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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Archive for October, 2007


Thank you, Leslie!

Link: Making Your Garden Grow | Developing Your Employees.

Just today, I discovered this lovely series of blog posts by Leslie Levine, reviewing Growing Great Employees. She’s extremely kind, and – even more important – she’s simpatica. I love this word; it means – in both Italian and Spanish – one who is like-minded or compatible with oneself, and who is also an easy, pleasant and companionable person.

As I read Leslie’s blog posts, I first thought – “Wow, she really gets what I’m trying to say,” then “Oh, we’re on the same page,” and finally, “What a nice, easy, friendly way she has of writing.” Simpatica!

So, thank you Leslie…it’s very much appreciated.

Posted in Media


What’s Toughest

Recently, I asked a question on Linkedin (at the suggestion of my lovely publicist, Nettie Hartsock): “What’s your most difficult employee challenge?” One answer that intrigued me:

“Choosing between the “stick” and the “carrot” has been a constant challenge for me. The carrot is always the first priority and a given in my company, and I use it on a daily basis. But you reach a point when you have to make a decision: use the stick (discplinary process) or more carrots (more incentives, rewards…) when previous carrots already failed – I always wonder if my expectations are set at the right level, so I usually involve my team in setting them, but there is always 1 bad seed who never agrees, is always negative… so this is a challenge.”

I think lots of managers find this tough: an employee who doesn’t really seem to respond to the carrots or the sticks. Managers tend to get “held hostage” to this kind of employee: they keep offering carrots (rewards, incentives, praise, compliments) and hope for the best. When that doesn’t work, they show the stick (note the consequences of continued poor performance), but they tend not to actually use it (follow through on the consequences), because the employee immediately starts to perform just slightly better. A certain sort of employee can continue to play this line for years, doing just enough not to get fired. The manager, especially a well-intentioned, hopeful manager, blames the situation on him or herself, and tries to figure out if some other, better combination of carrots and sticks will magically solve the problem.

To help you find your way out of situations like this, I’d like to share with you four basic behaviors I believe you can legitimately expect from every employee:

They are responsive to feedback: Sure, everybody gets defensive now and then, but overall, employees are responsible for listening to your feedback, taking it in and trying to understand and apply it.

They keep their agreements: This may seem blindingly obvious, but think about it—how many times have you said or heard someone say, “I’ve asked her to do that a dozen times, and she keeps saying she will –but then she doesn’t do it!” employees are responsible for doing what they say they’ll do.

They manage their own growth: They may need, and will probably appreciate, your help—but they know it’s their responsibility to develop, and they don’t expect you to make it happen for them.

They are good company citizens: Generally speaking, they don’t make it difficult for those around them to succeed; they’re honest, consistent and respectful in their interactions; they don’t try to accomplish their own goals at the expense of others. None of us are perfect, but employees are responsible for making sure that they’re not doing stuff that makes others dread to come to work with them!

And now, to free the hostages: If you’re managing an employee reasonably skillfully and fairly, and the employee consistently fails to fulfill these responsibilities, it’s OK to let him or her go. (If you’d like more information about this, you might want to check out Chapters 10 and 11 of Growing Great Employees.)

Posted in Leading People


Wayne + Josh = A Good Listen

Link: TPN :: The Cranky Middle Manager Show » Blog Archive » The Cranky Middle Manager Show 116- The Personal MBA with Josh Kaufman.

This link is, once again, to Wayne Turmel’s Cranky Middle Manager podcast. It’s his latest offering, a great conversation with Josh Kaufman. I’ve mentioned Josh here before – he’s the creator of the Personal MBA, a do-it-yourself approach to getting the core learning you’d get from an MBA program. The program is based on Josh’s hand-selected list of 69 recommended books. I think it’s a wonderful idea (autodidact that I am), and Josh explains it very clearly in this podcast. As usual, Wayne asks excellent questions, and pulls a lot of interesting insight from Josh.

One useful thing Josh talks about is how to read a book for maximum understanding. He bases his recommendations on one of the books on his list, Ten Days to Faster Reading.

The other reason I like this podcast is that Josh says great things about Growing Great Employees. (How could I not like that?) I mentioned in an earlier post that GGE is one of the 6 books he recommends in the PMBA area of “Management.” I loved hearing Josh talk about my book in this podcast: he really understands and supports the essence of what I was trying to communicate.

The PMBA is such a great idea, and Josh is a wonderful, passionate spokesman for it: listening to this podcast will give you a fuller sense of how you could benefit from what Josh has put together.

Josh also unveils a new brand new concept he’s developing: to find out about it, check out business mental models.

Posted in learning


Happy Employees = Happy Customers = $

Link: Employee Surveys | Employee Satisfaction Surveys.

I love it when the data supports my pre-existing beliefs. Here’s a white paper that shows how employee satisfaction is linked to customer satisfaction and business results.

It makes perfect sense to me – most people, if they’re happy in their jobs and feel well-treated and appreciated by their employers, will tend to feel loyal toward and supportive of their company in return. They’ll then be more likely to be attentive and skillful with customers, and to do good work on a daily basis.

Voila: better business results.

The article above makes a good case for this (even though, at its heart, this article is a promotional vehicle for the employee surveys of the company that published the white paper, Infosurv), as do many articles and papers published over the last decade.

Sears, in particular, has done a good job of sharing the impact of their focus on employee satisfaction as a business driver. But they’re by no means the only company to have seen this correlation.

Why then, do so many companies still treat employees like – pardon my French – crap? In many organizations, employees are routinely kept out of the loop of critical information; not acknowledged or rewarded for good performance; forced to follow senseless and byzantine rules for the convenience of management; not provided with the skills or understanding they need to succeed.

I wonder, does that approach arise out of a clearly formulated belief, on the part of the powers that be, that empoyee satisfaction isn’t important to the business? Or is it simply unexamined selfishness taken to the nth degree?

Perhaps eventually, we’ll reach critical mass. Perhaps the positive results of treating employees like the valuable resource we say they are will become more compelling as competition – for customers, for innovative approaches, for quality employees – continues to build.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to spread the word.

Posted in Organizations


Milwaukee Makes Me Happy

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give a presentation to a gathering of businesspeople in Milwaukee, as part of the very cool LeaveSmarter series dreamed up by the smart folks at 800CEOREAD.

There’s a whole travel saga behind it that I won’t go into (suffice it to say that my plane landed at 11:30am and I started speaking at 12:07pm!), but the important thing is that the folks who attended and I all had fun, and – acording to them – it was useful as well.

We were talking about culture change, leadership, and what people expect of leaders during a time of change. Which, as I noted to them, is now all the time.

The sense I got is that almost all of these folks really want to be good and effective leaders; they want to be people that employees admire and respect; they want their employees to succeed; they want to guide their organizations to a healthy and prosperous future. In short, they are well-intended.

Now, I know there’s “many a slip twixt cup and lip” and that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and any other apt aphorisms you care to throw in — but still. I was cheered, as I always am, to see that many companies are run by people who want to do well by doing the right thing.

Call me a relentless optimist.

What do you think – are most leaders basically good guys, or evil materialistic scumbags, or somewhere in between?

Posted in learning


Why Does This Keep Happening?

Link: Abuses of power | Careers | SocietyGuardian.co.uk.

Here’s a great little article in the Guardian, a UK paper. It talks about one of my pet peeves: the fact that people are generally promoted into management with little, if any support in terms of coaching, training or even simple conversation about what’s required! Here’s a great paragraph from the article:

If all staff feel valued and respected, if they feel they are treated fairly, then the organisation they work for is unlikely to be characterised by bullying, harassment and discrimination. This requires managers to become more sensitive to peoples’ needs and to improve their leadership skills by gaining insight into how their behaviour affects the people they manage.

The writer of the article talks about how he and his company provide individual coaching for new managers, based on specific feedback about their strengths and growth areas.

How about your company? Is the place you work good, bad or indifferent about helping managers succeed by providing them with appropriate skills and understanding?

Posted in Leading People


Wayne’s World, Part II

Link: TPN :: The Cranky Middle Manager Show » Blog Archive » The Cranky Middle Manager Show #110 Growing People with Erika Andersen.


Better late than never! I’m much indebted to Wayne Turmel, the quirky genuis behind the Cranky Middle Manager show. He did an interview with me late in August, which he put up on his site early in September. I thanked him, but forgot to put the link up on my blog; so here it is now.

If you’ve never listened to Cranky Middle Manager, I’d highly recommend it. Not only does Wayne do interesting interviews with intriguing people, his own “wrap-around” commentary is very funny and spot-on. Check out his reference to Scythian queen Tomyris in the intro to his interview with me.

Posted in Web/Tech