I love it.

I also feel this way about much of the work I do: I actually feel lighter and happier thinking about coaching someone, or working with a group to help them define their hoped-for future and then figure out how to move toward it, or writing something that will help people do their work better or enjoy their lives more.

I know many people don’t enjoy their work. But I suspect a lot more people could enjoy their work, if they considered enjoying work a possibility.

A few months ago, on a message board to which I post regularly, I was talking about how much I enjoy my work, and someone replied – in effect – “Well, that’s easy for you to say; you have fun and challenging work that you’ve chosen. Most people have no control over their work and are in boring and repetitive jobs.”

A few weeks later, I found myself in a TJ Maxx store (TJX, their parent company, is client of ours, so I was both shopping and getting to know the organization a little). In my checkout line, the sales clerk clearly enjoyed her job. She was pleasant and friendly, checked me out quickly and competently, commented on a shirt I had bought, and made sure I got an additional discount that didn’t automatically come up on the register. As she handed me my shopping bag, she wished me a good day with a sincere smile.

Now, here was someone in a job that many would consider boring and repetitive, and over which most people would say she has little control. Yet she seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself. It made me think: if more people gave themselves permission to look for jobs they liked, and then made the assumption that they could, generally speaking, enjoy their work…how would that change their experience of being alive?

Just wondering.

Posted in Work