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 July, 2008


Customer Delight

I felt truly taken care of as a customer the other day.  I had ordered something online from Aveda, and never received it – and then it showed up on my credit card bill.  I sent an email to their customer service people, and in less than 24 hours received a very apologetic, professional yet warm email letting me know they had tried to deliver it 3 times, but didn’t have the apartment number.  Now clearly, this was my fault – I must have spaced out putting the apartment number on the order form – but there was not one iota of blame stated or implied in the email.  And then here’s where it got really good:

We are happy to provide two options to correct this matter on your behalf.  If you like, we will be happy to reship your order via expedited delivery service at no cost to you.  If you would like this option, please reply to this email and verify the delivery address, including apartment number, for your order.  If you prefer, we will be happy to issue a full credit to your account for the cost of this order. Simply reply to this email with your preference and we will take care of the rest.

Thank you for this opportunity to respond to your concerns.  We look forward to hearing from you and to assisting you further.

I was in customer heaven.  I emailed them the apartment number and assumed that was the end of a very nice customer experience.  But no.  There was more.  Within the hour, I got this message:

Hello Erika:

Good to hear from you again.

Thank you for taking the time to confirm your shipping address for us. We would be happy to reship your order via Second Day delivery service at no additional cost to your verified address.

You should be receiving this order shortly.

We are sorry that your transaction with us was less than satisfactory and appreciate you taking the time to let us know of your experience and for giving us the opportunity to correct it.  If you would like to speak with one of our representatives at any time, please call…

Why aren’t all customer interactions like this?  I can only assume that either merchants don’t understand how important great customer service is to their success, or – and I think this is more likely – they don’t know how to build great customer service into their organizations.

All too often, it seems that though the folks running companies know the importance of customer service in theory (and talk about it at length!), they don’t quite get that they need to hire employees who want to provide good service, train them how to do it well, and then both require and incent them to behave toward their customers as the folks at Aveda behaved toward me.  

Because I’ve gone, with this one interaction, from being a satisfied customer to being a vocal fan.  And that’s what businesses want and need. 

Posted in Organizations



Sell_on_change I just moved into my new house on Friday – and I’m exhausted.  Happy and excited, too – but mostly exhausted.  Partly it’s because I’ve been pumping out non-stop physical energy for the past three days, but I think it’s mostly mental and emotional.

Change just takes a lot of energy.  Even if it’s a good change (it was), even if you basically like change (I do), even if you have the love and support of those closest to you (I have).

So, think about this in the context of work.  When a manager asks employees to change – whether it’s a change in how they do things or in what their job entails, a change in where their office is located or with whom they interact – it is likely to be difficult on a whole variety of levels.  And it’s too easy for the manager to assume that this difficulty is a choice: that the employees are “resisting” the change, or that they’re “not committed.”  These are only two of the more negative and unhelpful ways managers can characterize people’s largely involuntary reaction to change.

I’m a big fan of William Bridges’ Transitions model.  For those of you not familiar with it, here’s a super-summarized executive summary: He says that when change happens, people go through a process of transition that has 3 basic stages. First, they need to get their heads and hearts around what’s changed and how it affects them. Then they need to have a chance to take a breath (or 1,000) and get ready for what’s ahead.  And, finally, they can start engaging with the new world.

I’ve found it extremely helpful to remember this when I or others are living through change (and who isn’t, these days?).  It allows me to hold more realistic expectations and to deal with people – myself included – in ways that support vs. hinder them/me in getting through the stages,

More on this next time I post…and if you haven’t read it, I recommend Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions

Posted in learning


Time Away

My personal commitment to this blog is not to go longer than a week post-less, barring acts of God. I’m on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and only have access to email for about an hour a day. So here’s my message in a bottle: 

Sometimes, even for those of us who genuinely love our work, and feel grateful to be able to do it, time away is deeply necessary and rejuvenating. I’m having a lovely time doing pretty much nothing, and feeling things shift and heal inside my brain and body. 

Have a wonderful day doing whatever you’re doing — and I’ll be back next week. With deep affection for this virtual community of readers…
Posted in communicating


Excellence is Riveting

Wimbledon 2008: John McEnroe hails Rafael Nadal victory as greatest final ever – Wimbledon 2008 Championships – Tennis – Telegraph .

I don’t know what you were doing yesterday.  I spent almost 5 hours watching an astonishing display of focus, skill, talent, heart and total commitment: the Federer v. Nadal “gentleman’s singles” title match at Wimbledon.
I’ve never been a big tennis fan, but I spent the weekend staying at a house where there was never a doubt about how Sunday would be spent.  And I have to say, I got completely and totally engaged.  These guys were simply amazing…it didn’t matter that I don’t really understand how tennis is scored, and that I was getting filled in on their careers as the match progressed.  You can tell when someone’s world-class fantastic at something, even when you’re less than a novice at that thing yourself.
There were some rallies (I found out that’s what they’re called) that actually seemed impossible.  How did Nadal even get to that place on the court? How did he get his racquet under that ball, let alone return it to the exact right spot on Feder’s side of the net? And how did Federer get airborne like that to return it?
And what does this have to do with work?  Well, dear reader, you’ve heard my contention that doing anything to the best of your ability yields both excellence and joy, and this is just such a great example of that. A few times in my life, I’ve experienced Nadal/Federer-level of customer service, for example, and it was a pure delight.  I know I’ve been privileged to work with teams that are operating at near-world-class heights, and it’s been exhilarating…for them, for me, and for the bottom line.
A do believe there’s something in each of us that exults in mastery; and that mastery demonstrated improves and graces the world.
Go for it!
Posted in learning


What Makes a Team Great

Last night, I was reading an article online, and the author (a venture capitalist) started out by saying that he thought a great senior team was more important to the success of an enterprise than a great idea. “Yes,” I thought. “I think that’s true – I agree.” Then he went on to make a pretty good case for it: how an idea without the people who can execute it is just an idea, but a great team can find a great idea if the one they have isn’t so great, etc. etc.  I continued to agree.

Then he and I parted company.  He described what he meant by a great team: he had a bullet-pointed list of six or seven things, and I realized they were all thought-based.  That is, each item on the list started with a phrase like “Understands how…” or “Recognizes that…” or “Knows when…”
And I really disagree. In my experience and observation, there’s an enormous difference between knowing something and knowing how to do it.  And then there’s often a further gap between knowing how to do something and being able to do it.  Let me give you an example, based on one of his bullet-pointed items.  The author believes that one element of a great business team is, “An execution plan with both strategies and tactics articulated and supported.” 
And I say – that’s not an indication of a great team yet: that’s a good first step.  Having such a plan (knowing that such a plan is needed, and being able to think through it)  is, unfortunately, absolutely no guarantee that the team then knows how to execute it.  And even if they do, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually be able to do it.  That they’ll have the leadership, teaming, communication and management skills and mindset they’ll need to make it happen.
So I’d revise it to say that one element of a great business team is “Being able to conceive and successfully implement an execution plan with both strategies and tactics articulated and supported.”
What’s your experience?  I’d love to hear your stories of senior teams who could talk a good game, but couldn’t actually make things happen…and why.  Let’s dig into the difference between knowing, knowing how, and doing.
Posted in Leading People