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, President, Union Square Hospitality Group


About Erika Andersen

erika 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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Leading So People Will Follow

Proven leadership framework that creates loyalty, commitment and results.
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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Jan
15

Sharpening My Ax: the Joy of Mastery

Just got back from an exciting, inspiring, exhausting, fun and thoroughly worthwhile event: the first annual Soundview/Nour Author Summit in Atlanta.  For a number of year, I had attended a similar event put on by my friends and colleagues at 800CEOREAD, and when they laid down the torch after last year’s event, and weren’t talk-out-of-it-able, Rebecca Clement and David Nour decided to pick it up and carry it forward.

I learned useful stuff, met great people and laughed a lot. (I also ate an extremely tasty lobster dinner, which added to the overall impression of wonderfulness.)

More than anything, I understood even more deeply about the joy of mastery.  I learned yet again that mastery doesn’t mean getting to the point where you’re the expert and you get to tell everybody else how to do stuff.

with David Nour and Jennifer BridgesTrue mastery means wanting to keep learning, even when you’re good. That is, getting good enough at things to feel proud and happy of what you’ve learned and accomplished – and at the same time feeling hungry to keep going. I’ve become a good writer, a good teacher, a good(ish) marketer of my books and ideas, and I can build connections with lots different kinds of people — and I have so much more to learn in all these areas; so much I want to do better.

True mastery means being able to learn from almost anybody: those who are farther along the path than you, those who are journeying beside you, and those who are just starting out. Some of the things that most inspired me and made me think over the past two days were said by folks who are just writing their first book or just contemplating how to build a practice around their ideas.

True mastery means increasing – rather than diminishing – curiosity. I find myself more and more fascinated by the process of clarifying ideas and sharing them in a way that’s compelling and useful. I found myself listening to many different people, to hear how they do it, and whether that works for them.

True mastery means being willing to start over and over again. I discovered, for instance, how little I understand about using Twitter as a means of community-building, business-building and idea-sharing.  I thought I was pretty good with – but no: just scratching the surface.  Damn.  OK – time to go back to “I don’t know that…how does that work?”

And there is joy in all these things.  I have a suspicion that joy arises from freedom. When I let go of thinking I have to be an expert, a grown-up, a teacher, the one-who-knows, and simply share my insight and knowledge as a gift, and then learn more, take in more, from everything and everyone around me – that’s truly joyful.


May
28

Let’s Create An Actual ‘Brave New World’

“O Wonder, How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it!”

-   William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act. V, Sc. I

courtesy of Wikipedia

courtesy of Wikipedia

People have been using this quote for 400 years, mostly ironically (in line with Shakespeare’s original use):  the utterance of a protagonist who misunderstands a new world, thinking it wonderful, when it is in fact dystopic (probably the best-known example being Aldous Huxley’s 1939 novel, Brave New World).

However, I’m proposing today that we can also use it in a completely positive way.  Just last week I had great time doing a podcast with a wonderful guy named Tanveer Naseer.  Tanveer and I started following each other last summer on Twitter. Then he responded to a query from our publicist Kaila (all via email) and indicated that he’d like to interview me for his podcast show, Leadership Biz Cafe. Tanveer and I did our interview on Skype, and now it’s available on his site.

OK, so think about this.  Tanveer  lives in Montreal, and I live primarily in New York City. We have (as far as I know) no intersections of school, family or friends. Without current digital technology, we never would have run into each other. And now (I’m sure) we’re permanently connected, and will support each other’s work and success in whatever ways we can.

And you – who may never have met either Tanveer or me, and perhaps never will – can benefit from our interaction as well, where ever you are. If you hear something that resonates for you in our conversation, you can use it for your own benefit, and pass it along to whomever you wish. A truly brave new world, indeed.

I know technology can do all kinds of bad stuff, and that Huxley-esque aspects exist in this “brave new world” of ours.  But we can also use all of these new capabilities that exist to learn, to create connections, to innovate, to grow.

Let’s do that.


Mar
26

Leading – Now and Always

I originally wrote this post at the end of 2009, when I was just starting to work on writing Leading So People Will Follow.  It’s still a good summary and explanation of the concepts in the book – I thought you might find it useful:

I’ve been thinking about leaders lately, and how good leaders are going to become increasingly important as everything in business gets flatter, faster, more disrupted. I’m noticing more than ever before how essential it is for organizations to have strong and flexible leaders in order to succeed.  I watch as those organizations whose leaders are too inflexible, too cautious, too short-sighted or too fear-based continue to founder, while those whose leaders are far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy seem to be finding their way much more quickly and easily.

And it just so happens that we at Proteus have and use a leadership model based on those six qualities, so it’s reinforcing our sense that these truly are the essential characteristics of good and effective leaders. We evolved our model based on “leader stories” from all over the world, going on the premise that folk and fairy tales tend to carry the “DNA” of our cultural expectations about what good leadership looks and feels like. If you’re interested, here is a little more explanation about the six qualities as they show up in these leader stories:

Ce5ddb9ef421e01251d8b7ba8186eca5 In these stories, the young leader-to-be can see beyond his current situation to his ultimate goal (save his father, win the princess, kill the monster), and can express it clearly and in a compelling and inclusive way – especially those whose help he needs – even when others lose sight of it, believe it’s impossible, or ridicule him for trying.  He is Far-sighted.

Moreover, the leader-in-training doesn’t just go through the motions.  He is deeply committed to his quest.  His every action is directed toward achieving it.  Nothing dissuades him, even the inevitable setbacks and disappointments attendant on any quest.  He may not be loud about it, but he is relentless. He is Passionate.

Throughout the story, he is confronted with difficult situations.  He may be afraid and lonely; he may feel like running away, longing for the comfort and safety of home.  He often faces situations that are particularly trying for him personally. But he doesn’t turn aside; he doesn’t (unlike his brothers or others who attempt the same journey) make the safe and easy choices.  He doesn’t wimp out.  He is Courageous.

He’s not a cardboard action hero, though.  His brain is tested, and he must be able to learn from his mistakes.  In many versions of the story, he doesn’t initially follow the advice given him, and his mistakes create complexity and danger.  The next time a similar situation arises, he behaves differently and succeeds at his task.  He doesn’t deny or whine or blame; he improves.  Finally, he uses his powers of discrimination to think through difficult choices and arrive at the best and most moral solution. He is thoughtful, appropriately humble, clear-headed and curious.  He is Wise.

Along the way, the future leader meets people or creatures in need, and he helps them or shares with them even though his own supplies are low; even if helping them takes him out of his way or slows him down.  In some versions of the story, he actually has to seem to sacrifice his life for those he loves or to whom he owes his loyalty (this always turns out OK in the end).  And later on, when he is king, his people are prosperous and happy because he rules with an open hand — the leader is not stingy, miserly or selfish.  He is Generous.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, his word is his bond.  If he tells his dying father that he will find the magic potion to cure him, you know that he will.  If he tells the princess that he will come back to marry her, she can send out the invitations. The hero does not equivocate or exaggerate.  He is Trustworthy.

When leaders demonstrate these attributes consistently, they become a strong, safe point around which teams and organizations can coalesce.  Their people turn to them and say, We’re with you – let’s go. And great things happen.


Jan
15

An Exaltation of Larks

There’s a name for phrases like this: in the English language, collective nouns for groups of a specific animal are called “terms of venery.”  For instance, “a pride of lions,” or “a gaggle of geese.”  As I understand it, this tradition began in Europe in the middle ages – and it became a fun and fashionable thing to do to create whimsical and ever-more-exotic terms of venery.  In fact, in the 15th century there was even a fad for extending terms of venery to groups of human beings (“a sentence of judges,” “a melody of harpers”).

Some of these terms are simply wonderful.  “An exaltation of larks”  is one of my favorites, but I also like “a murder of crows” and “a clowder of cats.”  I love how these terms were created to capture some essential quality of the animal described.

Over the past couple of days, I was in Austin to attend 800CEOREAD’s Author Pow Wow – an absolutely marvelous, fun, useful yearly conference of business book authors and the people who support and partner with us in the creation of our books: publishers, publicists, social media consultants, presentation skills experts, ghostwriters, agents.

It’s so great.  Spending two days with 40 smart, curious, funny, collaborative people who are trying to figure out how to teach and share important ideas in an industry that’s changing faster than we can name the changes: Exhilarating. Inspiring. Reassuring.

So, my extreme thanks to 800CEOREAD, and Pow Wow sponsors Cave Henricks Communications, Shelton Interactive, and Greenleaf Book Group.

And I’ve decided that the proper term for our Pow Wow group is “an insight of business book authors.”


Dec
12

Why I Love Talking About Leadership

[NOTE: To all my long-time readers who are used to seeing a post from me at least once a week; we got hacked and had to clean and move the site – it took a while.  My apologies!]

Last week I did an interview about Leading So People Will Follow with Wayne Hurlburt on Blog Talk Radio. Wayne has interviewed me for each of my books, and it’s always a great conversation: he asks thoughtful, insightful questions, and he’s genuinely curious about the answers. Unlike a lot of interviewers, he reads his authors’ books thoroughly and tries to make a personal connection with what he reads…it makes for a great interview.

And I realized, as we were talking – I love talking about leadership.

Here’s why.  If you define leadership, very broadly, as influencing and guiding others toward a positive outcome, then we’re each called upon to lead in various ways throughout our lives.  The opportunity, and the responsibility, to lead well is an intrinsic part of the human condition.  Learning to lead well is critical to success – ours, our followers, our enterprises of all kinds.  It’s really important to help people do it as well as possible.

Those are the rational reasons.  The heart reason, the thing that makes talking about leadership feel like singing, at least to me, is: leadership is a noble endeavor that – done well – calls out the best in us.  It allows us to operate on all cylinders, to inspire and enable people to work together to go beyond their individual limitations and achieve great things.

I love helping people become the best leaders they can be. I get huge satisfaction from supporting people to understand the power of leadership, and their own potential to be leaders, and then offering them the tools they need to undertake that important journey.

So thanks to Wayne, and to all my interviewers, clients, colleagues and readers, who give me the opportunity to sing every day.


Nov
14

Talking About Leadership

I know I’m probably not supposed to say this – it’s kind of like saying you prefer one of your children over another – but just between you and me, Leading So People Will Follow may be my favorite of the books I’ve written so far.  I’m so much enjoying talking about it with people – especially the folks who have been interviewing me recently, around the book’s publication.  People are asking such interesting questions – we’re having such good conversations about the nature of leadership, and how people can get to be better leaders.

Yesterday a friend and client was asking me why I like this topic of leadership so much.  I realized that it’s because the idea of leading, and what it means to lead, is right at the heart of my own personal mission of helping people become what they want to become. So many people want to be leaders – not just to have formal jobs leading others, but to be people who can guide, direct and influence others in a variety of professional and personal settings.

I suspect that you might be one of those people – and so I hope you find these interviews useful and interesting:


Nov
5

Phil Gerbyshak (And Others) Tell the Naked Truth

My friend Phil Gerbyshak has put together a great little e-book to do some useful myth-busting in the realm of social media. It’s a collaborative effort, called The Naked Truth of Social Media, and includes contributions from Brian Clark, Jason Falls, Erika Napoletano, and several others. It’s both fun and practical (a great combination). Here’s a little quote, from Phil himself, to whet your appetite:

My clients often tell me, “I’m afraid to use Twitter (or any other social network). Can you teach me the right way?”
My answer: “No, but I can make sure you don’t do it the wrong way.” Allow me to briefly explain.
If all you’re doing is broadcasting your specials, shouting that people need to click on your links and buy your crap, then you are doing social media wrong!

The Naked Truth feels like an informal, no-sacred-cows conversation among friends – they don’t always agree, but it’s great to hear everyone’s point of view. Curious? You can find it here.


Oct
24

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.


Oct
15

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…


Sep
30

Celebrate Great Leaders!

I’ve really loved writing these last twelve posts about the leaders in Leading So People Will Follow.  I’m fond of and have great respect for every one of them, and some of them have become good friends over the years.

Tomorrow night in New York City we’re having a launch party for the book, and we’re also giving each of these leaders a Fully Accepted Leader Award. I’m really looking forward to it, on a variety of levels.  I’m especially excited about the opportunity to publicly thank and acknowledge these folks for making the effort, every day, to be good and worthy leaders.

As the ‘book team’ has been preparing for this party and for the book’s launch, we’ve been talking (as you might imagine) about good leaders, and how profoundly they can affect their followers, their companies, even the world.  Rusty Shelton had a great idea last week, which we evolved in collaboration, and which I want to share with you here.

Let’s declare October 16th Fully Accepted Leader Day. Let’s make it the day, this year

courtesy Andrei Shumskly

and every year, to publicly celebrate and thank the great leaders in our lives; those people who we’ve experienced as consistently  far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous, and trustworthy in guiding and directing us.  It could be a parent, a coach, a teacher, or a manager.  It could be the company CEO, or the executive assistant who organized a disaster relief effort single-handed. It could be someone who stepped up in an emergency, or someone who shows up as a quiet, inspiring leader day in and day out.

On the 16th, I encourage you to thank these people publicly: on your blog or through facebook or Twitter; with a photo essay on Pinterest; by sending an email to the person and cc-ing your larger circle. And of course, the 16th is just an excuse: how great it would be if we took the opportunity any day, all year, to thank those people who have impacted our lives in a positive way.

Too often, we talk as though there are not good leaders – as though all organizations are run by self-aggrandizing fools, everyone in public office is slick and cynical, and any person who’s in a position of power is corrupt.  Let’s let everyone know about the good, worthy, followable leaders who’ve inspired us, helped us grow, and made our lives better.

Viva la Fully Accepted Leaders!