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 May, 2011


Work + Fear = Mediocre Results

A friend and colleague sent me a great article from the NY Times about the effects of fear in the workplace. The author argues that when employees are fearful, they hesitate to do anything outside the norm for fear of repercussions.  Creativity, innovation, and smart risk-taking erode: all require thinking and behavior outside the norm.

It’s interesting: as most companies continue to recover from the depths of the recession, I note two very different responses on the part of senior management.  In some organizations, there’s a renewed – even heightened -sense of hope and possibility: “We made it through!  Everything’s starting to flow again — let’s REALLY make it work this time.”

In other organizations, the response seems exactly the opposite: “We may have made it through this far…but we could fall back into the ditch at any moment. Let’s keep a really tight rein on everything to make sure nothing bad happens.”

Given the deleterious effects of fear on employees – on their morale, their commitment, their creativity – I suspect that this fearful, defensive approach might create the very thing its proponents are attempting to avoid.

I propose this: learn every lesson you can from the events of the past three years.  Then be bold. Engage people, with hope, in seeing and creating reasonable aspirations for your company’s future.



Dear and faithful readers – I feel terribly remiss; this is pretty much the first time since I started the blog in 2007 that I’ve gone for more than a week without posting, except when I’ve been on vacation.

My only excuse: it’s been crazy.  Good crazy – but crazy nonetheless.  Our business is up 90% from 2010, we’ve brought on a number of new “Proteans” in the past nine months — and we’re about to move into our wonderful, brand-spanking new NYC office.  (I’ll have pictures for you in a couple of weeks.)

So this post is a song of gratitude to the people who make it possible for me to do what I do.  Every single person at Proteus, first of all — your focus, intelligence and commitment to the clients backs me up and makes my life easier every day.  Particularly Dan Camins, Executive Assistant and Office Manager extraordinaire…there’s no way I’d be keeping up with this if you weren’t right here with me.

And most of all, my beloved Patrick: you are my rock and my haven, and make every day a joy.  I feel like you continually feed me energy and love, and magically take things off my plate when I ‘m not looking – voila! done! You amaze me with your kindness, clarity and generosity.

I once heard a story about the difference between heaven and hell

A man dies; he’s met in a kind of divine  foyer by an angel  and taken to a huge room with a long table, covered with plates and bowls heaped with delicious food.  There are people sitting all along both sides of the table, but they look angry, frustrated — and famished. Suddenly the man notices that none of the people have elbow joints.  They’re all desperately trying to feed themselves, and they can’t reach their mouths.  The angel says, “This is Hell.”

Then the man is whisked by the angel to another room that looks exactly the same – long table heaped with food; people down both sides, no elbow joints..but these people look happy and well-nourished. “This is Heaven,” the angel says.  The man looks closer, and sees that all the people are feeding each other across the table.

I’m definitely in heaven…..


Building for the Future

I spent a good part of the weekend gardening; the weather was beautiful and we didn’t have many other commitments. My husband jokes that one of the many reasons we’re so splendidly suited to each other is that we both approach life with an “envision-plan-execute” framework. It’s true.  I see it really clearly in the garden.

During the winter, we thought and talked about how we wanted the garden to look and produce this year; how we wanted it to be different from last year (we over-fertilized one part of it and insufficiently protected another part from the woodchucks).  We realized we wanted to stretch out and cultivate some more land, so we would have room for stuff we didn’t plant last year.  We also decided to build a garden shed to store tools and equipment, and to be able to have a potting bench. All of that was the ‘envision’ part.

Then on to planning, figuring out how to make it happen.  We decided where to put the new garden, what seeds to buy. I drew plans for the shed and we figured out the materials.

Now we’re in full-on execution mode.  Patrick created the new garden plot, and I’ve been planting seeds and seedlings galore. And once again I’m experiencing how smooth and fun it is to implement a clearly envisioned and well-thought-out plan.

And how satisfying it is, at the end of the day, to sit on the deck with a cool drink and look at what you’ve accomplished…knowing that you’re creating something that will yield great results for years to come.

I invite you to create analogies to business and to life. ;-))



The Donald Comes Up Short

As I’ve observed the whole “birther” movement over the past few months, with Donald Trump and various Tea Party adherents declaring with absolute certainty the “fact” of Obama’s  foreign origins, my overall response has been…what?

Well, maybe a little more colorful than that but – you get the point.  When the state of Hawaii finally released Obama’s birth certificate a few days ago, and then when the President went to town on the Donald at the Washington Press Correspondents’ Dinner, I was pretty pleased; at last this silliness can be laid to rest.

But I suspect that some other goofy movement will arise; some other reason why Obama shouldn’t be – can’t be – the president.  I could chalk it up to simple, awful racism, but I actually think it’s a little more complicated than that.  I think some people just can’t get their heads around the fact of Obama’s ‘differentness’ on lots of levels: too young, too black, too smart, too straightforward (contrast his “I did drugs in high school” with Clinton’s “I never inhaled”) too obviously in love with his wife – who is clearly his partner and equal, vs. his very secondary helpmeet…all things that we’ve come not to expect from Presidents.

So, for some people, if Obama doesn’t look, act and sound as they think a President should, based on their pre-existing assumptions, it’s not the assumptions that are off – it’s him.

Reminds me of my last post about dandelions…