About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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Archive for November, 2010


How is Being Strategic Like a Swiss Army Knife?

At some point during every vision and strategy session I facilitate, I say some version of, “Developing the capability to be strategic is like having a Swiss Army knife: it’s useful in almost every situation, and you can apply it in a lot of different ways.”  I even say it in my TV show.

Well, now I find that statement is even more true than I thought.  I ran across a pastor named Wayne Hedlund who created a series of posts on his Transforming Leader blog, walking his readers through the Being Strategic process.  His focus is  “Guest Experience”; that is, the experience that churches create for visitors. His challenge question – which I love – is, How can we ensure that a considerably larger percentage of our first time guests will actually want to visit us again?

Wayne’s series of posts really reinforced and expanded my sense of the utility and universality of this approach and skillset; I’m thrilled that he applied it so thoroughly and deftly to a challenge about which he is clearly passionate – and to which I never would have thought to apply it!

I would love to hear about ways you’ve used the being strategic approach – personally or professionally, individually or with a group – to address an important challenge.  And I’d love to share your experiences in future posts…


New Life

Last Thursday, at 9:32pm, Hannah Marion Van Carpels was born.  Now, this may seem entirely unremarkable – about 12,000 babies are born every day in the US – but for me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hannah is my daughter’s daughter; her first child and my first grandchild.  I was thrilled and honored to be with my daughter and her husband throughout her labor and delivery, and to be there for Hannah’s first breath.

And I was reminded yet again of what I felt the days my own daughter and son were born: life is an astonishing gift and miracle.  It doesn’t matter that 150 new lives start every minute around the world; just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s not amazing.

Hannah’s birth reconfirmed my commitment to helping as many people as possible take best advantage of their lives, by becoming who they want to become.

To life!

Posted in learning,people


Just As We Suspected

A friend sent me a great youtube link the other day.  It’s part of a talk by Dan Pink – of whom I’m a big fan – about some research that’s been done recently on what actually motivates people to get great results. it’s definitely worth watching, not least because it’s wonderfully illustrated as he talks by the folks at RSAnimate, who do an almost magical job of 3-dimensionalizing important concepts.

The bottom line of Pink’s presentation is this: except when the task is purely mechanical and rote, additional money is not an effective motivator.  In fact, when the task to be done is complex, cognitive and/or creative – additional money can lead to worse performance. It turns out that the best way to promote improvement in complex tasks is to offer people opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy means having more control over what you do and how you do it, mastery means having the chance to get really good at something, and purpose means being given the chance to do things that are personally meaningful to you.

None of this was a surprise to me; this is how we’ve been encouraging  our clients to manage and lead for 20 years. And it’s certainly the approach I propose in my books – in fact, the whole final chapter of Growing Great Employees is about the urge toward mastery, and how to fulfill that fundamental human need.  I just love having research to back up my point of view.  Especially with clients who roll their eyes when I say that money is not necessarily the best motivator for their employees!


Protecting Your Value

The past two weeks of my life were definitely the most taxing, time-and-energy-wise, of any in recent memory. Or perhaps ever. And I don’t think it’s just me – everyone I meet seems to be busier than ever before.

I noticed at the very tail end of this run, I started being slightly less focused and clear than usual. In fact, I actually canceled a call late yesterday afternoon because I didn’t feel I’d be as helpful to the client as he deserved.

It’s made me think differently about caring for myself – I’m not just taking care of my physical body, I’m making sure that my personal intellectual property is fully available and in the best shape.

So: ten hours of sleep last night; good, light, healthy food today; a quiet weekend planned with my husband, including a concert by a dear friend, Danny Ellis, whose music I love.

So, what about you — how can you care for yourself to ensure that you’re able to make your highest contribution to the world?

Posted in News


Being Strategic Every Day

One of my mantras – I say it in some form almost every day – is that being truly strategic is an invaluable daily habit of mind and action.

I think most people still think of strategy as something arcane and complicated, something that you hire certain people to go off and do, and then bring back their wise and obscure pronouncements.  Kind of like priests of some ancient religion who go off and read the chicken bones and return to the tribe with secret wisdom from the supernatural.

However, I’m happy to say I think that idea is shifting. As some of you know, I have a Google alert on the phrase “being strategic,” and I’ve noticed that, over the past 6 months or so, a lot more people are starting to debunk these stuck and limiting assumptions about strategy.  Just today, I read a great little post by a guy named Marcio Saito, proposing that being strategic is everyone’s job (not just the .1% of the workforce who have it in their job title).

He warmed the cockles of my heart by defining beining strategic as “considering whether our current actions move us towards a desired scenario in the future,” and also that “Strategy is about making decisions that are thoughtful and deliberate, based on the vision of desired result.”


Posted in learning,Thinking