When I described our most recent restructuring plan to a friend – a seasoned and successful financial professional - he was certain we must have hired McKinsey & Co. to help us think things through. Wrong. It was Erika Andersen. Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group


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 January, 2010

Jan
31

Love All


In tennis, and business, avoiding unforced errors is key – The Globe and Mail
.

I really like this blog post, by a guy named Harvey Schachter. He’s quoting a writer named Jeffrey Krames, who’s written a book called Unforced Error.

The tennis metaphor is great – I’m a sucker for a good metaphor – but more important, Krames says some true and simple things about what managers and leaders need to avoid in order to be successful.

The basic premise is that in tennis, the player with the fewest number of unforced errors – mistakes that are totally that player’s responsibility, vs. being “forced” by someone else – usually wins.  Krames proposes that the same is true in business: that successful leaders and managers  stay attentive to and avoid the avoidable mistakes.

This may seem simple, but it’s actually quite powerful. In effect, he’s saying that your best shot at being successful in business is 1) to take full responsibility for being the best leader you’re capable of being, 2) stay open and curious about what you may need to do differently or better, 3) keep learning.

 

Posted in News

Jan
22

Yummy – and Congratulations

How Panera Bread Defies the Recession – TIME.

This article made me happy for two reasons. 

First, I really enjoy eating at Panera.  Good, reasonably healthy food, well-prepared and served quickly by almost invariably pleasant people. (I'm an especially big fan of the black bean soup.)

Second, I'm pleased to read that they've succeeded during the recession by doing pretty much exactly what we've been encouraging our clients (and ourselves) to do for the past 18 months: Don't panic. Get clear about what you do that's most valuable to your customers, and do it really well. Make sure you're operating as efficiently as possible. Take a deep breath and keep on going.

Panera's stock was up 26% last year, and the CEO, Ron Shaich, says:

"We understood that the fundamentals of the marketplace really haven't changed. Unemployment went from 5% to 10%. There's 90% of society that is still employed. I couldn't capture all those people that are unemployed. They weren't eating out at all. All I could do was stay focused on who my target customer was, and not be reactive."

I raise my iced tea to you, Ron – may you and your delicious paninis live long and prosper!

Posted in News

Jan
12

Self-reflection

A 2010 Personal Leadership Checklist : The World :: American Express OPEN Forum.

I've never been much of a fan of New Year's resolutions – they seem all too often pro forma and doomed to failure. But I am a big fan, as you know of reflecting deeply and accurately on your current state and then envisioning the future you want to create for yourself, given where you are now.

Here's a great blog post about how to do that regarding your future. The author, Matthew E. May, starts by encouraging readers to ask the question "Am I making the most of what I have to offer the world?" then offers 12 things to ask yourself to help assess where you are relative to that question.

This post makes me want to read his new book (In pursuit of Elegance) – I found his thinking provocative and useful, and hope you do, too.

Posted in Thinking

Jan
7

The Crystal Ball

I have a feeling this is going to be a good year.  Now, that might be simply because I'm (as someone who reviewed one of my books once said) a "relentless optimist."  But it might also be true.

I suspect that the economic upheavals over the past 18 months could actually provide – are actually providing -  all kinds of impetus for new growth, fresh thinking, alternative pathways to success.

Fireweed-yukon_470 It's like a forest fire.  It's a scary, awful thing when it's happening: animals die, people lose their homes.  In fact, though, forest fires are necessary – beneficial in the long-term.  Here's a paragraph from an article I found on the science buzz blog:

"Even as the fires were crackling through the branches of pines, birch and spruce, the start of new tree growth was already popping. The heat from the burning trees pops open the cones on those trees, releasing seeds that have been waiting to get loose for years. Millions of those seeds were dumped on the forest floor and within less than a month, some of them germinate, pop through the soil and start growing into little seedlings…In fact, fire is a natural part of the forest’s regeneration system. Most forest trees need to be exposed to fire every 50 to 100 years to invigorate new growth."

Don't get me wrong – this has been dreadful, and I know a lot of people are still feeling the effects (I have a beautiful house in Kingston, New York that I've been trying to sell since 2008 – interested?).  I just think that the destruction of some outmoded assumptions and ways of operating might clear the way for more thoughtful, balanced approaches, and for companies that have something new and useful to bring to the party.

What do you think?

Posted in Current Affairs

Jan
1

Insider List – 2012 Archives

Let’s Rock – And a New Year’s Gift – 01/03/12

Happy New Year! I’ve decided that this is going to be a great year. I don’t care what anyone says.

Allow me to vent a bit. First, I’m tired of what seems to have become the media’s continuous mantra over the past few years: “This is a difficult time for all of us…”. I know it’s a really hard time for some people, and I don’t ever want to underplay the fact that, in America, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer and we need to figure out how to stop that momentum. AND it’s a really good time for a lot of people and a perfectly OK time for a lot of people…and I think hearing over and over that it’s-a-really-bad-time tends to make us doubt and/or feel guilty about our success, if we’re feeling successful.

I also think that repeating how bad it is makes it easy to forget how much of what happens in our lives is within our control. When difficult things happen to us, we can choose how to respond. We can either feel overwhelmed, blame others (or the economy), and drift into inaction – thereby reinforcing our belief that things are bad and unchangeable – or we can figure out how to deal with the hand that’s been played and move ahead. Difficult things happen to everyone. It’s what happens next that matters.

Take Control

So, here’s what I propose for 2012: That we each figure out what’s not working in our lives, and ask, “How can I change that, to create the life I most want?”

Then I suggest that we each go bigger, and let go of any self-talk that might be telling you that it’s foolish/unrealistic to try to change things on a larger scale. Think about what’s not working in the world, and ask, “How can I change that, to create the world I most want?”

And, because I so much appreciate having you here, to collaborate with me in figuring out how to help people live the lives they want; become better leaders, managers, and colleagues; and create a better world – I’ve made a New Year’s message just for you, my Insiders. (A reminder: the password is: clubhouse2011)

Here’s to a truly happy and fulfilling new year –

Very warmly,

Erika

In Praise of Feedback – 01/30/12

Just the other day, we got an email from a new Insider, who let us know that when he signed up for the List, he got a very dated welcome message. He assumed we would want to know, so that we could update it; he attached it to his email. Imagine our chagrin when we realized that it was the same email we’d sent out when we first started the Insider List in the summer of 2010! It was the email equivalent of having someone tell you that you’ve got spinach in your teeth – embarrassing but extremely useful, and you’re really glad they told you…because it’s not something you would have noticed on your own until the next time you looked in a mirror.

Which, in this case, might have been never – the outdated welcome email only would have come to our attention in this way; someone noticing it and letting us know.

Please, tell me what you see!

And it made me realize, once again, how important it is to give each other honest feedback. So often, when we teach management skills in our training programs, or when we coach executives, we hear about managers not giving feedback to their employees. And I know there are lots of things that make it hard: you’re not sure how to say it so that the other person can really hear it; you’re worried they’ll just get defensive or angry and it will make the situation worse; you’re not sure they’ll even agree that the thing you want changed or improved is that important, etc. etc.

But think about it this way – feedback is how we grow: without it, we’re flying blind. So if you can learn how to give corrective feedback well, and to balance it with deserved positive feedback, you’re doing a huge service to whoever you’re dealing with. I see the truth of this every day. Here’s one example: on our end-of-year Proteus team call in December, one of our newer consultants – a very smart, capable and articulate guy – noted that he’d learned and grown more as a trainer in his year with Proteus than in his previous 14 years as a trainer…simply because we have a culture of feedback. He’d gotten real and actionable information about how he was actually ‘showing up’ as a trainer – and what to do to build on his strengths and make changes in his growth areas.

Because we feel so strongly about the power and usefulness of feedback, we teach it in lots of different contexts: it’s part of a chapter in Growing Great Employees; we very often teach it to coachees; and it’s almost invariably a module in our management training. I also offered a quick tutorial about how to do it well in a “manifesto” I wrote for 800CEOREAD titled “Growing Great New Managers“. In fact, the whole manifesto is kind of a ‘first aid kit’ version of Growing Great Employees, so I thought you might find it useful in a number of ways.

Think how much better a world this might be if we consistently shared our honest and well-intended feedback with others, and we were open to receiving others’ feedback to us…

Very warmly,

Erika

I HEART the Proteus Staff – 02/14/12

Last year for Valentine’s Day I wrote a “work-appropriate love letter” to my business partner, Jeff. It gave me the chance to talk about all things I love about being friends and partners with him, and to introduce him to those of you who may not have met him yet. Since then, I’ve written one of every three or four Insider List emails about one of our Proteus consultants, for the same two reasons – to talk about why I love working with them, and to introduce them to you.

The Home Team Advantage

But as I was contemplating the fact that Valentine’s Day has rolled around again, and reflecting on all the blessings in my life, I realized that I haven’t yet introduced you to our administrative staff, the folks who keep all the metaphorical Proteus trains running on time, and without whom we would all be in big trouble on a daily basis. So I thought it only appropriate to offer you another work-appropriate Valentine’s Day love letter, this one focused on the Proteus staff team.

We’ve had administrative help at Proteus for the past 20 years, since I hired my very first office assistant, in Boulder, Colorado in 1992. However, the administrative team we have now is the best ever, without exception. Here’s why – this is my Valentine’s Day top 10: The things I love best about our Proteus admin team:

10. Dan Camins, my assistant, brings unfailing calmness and good humor to even the most complicated and stressful situations. He’s a master at juggling a million things without breaking a sweat.

9. Molly Rosenboom, our workshop administrator and office manager, who’s only been with us for six months, is learning our business at warp speed – she asks great questions, and always seems to remember the critical info.

8. Cathie Zimmerman, our finance director, is bringing our financial systems into the 21st century…and it’s quite a journey! We’ve nearly doubled in revenues since she came on board, and she’s kept us on track throughout.

7. Jen Kraus, the newest member of our team, has joined us to support Cathie in her yeoman tasks – and even though Jen just started last Monday, her team mates are unanimous in their enthusiasm.

6. They team. I love it when Dan says to me, “Molly and I were talking about…”

5. They support each other’s success. Cathie, for instance, is getting Jen onboarded as well and thoroughly as possible – even though we’re right in the middle of taking our accounting system up into the cloud.

4. They make the consultants’ work possible. Without their daily, practical, organized support, we wouldn’t be able to serve our clients.

3. They keep us honest. Occasionally, one of us will make an unreasonable request or be less than patient with a staff member. We hear about it, and it gets addressed.

2. They’re curious. I love it when Molly asks one of her great questions about how things work, or why we’re approaching something in a certain way.

1. They care about our clients’ success. This really makes me happy. I know that everyone on the staff team truly wants to help our clients achieve the future they most want – and to support them with clarity, humor and respect every step of the way.

I’m grateful every day to have this team supporting us and working with our clients. I hope you have the chance to work with each of them, so you can experience for yourself what makes them so extraordinary.

And may your Valentine’s Day (and every day) be touched with love.

Very warmly,

Erika

Older as Better – 02/29/12

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging lately: I’ve just turned 60 and I’m quite excited about it.

Wait, what?

I suspect you weren’t expecting the final clause of that sentence. Most people in Western society seem to fear aging, and to associate being older with all sorts of negative things – mental and physical decline, boredom, helplessness, being unattractive, decreasing influence and impact. We see this negative bias reflected in the media, and in our humor. And it’s instructive to watch how younger people treat older people – especially much older people – in public: there’s a combination of deference and dismissiveness that’s pretty awful.

21st Century Aging

Our attitudes toward aging are very old-fashioned, and based on outdated information. In 1900, the average 50 year-old American could expect to die at 69. Retirement, if it happened at all, was the blink of an eye. In 2012, the average 50 year-old can expect to live to be 83. And yet we still behave, as a society, as if 65 is at the edge of the grave.

And our attitudes do make a difference. I’ve long thought that the adage “you’re only as old as you feel” is largely true – and now science is backing me up. I see myself as an example: I’m in better shape physically, mentally and emotionally than I was at 50, and I believe that I’m just hitting my stride both professionally and personally. I expect the next 10 years to be the best yet – and the 20 after that to be darn good, too.

If you’re still in the earlier part of your life, imagine how changing your mental image of “old people” could affect who you’re friends with, who you learn from, even your interactions with parents or grandparents.

And if you’re in your middle years, and you imagine your useful life as extending to 80 or 90 or beyond…how does that affect the way you’ll approach your career, your passions, your relationships, your potential impact on the world?

Might you start your own company at 70? Run your first marathon at 65? Take your grandkids on a trip to Machu Picchu at 80? Become a painter or a computer programmer or a teacher at the point in your life when our great-grandparents were either dead, or dozing on the porch lamenting the loss of their teeth?

Consider growing older from a ‘fair witness’ perspective- it opens up so many possibilities. Happy birthday, indeed.

Very warmly,

Erika

Trust Is Essential… – 04/02/12

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately. I just wrote a blog post yesterday about the day I spent last week working with a team of people who all trust each other. It was a great experience, and really deepened my understanding of why trust is so essential to high-performing teams.

“Trustworthy” is also one of the six core attributes in Leading So People Will Follow, and I’m very focused on the book lately – I’ve just gotten my editor’s comments, and am incorporating them to create the final draft of the manuscript. It’s reinforcing for me that trust really is the bottom line for leaders. A leader can be deficient in any of the other five attributes, and we still may accept and fully follow him or her, if we feel that person has most of the attributes and is working on those he or she lacks. But if we believe our leader is untrustworthy, we simply won’t completely sign on. It feels too dangerous.

Just Because It’s Invisible Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Powerful…

If a leader is seen as untrustworthy, it’s not like everybody quits immediately and runs out the door – it’s just that people withhold their best selves. The interactions with the leader are guarded and ‘correct,’ and people put their energy into self-protection and trying to read the tea leaves of the inauthentic interactions they’re having with the leader, instead of putting that same energy into sharing information, learning from each other, getting excellent results.

That positive use of time and energy was exactly what I saw in the group I worked with last week: the leader modeled and invited openness, and people brought their hearts, minds and guts. Nobody held back, and yet the conversation was filled with respect and mutual affection. It was great. I’ve often seen this over the years – when leaders are trustworthy, people feel safe. They behave in trusting and trustworthy ways, and things move faster and get done better.

Because trust is so critical, I want to offer you some support for assessing your own trustworthiness, and improving it. So I thought I’d share with you the 5 behavioral indicators for trustworthiness from the Leading book, so you can do a bit of self-assessment:

Leaders who are trustworthy

    • Tell the truth as they understand it
    • Do what they say – or say why and what they’ll do instead
    • Keep confidences
    • Speak and act for the greater good
    • Are capable and get results

I invite you to reflect on each of those behaviors, and think about what those around you see in you. What would your followers -both formal and informal followers – say if asked whether you consistently demonstrate those behaviors? Really let yourself become a ‘fair witness’: for a few minutes, look at yourself not through your own eyes, but through the eyes of someone who sees you clearly and objectively. What would that person say of you in this area?If you can honestly say that person would see you as strong and consistent in behaving in these ways – great. Keep modeling this behavior; when you’re fully trustworthy, it not only draws in and opens up your followers, it helps them to be more trustworthy, too.

If, on the other hand, you come to see that you aren’t behaving consistently in these ways, I have three suggestions. First, get clear on where your weak spots are. Do you sometimes share confidences? Or perhaps you don’t always tell the truth as you understand it – perhaps you ‘shade’ or ‘position’ the facts differently to different people. Once you’ve done that, think of someone you know who you believe is deeply trustworthy. Use that person as a specific role model: How does he or she behave in the areas where you need some work? What would you need to do to make your behavior in those areas more like his or hers?

Finally, I encourage you to read The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. It’s a great book about why trust is so important, and how to build trust with others.

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

Be Brave – Say It To the Person! – 04/16/12

A few months ago I met with the senior execs of a media company about how they could become a more high-performing team. I was very impressed with them. They really got down to the nitty-gritty of what’s working with their team and what isn’t…and how to improve what’s not working.

We spent part of the session wrestling with a knotty problem: what to do when you have an issue with someone, and aren’t saying anything directly to them, but instead only complaining to third parties? I see this problem as endemic to organizations, and they saw solving it as being key to their success. (I agreed.)

It’s almost funny, sometimes, when I bring this question up to groups. I’ll say “OK. So, let’s say person A is having a problem with person B. Who does person A talk to about it?” Without exception, and with no hesitation at all, people chorus in unison, “Person C!”

Why is this response such standard operating procedure for us?

I really liked how this particular group framed the challenge at the root of the problem: “How can we make if safer to bring difficult issues to each other directly?”

There you have it. We aren’t straight with each other because it’s scary. We think, “What’s going to happen? Will the other person get mad, be defensive, resist? Will it hurt the relationship? Will I feel bad?”

Making Honesty Safer

I’ve found two ways to make this sort of honesty less scary: 1) bring the whole subject out in the open, and 2) set some simple ground rules to support a new way of behaving.

In other words, when groups (even groups of two) acknowledge that they’re not being straight with each other about issues or problems that arise, and that they’d like to do so, and then they agree on a few doable ‘rules of engagement’ – the scariness factor is reduced significantly.

Here are the excellent ground rules the group above agreed on:

  • Do it one-on-one and NOT via email.
  • The person bringing the issue takes responsibility for bringing requests vs. complaints (e.g., “here’s what I’d like you to do,” vs. “here are the bad things you’re doing to me.”)
  • The person “receiving” the issue takes responsibility for truly listening; for seeking first to understand.
  • Both people take responsibility for focusing on finding a solution.

Great, simple stuff.

We often support clients who are having a tough time telling each other the truth, using a process we call “likes, requests and offers.” I thought you might find our summary of the process useful as you work to be braver and more transparent in your own communication.

Think for a minute about what the business world would be like if people actually did this consistently.

Think for a minute about what your own life would be like if you actually did this consistently.

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

A Protean Finding Work-Life Balance…- 05/03/12

This week I want to share another in my continuing series of “Protean Profiles” with you. If you’ve just joined us, here’s the deal: I started writing these on Valentine’s Day 2011 with a work-appropriate love letter to my business partner, Jeff. I decided to continue doing them because I know that many of you have worked with only me, or one or two of my colleagues, but may not be familiar with the rest of the team.

Today I want to introduce you to Kate Payne, who works with us primarily as an executive coach, but who also does management training and group facilitation work. Kate is building a client base, as well; serving as coach to her clients’ executives and working to help the organizations get ready and stay ready for their future in a variety of other ways.

An inspiration to working moms everywhere…

Kate’s been with Proteus for a little over five years, and during that time she’s not only built her skills as a coach and trainer, and expanded her client base, she’s also become the mother of 3 young children. (She and her husband are also in the process of a top-to-bottom home renovation – but that’s a whole other story!)

As a working mom myself, having started Proteus when my own kids were 2 and 6, I’ve always been impressed and inspired by Kate’s ability to be fully engaged as both a mom and a professional. When she’s coaching, for instance, she focuses on thoroughly understanding not only her client’s strengths and weaknesses, but also the environment within which the person operates and his or her key organizational relationships. Her coaching clients often ask to extend their engagements with her, because they find the support she offers them so valuable.

At the same time, whenever I ask Kate about her children, her face lights up, and she talks about them with the pride and insight that only come from a parent who is intimately and joyfully involved with her children’s day-to-day development.

Another quality that Kate brings both to her parenting and to her professional work: curiosity. I’m a huge fan of curiosity as a human quality: I think it’s at the core of both management and leadership success, and that it turbo-charges every interaction with learning and understanding. I love the questions Kate asks, for instance, on our monthly Proteus staff calls – she often makes me think more deeply about opinions or conclusions I’ve taken for granted, and helps us to reassess the ways we approach our work. Because I think curiosity is so key to success in life, here are a few links to blog posts where I talk about it in a little more depth – I thought you might find them interesting.

If your interactions with Proteus over the years bring you in contact with Kate, consider yourself fortunate – she’ll help you see your work and life in fresh ways that will both enrich your experience, and make you better able to create the future you most want.

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

Let’s Make a Bestseller – 05/17/12

Those of you who have been with the List for a while may remember late last year when I asked for your input on the title of my new book. Your preferences steered me toward what eventually become the title: Leading So People Will Follow.

Now things are starting to ramp up for this latest book, which will hit the streets on October 17th. I’m very excited. I feel as though I’ve learned a lot over the course of the past 6 years and two books, and am much better equipped to be the CEO of my book this time. And one thing I have now that I didn’t have before is – you.

Because I think of you, the Insiders, as my inner circle, I’ll share breaking news about the book and related events with you before I share them with anyone else. And I’ll invite you to be involved – to whatever extent you’d like – in making the book a success. I suspect that this book has the potential to be fun, fascinating and useful to many, many people, and we want to do everything we can to assure it has the widest possible readership.

One thing to share, one invitation…

So, let’s get started. The first thing I’d like to share with you, hot off the virtual presses, is the book’s cover. Creating this was a wonderfully collaborative process: I worked with Susan Williams, my editor at Jossey-Bass, and their very talented art director to come up with something that Jim Levine, my agent calls, “one of the best business book covers I’ve ever seen.” (As you can imagine, that made my day.)

Because it’s such a simple, striking, evocative image, we want to figure out how to make best use of it. Between now and October, we’d like to use the cover to draw people in and pique their interest, so that they’ll want to buy the book when it’s available.

And here’s my first invitation: I’d love your ideas about how to do that. For instance, one thing we’re already planning to do is put this image of the book’s cover at the bottom of each of my Forbes blog posts, with a little intro to the book and links to the Proteus and erikaandersen.com websites.

This is a brainstorm – no idea is a bad idea! We’re really trying to think fresh. You’re welcome to share stuff you’ve seen that you liked – uses of book covers or book images, especially online – or any possibilities you can imagine that you think would capture people’s attention and be a good ‘preview’ for the book’s launch. You’re welcome to share simply by replying to this email. (And I’ll share your ideas in future Insider Lists.)

Looking forward to hearing from you – and thank you so much for being on this journey this with me!

Very warmly,

Erika

Proteus and E-Learning – 07/03/12

I’ve noticed that over the past two years, as the US economy has come out of the depths of the recession, many organizations are more focused on keeping and growing their best people. The idea that ‘our people are key to our success’ seems to be moving from lip service to practical recognition. One place I notice this change: companies are looking for better ways to provide management and leadership skills for their folks. And we’re helping them do that.

Jason Kent, who began working with us in January of 2011, is an important part of our ability to work with our clients in fulfilling this need. We connected with Jason initially as part of our search for truly world-class trainers. He has everything we look for in our instructors – and that’s not easy to find. Therese Miclot, our Practice Director for Building Skills and Knowledge, the training part of our business, looked at over 200 resumes, interviewed dozens of folks, and watched a lot of videotape before finding Jason! You might be interested in seeing what we look for in great trainers – so here are our Areas of Contribution; the skills and capabilities we believe make for a truly effective instructor.

And when you add the internet…

Jason’s not only a gifted trainer, he also brings expertise in a variety of other areas, including e-learning. He’s created e-learning solutions for a number of clients over the past decade, and is continually looking for ways to make e-learning simpler, more engaging, and more effective. We’ve been working with Jason this year to create online approaches to teaching some of our key IP, including the Being Strategic model. We’re also exploring more broadly to discover the best use of e-learning in teaching management and leadership skills; we’re finding that the most powerful applications seem to be in preparing for and reinforcing in-person sessions.

Before coming to Proteus, Jason was an HR executive at American Express, Morgan Stanley, and NYLCare Health Plans; he focused primarily on learning and development, and communication – and on how best to use the web in these areas. I see that having had those professional experiences gives Jason deep insight into our clients’ needs and constraints; they love working with him, and feel deeply understood and supported by him.

I recently worked closely with Jason on an e-learning project, and I was most impressed by two things: his ability to collaborate with a variety of people (all of whom had slightly different visions and expectations) to quickly create a high-quality new product, and his curiosity about and responsiveness to feedback. In fact, those are two of the qualities that most make him a valued member of the Proteus team. I hope you have the chance to work with Jason at some point, so you can experience his curiosity, clarity and collaborative spirit for yourself.

Very warmly,

Erika

The Good Gardener – 07/16/12

We’re in the height of the gardening season, here in the Hudson valley. Patrick and I have planted a lot of new stuff this summer, including a little fledging vineyard on a sunny slope below the house. We’re having a great time keeping up with all of it.

One thing I’m noticing (re-noticing, actually – I talked about this quite a bit in Growing Great Employees) is that gardening requires regular attention. When we come up to the house every weekend, it’s all good – we can stay current with everything. If we miss a weekend, it starts to get away from us a little, and we have to put some extra energy into the garden to catch up. They’re simple tasks – weeding, watering, feeding, pruning – but you need to do them pretty consistently

The Relationship-Gardening Metaphor Still Works

Lately, I’ve come to realize that a couple of my important personal relationships have been suffering from a lack of attention, as well, and that I need to spend time giving them the energy they need to get back on track.

I tend to gravitate toward plants that are pretty low maintenance: that’s why I like perennials with low water requirements. But even with good, healthy, easy plants, you need to do a little weed-pulling and watering, and amend the soil.

In the same way, I like relationships that are pretty easy to maintain; I enjoy building friendships and working relationships based on mutual trust with people who are pretty secure and positive. But even those good, healthy relationships need the human equivalent of garden maintenance.

I think of limiting assumptions as the ‘weeds’ of human relationship. For instance, I recently noticed that I had fallen into thinking that someone close to me was feeling critical and disapproving of me. I had based that assumption on a few interactions, and – like a weed – it had grown unchecked because I hadn’t questioned it. I know that ‘pulling the weeds’ in a relationship requires fair witnessing; being completely willing to take in new information and let go of my negative, limiting assumptions.

So I had a conversation with my friend this weekend, and told her what I was feeling, and then I listened – really listened – to her response. It turned out our ‘weeds’ were fairly shallow-rooted and easy to remove.

And then there’s water: perhaps the most important element required for a healthy garden. When we came up to the house on Friday, it hadn’t rained in a couple of weeks, and everything was looking pretty draggy and parched. Then this afternoon, we got a wonderful thunderstorm with a good drenching rain: now everything is cooled off, bright green, bursting with life.

The relationship analog of water is ‘assuming positive intent.’ With my friend, I went into the conversation believing that she likes and respects me and that she’s a well-intentioned person who had no wish to hurt me. If you can bring generosity of spirit to a difficult conversation in that way, it makes all the other things you do to support the relationship much more likely to succeed.

By the end of our conversation, our relationship felt ‘weed free,’ refreshed and nourished.

And in case you haven’t seen it, or it’s been awhile, here’s a video I made for you, the Insiders, last year about the similarities between gardening and creating a great start for new employees.

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

Practical Leadership – 08/01/12

For those of you who asked to be a part of the Accepted Leader assessment pilot, you should be well into it at this point; you will have gotten the invitation and perhaps you’ve already completed your own survey and invited your raters to complete theirs. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll have your report. It will give you some practical ideas about how to become more ‘followable’ as a leader.

Our intention, as always, is to provide you with insight and suggestions that you can implement day-to-day, and that will help you to become more skillful and effective.

Leaders are born AND made

Over the past twenty-plus years of helping leaders become ready to meet the future, one thing has struck me over and over: many of the things that people assume are completely out of their control – aren’t. For example, most people believe pretty firmly that the ability to think strategically is inborn: either you have it or you don’t (kind of like perfect pitch, or brown eyes). However, over the years we’ve discovered that being able to operate strategically is at least partly a learnable habit of thought and action.

 

It’s the same with leadership. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say some version of, “Well, you can’t really teach people to lead. Leaders are born, not made.”

I beg to differ. The characteristics that people look for in their leaders are clear and explainable, and they can be taught and learned. In fact, that’s why I’ve written Leading So People Will Follow, and it’s why we’re creating the Accepted Leader assessment. I want to help people learn to lead well; I believe it’s possible. We’ve found that people can become dramatically better leaders by recognizing, understanding, and then developing a handful of core attributes. People can become more far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy.

 

Now, certainly, some people have more ‘natural talent’ as leaders. They naturally think and behave in ways that make others want to commit to them and work with them to achieve success. But that doesn’t mean that those of us who are less gifted by nature are doomed to be lousy leaders. There are people who are more naturally talented as cooks or parents – and we don’t assume that the less talented cooks and parents among us are doomed to a life of indigestion or messed-up kids. We assume that, if it’s important to someone to cook or parent well, he or she will learn to do it.

And that’s my assumption (and experience) about leaders, as well. If it’s important to you to lead well, and you have the patience, self- awareness and openness to feedback required to learn any new capability, you can become a significantly better leader than you are today.

 

In the service of that, and as an interim support until the Leading book is available, I want to share with you a little more detail about the six leader attributes and the handful of behaviors that define each one.

Here’s to getting ready for your future as a leader….

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

Party Time! – 08/15/12

It’s been really wonderful having you, the Insiders, with me on this journey toward the publication of Leading So People Will Follow. Last December, you helped me decide on a great title. In May, I shared the cover with you, and asked you for ideas about how to connect people to the content of the book. You obliged with lots of great ideas – and in the next IL you’ll hear about one way we’re going to deliver on what you suggested. And over the months you’ve graciously allowed me to try out various ideas on you.

Now I’m thrilled to have the chance to give something back to you.

A few moths ago, my partner Jeff and I were talking about the 12 leaders I profile in the book, my exemplars of the Leading attributes. I was telling Jeff how much I respect each of them, and how grateful I feel to have worked with them over the years. We agreed that we wanted to use the book launch as an opportunity to publicly acknowledge their leadership.

After more conversation, we decided to honor them as the 2012 Fully Accepted Leaders. We’ve also decided to establish this as a yearly event. So, in future years, we’ll be taking nominations for Fully Accepted Leaders, and awarding the yearly accolade to two leaders who most fully exemplify the Leading attributes. (You’ll be hearing more about this in the months to come.)

Come Celebrate With Us

So on October 1st, we’re going to be celebrating both the book launch and the book’s leaders at a champagne reception in New York, at the Eventi Hotel.

And you’re invited.

You’ll be getting your Paperless Post invitation sometime within the next few days. I’m looking forward to seeing you there – it would be great to meet some of you whom I’ve not yet met in person.

And, just because I thought you might enjoy seeing it, here’s the new video trailer for the book. It should show up on Amazon within the next week or so, but here it is on youtube. I’d love to hear what you think…

Hoping to see you in October –

Very warmly,

Erika

A Community of Leaders – 09/04/12

By now you should have gotten your invitation to the Fully Accepted Leader awards ceremony and book launch party on October 1st. (If you haven’t, and would like to come, please just respond to this email.)

I’ve been reading the personal messages that a lot of you wrote along with your RSVP. Thank you so much – it’s really great to have that connection with you.

We’re deeply involved in planning and preparing for both the book’s launch and the party, as you might imagine. About half of the 12 leaders profiled in the book will be with us in person to accept their awards, and the other half are either sending designees or will be joining us by video. All the Proteus consultants and staff will be there, too, so if you’re coming you’ll have a chance to meet the team. And even though the official pub date for the book is October 9th, my wonderful publisher Jossey-Bass has arranged it so that we’ll have books available at the party, hot off the presses!

And One More Thing

A few months ago, I asked you for other ideas about how to draw people’s attention to the book, while providing them with something valuable. The suggestion we heard most often from you – by far – was to create a community online, organized around the book, for people interested in leadership and particularly in their own growth as leaders.

You suggest: we respond. So, we’ve created a moderated group on LinkedIn called Leading So People Will Follow, and we’ll be inviting participation from a variety of platforms (on the ea.com website and the Proteus website, through the Accepted Leader assessment, and through all our social media networks. It will be a conversation about – of course – how to be a followable leader, and we’re hoping that people will not only ask questions about the model and the book, but share what they’re learning and ask for each others’ help.

We’ve decided to have the group be ‘by request only,’ so we can screen out those who don’t really want to support the goals of the group.

And we’ve pre-approved all of you, of course. So just go here whenever you like, click the “Join Group” button, and start talking!

(If your Insider List email isn’t the same one you use for Linkedin, we won’t have you on the pre-approved list, but your request to join will be approved as quickly as possible.)

Looking forward to connecting with you there…

Very warmly,

Erika

Calm in the Eye of the Storm – 09/17/12

I am definitely busier right now than I’ve ever been in my life. No question. The combination of overall Proteus business growth + rebranding + lots of new great clients + ramping up to the book’s launch = not enough hours in a day.

It’s all good, mind you, there’s just a lot of it. And I was thinking that many of you might be feeling a little overwhelmed, also – it seems to be a theme among my friends and clients these days.

Dealing with Overwhelm…

So I thought it might be useful to share a few things I’ve been doing to make it all doable. In the spirit of livable lives, here you go:

Make some time sacrosanct, especially when it seems impossible – One or two evenings a week, and for a day over the weekend, I don’t work. It’s been very tough to do that lately, but it’s incredibly valuable. During those downtimes, I can feel my brain and body re-charging. For instance, this weekend I worked till about midnight on Friday (I was in a car, riding home from the airport), but then I didn’t work at all on Saturday. I hung around with Patrick, baked him a birthday cake, and made him a Renaissance Fair costume; I watched some TV; I worked on a sweater I’m knitting for our granddaughter; I caught up on my sleep. It was wonderful. When I sat down Sunday afternoon to do some work – including writing this – I felt fully ready to go.

Only do what only you can do – Busy periods heighten the need for delegation. If you find you’re doing things that others could and would do perfectly well – stop it. This is true both professionally and personally. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that Dan, Kishauna, Therese, and other Proteus staffers can and want to do things that I’ve done in the past…and so I pass those things along (with the necessary context and any needed oversight – I don’t mean you should just abdicate). I also find that my family is more than willing to support me when they can by taking things off my plate: I just have to ask.

Remove energy drains – Some people, and some tasks, are what I think of as energy vampires. This is a great time to let them go. Think about the people in your life who take a lot more time and energy from you than you get back from them. You know who I mean. Think about how can you limit your interactions with them. This can be truly liberating. There are tasks like that, too: think of the things you do that take lots of time or energy and give you very little benefit in return. Can you simply not do them? Can you hire them out or delegate them? Recently I was speaking with a well-paid senior executive who was still cleaning her own house (generally after she got home from work at night). It wasn’t that she liked it, or couldn’t afford to hire someone to help…she just thought she was supposed to do it herself. She hired a professional cleaner and saved herself about 12 hours a week.

And one thing you might decide to do with some of the time you’ve saved: the Leading So People Will Follow LinkedIn group has turned out to be both a lot of fun and very useful. Stop by if you can!

Looking forward to meeting some of you at the party…

Very warmly,

Erika

It’s Actually Happening….- 10/04/12

First of all, for those of you who were at the party Monday night – thank you so much; I was so happy to have you there. It was a wonderful evening all around. I felt buoyed up and honored to be surrounded by so much love and so many inspiring leaders.

We had great food and drink, excellent conversation, books available for folks to buy, and Fully Accepted Leader awards to bestow. It was a business love fest!

And finally, after all these months of planning and preparation, Leading So People Will Follow is on the verge of launching. The official in-store publication date is next Tuesday, October 9th.

And a very exciting thing happened just yesterday – Amazon named the book as one of its 10 “Best Business Books of the Month.”

A Request and a Call to Action

Many of you have asked over the months how you can support the book’s launch. The single most helpful thing you can do is write a review (hopefully a positive one!) on Amazon. My publisher and publicist have told me that now, more than ever, lots of good reviews on Amazon early on really drive sales. You can go to the Kindle page of my book and do it right now, if you’re so inclined (you can buy the Kindle version already). And if you’d like to wait to write a review until you can get a hard copy, that would be great, too.

It only needs to be a paragraph, talking about something you like about the book. If you’ve never written an Amazon review, here’s how: click on the “xx customer reviews” link right under my name at the top of the page. Then click on “create your own review.”

Thank you in anticipation – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this!

And here’s the call to action. In the course of writing the book and discussing it with folks, and as I write my blog at Forbes, I notice how much cynicism and negativity there is in the public discussion about leaders. I get it – there are lots of bad leaders, and they’re all too easy to see. But there are wonderful leaders, too – and sometimes that gets lost in the conversation.

So we’re declaring October 9th Fully Accepted Leader Day, this year and every year. It’s the day to publicly acknowledge your best, most followable leader and tell the world what’s great about him or her and how he or she impacted your life. Tell your story on facebook, tweet about it, email it to your whole circle of friends, put up a montage of this person’s wonderfulness on Pinterest. Send an Instagram picture of him or her with a celebratory caption. Give the person kudos in a staff meeting. Send him or her a bottle of champagne and write “you’re the best leader I ever had” on the outside so the delivery person sees it. Get creative, share your gratitude, make it public!

Thank you so much for being here; so glad we’re on this journey together.

Very warmly,

Erika

Being the CEO of Your Life – 10/18/12

Over the past six years, I’ve gotten quite clear that every author needs to be the CEO of his or her books. When my first book was published, I really thought the publisher would be the CEO. I had a highly respected publisher, and I sat back and let them do their thing. It was only after the book came out that I realized they had lots of other priorities, and that I wasn’t on the top of their list; I hired my own publicist and got some post-publication boost. But it seemed like too little, too late.

On the next book, I was clearer that I needed to be my own CEO, and I was much more active throughout in managing the process. It was a good thing, because my second publisher didn’t operate much in the business space, and my efforts, and those of my publicists, were central to whatever success the book garnered.

With this third book, I’ve been very clear on my role, and I’ve been the CEO of a wonderful team consisting of my marvelous publisher – editor, art director, social media and marketing folks; my agent; our publicists; our assessment partner; the Proteus team (especially Dan and Kishauna in our NYC office); and my partner Jeff. As a result, I feel this book is really well-positioned for long-term success.

Not just books…

As my role of “Book CEO” has evolved, I’ve been realizing that there’s a broader truth here. We each need to be the CEO of any endeavor for which we have the most to gain or lose.

And the key thing to which this applies is our own life. Too often, I feel we let others be the CEO of our life: our bosses, organizations, spouses; our fears or the limitations we place on ourselves.

So, if you were to consider yourself the Chief Executive Officer of your own life, what would be your vision of success? How would you make that happen?

If this idea is intriguing to you, and if you feel that you’re not yet operating in this way, this Being Strategic Template might be helpful to you; it’s yours to use.

Until next time –

Warmly,

Erika

P.S.

Another piece of book news: Jack Covert, the CEO of 800CEOREAD, author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time and widely regarded as the guru of business books, picks 3 business books every month (of the 1,000 published) as his favorites. Leading So People Will Follow is a “Jack Covert Selects” for October!

And a final request – if you feel inspired to write a review of Leading So People Will Follow on Amazon, I would very much appreciate it. Thanks in anticipation!

Resilience, Your Secret Weapon – 11/02/12

For any of you who are affected by Sandy and its (her?) aftermath, I send a big virtual hug. Take good care of yourself, and cut yourself some slack if you’re not as focused or as productive as usual. This kind of disruptive, traumatic event can throw you off balance, even if the direct effects on you personally seem minimal.

For instance: my husband and I stayed at our house in upstate New York this week, and so missed the main force of the storm. A few trees came down, and we lost power for a couple of days – but we have a generator, so it wasn’t a big deal. And still, I find myself a little all over the place: forgetting whether or not I’ve done things; thinking about friends and colleagues who are in tougher situations than I and about all the thousands of people whose lives have truly been turned upside down; not feeling quite up-to-speed physically or emotionally.

So I’m trying to follow my own advice: to take care of myself, and cut myself some slack. And I’ve also been thinking a lot about the quality of resilience.

Why it’s important

Resilience is defined as “The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy.”

We all know people who aren’t resilient, and we see the effect it has on them and on those around them. I had a very dear friend who lost his mother, and it completely flattened him for many months. He was unable to work; he was continuously unhappy; he had a hard time sleeping and his health suffered. His wife and kids were going through important (unrelated) changes during this period, and he simply wasn’t able to support or help them.

At around the same time, another person I know lost her dad. They had been very close, and she grieved deeply. However, within a month or so, she was mostly OK; though still very sad, she was able to integrate the loss of her dad into her daily life. She took strength and comfort from her family and friends and was able to re-engage with her work and her relationships. She was resilient.

As I observed these two friends, I came to believe that the quality of resilience is grounded in what my mom called “good mental hygiene”: a core belief that you are personally capable of overcoming adversity, combined with a consistent effort to manage your self-talk.

So resilience in the face of Sandy, or any disastrous event, would mean having confidence in your ability to resolve whatever difficulties arose as a result of the disaster, and then to manage your self-talk to align with that confidence. For instance, if a resilient person found him or herself, post-Sandy, thinking something like, “This is awful, it’s too much, we’ll never be able to come back from this!” he or she would stop and shift that thinking to something more hopeful, but still realistic: “It will be tough, and it may take a while, but I feel sure my family and I can pull together and come through this. We have our health, and we have each other.”

How we experience our lives, and what we’re able to accomplish, depends so much on what we believe about ourselves and how we talk to ourselves. And in tough times, believing in your own capability and reaffirming that belief with healthy self-talk is more important than ever.

Here’s to all of us supporting ourselves and one another to triumph over adversity.

Warmly,

Erika

Self-Awareness, The Key to Leadership Growth – 11/16/12

I’ve been doing lots of interviews about the new book over the past couple of months, and interviewers almost invariably ask me some form of these two questions: Can you actually become a better leader? If so, how do you do it?

The first question arises out of a common belief that leaders are born, vs. made – e.g., that you come into this world a leader or not a leader, and there’s not much you can do about it. Kind of like being tall, or having blue eyes.

However, I believe that leadership capability falls along a bell curve (like most things). That there are folks who are hugely naturally talented as leaders; they’re pretty great to start with, and keep figuring out how to get better as they go. Then there are the folks at the bottom of the bell curve: if they’re put into leadership positions, they’ll be bad at it, and they simply won’t have the capability to get much better. Give those folks something to do that draws on their skills and passions, and doesn’t involve leading others.

But then there’s the big middle of the bell curve, where most of us live: we’re somewhere between not very good and quite good to start with – but it’s the place where the real potential lies: most people who are moderately good leaders can become very good leaders.

The Second Question: How…

Which leads us to the second question: “Assuming it is possible to become a good leader – how do you do it?”

My first response always focuses on the need for accurate self-awareness. If you want to improve in any realm of your life, it’s essential to be honest and accurate about your starting point. For example, if you want to become a skilled cook, and you’re convinced that you’re already really good but you’re actually a clueless novice, whatever plan you make to get better isn’t going to target your real need for improvement.

In the same way, if you’re convinced you’re already a great leader when you’re not, you might create a plan to make a few tweaks…when what you actually need is a complete overhaul!

Assuming you’re accurately self-aware, the second thing required to grow as a leader is the willingness to actually learn and do new behaviors. This is tougher than it sounds: most of us slide through our days approaching situations pretty much as we’ve always approached them. Improving – in any realm, not just leadership – involves trying out new behaviors, ones which probably won’t feel familiar or comfortable. You’re likely to feel clunky, silly, or awkward at first. You have to be willing to experience the ‘diseqilibrium’ of operating in new ways, if you want to grow.

To support you on the self-awareness front, I’d like to encourage each of you to take the free self-assessment you have access to when you buy Leading So People Will Follow. When you take the assessment, make it an exercise in accurate self-awareness: respond to the statements on the assessment as though you are one of your followers observing and responding about you – that will help you be more of a “Fair witness” about your own leadership behaviors.

After you’ve taken the self-assessment (and if you decide to upgrade to the multi-rater assessment – where you ask your followers to weigh in with their perspective), I’d love to hear about your experience. And I’ll talk about what I hear from you in our next Insider List…

Speak to you soon –

Warmly,

Erika

Self-Awareness Part II – 12/04/12

Since our last Insider List, the subject of self-awareness has continued to be front and center for me; it’s come up in coaching conversations, I’ve been blogging about it, and it’s still a hot topic when I do interviews.

In the last Insider List, you may recall that I encouraged you to take the Leading So People Will Follow self-assessment as an exercise in increasing self-awareness. I’ve heard back from a few of you who’ve done so. One person said that while it was interesting to see the result, it was almost more useful to, as she said, “engage in the process of contemplation that the questions provoked.” She said it made her realize that she shows up differently as a leader in different contexts, and now she wants to understand why that happens – and figure out how to change it if it’s not serving her. Another person realized that even though she’s not in a defined leadership position right now, she will be soon, and said, “I really want to have a good foundational understanding of where I stand as a future/aspiring leader and it will be great to have the assessment in hand to help guide me in my next step.”

Both these comments are such great examples of how increasing self-awareness can support growth. But as I’ve been focusing on this topic lately I’ve also been seeing that some people dismiss the whole realm of self-awareness because they have a negative or limiting association with the concept.

Self-Awareness Doesn’t Mean….

So, if you’re one of those folks who mentally roll their eyes when I talk about self-awareness, let’s clarify what self-awareness isn’t:

self-awareness is not self-involvement. We all know people who are more interested in themselves than in anyone else. No matter what happens, their primary focus seems to be on how it affects them, what they think about it, how they can use it to their benefit, etc. Being self-involved means seeing yourself as the center of the world; being self-aware means seeing yourself accurately as one player on the stage, engaging with others. In fact, being truly self-aware means having a very accurate sense of your relative importance in any situation. Real self-awareness is, in fact, the best antidote to being overly self-involved.

self-awareness is not spinning your wheels. Some people resist the idea of self-awareness because they think it means sitting around thinking about yourself rather than doing things. Self-awareness doesn’t mean navel gazing. True self-awareness, as in the comments above from Insiders, is the foundation for growth, for being able to behave more productively. The point of becoming more aware of your existing strengths and weaknesses is action: it makes you better able to leverage your strengths, and develop in your areas of weakness.

self-awareness is not “soft.” One very business-focused guy I coached a few years ago initially responded to my encouragement to become more self-aware by making a face and saying “that sounds pretty touchy-feely to me.” It happened that he was an avid golfer who was continually observing himself, trying to shave a few strokes off his game; I was able to use that as an example of the practical value of increased self-awareness. He made the connection that improvement in any realm comes from an accurate assessment of your current state, and a reflection on the outcome of your efforts to improve.

Hope this is helpful to any of you who’ve been thinking self-awareness might not apply to you, or isn’t useful. And please keep sending me your experiences with taking the Accepted Leader self-assessment…I love hearing what you’re learning.

Till next time –

Very warmly,

Erika

Happy Holidays – 12/17/12

I haven’t had much time this year to get into holiday mode yet (which is a big deal for me, generally, as you may recall from previous years’ Insider List emails). But last weekend I did a lot of present wrapping and a good deal of holiday-music-listening, and it’s starting to feel like that time of year to me.

I’ve often wondered why I’m so fond of this season – I wasn’t raised in a religion, so the season doesn’t have Christian, Jewish, or Muslim connotations for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that my fondness for this time of year is all about love and connection. It’s wonderful spending time with my family – my husband, my siblings, children and now grandchildren. I really enjoy having some extra time to think about what I can do to please those I love, and new ways to tell them how much I appreciate having them in my life.

Love at Work (And Not in a Creepy Way)….

I also really like the holiday season as a way to share my affection and respect for my colleagues and clients. It seems as though most everyone – regardless of their religion or lack thereof, and regardless of their feelings about the holidays – is just a bit more open to love during this season.

One way to share love is to give feedback. I know this may sound really odd, but I think of feedback – either positive or corrective – as a tremendous gift. When someone offers me accurate, clear and loving insight into how I’m operating in the world, and how I might improve, I find it truly valuable. At Proteus, we have year-end bonus conversations in December every year; a chance to share with each other the triumphs and celebrations of the year past, to envision the year ahead, and to course correct where needed. I’m in the middle of having those conversations with the folks at Proteus I manage (more or less – with the consultants, it’s a very loose form of management), and I’m finding it a great chance to give and receive the gift of clarity and support. When you want someone to succeed, and your intention is to acknowledge their strengths, and to help them to keep growing and getting better, then feedback really is a gift. Jeff my business partner, and I also exchange year-end feedback during this time, and I’ve heard some of the most enduringly helpful coaching of my life from him during those conversations.

And on a lighter note – it’s a great time of the year just to have fun with your co-workers. I’ll be going to Minneapolis this week for a few days of meetings with the rest of the Proteus staff; we’ll be doing an internal Social Style workshop and spending some time focusing on improving our work processes…but we’re also going to have a bowling party!

So have a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, joy, ease and appreciation – and I’ll talk to you in 2013 –

Very warmly,

Erika

Posted in Insider List

Jan
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Insider List – 2011 Archives

Starting the New Year Off Right – 01/03/11

Here we are at the start of a new year. This time of year always fills me with even more hopefulness and optimism than usual. Even though I know that the start of the New Year is completely man-made and arbitrary (Julius Caesar established what has come to be called the Julian calendar in 46 BC, with January 1 as the designated “new year”), I still like to think of it as a fresh start. I generally take some time during this first week of January, alone and with my loved ones, to get clear about my personal and professional vision for the coming year.

We also establish our vision as a group at Proteus – it’s a part of our effort to practice what we preach. Just as we encourage clients to get clear about their hoped-for future, so they can plan how best to move toward it, we do the same for ourselves.

I’d like to share with you our Proteus vision for the next few years. This isn’t something we make public…it’s our own filter for action; the ‘screen’ to which we hold ourselves accountable. But you’re an Insider, and I thought you’d be interested in hearing how we intend to grow and serve our clients better – and I hoped it might also serve as an inspiration in thinking about the future you want to create.

Proteus Vision 2011-2013

VISION & STRATEGY 360
We identify willing clients and fully support them in being strategic

TIFFANY TURN-KEY TRAINING
Highest-quality licensing, training, instructor quality – seamlessly delivered

‘THE FULL MONTY’
Breakthrough business development: serving more clients in more ways

OLYMPIC TEAM
Proteans are world-class in their individual event(s) – and team beautifully as needed

PROTEUS POWER PROFILE
Proteus and Erika have independent and complementary national platforms

KICK-ASS INFRASTRUCTURE
The ways we do business work great for clients and consultants as we grow

That’s our intention for the year to come. And I’d also love to know what you hope to accomplish this year, both personally and professionally; I invite you to share your vision – either in response to this email, or on my facebook page or my blog.

Here’s to a truly happy and fulfilling new year –

Erika

Sailing the Winds of Change – 01/17/11

Lately I’ve been thinking about this time four years ago, and how much has changed for me since then. My first book, Growing Great Employees, was just released, and I was about to start my first blog: the role of author was brand new and very exciting. Proteus was much smaller; we were just beginning to expand the training and vision and strategy parts of our business. The economy was strong. I was living in a different house upstate and a different apartment in NYC. I was still married to my first husband. My daughter wasn’t yet married, and my son had just started college.

So here we are, in the third week of 2011, and my life – both personally and professionally – is dramatically different. Proteus has made it through the recession, and we’re growing in a variety of ways – new people, new offers, new clients. We’ll be opening a New York City office this spring, with new staff. I’m newly married, a new grandma, proudly watching as my daughter – the new mom – goes back to school for her Master’s degree and my son makes plans to open his café in Brooklyn. I’m writing my third book, as well as my original blog, a blog for forbes.com, a Facebook page and this Insider List.

Creating Your Hoped-for-Future

I suspect the past four years have brought changes for you, too. Of course, most of us have been affected in some way by the recent economic shifts, but it’s more than that. The people I know, friends and family, colleagues and clients, seem to be more actively reflecting on their lives and deciding what it is they truly want. Some recent research shows that we are more focused on spending time with those we love and doing work that satisfies us. And what’s more, we seem to have found a new self-reliance – more people believe we can create necessary change in the world through our own personal choices.

And we get inspired by hearing stories of others making positive changes. So, here’s my request to you: if you’d like your fellow readers of the Insider List to be inspired by your story of intentional change, please share it. Tell me your story and I’ll write a future Insider List, with your permission, about the ways you’ve changed your life to make it more what you want it to be.

Onward and upward…

Warmly,

Erika

P.S.

Our facebook page contest has a winner! Anyone who “liked” my facebook page in December was entered into a drawing to win a DVD of Being Strategic with Erika Andersen. The winner is Michael Teape. Congratulations, Michael – your DVD is on its way…

The Power of Intentional Change – 02/02/11

In our last Insiders List, I invited you to share your stories of “intentional change.” I received many wonderful responses from my Insiders: a client and friend who spoke about how she had changed her perspective on her life, from a feeling of ‘not enough,’ to appreciating what she has and who she is; to another who said he had learned to “surf the waves of change;” to a third who said she had re-created her life plan so that she was engaged in a career that fed “not only her body but her soul.”

As promised, I would like to share one of these inspirational stories with you here – the one that affected me most. It’s the story of a positive change that arose out of a difficult circumstance. I loved its heartfelt simplicity and its demonstration that one person’s intentional change can cause a ripple effect on hundreds or even thousands of people in many positive ways.

True Giving

“In January 1987, I had an emergency C-section in my seventh month of pregnancy; my daughter Cathleen was delivered weighing one pound, six ounces. Over the next few months, she – and we – lived through one crisis after another: she was on a respirator, had patent ductus surgery, pneumonia, sepsis – so many other issues, the names became a blur.

One snowy winter night the Red Cross called someone in to donate the special blood she required for a transfusion. As I sat watching my tiny Cathleen, waiting for that person to give blood, it came to me that we were utterly dependent on this stranger, someone we would never meet or know, giving the gift of his or her own life’s blood to save our child.

I suddenly realized that I had never given of myself for someone in need as that stranger was doing. Sure, I had donated to various charities, but I had never given of myself to help another. Knowing this made it difficult for me to accept that help for my daughter. I resolved at that moment to never, ever be in that position again; that I would give of myself as much as I could. I resolved to stay ahead of the giving curve so that if (when!) I might next have to accept another’s help, I would be comfortable doing so.

No one is immune from needing help at some point. I wasn’t…and I still am not. The difference is that in the future I’ll be able to accept that help much more gracefully, because I now give my time and talent, as well as my treasure. I’m Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in appreciation of the extensive scholarship support I received while there; I was a long-time member of the Foundation Board of the SUNY Health Science Center and the allocation committee of the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, to help other sick children. I was the President of a day care center that has a wonderful program for children with special needs, where my daughter attended before starting school; I was part of an economic development committee for the small community in which I live; I speak to groups about the importance of giving back.

Of course, my daughter’s life has changed my own in ways too numerous to mention. But those first difficult months of her life inspired me to make this intentional change that ripples out from me to many others, and has changed my life forever.”

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”

Mahatma Ghandi

Very Warmly,

Erika

A Work Appropriate Love Letter – 02/15/11

Since this Insiders List message happens to fall near Valentine’s day, I thought I’d take full advantage of that to write a 100% workplace-appropriate note of love and appreciation for my partner at Proteus, Jeff Mitchell. It’s also a way to introduce him to those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know him yet.

Friendship + Partnership

Jeff and I have been friends for 25 years, since he was just out of college and I was a new mom. We worked for the same training firm in upstate New York, and I was immediately struck by his enormous intelligence, his abiding curiosity and his deeply quirky sense of humor. When I left the company in 1990 to start Proteus, we kept in touch – and he stayed at the company and eventually (pretty quickly, actually) became its president.

Fast-forward ten years, to 2000. I was looking for a true partner to grow Proteus with me, and Jeff was running his own consultancy and wondering about his next act. We decided to join forces, and the result is the Proteus we’ve built today and are heading toward the future.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are five of the things I love best about being friends and business partners with Jeff Mitchell.

He really, truly wants the best for our clients, and will work astonishingly hard to make that happen.

He engages with me 100% in moving toward the hoped-for future we both want to create for Proteus.

He is more honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses than anyone else I know: he truly is a fair witness.

He fully supports me through difficult times and celebrates with me in wonderful times.

Year after year, he bring to bear his intelligence, his curiosity, and his heart in continuing to grow professionally and personally…it’s inspiring.

To give you the chance to experience a little bit of Jeff’s smarts and coolness, here’s his bio on our website, and an Overview-Culture Change (8feb10) process – a practical, behavior-based approach to aligning a company’s culture with its vision and values – of which Jeff is the main architect.

Here’s to great friends and great partnerships!

Very warmly,

Erika

A Tale of Two Brands – 02/28/11

An interesting thing happens when you have a business book published, especially if it sells reasonably well; you get an odd kind of instant credibility. It was almost disorienting, when Growing Great Employees was released in 2007: People seemed to think I was instantly smarter and more worth listening to than before. And that phenomenon repeated itself after Being Strategic was published.

One result is that we now seem to have two brands: the Proteus International brand and what my husband jokingly refers to as “Erika AndersenTM.” I’ll throw in my favorite definition of ‘brand’ here: A brand is the promise of an experience. So, over the past few years, we’ve been consciously focusing on making sure the two brands align with and support each other.

Personal and Organizational Brands

Since I’m the founder of Proteus, it’s not surprising that the two brands are quite complementary. For instance, the Proteus mission is: To help our clients clarify and move toward their hoped-for future; my personal mission is: To help people become who they want to become. And the Proteus and “Erika Andersen” brand attributes – how we want our customers to experience dealing with us – are exactly the same: illuminating, strengthening and trustworthy. You could hardly ask for better alignment than that.

And we’re looking at – and building on – all the ways in which the brands support each other. For instance, whenever I work with groups or am inteviewed in the media, I always let people know about Proteus; that we have a wonderful group of very experienced and smart consultants doing this same work who are also illuminating, strengthening and trustworthy. And when Proteus consultants use my books or TV show DVD in working with clients, that supports my brand…and also shows the clients that Proteus has lots of valuable IP to help them.

As we’ve been thinking about this, I’ve realized that each of us has this same issue: How do we make sure that our personal brand is aligned with our organization’s brand? I’ve noticed that when that alignment exists, the person is more valued, and his or her strengths get more fully utilized, within the organization. And when the alignment isn’t there, it’s frustrating for all concerned – that’s when people tend to say “So-and-so is great/smart/motivated, but just not a fit for the culture.”

So, what is your personal brand? What’s your mission – your purpose – and what experience do you want people to have when they interact with you? And how does that align with your organization’s brand?

And the bigger question – if they’re not well-aligned, what are you going to do about it?

I’d love to know your thoughts on these questions – send me an email or comment on my Facebook page.

And here’s an Insiders Only offer: if 5 or more of you let me know you’re interested in this topic, we’ll do a webinar or podcast about it.

Very warmly,

Erika

Even Google Needs Better Managers (PLUS Insider’s Only Exclusive) – 3/15/11

Just yesterday, three people sent me a link to a New York Times article about some research from Google’s HR folks, focused on what makes good managers and how important people management is to Google’s continued success.

What they found reinforced everything we at Proteus have been saying and teaching for over 20 years. For instance, the first two of their ‘eight rules‘ are “be a good coach” and “empower your team and don’t micromanage.” So it wasn’t a surprise – but it is nice to have such strong data, from such a successful company, to support our point of view!

Coincidentally, I had the experience last week of teaching management skills, with one of my Proteus colleagues, to a fairly senior group of executives in a media company, many of whom had never had any management skills training. Most of them found it really valuable. They had a high felt need for these skills, and saw the benefit – in terms of both productivity and morale – of them becoming better managers.

Leading that training, then seeing this article, reinforced my commitment to helping people become truly excellent managers of people. It’s one thing to say ‘be a good coach’ – and quite another to help someone learn how to do that.

Insider’s Exclusive: Giving You Another Cool Tool!

As many of you know, that’s why I wrote Growing Great Employees; I saw it as a way to get core management skills and tools to a wider audience. And I also created a “Growing Great Employees Reader’s Guide,” as a way for readers to join forces to get even more value from the book, by talking about and practicing together what they’d read. I thought it might be useful to you, too, so I’m offering it here, and on your “for insiders only” portal as well. Hope you find it useful –

Very warmly,

Erika

P.S.

A number of you liked the idea, from the last IL, of a webinar on aligning your personal and organizational brands – so look for that in the coming months. (Special thanks for your helpful comments to Jon Mueller, Aimee Doane and Glenden…)

Get Your Insider’s Only Exclusive Tool, Click Here!

Introducing You To Proteus – 04/04/11

Recently I was talking to a client in LA, someone I’ve known for fifteen years. As the conversation unfolded, I realized she doesn’t really know my colleagues at Proteus. I suspect that might be true for many of you as well – you may not know the rest of my team.

So, over the next few months I’ll be using some of the Insider List emails to introduce you to my wonderful, smart Proteus colleagues. I’ve already introduced you to Jeff, my business partner; the next person I’d like for you to meet is Kathy Dore.

From Client to Colleague

Kathy was for many years a client of Proteus. She and I met in 1996, when she was an executive at Rainbow Media, in charge of running IFC, Bravo and IFC Entertainment. She engaged Proteus to help clarify her organization’s vision and to provide executive coaching for her senior team. We began working with Kathy that year, and she continued to engage us as her career progressed – she first became President of Entertainment Services for Rainbow, and then, in 2004, she was recruited as President of Broadcasting for Canwest Media. Proteus continued to support Kathy and her team through our vision and strategy, executive coaching and management training offers.

A few years ago, we began talking with Kathy about the possibility of her joining us at Proteus. I was thrilled; Kathy is one of the best leaders I’ve ever known, and she understood the value of our work and its benefits better than any other client.

I’m still thrilled; Kathy is a tremendous asset to our team. She brings to us her deep understanding of how to manage and lead people and businesses; her unfailingly collaborative approach to finding the best solution; and her personal kindness and clarity to her work with us. It’s also tremendously helpful to have her dual perspective: having been a client, she can help us see our clients’ needs and point of view more clearly.

Kathy works in three areas with Proteus. First, she is the newly named Practice Director of our Vision and Strategy offer, certifying our consultants to become facilitators of that process. Second, she focuses on supporting the development of young managers, and particularly young women. For instance, she has been the primary designer of one of our newest offerings, a course called Politics, Power and Influence, created to give young professionals – especially women – tools for dealing with these critical aspects of corporate life. (We’re developing our one page overview of the course at the moment, and will upload it into your Insiders Only page when it’s complete.) Finally, she supports the growth of our own business by serving as an internal coach for us in the areas of consultative selling and business planning.

I feel so fortunate to have Kathy as a friend and colleague. I hope that each of you will have the chance to meet and work with Kathy at some point; your life will be enriched.

Very warmly,

Erika

A Writer in the Land of Social Media – 04/18/11

I’ve always loved to write. I wrote stories as a kid; I actually enjoyed doing papers in school; and I have a historical novel tucked into a drawer, awaiting the day when I have time to edit and send it to my agent.

Becoming a published author, in late 2006, was thrilling on a whole variety of levels – it was so exciting walking into a Barnes and Nobles and seeing a hot-off-the-presses copy of my book there on the shelf! Since then, having published a second book and now (slowly) working on my third, I feel it’s fair to call myself an author.

At the same time, it’s fascinating to watch how “being a writer” is changing: the advent of social media as a form of communication has made it possible for everyone to write publicly, and is dissolving the line between ‘professional writer’ and citizen with a point of view. In some ways I think this is great; more people are writing more than they used to, and that means that this wonderful medium is having a kind of renaissance. People are making a renewed effort to use the instrument of the written word to communicate their thoughts and feelings to each other. And in some ways it’s terrible: the fact the anyone can write anything anywhere and have it picked up and sent all over the world makes it easier for inaccurate, inflammatory and hateful ideas to get a broader hearing – and more proponents.

But for me, as a lover of words and believer in the power of language, it simply provides more ways to connect, and I’m trying to take full advantage of that. If you’re not familiar with my various social media writing efforts, here’s a quick tour:

Personal, Professional, Inquisitive

The original blog: I’ve mentioned and linked to my erikaandersen.com blog from the Insider List a number of times. I began writing that blog in January of 2007, and have blogged there regularly ever since. I use it to muse about the intersection of life and work; about kids, home, marriage; about how my clients, my work, and my colleagues affect me, and how I hope to affect them. I share insights about how to enjoy life and work by approaching them with curiosity, awareness, and a clear mind.

The Forbes connection: late last year, I was invited to create a blog at forbes.com. I started “How Work Works” in December. That blog is much more specifically work-focused. In my first post, entitled Making Business Productive and Fun, I shared my core intention: “to focus on how to make work more what we want it to be.” Generally, I focus each post on a particular organization or person…although at the moment I’m doing a series of posts about the six elements in our leadership model.

facebook grows up: Last year the guys at Outthink introduced me to facebook as a medium for professional communication (as opposed to an easy way to connect with my kids and my friends), and they created a ‘public person’ facebook page for me. I use it primarily as a place to ask questions and get people’s insights – it’s an excellent medium for quick interchange and getting new voices into the mix.

As a writer, I love having these ways to stay in touch with people who are interested in the things I’m interested in, and find new people to connect with; to share my thinking and discover what others are thinking.

I invite you to join any or all of these conversations, and – if you’re not already doing so – to test out your own writing muscles in the land of social media.

Very warmly,

Erika

INSIDERS ONLY EXCLUSIVE: Erika Has A Spring Message For You! – 05/03/11

It looks like spring has definitely sprung! Every year at this time, I’m still astonished and amazed – two weeks ago when I looked out from my deck, all I could see were grays and browns: bare branches, a winter-muddy river, sere grass. This weekend, it’s a symphony of green and yellow; tender new foliage on all the trees; forsythia and daffodils and willows adding cheerful sunshine to the mix.

It’s so reassuring to me, this cycle of renewal. And it reminds me that most everything goes in cycles: business, the economy, life.

Just as there are inflection points in nature, there are inflection points in work life. One of the most important is that point when a new employee begins working for you. I’ve been having that experience over the past month; my wonderful new assistant Dan Camins just joined our Proteus family recently. Like most new employees, he’s approached his new role with real enthusiasm and fresh energy, and we’ve been doing our best to welcome him to the team and get him started right.

Many of our clients have also been hiring new employees lately, and we’ve been talking to them about how important it is to “onboard” new employees well. There’s a window of opportunity when a new person starts at your company: they’re especially motivated and focused, and supporting them with the proper information and connections to others in the organization can really yield huge benefits – for them, for you, for the organization.

A Spring Video

I spent a good part of the weekend gardening – and thinking, as I often do, about how gardening is like managing people. So if you go to your Insiders Only page at erikaandersen.com, I’ll share with you (via video) some of the ideas that emerged, as I dug in the dirt, about gardening and new employees.

(For those of you who may be newer to the Insider List, and haven’t had a chance to access the “Insiders Only” page yet, go to the homepage of my website and look in the right sidebar, just beneath the Insider List sign-up space. You’ll see a lock logo that says “for Insiders Only.” Click on it, and it will take you to a password-protected page. Your password is: clubhouse2011. )

I’d love to show you around my garden in person, and chat about helping both our gardens and our teams to thrive – so think of this as a 21st century alternative to that…

With hope for renewal,

Erika

How We Develop Skills – 5/18/11

How We Develop Skills

Dear Friend,

A few ILs ago, I mentioned that I’d be introducing you to my Proteus colleagues over the next few months. Many of you have worked with me or with my partner Jeff, but may not know the rest of the team.

The person I’d like you to meet today is Therese Miclot. Therese is our Practice Director for Building Skills and Knowledge, our training offer. That part of our business is growing quickly, as more and more of our clients focus on developing their key employees’ management and leadership skills.

If We Had Someone Like Therese…

Like Kathy Dore, to whom I introduced you last month, Therese started out as a client. In 2006, we began a major training initiative with our client Rockwell Automation. We designed a leadership development course with them based primarily on the skills and concepts in Growing Great Employees. Therese was our point person on the Rockwell HR/Training team.

Around that time, Jeff and I started talking about how helpful it would be, both for our clients and for us, to have a Practice Director for Building Skills and Knowledge – and every time the topic came up, Jeff would say, “If only we had someone like Therese…”.

Long story short: we discovered that Therese was looking to make a change in her career, and in 2009, with the blessings of Rockwell’s head of HR, she joined Proteus.

Therese has become indispensible. She works with our clients and with Glenden Hubbard, our workshop administrator, to make sure every element of our training promotes great outcomes for the learners. She also manages our network of Proteus trainers, and is the point person for certification of client trainers.

When I asked Therese what useful thing she’d like to offer with this email, she suggested our Instructor Contributions (attached). We use these as an assessment and development tool in our instructor quality program, and she thought you might find them helpful in thinking about what it takes to be an effective teacher of skills, since many of you are called upon to do that either formally or informally in your job.

I’m so happy Therese joined us, and I hope each of you has a chance to experience her thoughtfulness, focus on excellence, smarts and initiative in the months and years to come.

Very warmly,

Erika

Still Being Strategic – 6/1/11

When Being Strategic was published in hardback in May of 2009, it was the heart of the recession. The timing seemed perfect; I knew that the mindset and skills of being strategic were a powerful antidote to the fear and resultant short-sightedness I was seeing all around me. I felt that business leaders could, by being strategic through this difficult passage, make good, sustainable near-term decisions while staying appropriately focused on long-term success.

I even wrote a “manifesto” for 800CEOREAD titled Being Strategic: the Antidote to Fear.

And people definitely responded: the Vision and Strategy part of our business grew steadily. More and more clients requested sessions where we would use the ‘being strategic’ process to help them get clear about their core challenge and their current state, then envision a successful future, and finally figure out how to get there, strategically and tactically.

Even More Now than Then…

Interestingly, now that the economy is easing up, this part of our business is really taking off. We started the year with three Proteus consultants who could do this work with clients; by the end of the year, we’ll have six. We get requests for vision and strategy sessions on a weekly basis. I think business leaders are saying to themselves, “Well, we seem to have pulled ourselves out of the ditch. We don’t want to drive back into the ditch…maybe we need to be more planful about where we’re taking this thing.”

We’re also seeing a big upsurge in people asking to do what we’ve come to call “personal vision and strategy” – individuals wanting to use the process to envision and create the lives they truly want, lives of greater purpose and more satisfaction. There’s a lot of research showing that the recession catalyzed a shift in values. More people are focused on intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards, and these requests for personal vision and strategy seem to be a part of that.

I love that we have the chance to do this work, both on the personal and the business level; it aligns so deeply with our mission of helping people clarify and move toward their hoped-for future.

Given all that, I thought you might find this podcast interesting, useful and timely. It’s an interview I did on Blog Talk Radio in June of 2009, talking about the book; why being strategic is important and how to do it.

As always, I’d love any insights or comments you’d care to share on this topic…

Very warmly,

Erika

All Work and No Play Makes Jack/Jill a Dull Boy/Girl – 7/6/11

First, let me apologize for my brief hiatus. Those of you who have been here for a while are used to receiving your Insider List emails twice a month- so you may have noticed that I didn’t send the last one. The good news is that I was on vacation and really unplugged from work.

I had a marvelous time- my husband and I spent two weeks in Denmark, and if you’re interested, I’ve posted a few pictures in the Insiders Only portal. I returned relaxed, recharged, and ready to rock (and alliterate.)

A Paean To Vacations…

So today, instead of writing about work, I thought I’d write about NOT working, and how important it is.

About five years ago, I was coaching a young SVP in a media company. She had risen very rapidly (3 promotions in five years), and was widely thought to be among the highest-potential executives in her organization. I was asked to coach her because she had begun to have some performance difficulties – deadlines missed, some problems with her team – and her boss and HR were worried that perhaps she was too green to be operating at the SVP level.

When I met with her for her one-on-one catalyst session, I discovered that she was working about 80 hours a week – and that she hadn’t had a weekend off (let alone a real vacation) in over a year. She was quite simply exhausted. She had reached that point of diminishing returns where you start working harder and harder and get worse and worse results.

Re-balancing her life became our main coaching focus. I had her write down how she was spending her time at work for the next couple of weeks, and then challenged her to reduce her workload to 55 hours a week by doing 3 things: 1) looking for tasks she could stop doing altogether, 2) looking for areas she could truly and fully delegate, 3) creating processes for working more efficiently – both alone and with her team.

There’s a happy ending. Not only was she able to get her workload down to a manageable level and improve her performance – but she also met and fell in love with a lovely man (something she wanted in her life but hadn’t had the time to pursue.) They married, and now have two daughters. AND she actually takes vacations.

If you’re working too hard, one key area to look at (as I’ve noted above) is delegation. We’ve created a practical and unique delegation model that clients have found very useful over the years – some of you may be familiar with it through having read the chapter on delegation in Growing Great Employees, or having been in a Proteus course where it was taught. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, or would like a quick refresher, I’ve put a little delegation workbook in Insiders Only for you. I’d love to hear from you about how it works…

Here’s to a balanced life!

Very warmly,

Erika

Serving All Kinds of Clients – 7/18/11

I think it’s time to introduce you to another one of my Proteus colleagues. As I mentioned, I plan on doing this every couple of ILs till you’ve had a chance to “meet”everyone.

I’m really proud of the team we’re building; we have such a diversity of backgrounds and skills. Cindy Swensen is a great example; she brings a unique and varied background to her work with Proteus, which gives her the knowledge and insight to support a wide range of clients.

All this, plus a mean forehand…

Before coming to Proteus, Cindy spent a decade on Wall Street, working in M&A and Project Finance, and then transitioned into the cable industry, focusing on business development – especially in the then-budding area of new media.

About 10 years ago, she made another career shift. As she has said to me, “People seemed to gravitate to me for advice, and I loved helping them – so I decided make it official: I got trained as an executive coach and hung out my shingle.

Jeff and I connected with Cindy about five years ago; we were looking for a senior consultant with a broad business background and coaching experience: Cindy fit the bill perfectly.

Since then, Cindy has become an integral part of our team. She focuses primarily on coaching executives and conducting our vision and strategy process. And she’s built on her own work history to create a special practice serving the financial services and legal fields; her clients include Citigroup, Proskauer Rose and Gramercy, among others.

She doesn’t limit herself to those areas, though – she is a Betsy Magness Fellow and previously worked at Disney. She’s a core part of our Rising Leaders program for WICT, and works with our other cable industry clients as well.

Though Cindy isn’t primarily a career coach, she’s created a great model for career coaching that we use with clients who request that service. So many folks seem to be refocusing on their careers at this point, we thought you might find our Career Guidance tool useful.

I love having Cindy on our team. She brings a practical understanding of how business works to every client interaction, as well as humor, enthusiasm, and an appetite for helping clients find new ways of working and growing. And she really does have a mean forehand – she’s an extraordinary athlete, in addition to all her other skills! I hope you all get a chance to meet and work with Cindy at some point – if you happen to be in New York and would like to connect with her, just let us know.

Very warmly,

Erika

Glass Half Full – 8/1/11

I am an optimist. In fact, one reviewer of Growing Great Employees called me “a relentless optimist.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

I’ve noticed that many people view optimism as naïve and old-fashioned these days. The prevailing sentiment seems to be, “Given the state of the world today, how could any reasonable, intelligent person be excited and hopeful about the future?” And certainly a quick online tour of the major news sites would tend to reinforce this point of view!

While I understand that CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the NY Times, et al, are in business to engage consumers, and that “Debt Crisis Looms!” is a more compelling headline than “Congress and the President Seem to Have Worked Something Out” – still, the outcome, aside from higher ratings, is unfortunate: the media’s continual sky-is-falling focus only reinforces our pessimistic bias.

In Defense of Optimism

Even though it seems to be somewhat out of vogue, there’s a lot to be said for optimism. For one thing, research shows that optimists tend to live longer and be healthier than pessimists.

I’ve also seen that leaders who are optimistic about the future tend to get better results and build stronger teams. I believe it’s because their hopefulness communicates a sense of possibility that inspires people to commit more fully and to do their best work.

Now, let me be clear here; I’m not talking about blind, unfounded optimism, or a refusal to acknowledge challenges or difficulties. I think Jim Collins got it right in Good to Great, with what he called “The Stockdale Paradox” true optimism is believing that you will prevail in the end, while confronting the ‘brutal facts’ that surround you.

I call it reasonable aspiration.

One way we can get more optimism into the mix is to celebrate stories of success. I try to do that here, and in both my blogs – and I certainly do it when I’m working with clients.

And I found a website that focuses entirely on finding and sharing ‘good news’ stories.

So I thought it would be fun and optimism-supportive to put out a call to all my Insiders to share your own good news. I’d love to hear stories of optimism fulfilled: things you believed you could do – and did. Triumphs of fact and of spirit, at home or at work. Bring ‘em on! Email them to me, or message me on Facebook, and I’ll share them here or on my blogs.

I look forward to hearing your good news!

Very warmly,

Erika

New York New York – 8/16/11

A few weeks ago, an executive I’m coaching said she liked the fact that I’m a business owner: she felt that running a business gives me important insights into her world and the challenges that face her daily. I agree. Running Proteus with my partner Jeff definitely gives me a different frame of reference than I would otherwise have.

One thing I think about and deal with every day – like most of the executives we coach – is how to grow our business. Fortunately, we ‘eat our own caviar,’ as Jeff would say, so we’re being strategic about that growth: we have a clear vision for our future, and a good plan for getting there.

Part of our castle on the hill

One critical element of our vision for the past few years has been to have a Proteus office in Manhattan. We have a beautiful office in Minneapolis in a historical building downtown. It’s our operations office, and all of our training programs and group sessions are administered from there. But because so many of our key clients are located in or near New York, and a number of our consultants live in the area, as well, we envisioned the NYC office as a place to meet with clients, to conduct coaching sessions, and to work together on client projects. New York has been a big part of our history and our growth, and we saw this as a way to create a strong foundation for the future.

Just recently we realized that part of our vision. We opened Proteus NYC at 276 Fifth Avenue on May 27th. We had the chance to design it from raw space, so that it truly feels and looks “Protean.” It’s wonderful having a place in New York City that we’re proud to share with clients and with each other.

I wanted to share it with all of you, too. So, aided by the miracles of modern technology, we created a video tour of the new offices just for you, the Insiders. It’s informal – Dan and I (with Mike Rowe pressed into service as the camera man) at the end of the work day – but we hope it gives you a feel for what we’re creating here.

We’re also going to be having an office-warming party/open house in October – and you’re all invited! Dan will be sending you an e-vite at the end of September.

So here’s to the future. I hope you’ll be there with us as we keep building our future, and I hope you’ll be living the life you truly want.

Very warmly,

Erika

Proteus Road Warrior – 8/21/11

One of the exciting things about Proteus these days is the rapid expansion of the training part of our business, the part we call Building Skills and Knowledge. We’re in the process of looking for more truly world-class trainers to fill the need. Fortunately for us, some of our executive coaches are also excellent trainers, so they’re helping us serve clients in this way while we continue to build our training ‘bench.’

Ken Kesslin is a key example; if we were giving prizes, Ken would definitely win our “most willing to travel anywhere in the world to train” award. As our training business has grown, Ken has traveled to India, China, Mexico, and Australia (just to name a few of his far-flung destinations) to teach people how to be better managers and leaders.

But thats not all…

Besides being a globe-trotting trainer, Ken is also a gifted executive coach. When people ask me about Ken’s coaching specialty, I always tell them that he’s extraordinarily skilled at giving tough feedback in a way thats “hearable,” and at helping executives (particularly the hard-driving “type-A” sort) understand any negative impacts of their style on people and on the business – and what to do to change that impact.

Before coming to Proteus, Ken’s professional life included both a stint on Wall Street, in management and sales, and 14 years as a psychotherapist – a combination that gives him great insights into the interplay of business and personal factors in any situation. He’s told me that he decided to go into coaching because it provided an opportunity to help people improve and succeed – which is what he liked about being a therapist – in their professional lives; that it would allow him to apply all he’d learned throughout his career.

Just recently, Ken was training a group of managers in Singapore. Part of the course he was teaching included the Social Style model, which we almost invariably use in our executive coaching, and have also found invaluable as a tool for helping people manage and team more effectively. He sent us some wonderful pictures of flipcharts from the course, in English and Mandarin. If you’re not familiar with Social Styles, here’s something you might find interesting and useful. It’s an article based on the Social Style chapter in Growing Great Employees.

I really enjoy having Ken as a member of the Proteus team. He’s thoughtful, smart, team-focused, and – as you might imagine – flexible! And he’s helping us all to understand how the skills we offer translate across cultural and geographic boundaries. Now, if we can just get him to share his frequent flyer miles….

Very warmly,

Erika

New Tools in the Toolkit – 9/16/11

When I was younger, I was a quite solitary person. Twenty-five years ago, if you had asked me who I was close to, I would have said my siblings, my dad, my (then) husband, my baby daughter, and one or two friends. I was very work-focused, and didn’t really understand the power (or the point) of having lots of relationships.

If you had asked me to stand up in front of 500 people and present on some topic about which I felt passionate or knowledgeable – no problem. If you asked me to go to a party and mingle with 20 people I didn’t know – no way!

A big ah-ha

Then I learned the Social Style model. I found out that I was a “Driver” in that model: fast-paced, goal-oriented, not outwardly emotive – focused on tasks much more than relationships. It all resonated. But I also learned about the three other styles – Expressive, Amiable, and Analytical – and started to try to understand what they brought to the party, and to try to see the world from those different points of view. At around the same time, I learned another – for me – critical skill; Listening. I realized there was a connection. As a Driver, I’d been doing too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘asking,’ and I was over-focused on my goals and my point of view, at the expense of others’ perspectives. Listening seemed the perfect antidote.

I began to exercise my listening and relationship “muscles,” and, over time, started to understand the benefit of deeper connection with others, and the truly amazing power of listening (I became such a fan that I dedicated an entire chapter of Growing Great Employees to the skill – and I consciously practice becoming an ever better listener each day).

Now, all these years later, I’m definitely still a Driver – but I have many close friends, all over the country, and good, deep, supportive relationships of fun and mutual benefit with colleagues, clients and friends. I love building and being on teams, and I feel continually nourished and strengthened by others’ knowledge, insights and support.

My point: there’s no limit to our individual potential to learn; we can expand our perspective and our capabilities indefinitely. Age is no barrier, and where you start from is no barrier. We can each become more and more the person we want to be throughout our lives.

Go for it.

Very warmly,

Erika

Building Relationships Over Time – 10/3/11

One aspect of our business in which I take the most pride: the quality of the relationships we build with our clients. We’ve been serving a number of our client organizations, and individuals within those organizations, since the early nineties.

I love how those relationships grow and change over time. Quite often clients become friends; sometimes they become business partners. As with Kathy Dore and Therese Miclot, Mike Rowe began as a Proteus client, and over the years became a friend and then a member of our team.

A great HR pedigree…

Mike spent 25 years as an HR leader before joining us, filling increasingly senior jobs at GM, Pepsi, and Disney before becoming Head of HR for Activision, where he designed and built a human resource function that supported a 2000% growth in the business over a seven-year period.

I once asked Mike how he got interested in HR as a profession. He told me about the summer job he got after his senior year in high school that turned into an opportunity to design an employment program for inner city young people. “I was hooked,” he said. “I realized I could do something practical to help people and help the economy. From that point on, HR was what I wanted to do.

I met Mike twenty years ago when he was working in learning and development at Taco Bell; he and I designed a management training program for new store managers. We really enjoyed working together, and over the following fifteen years, Mike brought Proteus in to all the companies where he worked.

About five years ago, after leaving his job at Activision to semi-retire and move back to his home state of Michigan with his family, Mike called me again. He could only mow his lawn so many times, he said – and we started discussing the possibility of him joining the Proteus team.

Over the past three years, Mike has become essential to our growth and success. He’s better than anyone I’ve ever known at helping companies strengthen and simplify their human resources processes to support good business results. And he’s so smart, clear, and easy to work with that he can make even the knottiest, most complex problems seem straightforward and solvable. Recently he’s been applying this ‘superpower’ to helping a number of our clients upgrade and streamline their existing Performance Management systems. Mike uses a simple but powerful ‘lens’ in his HR systems work to assess the alignment of key organizational elements; I thought you’d find it useful and interesting, so I’m sharing it with you here.

I feel honored when the clients I most respect ‘jump the fence’ and join our team. They bring a fresh perspective; having been our clients, they’re uniquely suited to helping ensure that what we offer is truly useful and relevant. I love that Mike is here to raise our game and keep us moving toward our own castle on the hill; I hope you all get a chance to meet and work with him over the coming years.

Very warmly,

Erika

Proteus Grows Up – 10/19/11

If Proteus were a person, it could drink legally. And we just had a party to celebrate. On Monday night, the Proteus team and a great group of clients, friends and colleagues came together at the Proteus NYC offices for a combination office-warming/coming of age party.

You were there in spirit

Some of you attended (in fact, a few introduced themselves to me as “Insiders”, which was cool), and I thought about the rest of you at various points during the evening. In fact, in between talking to old friends, meeting new people, eating the amazingUnion Square Events appetizers, and drinking the wonderful wines my partner Jeffselected, I reflected on those who weren’t there physically – our ever-more far-flung community of clients, staff and like-minded world citizens. I felt both happy and proud thinking about all the great folks we’ve helped and supported, and who have helped and supported us in turn; the people whose lives and companies we’ve benefitted, and who have referred us to others, advocated for us in their companies, and taught and enriched us in countless other ways.

We threw the party when all of us “Proteans” were in town for our yearly company meeting (we thought it was a great opportunity to celebrate as a group, and to introduce our team to clients who’ve been working with us for years and yet who may not have met many of us). My main take-away from the meeting itself was that we truly are “growing up” as a company; putting in place the systems that will help us serve our clients even better and more consistently, developing our capabilities, and getting better at taking full advantage of the skills and strengths we each bring. During the meeting, a number of my teammates expressed the same sentiment. I believe we’re seeing Jim Collin’s “flywheel effect” at Proteus – as he describes it, “a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process–a framework…the victory of steadfast discipline over the quick fix.”

For the past 21 years, we’ve had one mission: to help our clients clarify and move toward their hoped-for future. And every day, we work to fulfill our brand promise: to be illuminating, strengthening, and trustworthy. It’s exciting for us, and we hope increasingly helpful to all of you, to see and feel our “flywheel” gain momentum.

So, here’s to another 21; thank you so much for being with us on the journey.

Very warmly,

Erika

Boo!! – 10/31/11

I always loved Halloween as a kid – what’s not to love? Dressing up as some make-believe creature, going out at night without your parents, all the candy you can eat plus permission to eat it? I even liked all the pseudo-scariness associated with it: the neighborhood haunted houses, and stories told with flashlight-illuminated faces.

But there’s delicious shivery nothing-really-bad’s-gonna-happen fear and then there’s real fear. And I thought Halloween seemed like a good time to talk about the truly scary kind and what to do about it.

The Downside of Fear

Mild fear can actually be a good thing. Let’s say, for instance, you’re scheduled to make a big presentation to your boss and some other senior people. If you’re a little anxious about it, you’ll probably be motivated to do everything you can to assure it goes well: find out what’s expected; prepare your materials and remarks carefully; practice till you feel reasonably comfortable; make sure you have the finished materials and technology you need on the day of the presentation. You still might be a bit nervous, but you will have done everything to assure your nervousness translates into energy and focus during the meeting.

Now imagine that same situation with a lot of fear. Significant fear tends to limit our perceptions and our response. When we’re really scared, our mental field of vision narrows, making it hard to see anything beyond the current threat. In the grip of fear, we focus only on defense, protection, or escape. This ancient fear response is a survival mechanism. When a threat is immediate and physical, it’s completely appropriate: if a saber-toothed tiger is trying to make you into dinner, you want to be utterly focused on saving yourself. Unfortunately, we’re wired to respond to fear in the same way even when the threat is very different.

So if the idea of presenting to your boss and his or her colleagues evokes this kind of deep fear in you…throwing your computer at them and running away might seem appealing, but it won’t give you the result you’re looking for in this situation!

Fortunately, you have some modern-day mental tools to help you. You can begin to manage your fear through physical means. Simple relaxation and breathing techniques can help disrupt your body’s chain of stress responses. Once you’ve calmed your physical symptoms, you can turn your attention to your interior monologue.

How we talk to ourselves about events is a powerful determinant of our emotional and physical responses. Managing your self-talk can help you get past your fears.

For instance, in the situation we’re talking about here, imagine you start by saying to yourself, “Oh my god – this is going to be awful. I’ve never done this before…I’ll be a huge flop…these people will think I’m an idiot. There’s no way I can pull this off!!” And imagine you then manage your internal monologue to something far more hopeful (and probably more accurate), but still realistic and believable – something like: “This is scary – but I’m a reasonably good presenter and I’ve prepared well. I know my boss likes and supports me, and I have no reason to think the other people in the room want me to fail. I’ll do my best.”

I’ve often written about how to manage self-talk, and the folks at Detroit Public Television were so enamored of the idea, they had me do “bonus material” about self-talk on the Being Strategic DVD. In fact, that’s my gift to you this week – the script I wrote for the self-talk section of the DVD. If you’ve seen the DVD, you’ll recognize how closely Jeff and I followed the script – we wanted to make sure the segment was as clear and helpful as possible.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Have a happy – and not too scary – Halloween.

Very warmly,

Erika

Seeing Patterns 11/16/11

For those of you who are newer to the List, I started a series of “Protean Profiles” last Valentine’s Day, with a work-appropriate love letter to my partner, Jeff. Since many of you know and have worked with me, or me and one or two of my colleagues, but may not be familiar with the rest of the team, I thought you might enjoy ‘meeting’ them through this medium.

Today I want to introduce you to Cindy Franklin. Cindy has been with Proteus longer than anyone else on the team, other than me. She and I met 13 years ago, at the suggestion of a mutual friend: I was drawn immediately to her quiet intelligence and warmth, and her keen insight into the human condition.

The Queen of seeing patterns…

Cindy began working with our clients as an executive coach. For those of you who haven’t worked with us in this way, the process generally includes interviewing a group of 6-8 people who work closely with the ‘coachee.’ We then create a two-page document that summarizes what we’ve heard: one page noting the 6-8 key strengths and one with the 2-3 key growth areas.

I noticed right away that Cindy had a unique talent for this part of the work. She created such a safe, fully confidential environment, and is such a gifted listener, that people were able and wiling to share their complete and honest sense of the person being coached. Skilled as she was in interviewing, though, I saw that Cindy’s real gift lay in what she did with the information she heard. Someone once told me that a true mark of genius is “seeing patterns where others see only randomness.” If that’s true, then Cindy is definitely a genius: she unerringly finds the essential patterns in the information she’s given, and frames them up in a simple and compelling way. Cindy was so good at doing this – and it was so helpful to those being coached – that I asked her to do the interviews and summaries for my coachees, as well. We’ve teamed in this way ever since.

And we’ve since made broader use of Cindy’s diagnostic super-powers for the benefit of our clients. She conducts focus groups and interviews, and then creates summaries based on the information she gathers, to help our clients better understand their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, we often bring Cindy in to interview employees before a Vision and Strategy session, to get their sense of what’s working and not working. Her masterful summaries are extremely helpful to the senior team during the session, when they’re working to build an accurate picture of the current situation as a foundation for their visioning.

Cindy is also incredibly generous with her time and wisdom within Proteus. She’s helped many of us to become more skilled in interviewing and in patterning the information we hear. She’s also helped us see ourselves more clearly as an organization – both by gathering and summarizing our clients’ perceptions of us, and by sharing her own insights with us throughout the years.

I’m so glad to have met Cindy, all those years ago, and so proud to have her as a colleague. I’ve mentioned before that our Proteus brand insights are “strengthening, illuminating and trustworthy.” Cindy is the essence of all three; if you haven’t had the chance to meet and work with her yet, I hope you do at some point – it will enrich your life.

Very warmly,

Erika

A New Book in the Works 12/1/11

Just about five years ago, I was waiting with bated breath (whatever that means – if any of you know, please fill me in) for my first book to come out. I really had no idea what impact it would have on me or on Proteus to have Growing Great Employees in print, but it was exciting! As it turned out, it was nothing like I expected. For one thing, Jeff and I thought that lot of people would immediately call us up, after reading the book, and want to become clients. That happened exactly three times.

However, a lot of other cool stuff happened instead. More credibility, a great “calling card” with potential clients…and thousands of people helped to be better managers who I would otherwise never have had the chance to support.

One completely unexpected development: having a book offered a new way to connect with people. I started my blog right around the book’s pub date, and immediately started meeting a whole new set of smart, funny, thoughtful people online who were interested in managing people well – in fact, in making work as fun and productive as possible. As time went on, and the second book came out, and I kept blogging, startedtweeting, began my Forbes.com blog, created a professional facebook page and began the Insiders List, my online community continued to grow.

Making It a Community Effort

If we were a nineteenth century farming community, I’d be inviting you over to my place to help me raise my barn. But as we’re a twenty-first century virtual community, I’d like to invite you to help me raise my new book. I’ve just finished writing it; my agent Jim is reviewing it. If all goes as planned, it should come out next fall or winter. And I’d love to include you in the process.

So here’s my first invitation for your thoughts and insights. The new book is calledLeading (at least, that’s my working title – we’ll see what the publisher thinks). It focuses on the six qualities that people look for in their leaders: how I came to discover them, what they are, and how to develop them in yourself. For a little more background, here’s a blog post that briefly explains the six attributes.

We’re considering two subtitles at the moment: “Timeless Secrets of True Leadership”and “Becoming the Leader People Will Follow.” Here’s my question to you: If you saw the book in a bookstore or online, which subtitle would make you more interested in reading it? If you have another idea for a subtitle you think would be more compelling – please share that, too.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and for being part of the community!

Very warmly,

Erika

Holiday Thank you – 12/15/11

I do love this time of year. Cheesiness and over-commercialization notwithstanding, it seems to me that there is a spirit of hopefulness, appreciation and mutual support sparkling through this season.

And in the spirit of that, I want to thank you for your wonderful and immediate response to my “subtitle” question in the last Insider List. We heard from many of you, and the strong favorite was “Becoming the Leader People Will Follow” (although “Timeless Secrets of True Leadership” had its passionate advocates!).

I took your response to my agent, Jim, and my publicist, Barbara, and after more conversation and thought, we decided to go with a version of your preferred subtitle as the main title – and not have a subtitle at all. So, the manuscript went to the publisher yesterday, and the proposed title is simply Leading So People Will Follow.

In Praise of Collaboration

It’s a much better, stronger, more evocative title than I would have come up with on my own. This is the beauty of collaboration. I’m kind of a late-onset collaborator. Earlier in my life I was much more of a do-it-yourself-if-you-want-it-done-right sort of person. And, like many converts to a new way of thinking or operating, I’m now quite passionate about the power of collaboration. On a daily basis, I observe how ideas are improved in conversation – and how understanding and buy-in soar when people’s thoughts and contributions are fully welcomed. I’m still learning, of course – there are definitely times when I default inappropriately to my overly self-sufficient Driver weaknesses. So it really helps to be surrounded by people, including all of you, who are so smart, thoughtful and honest that I’m constantly reminded why collaboration is valuable.

In the new book, you’ll find that collaboration is strongly woven into each of the six leader attributes. For instance, being Far-sighted isn’t simply about having a clear vision for the future – it’s about articulating it in a compelling and inclusive way, and inviting people to weigh in, make it their own, make it happen. And being Generousincludes sharing power and authority…the essence of real collaboration.

So that you can see what I’m talking about, I’m offering you a little holiday gift: the six leader attributes from the book, and the behaviors we’ve determined best demonstrate them (you’ll see how collaboration shows up throughout). I invite you to use this simple page to reflect on your own leadership (at work or in other areas of your life) and think where you’re strong and where you need to develop.

I want to support your success as you support mine. In the spirit of the holidays –

Very warmly,

Erika

Posted in Insider List

Jan
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Insider List – 2010 Archives

Starting the Conversation – 09/20/10

First, thank you so much for joining the conversation here. I’ll be sharing information and ideas I hope you’ll find useful and interesting, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well.

Unfortunately, I have to start with an apology. On Friday, many of you received a prototype Insider List email sent out in error, the result of our lack of familiarity with the underlying technology of the system we’re using. So, please disregard that one – this is the real first email for the List.

Web Tools for Public Television – And You

As many of you know, I taped a public television pledge drive show called Being Strategic with Erika Andersen last spring. It started airing nationally in August. It was such a great opportunity to share the Being Strategic approach and skills with a broader audience. I loved that the team at Detroit Public Television, who produced the show, understood the Swiss-Army-knife nature of our approach to thinking and acting strategically – that it’s a
powerful and simple way to approach addressing any challenge, personal or professional. If you have a chance to watch the show, you’ll see that we incorporated diverse examples of using the process – all the way from planning for retirement, to looking for a job, to creating the ideal relationship!

Detroit Public Television loved having the Being Strategic book and the DVD of the show to offer as pledge premiums. They also asked us for a special premium to offer as part of a high-level pledge package for their viewers. So we created some web tools: a Planner for working through the Being Strategic process, and a User Guide to support using the process with a group.

We’d like to offer you those tools, as well – our first gift to you as a member of the Insider List! Go to: www.proteus-international.com/pbs to access the tools, and type “strategic” in the password field.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have, or any experiences you’d like to share about using either tool.

Till the next email…

Warmly,

Erika

Find Out What Makes Proteus Tick – 10/04/10

What Makes Proteus Tick?

Dear Friend,

Since you’ve elected to join us here in the Proteus clubhouse, I thought you might find it interesting to see what it’s made out of – to get the insider’s tour.

First: our mission. We define mission as purpose, and ours has been the same since I founded Proteus in 1990: we help clients clarify and move toward their hoped-for future. Everything we do with and for our clients – strengthening leaders, clarifying vision and strategy, building skills and knowledge – works in support of that mission.

How did I come to this as our purpose? I’ve always felt if I can help people to get clear about the future they want to create for themselves – professionally or personally, as organizations or as individuals – and then support them to develop the capabilities and clarity they need to achieve that future, I’m providing a unique
and valuable service to the world.

This mission explains and defines what we do and why. The other essential element is how: the Proteus brand. Almost ten years ago, my partner Jeff Mitchell and I defined our brand attributes as strengthening, illuminating and trustworthy – that’s the experience we always want our clients to have in working with us.

When we invite someone to join the team as Proteus, we make sure that this mission and brand resonate for them, too; that this is how they want to work with clients. We often talk among ourselves about our mission and brand, and make every effort to assure that our work delivers on those promises.

Making It Better

So now I’d like to ask for your insights. Whether you’ve worked with us a lot or a little, you have your own experience of Proteus. From your point of view, how could we better help you clarify and move towards your hoped-for-future?

Any and all suggestions are welcome – and in a future Insider List email, I’ll share some of what we’ve decided to do as a result of what we hear from you. Feel free to send your suggestions by return email, or leave them at my Facebook page.

I can’t wait to hear your ideas…

Warmly,

Erika

 

Why I Blog… – 10/18/10

How It Began…

Dear Friend,

Four years ago, as I was preparing for the publication of Growing Great Employees, a very smart young publicist encouraged me to start a blog; she said it would really support the marketing effort for the book.

I was pretty daunted by the suggestion – what did I know about starting, or writing a blog? But she, a child of the internet age, breezily directed me to Typepad, and told me the site itself would walk me through the set-up and teach me everything I needed to know.

She was right, and here I am, almost 300 posts later. I’ve moved to a new and better platform, integrated with my website…but I’m still blogging.

Why blog?

I posted my first entry at the end of January ’07. Robert Nardelli had just been fired from Home Depot, and I shared my opinion that his main failing had been in the “people part” of the job. I was thinking a lot about good people management and how important it is in business — a big part of why I had written Growing Great
Employees in the first place – and this seemed like such a great example. From this very first post, I really enjoyed the experience of being able to think through something and share it immediately.

That’s still wonderful fun, but it turns out that what I like most about blogging is the human side – all the smart, funny, interesting friends and colleagues I’ve made who share their experiences about life and work with me and each other online. (In fact, on Thanksgiving in ’08, I blogged about it!)

That’s the essence of the power of social media to me – that we can all meet, help, teach, and learn from a much wider variety of people than we could have pre-internet. My colleagues at Proteus and I are trying to figure out how to take best advantage of this capability; the Insiders List is one effort in that direction. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been doing online to connect and communicate, and how it’s been working for you. Do you blog? How have you found facebook, linkedin, or other social media platforms useful, either personally or professionally? Feel free to email me, or comment on my facebook page.

Till next time…

Warmly,

Erika

Thanks for all your great suggestions – I’m still listening! – 11/03/10

Hearing Your Suggestions

Last month, I invited you and our other Insiders to send us your ideas and suggestions about how we could serve you better. Our question to you was, How could we better fulfill our mission and demonstrate our brand attributes?

We got two main suggestions. First, you asked us to find ways to stay in touch better over time and continue to support your development. For example, some of you wanted more follow-up to Proteus coaching or training sessions you’ve had.

Second, some of you wanted to have a better idea of what we can do for you – you’ve experienced one aspect of the Proteus offer and would like to know the other ways we can support your and your team.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! We depend on feedback from our clients to continue to evolve our products and services.

Responding to Them

I was happy to note that the Insider List has begun to address both of these suggestions: it’s a way for us to stay in touch with people who have participated in Proteus sessions, and it’s a way for us to share more information about our services – how we can support you.

In addition, we’ll do the following:

  • At our yearly Proteus meeting next week, we’ll focus on your first request, discussing and deciding how we can better stay in touch with coaching and training clients after their sessions. I’ll let you know what we come up with and how you can take advantage of it.
  • As to your second request, I’m attaching a one-page overview of the Proteus offers, for your handy reference. ;-)
  • We’ve also designed the services page of the erikaandersen.com website to provide a quick overview of our services, and to connect you to the pages on the Proteus website that offer more in-depth information.

And of course, this wasn’t just a one-time deal: please feel free to share your impressions and suggestions any time, either in response to my blog or on my facebook page.

Till next time….

Erika

Insider Tip: Leadership Development – a Profitable Investment – 11/15/10

Recession-Proofing: Clear Vision, Great Employees

Dear Friends,

I’ve noticed some heartening changes in organizations coming out of the recession. For example, we’ve seen a good deal of interest lately in our vision and strategy process. This makes sense to me: many of our clients and prospective clients have cleaned up and simplified their businesses over the past two years – letting go of poor-performing employees, jettisoning non-profitable services or products. And now, having hauled themselves out of the ditch, they’re loath to drive back into it. So they come to us for help in getting clear about the future they want to create and then establishing a plan for achieving it.

And the future they want to create seems different in some important ways, too. Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen more interest in management training than at any other point in Proteus’ 20-year history. Now, it might be that we’re just getting better about noticing and speaking to that interest – but I think there’s something else at play. It seems to me that many executives are having a kind of epiphany about their mid-level people: they want to keep the good ones, and they want them to be highly skilled and effective at their jobs – especially at people-management. It’s part of the new lean-machine mindset we’re seeing: less room for anyone who doesn’t carry his or her weight, and more support and development for those who do.

Now More Than Ever

Which brings me to the subject line of today’s Insider List. When Growing Great Employees was published 4 years ago, I often found myself talking about how goofy it seemed to me that companies don’t focus on developing their managers. It was clear to me that if you gave your managers the skills to manage well and the understanding of why it was important to do so – for them, the organization, and their staff – you would automatically be making your organization more productive and competitive.

Now I’m pleased to say that this particular penny seems to be dropping, at least in some organizations, and there’s a new focus on offering good management and leadership development. I thought you might enjoy listening to one of the podcasts I did back then – it was with Wayne Turmel, a funny sardonic guy who has for many years done an online show called “The Cranky Middle Manager.” I’ve just re-listened to it, and it seems timelier than ever. In fact, at one point I note that in crazy times it’s even more critical to focus on managing your employees well, so that you and they can get the results you’re looking for, while staying focused and reasonably positive. Wayne asks me really excellent, incisive questions about people management, and I had fun telling him what I thought, and still think. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful…

Till next time…

Warmly,

Erika

Happy Holidays, Part I: My Gift to You! – 12/3/10

Happy Holidays, Part I

Dear Friends,

Last spring, around the time I was making the Being Strategic TV show and getting ready for the paperback release of the book, we started thinking about how to create a deeper connection with our most interested fans and friends. We were introduced to a group called Out:Think, whose founder, Tim Grahl, told us that they help authors to build their online platform and grow their community of fans.

And we thought: bingo – that’s what we want. So Tim and company have helped us do a number of simple, useful things to support that purpose: build the erikaandersen.com website and move my blog to it; create the Erika Andersen facebook page as a place for people to connect and converse; and – perhaps most important – begin the Insider List.

As I’ve been writing the Insider List emails over the past few months, I’ve been very much enjoying having a way to communicate with you. I’ve also been realizing what a great vehicle this is (even better than I originally thought) for an exchange of value. That is, I can offer you things that I hope you will find valuable, and I can also make requests of you – for input, ideas, or support – and we’ll all feel like we’re benefitting from the interaction. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do with every email: offer you content or conversations that’s fun and useful, and invite your response and insights.

More Insider Wonderfulness

But I want to do even more for you. Since it’s the season of giving, we’ve come up with a new offering above and beyond the Insider List emails, something I hope you’ll really like. It’s my first holiday gift to you.

If you go to the homepage of my website and look in the right sidebar, just beneath the Insider List sign-up space, you’ll see a padlock icon that says “for Insiders Only.” Click on it, and it will take you to a password-protected page. Your password is: clubhouse2011. Once you put in the password, you’ll see a welcome message from me, and my initial gift to you.

This Insiders Only page will become the repository for all kinds of cool stuff that I hope will support you in thinking and acting to create the work and life you most want. There’s more to come….stay tuned!

Happy Holidays!

Warmly,

Erika

Happy Holidays Part II: Erika has a special holiday message for you! – 12/20/10

Dear Friend,

I love this season. Oh, I can see the downside – the over-consumption, the commercialization of emotion, the fact that lots of people are lonely or in need and their situation made more difficult by the assumption of universal joy.

But I choose to focus on the hopeful truth at the center of all this flurry: beyond religion, race, citizenship or political leanings, this time of year is dedicated to the power of love, family, and gratitude; to the idea that human beings have the capacity to be kind and to see the beauty and possibility in each other.

So let me add my voice to that hopeful chorus. I wish for you a season filled with contentment and surprise, joy and sweetness. If your year has been busy, I wish you a time to rest. If it has been difficult, a time of ease and rejuvenation. And if you feel lonely, I wish for you the power to create community and to enjoy it.

I suspect this coming year is going to bring fresh beginnings on lots of levels – business, personal, and global. Your industry may be in a state of flux, and if so, I wish for you the clarity and confidence to see your way through to whatever is next.

Finally, I wish for you the capacity to be a positive force in the world; to stay focused on what’s possible for yourself and others, even as you stay clear-eyed about what’s in the way, so that you can use the gifts and resources you’ve been given to make this planet a good place for the greatest number of people.

Another Gift for You!

And I want to share all this in a more personal way, and tell you what’s coming for us at Proteus in 2011 – so if you go to your Insiders Only page at erikaandersen.com, you’ll see my holiday message to you.

(If you haven’t had a chance to access the “Insiders Only” page yet, go to the homepage of my website and look in the right sidebar, just beneath the Insider List sign-up space. You’ll see a lock logo that says “for Insiders Only.” Click on it, and it will take you to a password-protected page. Your password is: clubhouse2011. )

I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies – but this will have to do. Have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll be talking to you in 2011!

With warmest wishes,

Erika

Posted in Insider List

Jan
1

Starting the Year Off Right

12 Wishes for Leadership in 2010 | Mary Jo Asmus.

One of the wonderful things about having smart, authentic, interesting friends is that they turn you on to other smart, authentic, interesting people. Case in point: my friend Wally Bock recently introduced me, via email, to his friend Mary Jo Asmus.  I’ve just been reading her blog, and I love this post – it’s what she hopes leaders will do more of this year, and what she hopes all of us will recognize and do differently relative to leaders.  I agree with every single thing she says, and she says it so simply and clearly (a writer after my own heart).

Like Mary Jo, I hope that we all become more of who we want to be this year, and that our efforts to do so support the great good…

Happy New Year!

Posted in Leading People