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 September, 2008


Gardening Again

It's time for another gardening post (I can only go so long without creating planting metaphors, I've found). 

This morning as I was about to leave for the office, I found out that my first phone call of the day had been cancelled, so I suddenly had a little extra time on my hands. Plants!  I'd just gotten a shipment from Wayside Gardens, and I could plant them.

46719 Perfect weather for planting: cool, moist, a little overcast.  I opened the box and was thrilled to find three Summersweet bushes, three dwarf lilacs, and three campanulas.  I spent a few minutes thinking about them: their ultimate size and shape, whether or not they're fragrant, what color their flowers are and when they bloom, what kind of light and moisture they need, what purpose I wanted them to serve.  I envisioned where I wanted them to be, given all that.  I laid them out, and thought a bit about whether there would be any problems with my design. Given the ultimate size of the Summersweet bushes (that's a picture of one, above), I moved them a little farther apart. Then I got a trowel from the garage and planted everything.

I planted them quickly but carefully, enjoying the feel of mulch and dirt on my hands, the rich scent of topsoil, the tender, hopeful green of the new leaves. Then I stood back and observed my work; I smiled.

Later, while I was driving to work, I realized how satisfying to me that whole arc had been: reflecting on what I had to work with, thinking about what I wanted to create, making sure to correct for any problems, then executing my plan.

And that, friends, leads me to my assertion of the day:  I'm becoming convinced that there's something in most of us that's actually wired for being strategic.  When we create a hope for the future, and act practically to achieve it, and when that hope becomes a reality — we love it.

What do you think?  
Posted in Thinking


A Failure of Leadership

I, like pretty much everyone else, have been watching the unraveling of the US financial markets with a mixture of horror and fascination over the past couple of weeks.  

At the risk of being simplistic, it seems to me this is a very straightforward example of greed and short-sightedness: of a great many people over a long period of time focusing primarily on what would serve their own current financial interests vs. the long-term good. 

In an article today, the NYT notes how the Democrats are insisting that the bailout plan include a provision to limit the compensation of senior executives whose companies get government assistance. That this is even a point of debate reinforces my sense that many of the key players have long been acting out of short-term greed, and fully expected to be allowed to continue to do so. 

Now as you faithful readers know, I believe the essence of being strategic is consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. It seems as though many of these executives' hoped-for future was, "I'll get mine, and I don't much care about anything or anybody else."  If that's so, then they've been strategic – in an extremely limited and self-serving way.   

I believe good leaders are Far-sighted, Passionate, Courageous, Wise, Generous and Trustworthy.  I think it's safe to say that senior executives in the financial sector haven't been demonstrating these qualities. If they had been good leaders, their hoped-for future would have arisen out of that mindset, and would have been something like, "I'll build a sustainably profitable company that benefits our shareholders, employees, customers and me over the long term."  

We're seeing what happens when people in positions of great power are poor leaders who focus primarily on their own self-interest: things blow up, either literally or metaphorically.
Posted in Leading People



Three Star Leadership Blog: Three reasons why managers don't do people management .

So, for anyone who doesn't already know it, Wally Bock rocks.  This post is just one example of why.  He offers 3 important reasons why managers don't focus on the people management part of their job. His reasons are clear, simple and profoundly true.  I agree with him 100%.  Read the post!
Posted in Weblogs


Growing Great Gardens

Very happy day! – I had the chance to start creating the landscaping around my new house.  It was lots of fun – a team effort with my daughter and her husband, my friend Gjoko and his friend Kelvin – and as always, I saw the parallels between gardening and business.

Today, the lesson was about flexibility in how to achieve a vision.  I was very clear on my hoped-for garden: I wanted a front yard of mixed perennials, vs. a lawn. Natural, low maintenance, long-blooming, deer-resistant.  It would need to be mostly sun-lovers, with a few areas for part-shade plants. Mostly yellows, purples and whites, with lots of great foliage. A small sitting area, surrounded by fragrant plants. The whole thing anchored by a few specimen trees and shrubs.

That was the vision – quite clear.  Before we went out to the garden centers, I made a list: all the specific plants I needed to achieve the vision.

Here's where the lesson comes in. Although fall is a great time to plant perennials, both because it's easier for them to settle in and because they're often on sale, I forgot something important — nurseries' stocks tend to be low in autumn. Many of the plants I wanted simply weren't available.

This is where I got flexible and stayed strategic, according to my own definition ("Consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future"). I let go of my list; my new directional choice was to pick from what was available.

And it worked beautifully.  I had to use a flowering cherry instead of a dogwood; asters instead of rudbeckia; a kind of primula instead of oenothera…but the overall feeling and look are just what I wanted.

What I notice all too often in business is that people let go of their hoped-for future when confronted by obstacles, and default to something they don't really want — instead of simply figuring out another way to achieve that future. 

Sometimes you have to let go of your specific list, without letting go of the dream garden.

Posted in learning


At the Core

Speed Of Trust.com – The official website of The Speed Of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey.

A brand is a promise of an experience.  At Proteus, we want our clients to experience us as "illuminating, strengthening, and trustworthy."  We think and talk about how we can behave, communicate and deliver so that they have these experiences.

Recently, a client recommended the Speed of Trust, saying that she knew how important trust was to me and that she thought I'd like the book.

Images She was right — I really like it.  Those of you who hang out with me regularly, either in person or here at The Simplest Thing, know that I rarely recommend books: I'm recommending this one.  

There's a lot I like about this book; I think my very favorite thing is that Covey provides a practical, behavioral framework for understanding and building trust.

As I read it, I found myself reflecting on all my most important relationships, personal and business.  It provided insights into what's working and what's not working in each; how I can build trust in each one, and why I trust or don't trust the people in my life.

Fortunately, I'm blessed with relationships that are mostly high-trust….and I intend to use Covey's book to make them even better.
Posted in Books