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 November, 2008


Giving Thanks, Part II

Pausing here, between phase one and phase two of the stuffing creation (letting the liquid + veggies component cool before adding it to the bread component), to give thanks for all my online friends and colleagues.

When I started this blog in January of 2007, I thought I was doing it simply because – as my agent and publicist kept telling me – it would be a good marketing effort for my first book. It was a revelation to me there were so many great blogs (and so many odd ones!) And I had no idea I'd connect with so many interesting, funny, intelligent people who were also engaged in talking about their experiences with life and business, and trying to make work better in a variety of ways. 

I especially want to give props to the following folks who help to make this online world a good place to hang out and learn:

Phil Gerbyshak
Nettie Hartsock
Wally Bock
Gannon Beck
Sim Li Chuan
Franke James
Mitch Ditkoff
Josh Kaufman
Nino Simosko
the folks at 800CEOREAD
the folks at Cave Henricks
Olivier Roland
Eric Peterson
Dan Roam
Kevin Eikenberry
CV Harquail
Beverly Feldt
Dan McCarthy
Wayne Turmel
Michael Lee Stallard
Timothy L. Johnson
Jodee Bock
Alexander Kjerulf
Wayne Hurlburt
Peter Clayton
Steve Kayser
David Merman Scott
Rajesh Setty
Leslie Levine
Judy McLeish
Leigh Householder
Ali Syed

Thank you for making my life and my blog richer – have a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of you!  

Posted in Community


Giving Thanks, Part I

Over the past few days, I've had much more interaction with team Proteus (all the folks who work at my company) than I usually do. We're spread out all over the US, physically, and most often when we work with clients, we're alone rather than with each other.

Last Friday we had an all-staff call, then yesterday we had two calls about specific projects on which sub-groups of us are working.  In addition, I had calls, emails and/or meetings with almost everyone individually at some point over the past week.

And I feel extremely grateful.  What a joy it is, and how fortunate I am, to be able to hang out with such smart, enthusiastic, genuine, high-integrity people, all of whom are also extremely good at what they do, curious to learn more, and deeply focused on helping our clients.

I also trust each of them. As in Stephen Covey's Speed of Trust model, I trust both their character and their competence.  And that's an incredible luxury.

Thank you so much, Proteans one and all: I'm so honored to know and work with you. 
Posted in Community


Support the Tribe

I’m on a train to DC, thinking about human beings as tribal creatures. There’s a group of young men and women just in front of me.  They’re all clearly colleagues; their conversation is peppered with in-jokes, and their interactions are relaxed and fluid.  They’re part of a tribe, and it’s obvious they feel respected and comfortable in that tribe.

It often occurs to me how little attention many businesses pay to the fact that most of us have a strong preference to be part of a group in which we feel comfortable, and react badly when that group is disturbed or broken.  Business leaders often deal with their employees as though they are cogs in a machine: entirely separate and interchangeable.  If you take one cog out of a machine and put in another, the machine won’t be affected as long as the new cog is the same size and shape as the old one.


But people in an organization are neither entirely separate nor easily interchangeable.  An organization is a tribe, or series of interconnected tribes, and a tribe is a system.  The members of that system are interdependent.  It's necessary, in an organization, to remove and add people, but if you do it cog-fashion, it will impact the whole system in ways both invisible (confusion, fear, hesitation, sadness, disorientation, anger) and visible (less creativity, fewer reasonable risks taken, lowered productivity, increased turnover, subtle and overt sabotage).

If top executives conceived of their organizations as tribes – living systems of influence and support – and approached their employees with the care such a conception implies, change would be much less traumatic.  The strengths of tribe – mutual support, trust, ease of communication, sharing of knowledge, individual investment in the group’s success – could carry the enterprise through necessary transformations largely intact. 

It's an important time to recognize this.

Posted in Organizations


You Saw It Here First

Well, dear readers, St Martins Press, the publisher of my new book, has come through again.  I was a bit nervous as I waited for their idea for the cover design.  With my first book, the original design was close, but not spot on, and it took a few weeks of not-very-comfortable negotiation to get it where my team and I were happy with it.

Being Strategic
So, I waited with somewhat bated breath. I had told my delightful editor, Phil, that I liked the straightforward look and feel of the first book's cover, but would love the new one to be even simpler, bolder and more immediately engaging.

I think they nailed it…what do you think?  

And by "they," I actually mean a guy named Rob Grom, who's Associate Art Director at St. Martins and, according to his friendster.com profile, is two years older than my daughter.  That's probably why the cover is cool, vs. cheesy and tired-looking.
Also, you might want to read these previous posts if you're wondering – why the castle?

Posted in Books


Unabashed Nepotism

How Barack Obama’s Victory Made New York Rejoice in Its Promise — New York Magazine .

This is a great day.  First, I get to use the word nepotism, which means I get to explain its etymology, a thing I love to do.  “Nepote” is italian for nephew.  In past centuries in Italy, Popes used to give preferments to their “nepotes,” which – as I understand it – was a thinly veiled code word for their illegitimate progeny. Fascinating.
Next, I get to use a charming picture of the Obamas, sent to me yesterday by my brother David (nepotistic reference # 1).
Now, on to the main nepotism.  My brother Kurt is a truly gifted writer.  He’s one of only a handful of contemporary non-fiction writers whose work I read not only for pleasure but as a lesson in the craft.
He’s also my brother, and we fairly often have a similar view on important issues. However, I usually trend toward relentless optimism, while he trends more toward snarky detachment.
In this article, though, he does such a wonderfully fluent, thoughtful, articulate, Kurt-like job of expressing PRECISELY how I’ve felt about Obama’s election that it’s almost eerie.  I just had to share it with you.
I also think it’s fascinating that the comments about the article range from extremely positive to entirely negative.  And that’s  one of the key things about America that we all need to protect and defend.  Freedom of speech has been under attack from various quarters over the past eight years…I hope the new administration takes strong steps to make sure people can say whatever they want to say. Even if said administration thinks they’re idiots and dead wrong.
Maybe most especially in those cases.
Posted in Thinking



HR Matters | on Core Competencies.

Pictures of Malaysia collage

Last summer I got an email from a lovely woman named Rowena Morais, who is the editor of HR Matters, a Malaysia-based magazine for Asian Human Resource professionals.

She had bought, read, and reviewed Growing Great Employees, and was writing to ask if I'd be interested in doing an email interview with her about some of the topics in the book.

This is the link to that interview. As you know, dear readers, I love globalness. Globality?  In any case, I believe, like Friedman, that a flat world serves us all. 

And, it also just makes me really really happy to think that Growing Great Employees might be helping people in Malaysia.
Posted in Media


A Victory for America

An amazing moment for us all.  Whether you're Democrat or Republican, Green, Socialist, or Independent, I hope you're pausing to celebrate the fact that an African-American has been elected president of the United States for the first time in our nation's history.  This one event is having and will continue to have an unimaginable impact all over the world.

I'm watching a young African-American woman weeping on national TV, saying "This changes everything. For me, my children, my grandchildren." 

I'm watching Oprah, late at night in Chicago surrounded by Obama supporters, her voice breaking, saying, "It now feels like anything can happen." 

Yesterday I read a wonderful poem:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk
Martin walked so Barack could run
Barack ran so our children could fly

I know the hard part starts now: this brilliant, inspiring, steady young man to whom we've given our support must now lead us to be our best, to work together to re-create America as we hope it can be. There will be disappointments and frustrations.  The economy may get worse before it gets better, and pulling ourselves out of this hole will not be easy or comfortable. 

But for tonight, for this moment on the edge of our future, let us celebrate that we, as a nation, were able to make this choice.
Posted in Community