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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Get Good at Things FAST to Stay Ready for the Future
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Leading So People Will Follow

Proven leadership framework that creates loyalty, commitment and results.
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Archive for October, 2012


What I’m Learning From My New Book

This may seem like an odd title for a post from me (e.g., Wait – what?  Don’t you already know the stuff in your own book?), but I’m talking about all the things I’m learning from the experience of publishing it.

Over the last six years, as I’ve lived through 5 pub dates (hardcover and paperback of my first two books, and the hardcover of the new one), the main thing I learned is that an author has to be the CEO of his or her own books. Nobody else will be.  You are the person with the most to gain or lose, and you need to be the keeper of the flame; to be the primary person responsible for assuring success (of course, that also implies that you have to know what success looks like for you – but that’s a whole other post). I feel as though I’ve gotten better and better at this, though I believe I still have lots to learn.

I had a big new ah-ha with this book, though. I experienced much more than in my previous book-CEO incarnations that – just as for the CEO of any company –  the team around that person is critical to the success of the endeavor.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a truly talented and dedicated team on this book.  Now that the initial push for the book has calmed down, I have the bandwidth to reflect on how supported I’ve felt throughout the process – and how well the team has created a foundation for the continued success of the book.

Celebrating the team’s success – at the launch party

Here’s what I mean. At the beginning of the project, as soon as the deal with Jossey-Bass was finalized, the core team – me, my agent Jim Levine, my editor Susan Williams, publicists Barbara Cave Henricks and Kaila Nickel (traditional media) and Rusty Shelton (social media), my business partner Jeff Mitchell, and my assistant and social media wingman Dan Camins – got together to do a ‘mini-vision and strategy session’ for the book.  From that we created a six-month project calendar that included every key deliverable, who was responsible, and when it was due. (Just to give you a sense of the complexity of the endeavor – there were about 120 items on the project calendar.)

But that was just the core team.  There was a whole separate subteam working on creating and validating the Accepted Leader Assessment, based on the six attributes at the core of Leading So People Will Follow.  That team included Sue Gebelein, a great resource who gave us good counsel and connected us with DSI, our assessment partner (they built and manage the assessment online), and their point person/project manager Carol Brekke, and with Marcia Sysma, our validator. The assessment team also included Cindy Franklin, my lovely Proteus colleague who gave of her time to support the validation effort, and Kishauna DeCarmo in our New York office, who is now the administrative queen of the finished ALA assessment.

And that’s still not all!  My savvy, smart and supportive editor at Jossey-Bass, Susan Williams, has brought along her excellent publishing team, as well – Rob Brandt, Amy Packard, Brian Grimm, Alina Poniewaz-Bolton, Bernadette Walter, Adrian Morgan, Carol Hartland and Sophia Ho: marketing, publicity, sales, art, editorial…all so competent, easy to work with and supportive.

And then there’s my own team:  this time, there was a lot more collaboration internal to Proteus, as well.  Jeff and I stayed connected throughout, to focus on how best to support the book’s launch with products and services.  We worked with our consultants to update our half-day Leading So People Will Follow training module (which has been a part of larger Proteus training programs for a number of years), and to create and begin testing our full 1.5 day Leading leadership development program. We also refined our Leadership Coaching offer, a version of our executive coaching program targeted to very senior leaders and including the Accepted Leader Assessment, and will be making that available through all our executive coaches.

Yet another effort in support of leaders – we started a LinkedIn group, Leading So People Will Follow, to offer a community online for experienced and aspiring leaders to ask questions, offer insights, and share learning – and my team mates on that part of the project are my daughter Rachel Van Carpels, who manages and moderates the site, and Cindy Franklin, who (once again out of the goodness of her heart) offers discussion topics and supports conversations.

And the whole Proteus team came together to create and staff our great book launch and awards ceremony party on October 1st – definitely a community effort!

And finally, there’s my darling husband Patrick.  He is core to the success of this book and any other success I might have, in more ways than I can possibly express. His unequivocal and continual support, joy and love, and his daily efforts on my behalf, make all of this possible.

As you can see, it really has been a team effort.  And, back to the title of the post, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the power of team throughout this process.  And I also like to think that I’ve followed my own advice: I’m doing my very best to be a fully followable CEO — to be far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy.  It’s a lesson well worth learning, and I’m making the effort every day.


Getting the Word Out

The publication push for Leading So People Will Follow began about two weeks ago.  First, we had the launch party and awards ceremony, with the initial finished copies of books available for people.  The next day we found out that Amazon’s editors had selected it as one of the 10 Best Business Books for October (and one of the 36 best new books overall).

After that, it became a bit of a blur: emails to all and sundry; an announcement to the Insider List; writing articles and electronic interviews, and having ones I had written previously go up online; the official release on Amazon; asking folks to put up Amazon interviews if they liked the book (many thanks to all who have!).

And then last Thursday, we found out that the book is one of “Jack Covert Selects.” This is a big deal to me – Jack is the founder and CEO of 800CEOREAD, and the author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, and is widely held to be the arbiter of all things good in business books.  He selects just three books each month (of the 1,000 or so business books published every month) to highlight as his favorites.  I was thrilled and honored to be included.

And it’s still going on – over the next six weeks I’ll do 8 or 10 live interviews, write half a dozen more, give a couple of speeches. All for the purpose of letting people know the book is out there.

Then it’s up to you, and everyone who’s interested in understanding what it means to be a followable leader and how to become one, to hear about the book, read it, and recommend it to others.

It’s kind of like running with kite till it catches the wind…


We All Long for Mastery

Yesterday, my husband and I were talking about the human will to mastery.  The conversation started as a discussion of the attraction people have toward precision tools as they advance in a craft.  For instance, I was noting how, as I get deeper and deeper into my knitting hobby, I get pickier about the needles I use, and I find I’m accumulating a variety of little tools (row counters, cable needles, stitch holders, needle sizers) that I didn’t even know about – and wouldn’t have understood the use of – when I was starting out.

Sometimes we gather tools in the absence of expertise: I think of all the guys who have expensive and complex garage workshops they never use and probably couldn’t, or the people who have a huge variety of unused cooking implements in every drawer.  Perhaps we think if we have the apparatus, we’ll become experts by osmosis (or perhaps we just want to convince others).

But then we went on to talk about how most people really do love to get good at something. Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, cites research that shows the opportunity to build mastery is one of the three most motivating things for most people, professionally. (The other two are autonomy and purpose.)

I can completely relate to this – I love getting better and better at things.  The process of finding out how an endeavor works, and then working through limitation and frustration to build skills and knowledge, and then being able to operate at ever more challenging levels – I love that. For example, over the past few years, I’ve learned to do Sudoku.  When my step-daughter Kate first showed me some simple techniques, 3 years ago, it was the first step.  I started with easy puzzles, realized that the core of solving was logic (which I’m good at) and patience (which I’m not, but am always trying to get better at). A few months later, she gave me a book called Absolutely Nasty Sudoku.  I confidently began the first puzzle – and I was unable to get even partway through it.

So I got serious. Over the next few years I did a tons of Sudoku. I discovered lots of approaches, learned some from books and online, created my own little system of notation. I worked gradually harder and harder puzzles, and every few months I’d try my ‘absolutely nasty’ book again.  Still couldn’t finish any, but I was getting further and further in the puzzles I tried before my expertise ran out. And I was having a lot of fun.

Then finally, last month, I picked up the ‘absolutely nasty’ book and made it through a puzzle.  Then another, and another after that.  It was wonderfully gratifying.

I think sometimes we resist the process of mastery because it can be so uncomfortable along the way.  I was pretty embarrassed that first time I tried (and failed completely) to work that ‘absolutely nasty’ puzzle.  And it was frustrating to pick it up along the way and still not be able to complete them.

But the the benefit far outweighs the cost.  I have a hobby now that’s really good for my brain (I can almost feel the synapses firing when I do a tough puzzle), that’s a lot of fun, and that I feel proud of having mastered.  And I know I can keep getting better and better at it.

And the results, when we are willing to put our minds to becoming truly good at something, can be much more than fun and entertaining – they can be gorgeous and powerful.  As witness this video.

Romancing the Wind – Ray Bethell


In Praise of Gratitude

We had the launch party for Leading So People Will Follow on Monday night, as well as the Fully Accepted Leader award ceremony.  At the same time, we held our yearly all-Proteus meeting on Monday and Tuesday, and conducted a further development session for a smaller group of “Proteans” on Wednesday (yesterday).

It was all a love fest – high energy, lots to do, not much sleep, but a love fest nonetheless.  I spent three days feeling grateful. Grateful for the people in my life, grateful for the work I have the opportunity to do, grateful for the high-quality human beings on the Proteus team, grateful for all the embarrassingly positive things people said about me at the party. Grateful that the work we’re doing with our clients is so helpful to them, both personally and professionally.

Grateful that my children are such lovely and impressive people.

Grateful to be alive, and healthy, and loved.

Grateful to be so full of energy and hope at this stage in my life.

Grateful for my best-of-all-possible-worlds husband.

I could go on.  And it reinforced for me the positive power of gratitude.  Gratitude is that experience of recognizing something as a gift; being aware that it’s not a given, and feeling thankful for it. It’s the opposite of complacency, entitlement, greed, neediness. It opens your heart and your mind.

Gratitude lubricates all relationships and all endeavors.  When people on a team feel grateful for the opportunity to work together, their appreciation creates an environment of trust and hopefulness: it’s easier to solve problems, resolve miscommunications, make sound decisions. When people feel grateful for the work they do, they’re inspired to do their best, and to learn and improve.

And, all practical considerations aside, it just feels so damn wonderful to be grateful.

So here’s to the power of gratitude, and may you cultivate it in your life every day.