[A] clear, practical, and powerful approach for navigating through tough times. Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCU Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios


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.
Read More...

Visit Erika's Forbes.com Blog


Latest tweets

  • Loading tweets...


Be Bad First

Get Good at Things FAST to Stay Ready for the Future
Learn More...

Leading So People Will Follow

Proven leadership framework that creates loyalty, commitment and results.
Learn More...

Being Strategic

Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change
Learn More...

Growing Great Employees

Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers
Learn More...



Bg Ribbon Green

Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Nov
19

To All My Charming Gardeners

I just got a wonderful Thanksgiving message from a woman I know only on LinkedIn  – her name is Sheryl Brown, and she’s a member of our Leading So People Will Follow Group.  She sent a heartfelt Thanksgiving communication, thanking all the recipients (folks to whom she’s connected on LinkedIn) for their efforts, and for their positive impact on her life.  I loved the specificity and genuineness of her message – it wasn’t just “thanks for being you”; Sheryl clearly spent some time and thought thinking about what her LinkedIn connections do that makes her life better.

And she started out her post with this marvelous quote:

“Let’s be grateful for those who give us happiness; they are the charming gardeners who make our soul bloom.”

                                          – Marcel Proust

Her post, and that quote, have inspired me to thank all the ‘charming gardeners’ in my life:  I’m surrounded by so very many people who support and catalyze my happiness.  Every day, you – my family, friends, colleagues and clients –  inspire me with your affection, kindness, clarity, and hopefulness.  You remove obstacles for me and others; you cheer  my accomplishments and commiserate with my mistakes.  You allow me to see myself more clearly.  You help me – and you let me help you.

I know that I couldn’t be who I am or do what I do without the love and support of those around me.

So thank you.  And in this season of giving thanks, may all the ways in which you support others come back to you in generous measure.


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!


Sep
20

Doug Herzog – How Generosity of Spirit Helps People Grow

“Another generous leader with whom I’ve worked for many years, and for whom I have great affection, is Doug Herzog, the President of Viacom Entertainment Group.  Doug is much more likely to assume positive than negative intent – he believes that people generally want to do good work, and that you should hire smart, capable people and assume that they’ll then be smart and capable.  I’ve noticed over the years that most people really like working for him: they tend to blossom in the sun of his regard.  They feel motivated to fulfill his positive expectations.  Of course, sometimes people don’t fulfill his expectations, and then he can be disappointed, and sometimes even has to let them go – but the vast majority of the time, I’ve seen his hopefulness about people bear fruit.

 For example, at one point many years ago, Doug was having some difficulties with one of his direct reports.  This guy – let’s call him Joe – was running programming for one of the channels Doug manages, and while he was creative and smart, he was uncommunicative and hard to read.  Rather than assuming that Joe had some hidden agenda or was being secretive, Doug assumed that he simply didn’t understand how his lack of communication was affecting those around him.  He offered Joe an executive coach; Joe took advantage of the opportunity and improved his communication and his focus on teaming with others.  Now, almost ten years later, Joe is running the network: he and Doug have a strong and positive working relationship.”

            — From Chapter 7 of Leading So People Will Follow

Doug was the first client with whom I shared the six Accepted Leader attributes, in 1996. I had been working on the model for about a year, and felt as though I had something important – simple, true and useful.  I explained to Doug how I had been observing the differences between ‘appointed’ and ‘accepted’ leaders, and how I had come to believe that we have a kind of radar for good leadership built into us from ancient times as a group survival mechanism.  I laid out the six attributes – and he started applying them instantly, thinking out loud (very accurately) about some of his direct reports and which of the qualities they did and didn’t demonstrate. It was exciting for me; his immediate adoption was my first indicator that I had found something core to our perceptions of leadership.

But it also said something to me about Doug as a leader.  I had already noticed that generous leaders tended to ‘assume positive intent’ – to believe that people want to do good work and be strong team members, and that when those things aren’t happening, it’s more likely to be the result of a misunderstanding or a lack of skill or knowledge, rather than of a malicious or selfish agenda, or a permanent inability on that person’s part.  What I understood that day with Doug was that this generosity of spirit doesn’t make leaders naive or pollyanna-ish.  Doug was quite clear about the leadership deficits of the folks working for him. Assuming positive intent, when well-practiced, is hopeful but realistic: you see people for who they are, and you believe that they can grow and want to grow.

It’s the essence of ‘reasonable aspiration,’ and it provides a great developmental environment for the followers of a generous leader.


Sep
16

Danny Meyer’s Generosity Yields Huge Returns

“When Danny Meyer smiles, other people smile too. His good humor and hopefulness are highly infectious. Danny and I are walking along a Manhattan street, coming back to his office from a webcast we’ve just taped for Forbes.com about how to be a good people manager.  Danny’s talking about the speaking gigs he’s been doing lately, and he’s excited.  I notice people looking at him and breaking into spontaneous grins – it’s fun just to be around his energy.  The good vibes continue when we get back into the Union Square Hospitality Group offices – the company of which Danny is founder and CEO.  People seem genuinely glad to see him.  As he walks toward his office, each little encounter is full of life: a shared smile; a brief greeting; a moment spent telling someone that he liked a graphic she had created; a quick question and response with one of his partners.

 We’ve been working with Danny and his team for 20 years – they’re our longest client relationship. When I began developing this leadership model in the mid-nineties, Danny was the first person I thought of as an exemplar of the generous leader.  And as I watch him make his way through the USHG office on this occasion, I see it again: Danny is generous with all the things a leader has to offer.  He’s generous with time, attention, praise, resources, trust, information, knowledge, and – perhaps most notably – power.”

          — From Chapter 7 of Leading So People Will Follow

It’s been both inspiring and educational observing Danny over the past twenty years; I love the opportunity provided by long-term client relationships to watch businesses and people grow.  When I first met Danny in 1993, he had one restaurant – Union Square Cafe – and was in the process of moving toward opening his second, Gramercy Tavern. Now Union Square Hospitality Group, the company Danny and his partners formed to tie together all their establishments, is a NY-based world-spanning collection of fine dining restaurants, barbeque/jazz joints, a catering company, fast food emporia and upscale concessions at major sports arenas.  And though these venues are hugely disparate in terms of menu, price point and locale, all of them have generosity at their core, as a bottom line value.  Each of the enterprises is founded on Danny’s philosophy of ‘enlightened hospitality,’ which consists of five simple tenets: take care of each other; take care of our guests; take care of our vendors; take care of the community; and take care of the shareholders.

And he really means it.  I’ve watched, over all these years, as Danny and his partners have made consistent effort to ensure that these principles of foundational generosity live in every person they hire and every business they run.  It’s always tough to balance growth with maintaining a strong positive culture – it’s easy for core principles to get lost in the imperatives of profit, especially when you’re adding lots of new people to the mix all the time – but Danny and his team are doing a remarkable job.

Generosity in a leader is a wonderful thing to observe. It has almost mystical properties.  I’m reminded of the quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, “For it is in giving that we receive.”  I used to think that was meant to refer only to the experience of giving; that we receive the benefit of feeling spiritually and emotionally great when we’re genuinely generous.  And it’s true that being generous feels wonderful.  However, I’ve noticed that those leaders who give consistently – who are generous with time, belief, hope, resources, power and knowledge – also receive on a practical material level.  They receive people’s loyalty, commitment, and effort. Because their followers give back creativity, hopefulness, energy, collaboration, and hard work, their generosity becomes a powerful catalyst for growth – their own personal growth, but also their people’s growth, and the growth and prosperity of their business.

As an investment, generosity gives great returns on every level. Leaders – take note.


Aug
26

Nancy Tellem’s Passion Is Deep – Not Loud

“Nancy Tellem is listening intently. I’m telling her about my son’s inspiring experiences with an organization in Kenya, One Home Many Hopes, that rescues orphaned and abandoned girls, and gives them the chance to lead lives of positive contribution.  Nancy has a kind of focused brightness, and when she’s listening, she becomes very still. When I’ve finished speaking, she nods reflectively and then begins to tell me about her own experience with Foundation Rwanda, a group that works with victims of the genocide in Rwanda, providing educational funding for the children born from rape, as well as medical and psychological services to their mothers, and also supports them in finding or creating income-generating activities.  Nancy speaks quietly, but with complete conviction; it is clear to me that she will do whatever is in her power to advance the cause of this organization, and to enlist others in support of it. 

I’ve seen her passion in how she approaches her profession, as well.  When she believes in something, she will support and work for it with true commitment, most often gaining others’ support through the consistency and depth of that commitment. One very public example: in the late 90s, when she was President of Entertainment for CBS, she became convinced that “Expedition Robinson,” an incredibly successful Swedish show about people trying to survive on an island, and being asked to leave one by one (sound familiar?) that had been considered too controversial for American TV, could become a huge hit here.  She fought for it with clear rationale and quiet determination, marshaling her team to overcome the financial and even psychological concerns.  She gained the support she needed; Survivor first aired on CBS in 2000 – and the rest is, as they say, history. 

Nancy’s passion has built her an equally passionate following; a few years ago, standing at a celebration with members of her team, listening to them speak of her with genuine affection, admiration and respect, I realized that her passion – along with her other leadership qualities – had made her a true leader.”

                                         – From Chapter 4 of Leading So People Will Follow

 

The quality of Nancy’s passion is one of the things I enjoy most about having her as a friend and colleague. True passion in a leader is an unusual thing: it combines elements that may seem mutually exclusive.  Passionate leaders are deeply committed to the causes, goals and ideas that are meaningful to them, and yet they are also open and curious…even in those areas where they are most passionate. They keep listening; they stay respectful of others’ points of view. Their passion doesn’t devolve into dogmatism or demonization of those with opposing viewpoints.

I’ve often noticed this wonderful combination in conversation with Nancy: when we’re discussing something about which she feels strongly, she’ll  still invite and consider my point of view, and stay engaged even if it’s very different from hers.

When a leader can find that balance point — of being deeply committed without being close-minded — that person’s followers are free to come to their own conclusions, and their support then comes not from coercion or fear of reprisal, but rather from their own passion, their own sense of what’s important. Passion in a leader is inspiring; it helps to catalyze our own sense of purpose.


Aug
16

Fully Accepted Leaders

The launch of Leading So People Will Follow, on October 9th, is coming up fast.  The interesting thing about publishing books (at least for me) is that everything else keeps going along as usual, with this fairly large project plunked down in the middle of it all!  I’m still coaching, consulting and facilitating client groups; still running the business with my partner Jeff; deeply involved in our Proteus re-brand; focused on continuing to develop my own skills and capabilities and those of my Proteus colleagues; spending as much time as possible with my husband and family….and at the same time, doing all the ramp-up required to launch a book well.

The leaders I’ve profiled in Leading are a big inspiration to me in this regard – many of them have far busier lives than I do, with responsibility for leading thousands of folks, and they do it with grace and thoughtfulness.

So I thought that I’d spend the next 6 weeks doing a kind of homage to them here on the blog, both because I’m such a fan of each of them and also to provide you with a kind of sneak peek at the book.

Each of my next 12 posts here will be focused on one of the Leading exemplars; I’ll include a brief excerpt from the book that focuses on how they lead, and then add a little about what I’ve seen and appreciated in working with them over the years. I’ll introduce the leaders in the order in which they appear in the book, and let you know which of the six attributes I chose each person to exemplify.

I’m very excited about giving you a small window into these folks and their leadership – each of them has enriched my life, and I believe they’ll be an inspiration to you, as well.

So stay tuned:  on Sunday I’ll be introducing you to Bonnie Hammer…


Aug
9

If You Treat People Like Robots, That’s How They’ll Act

My husband and I were watching an old episode of Doctor Who last night, where the Doctor and Rose had traveled back to 1953.  One of the characters was an officious, Napoleon-esque little man who tried to keep his wife, mother-in-law  and son in line by the simple expedient of getting right in their faces and shouting “I’m talking – you listen to me when I’m talking!” whenever they tried to say anything. He did it in order to keep any of them from saying something that might call into question his version of reality.  He wanted to be the one saying what was so and what wasn’t. He wanted to see and hear only those parts of his family that he deemed acceptable.

courtesy of Andre Blais

It occurred to me, as I was watching, that too many organizations and managers practice the same approach. Through a combination of implicit and explicit rules that severely limit people’s autonomy, curiosity, and independent response, such companies and managers think that they will somehow produce a tidy, well-functioning, highly productive organization.

For instance, in one organization we worked with many years ago for a brief period, it was widely known that if the CEO said something in a meeting, the only safe response was agreement.  The CEO took this lack of disagreement as consensus, and bragged about his team “all being on the same page.”  In another company, the leave and vacation policies were so strict, and so rigorously enforced, that many talented people – especially young parents and people who had health issues or family requiring care – simply went on to other jobs because there was so little flexibility.  The CEO in yet another organization decided one day that outside callers were going to voice mail too often, and so decreed that no one in the company would have voice mail.  The organization tied itself in knots trying to get around that one in order to do business at all, creating a whole shadow system of routing callers to cell phones that had voice mail messages, etc.

I am not making any of this up.

If you deal with employees as though they are cogs in a machine, you will get only that part of them that is most like a cog in a machine: the part that shows up on time, does exactly what’s asked – no more no less – and goes home.  You will not get the 90% of each person that is what can make him or her a great employee, partner, team member: the initiative, the questions, the passion, the concerns, the hope, all the quirkiness and joy and excellence that people will bring to their work if you invite them to do so.

Of course, it’s harder to manage and lead real, full human beings. You have to bring your whole self to work, and decide to let them bring their whole self, too. You have to make sure that the “guard rails” you put up – the rules and policies – are fair, and reasonable, and actually hold people accountable for great work (vs. reinforcing mediocrity).  You have to look at each person as an individual and consider flexing the rules if it will help both that person and the organization. You have to think about how it would feel if someone treated you the way you’re treating them…and figure out how to behave differently if you decide it would feel like crap.

It’s harder…but it’s the only way to create a great organization.