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 June, 2007


Penguin Speakers Bureau – Live!

Erika Andersen – Penguin Speakers Bureau –

I just wanted to share with you the launch of the Penguin Speakers Bureau. They unveiled their excellent (I think) website last month; I’m honored to be included in their inaugural roster of speakers, in the company of authors like Ray Kurzweil, Harlen Coben, Mary Pipher and Eric Jerome Dickey. The link above is the page they created for me.

This leads me to one of the many unexpected things that’s happened since Growing Great Employees was published. I knew (because my agent, my publisher, my brother-the-bestselling-author and my business partner had all told me) that part of what authors do – if they want to create an audience for their work and take best advantage of having been published – is speak to large audiences. Though I’ve spoken to groups in various contexts for many years, and wasn’t nervous or anxious about it, I simply didn’t know whether I’d like it.

The group work that I do most often is highly interactive and in-depth: I’m either teaching management or leadership skills, or helping senior teams envision and plan for the future of their organization. And that work I love: it feels as though I’m helping them to be more strategic and more effective in a very personalized way. I wasn’t sure if speaking to large groups – mostly them listening and me talking – would be satisfying to me; whether I could be as helpful to the audience as it is always my goal to be.

Fortunately, now that I’ve been doing it, I find it has its own unique set of satisfactions, and that it does seem to be helpful to people. While I don’t get a chance to interact personally with each attendee, I can still engage everyone with the topic in a variety of fun and personal ways. And – this is the feedback I’m getting, anyway – people are finding my presentations informative, thought-provoking and inspiring: they say they feel motivated and supported to behave in new ways or move in new directions.

And I want to thank two resources that have helped hone my skills in this endeavor. A couple of years ago, I took a communication skills course through Speakeasy, inc. that provided some great foundational skills. And earlier this year, I worked with a remarkable women named Isabelle Anderson, who really helped me to understand how to leverage my existing strengths as a speaker and develop new ones.

It’s great to discover that something you need to do is also something you enjoy doing!

Posted in Media


Lisa Hanenberg Rocks

Link: Management Craft: The Aim of Management Training.

Lisa Hanenberg has a leadership and management blog, Management Craft, that I like a lot. It’s funny, true, insightful and practical. I especially resonated with this post (linked above) about why companies do management training. Lisa opines that companies tend to favor the least important of all the possible outcomes from management training, and the least useful competencies in management trainers.

I completely agree, and we (my colleagues at Proteus and I) have been working for many years to address this. Rather than just trying to teach a “canned” lesson, we develop management learning experiences that provide managers with a clear pathway: we focus on what management is, why it’s important, and how to do it. Our goal is for participants to see what’s in it for them to behave differently, to be personally motivated to do so – and then to teach them the skills required. We even have a name for this: we call it LearningPath. It’s the basic premise behind my book, as well.

We also have an instructor quality framework that addresses the main deficiencies in most trainer development. As Lisa says, most companies look for “trainers who can present materials” — an almost pure focus on content knowledge. And, as most of us know from our own school experience, a person’s intellectual grasp of a body of knowledge is nearly irrelevant to his or her effectiveness as a teacher!

In contrast, our Proteus instructor development approach focuses on three core elements of the trainer’s job, not just one: we focus on content knowledge, but perhaps even more important, we focus on process skills and mindset.

Process skill are the “how” of learning. For instance: Can the instructor listen? Is he or she capable of creating a conversation with the learners? Can the instructor demonstrate the skills being taught so the participants can see what they’re trying to learn? Does he or she know how to troubleshoot when things in the classroom don’t go as expected?

Mindset is what the instructor believes about learning. We’ve found this is often the most important element, in terms of impact on the learners’ experience and their outcomes. For instance, does the instructor believe that she is the source of learning, or does she believe that learning happens within the learner and that her job is simply to help catalyze that learning? (We think the latter is a more useful mindset for a trainer.) Does the instructor believe that it’s his responsiblity to convince the learners that what he’s saying is true, or does he believe that all he can reasonably do is offer what he knows? (Again, the latter tends to create a much better learning dynamic — have you ever been in a workshop where a trainer gets stuck on trying to talk somebody into “buying” what he’s trying to “sell”? Yikes – no fun.)

When we work with trainers, we assess them in these three areas, help them assess themselves, and then we work with them to develop in the needed areas.

It makes me proud to be able to say: Lisa, we agree with the problem, and we’re offering a solution!

Posted in learning



Link: Book Publicist Nettie Hartsock -Publicist, Editor and Copywriter..

Generosity is one of my favorite human qualities. I love it in all its forms: generosity with resources, time, money, information, knowledge, power, credit. Most of all I love generosity of spirit. I really appreciate it when people give freely of who they are, trusting that the universe will somehow replenish what’s depleted.

Nettie Hartsock, who I’ve just had the pleasure to meet online, seems to be this kind of person. For instance, in her blog — that’s the link, above — she has lots of ideas for authors regarding how to publicize their books. Now, publicist is part of what she does for a living, and she could have decided to hoard her knowledge, only sharing it with paying customers.

But she’s made a different choice. And you know what? I suspect her generosity draws people to want to work with her and benefit even more from her wisdom.

Posted in people


How I Got There

I feel remiss! I was just rereading yesterday’s post, and I realized I forgot to thank Judy McLeish. She’s a lovely, smart person, the main force behind McDaniel Partners, a consultancy out of Toronto that helps companies focus on creating a more positive customer experience and achieving great results by “capturing the hearts and minds” of their employees. AND she’s the person responsible for my day in paradise: FirstCaribbean is her client, and she suggested me to them as a speaker.

Let me publicly espress my gratitude, Judy. You rock. As do Jennifer and Andrea. May we always meet in nice places, with great clients.

Posted in people


Keynote Speaking in Paradise

I had a wonderful experience this week. I was the keynote speaker for a meeting of the senior leaders of FirstCaribbean International Bank. Why was it wonderful? Here are the main reasons:

First and foremst, the group was marvelous – smart, engaged, passionate. They’re in the midst of making a major change in their culture, and they’re approaching it with a great combination of enthusiasm and realism. I just thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend time with them.


Second, I had the opportunity to speak about two things that are really meaningful to me: the topic of the presentation was “Leadership in Change,” and I had the chance to focus on leadership and culture change in organizations (and how it happens or doesn’t).

And finally, it was in Barbados. I’d never been there, and it’s a truly unique and magical place. It’s gorgeous, to begin with, and the Barbadians are a great combination of friendly, unpretentious and proud. At the risk of sounding like the Barbados tourist bureau, if you’ve never been there, you should definitely consider going.

All in all, an amazing opportunity.

Posted in communicating


How to Be Productive

Link: The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Group Writing Project : Instigator Blog.

This is a link to Ben Yoskovitz’ blog. Ben started a writing meme called (as above) “The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Group Writing Project” in April, where he asked people to submit their single best productivity tip. It’s been speeding arond the blogosphere ever since, with almost 150 tips coming in to him. As I’ve wandered around and read them, I’ve discovered a variety of cool blogs new to me. A great idea on lots of levels.

So I’m joining the fun!

My productivity tip is based on my own experience, which is that quality is more important than quantity. What good does it do me to do a bunch ‘o stuff, if it’s the wrong stuff?

So, here’s the tip: whenever thinking about doing something, ask yourself two questions:

“Will doing this help me find, know, feel or achieve something that’s important to me?” (If not, why do it? If so, why not do it?)

“Am I the best person to do this?” (If not, let or ask someone else to do it — this especially important if you’re a manager and aren’t so great at delegating.)

It works for me…

Posted in News


Create Your Own Meaning

Link: Seth’s Blog: Logos.

I agree with this blog post of Seth Godin’s – he talks about logos that have become ultra-recognizable (Nike’s swoosh, Starbuck’s mermaid, Apple’s apple), and opines that it’s goofy to spend a kajillion dollars on a “meaningful” logo; he recommends picking something that’s cool-looking and doesn’t carry much instrinsic meaing — and then to create meaning for it.


I like to think we’re doing that with our Proteus logo (the blue shape in the picture to your left). I hope that, when clients see our logo, they think of the experience we hope to create in working with them: illuminating, strengthening, trustworthy.

It’s the same with people, I think. I’ve observed that some people try too hard to make you think something “important” about them from the very first moment: through creating an extreme “look,” or by focusing attention on their possessions, or by lauding their own accomplishments. It almost always rings false. I find myself most impressed by people who enter into situations “neutral” — solid, simple, unprespossessing, gracious — and then let you see who they truly are by creating real meaning in their interactions with you.

Posted in communicating


Young Employees: Starting Out Right

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Gen Y employees. In it (it was on May 11, if you want to take a look) I referenced an article that talked about how these new workers (Gen Y is roughly those people born between 1980 and 1990, so they’re currently 16 to 27) approach work differently than their older colleagues.


The main point – and I’ve certainly observed this – was that younger workers simply don’t accept the command-and-control style of management that a lot of older managers still use. They see work as a mutual exchange of value: you, company and manager, have some things I want, and I, employee, have some things that you want. As long as we’re both getting something from the exchange, I’ll work here.

My husband, Scott, and I were talking about this today. He’s been on the road a lot lately, teaching a management skills workshop that Proteus offers called Encouraging Excellence. One of the skills it covers is making performance agreements: how to establish clear, two-way, doable agreements about what you expect your employees to do and accomplish.

In a group he taught last week, one participant said, “But what about when people don’t do obvious things — do you still have to make an agreement? Shouldn’t they just automatically do it? And can’t you just discipline them for not doing it?”

When Scott dug into the situation a little, he found out the manager was talking about a very talented 20-something employee who had very different assumptions about the manager-employee relationship than he did. For instance, one day when he asked the employee to stay late to work on something critical, the employee said, “No, that doesn’t really work for me. I’m pretty tired. I might be able to stay late tomorrow, though.” The manager was shocked — simply because he would never had said that to his boss, and it seemed to him completely inappropriate, based on his long-held assumptions about work and management.

As we talked about this situation, and others we’ve heard about or seen recently, we realized there’s something managers could do to save themselves and their employees a lot of pain and suffereing.

Here’s the suggestion: before you hire someone in their 20s, take the time to make explicit your expectations about the manager-employee relationship: what you believe to be the rights, privileges and responsibilities of both manager and employee. For example, you might believe that it’s your right as the manager to require that employees be at work at a specific time every day, adhere to a dress code, and work on projects as assigned, even if it’s something they’d prefer not to do. These things may seem so obvious to you that you might feel almost silly saying them out loud….but you might be surprised to discover that your new employee sees these things as points for discussion — or even resists the idea the you have the right to determine them!

Much better to get this stuff out in the open before you make the job offer – then you can find out if you have enough common ground to work well together.

It’s a new world…

Posted in Leading People