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 the ‘Insider List’ Category


Farewell (For Now) To The Insider List – 08/26/13

When I started writing the Insider List 3 years ago, in September of 2010, Proteus was a very different company. For instance, more than half our current staff and consultants had not yet joined us. We didn’t have a NYC office, we had no presence in Latin America, and were doing minimal work outside the US.

I was still in the middle of writing Leading So People Will Follow, and we hadn’t yet created the Accepted Leader Assessment.  The paperback of Being Strategic (along with the Public TV show) had just come out.

And most important relative to the Insider List – I hadn’t yet been asked to become a contributor at Forbes, so the “How Work Works” blog didn’t yet exist.

Fast Forward to 2013…

Now, three years later, Proteus has doubled in size; we have many wonderful new staff members and consultants who are raising our game and helping our clients get clearer and stronger.  Ivan Cortes, our LATAM director, is bringing the Proteus brand to South America, and we’re doing significant work in Europe, India, Asia and the Pacific.

We’ve also created the Leading So People Will Follow LinkedIn group, which provides another place for sharing wisdom about leadership.

And the Forbes blog has really taken off – it’s generally getting over 100,000 visitors a month, and is widely socialized across the net.  I usually post there 3 times a week. I’m still posting at erikaandersen.com too, though less often, and I end up writing articles or doing interviews that appear in other publications 2 or 3 times a quarter.

So what does this mean for the Insider List? As I’ve reflected over the past month, I’ve realized that there are many more options for being involved in a conversation with me than there were 3 years ago.  And the conclusion that brings me to – though I have to say I’m a little sad about this – is that it’s probably time for us to sunset the Insider List, at least for the present.

For those of you who have enjoyed getting the Insider List and haven’t taken advantage of our LinkedIn group, the Forbes blog or the erikaandersen.com blog, I invite you to join us there.  They are all great places to continue our conversation about leader readiness and how to make work the best it can be.

Thank you so much for your support and interest, and I hope to keep growing together with you for years to come.

Very warmly,


Posted in Insider List


Giving a Hand Up To The Next Generation – 08/19/13

OK, I am now officially tired of listening to baby-boomers and gen-Xers trash talk about Millenials.  The complaints I hear over and over: “entitled,” “no work ethic,” and “disrespectful.”

Maybe I’m hanging out with the cream of the crop, but the folks I know who are in their 20s and early 30s aren’t any of those things.  Or maybe I’m just seeing it differently. Rather than “entitled,” I’d say, “questioning traditional pathways to success.” Instead of “no work ethic” I’d say, “unwilling to work hard at things that aren’t meaningful to them.”  And I don’t see the young people I know as “disrespectful,” I see them as being “unwilling to respect others based on role or position.”  In fact, the Millenials I know have enormous respect for what they see as important accomplishments, financial, social or moral.

The way my peers talk about the generation now coming up is eerily reminiscent of the way the World War II generation talked about us baby-boomers when we were in our teens and twenties.  In fact, I’m absolutely positive, when I was a hippy in the late sixties and early seventies, that those exact accusations (entitled, no work ethic, disrespectful) got thrown at me and my friends.  So perhaps it’s simply a universal grumble that each generation has about the subsequent one.

Why Not Grumble?

I think it’s important, though, to stop indulging in generation-based griping, and figure out what we can do to help them instead.  These young people who are now entering into their adult lives are the future of our world.

Until recently, most human cultures ascribed to the theory that each generation would impart skills, values, and knowledge to succeeding generations.  Young men and women apprenticing to their parents in trade; young people listening at their grandparents’ knee to the stories that defined their society – its cautions and taboos, its accomplishments and values.

And I think we can still aspire to pass along what we understand and know how to do to the next generation.  I find it deeply satisfying when one of my kids, or a young colleague or client tells me that something I’ve shared has been valuable to them: it makes me feel as though I’m doing my part to support the evolution of the human race. The more we can pass along, the less each generation will have to start from scratch in figuring out important stuff.

So, my question for you: what skills, insight, or knowledge do you have that you could offer to the new generation?  That is, how can you – personally – help ensure that the next generation has what they need to make this a better world?

Till next time,


Posted in Insider List


Learning in the Digital World – 08/06/13

As some of you may know, our mission at Proteus is: We help clients clarify and move toward their hoped-for future.  However, we also apply our mission to ourselves – we consistently work to clarify and move toward our hoped-for future as a company. The last couple of years have been especially wild and fun: we’ve been growing quickly, and looking for ever-better and more effective ways to support leader readiness at every level.

One of the things we’re really trying to sort out lately is how to best use distant learning to support our in-person training, coaching and facilitation.  Even though our foundation is in-person learning, and we believe deeply in the power and efficacy of face-to-face development, we want to figure out how to augment that with other learning approaches.

Our point of view is that no matter how technologically advanced we become, human beings are still physical creatures, and much of our most profound and permanent growth happens as a result of interactions with others. But that learning can be reinforced through lots of other means. In the leadership and management training we do, for instance, we’ve found that having the opportunity to hear about, see, discuss, practice and debrief new skills in real time with an excellent instructor and other learners is key to real behavior change. However, we also know that learning online can be a great lead-in to those face-to-face learning situations, and – even more important – can be powerful in supporting participants’ ongoing learning after the session.

So -What Works?

At this point, we’re talking to smart, experienced people to get their insights about how best to take advantage of the options now available, through technology, to prepare for, support, and sustain face-to-face learning.

And you, my friends, are smart, experienced people.  I’d love to hear from you about any ‘distant’ learning options you’ve found valuable – online, mobile, video, whatever.

Just drop me an email, and let us know: What did you like about it?  What did you learn? What could have been better?  And if you have the chance to send along links, or app names – that would be wonderful, too.

As an added incentive, just for turning us on to something you’ve found valuable, we’ll give you free access to our first online support system, once we’ve developed it.

I can’t wait to hear from you….



Posted in Insider List


100% Commitment – 07/17/13

Some of you may have noticed that there was no Insider List at the end of June- and for those who have been with us for awhile, you probably figured out that it meant I was on vacation, since this is the 3rd year in a row I’ve taken a June vacation-related hiatus from the Insider List.

It was great to unplug for 10 days or so, and I’m getting better at doing it. But I have to confess, I still felt a bit guilty not writing the communications I’ve committed to writing on an ongoing basis: the Insider List, the Forbes blog posts, the Erika Andersen blog posts, and my weekly emails to the Proteus team. Nothing bad happened as a result of not doing that writing, and I truly believe it’s important to take complete breaks from work – even work you love. But still…I noticed I wasn’t completely OK with it.

Fully Doing: Fully Not Doing…

Based on dozens or perhaps hundreds of conversations I’ve had over the years with colleagues, clients and family members, I know that this is a pretty common problem. We tend to think about vacations when we’re working; we tend to think about working when we’re on vacation.  We think about family and friends when we’re with our colleagues; we sometimes think about colleagues when we’re with family and friends.

And the problem with this is that when we’re not 100% present in any given moment, everything suffers: our experience, our results, our relationships.

To get a sense of this, think about a moment in the recent past when you were fully engaged and present.  Perhaps it was a moment playing with one of your kids, when everything else fell away and it was just the two of you having fun.  Or maybe a discussion at work where your brain was on fire, you and your colleagues were coming up with great stuff and you completely lost track of the time.  Or it could have been a solitary moment at the end of a day, sitting and looking out a window; relaxed, a little tired, but just enjoying taking in a beautiful view.

Think about how you felt in that moment – physically, mentally, emotionally.

I can’t speak for you, but I know how I feel in those moments of being completely present: aware, open, full of potential; as though the best of me is more accessible. Wonderful experiences can find me when I’m present: I’m here to be found.  I do my best thinking; get my best results; provide best support for my most important relationships when I’m all here.

So, my commitment to myself (and this is a lifelong commitment – vacations are simply a demonstration to me of how much I need to keep re-committing to this) moment to moment, is:

show up.

I’ll see you there…


Posted in Insider List


Miracles with a Twist – 06/18/13

So, as is usually the case, the baby watch yielded a baby: Charlotte Autumn Van Carpels, born June 5th at 11:50am.  Everybody’s happy and healthy (and, in Charlotte’s case, teeny and gorgeous).  One thing I noticed, though, is that things didn’t happen quite the way we’d planned: Patrick wasn’t involved at all in the birth – he’d had to fly to Indianapolis two days before in response to a family emergency. So I picked up Hannah and she stayed with me overnight…and no one went to the birthing center except the new Mom and Dad since Charlotte decided to be born in record time. So I met Charlotte the next day (and had the joy of watching her big sister meet her for the first time, as well), and Patrick met her on Saturday.

Not exactly what we had in mind. And still: astonishing, joyful, miraculous.

Not limiting life to our measure…

I recently listened to someone complaining about his team. As his complaints unfolded, it sounded to me as though his team was actually pretty great: smart people, committed to doing good work, working hard to accomplish the objectives for which they were being held accountable. They were respectful of one another’s opinions and expertise, and they worked well together.  No big interpersonal issues. Lots of success. At one point I said, “So the main thing that bugs you about your team is that they’re kind of serious.”

He stopped.  “Yeah, well, I guess that’s it,” he said. “I just wish they were more fun; no one wants to hang after work, and there’s not a lot of laughing.”


How often do we overlook the 98% that’s great in a situation or in an outcome because we get obsessed about the 2% that wasn’t what we had in mind?  Not even that the alternative 2% is worse – it’s just different. Not what we would have preferred or had planned for.

Here’s a challenge for you.  Next time you find yourself irritated, disappointed or upset about something not turning out the way you’d hoped, stop and ask yourself these three questions: “Is this really worse than what I wanted?”  “Is there any real reason I can’t be just as satisfied with this?” “Are the ways in which this might actually be better?”

Planning is a great thing, but a big part of the art of planning is being able to flex your plans to accommodate reality as it unfolds.

Till next time…


Posted in Insider List


Daily Miracles – 06/03/13

At my house this week, we’re on baby watch.  Our daughter’s due date is tomorrow, and as soon as we get the call, we’ll leap into action: Patrick will call me, so I can make my apologies to whoever I’m meeting with and jump on the train – then he’ll go and get Hannah (our grand daughter), then pick me up at the train station and drop me off at the birthing center. They’ll go home and play (or sleep, depending on the hour) till I call them to let them know that Charlotte, Hannah’s new baby sister, has arrived and they can come and meet her!

It’s all well choreographed (my daughter is a very organized person), and we’ve done it before, so it doesn’t have that nerve-wracking first-time feeling.

But it’s still a miracle.

We think of miracles as once-in-a-lifetime things: the person struck by lightning who doesn’t die; the coin thrown up in the air that lands on its side. But when we limit our conception of miracles to these statistically improbably events, we fail to see the extraordinary in the everyday.

Redefining the miraculous

One of the definitions for ‘miracle’ at Merriam-Webster is “an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.”  Having a baby may not seem unusual – but think of all that has to come to pass in order to make it happen.  Think of the amazing and unlikely union of sperm and egg; then cells dividing and dividing again, millions of times, each fulfilling a designated role; the baby growing safe inside the mother’s body (that in itself astonishing) till – voila – 9 months later, a perfectly formed brand new human being arrives on the scene, starts to breath, opens his or her eyes…

And begins the miraculous journey toward becoming a speaking, walking, talking, feeling, creative person.

Just because something happens all the time, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a miracle. Let me say that more simply: common occurrences can be miraculous.  And perhaps most importantly: we can appreciate them as such. The coming of spring each year; falling in love with someone who turns out to be perfectly suited to you; finding your professional passion and having the chance to work at it every day; doing or saying one thing that changes the course of another person’s life: these are all miraculous.

We can choose to put them into a “that happens all the time” category in our minds, turning them into boring commonalities not worthy of our attention, or we can see them as they truly are: Open our minds to noticing to the incredible complexity of factors necessary to even the most mundane event.  Seeing the miraculous in the everyday gives you a very different experience of being alive. Each day seems chock-full of possibilities, happy confluences, wondrous outcomes.  The world becomes richer, more three-dimensional.

And it’s up to you: you can see the world and your own life as ho-hum, business as usual, nothing special…or you can see the miraculous at every turn. The choice is yours.

Till next time…


Posted in Insider List


LOL – 05/16/13

“Good humor is the health of the soul, sadness is its poison.”

– Lord Chesterfield

My colleagues and I laugh a lot at work.  I take this as one of the best signs of Proteus’ health as an organization. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when people are uncomfortable with each other, or don’t trust each other, there’s generally not a lot of laughing going on (except for the forced, awkward, hah-hah-hah kind, and that doesn’t count).

As Lord Chesterfield noted almost 300 years ago, humor promotes health – physical, emotional, and mental.  But laughing with (as opposed to at or about) others benefits your professional life, as well.

Humor makes things easier…

I wrote a post at Forbes a few weeks ago about humor, Want to Get a Promotion? Be Funnny, where I cited a statistic I found fascinating,“A Robert Half International survey…found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job.

Those are pretty impressive percentages. So, what is it about humor that makes it so important to our success?

I think of humor as one of the primary lubricants of human interaction.  That is, when you share a laugh with someone, everything seems a little easier.  You feel more connected, more relaxed.

For instance, when a difficult situation arises, if you’re able to see the irony or the absurdity in it, and smile or laugh with others about it, you feel as though you’re in it together – rather than that you’re facing it alone.

If there’s a tense moment between you and someone, and one of you responds with humor (especially self-deprecating humor) rather than defensiveness or confrontation – it breaks the tension and provides an opening to come back to comfort and trust.

And when a team uses humor regularly, it communicates ease and affection – “we get each other and we like each other” – in a simple and consistent way. It makes all the members of the team more likely to feel that they can come to each other with questions or problems, and that they’ll get openness and support vs. stone-walling or “not my job.”  Humor builds our confidence in and reliance on each other. In the words of Maya Angelou:

  “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”

― Maya Angelou

Till next time –


Posted in Insider List


May Day – 05/01/13

As you have probably figured out by now, I love language.  I find the entire subject fascinating: as a writer, looking for exactly the right word or phrase to capture a particular idea or feeling; as a parent and grandparent observing and participating in the development of kids’ speech; as a language learner, reflecting on how different languages are constructed and how they embody and convey their culture; and as a student of human behavior, noticing how language is equally likely to be a source of clarity and a source of confusion.

For example…

I was just thinking about this today – how easy it is to misinterpret others’ words.  It’s especially easy when one word or phrase can mean two very different things. A timely example:

May Day on May 1 is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures.

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me“.

Imagine the confusion that could result from the use of this simple phrase with a non-native English speaker – especially one who knew one of the meanings, but not the other!

That’s why it’s so important to communicate clearly – but perhaps even more important toget curious about how your communication is received.  If you do that, you’ll be better able to ‘unpack’ the misunderstanding to achieve real communication.

For example, here’s something I’ve seen many times over the years.  A manager communicates a direction, and then doesn’t get the desired result. The most common response: say it again. This is a particular problem with managers who are smart and articulate – they almost always just repeat their message, trying to be a little smarter and more articulate.

But this is probably not going to help: it’s unlikely they didn’t hear you the first time, and it’s unlikely that simply saying it again is going to make a difference.

Instead, I suggest you get curious about how the person heard you, and then you can work to resolve the misunderstanding.  The simplest way I’ve found to do this is just to ask the other person to share what they’ve understood.  You don’t want to sound (or be) condescending, so it’s a good idea to “preview” your question by sharing why you’re asking it.  Here’s how that might sound:

“When I said, ‘this as a real may day situation,’ I was surprised that you started putting together flower baskets.  What’s your understanding of what I was saying?”

 Or, more seriously:

“I thought we were in agreement about the bonuses, but the memo that went out didn’t reflect what I thought we were going to do.  What’s your understanding of our agreement?”

Getting curious about the other person’s understanding, when there’s been a disconnect, is not only the most efficient way to get back on the same page – it’s an eminently respectful and collaborative way to do it.

Have a great May Day (the flower basket kind)…

Till next time,


Posted in Insider List


Spring (She Said Hopefully) – 04/17/13

I notice that every year I write something about the coming of spring. Whether it’s in an Insider List (two years ago), at erikaandersen.com (last year) or Forbes (this week). At the same time, I notice I don’t write about the onset of other seasons.

It’s probably partly because the other seasons don’t have such specific indicators: so much of nature goes through enormous and obvious state changes in the space of a few weeks in the springtime. (After all, how do you know when winter is really starting – because it’s slightly colder than late fall?)  But I also think it’s because I’m so attracted to all that spring represents.


Spring is the essence of all those great “re” words – renewal, rebirth, rejuvenation, renaissance, resilience, regeneration, restoration, recharging.

Spring is undeniable proof of the relentlessness of life.  The transformation of naked gray branches and piles of rotted leaves into leafy bowers and carpets of wildflowers never fails to enchant me.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also massively powerful. It reminds me of the strong biological imperative driving the whole world toward growing and thriving.

We have that in us, too – and it’s good to remember.  Sometimes the forces driving in the opposite direction in our lives seem overwhelming; we all have days when it feels as though our personal winter will not end, when there’s no clear sightline to our “hoped-for future.”

But the human spirit – like spring – has a way of overcoming obstacles and bursting onto the scene.  The best way I know to support my own inborn will to growth and evolution is to use my human powers of envisioning to remind myself of the future I hope to create, and then to manage my self-talk to support that intention.

To support you in your quest for your own personal “re,” here are a few articles I’ve written recently that I hope will provide both hope and practical guidance:

Inviting inspiration

3 Simple Steps to Get Where You Want to Go

How to Make It Through Personal Difficulty at Work

If Something Happens All the Time, It Can Still Be A Miracle

Happy Spring!

Till next time,


Posted in Insider List


Big News – 04/01/13

We’ve discovered something truly amazing, here at Proteus.  It turns out that every time someone has attended a Proteus training over the past 23 years, a reclusive multi-billionaire in Kuwait has deposited $10,000 US in a secret Proteus account in Switzerland – he said he likes what we’re doing.  Today he sent us the account numbers and turned everything over to us.  It also turns out that he set it up in such a way that the money is tax-free.  Jeff and I are in the process of figuring out how to divide up the $250,000,000 currently in the account so that everyone at Proteus gets something…but it looks as though Jeff is going to buy a vineyard and retire to France, and I’m going to donate all my time helping Obama figure out how to fix the government.

Oh, also…April Fools.

No one seems to know the origins of April Fools Day, though there are lots of theories.  But however it arose, I’ve always loved the idea that there’s one a day a year specifically dedicated to goofiness – playing silly pranks and trying to convince each other of outlandish things. (Google released a video today claiming that YouTube is going to be shut down tomorrow, after they choose “the best video in the world” from all the videos submitted to YouTube over the past eight years.)

Let’s Play….

I think the thing that appeals to me most about April Fools Day is the element of play.  This weekend our grand-daughter Hannah stayed overnight with us while her parents went to a party and then had a night to themselves, and for the whole time she was with us, when she wasn’t sleeping, she was playing: inventing, imagining, creating, discussing, fooling, exploring, experimenting. It’s how she’s figuring out life on the planet.

And I often think that the main problem with most of us adults is a dearth of playtime.  If we were to re-introduce the feeling and idea of play into our work and our relationships on a regular basis, I believe wonderful things would ensue.  More laughter, more discovery, more trust and affection. Less needing to be correct and serious, more willingness to make mistakes and find out new things.

In short – more innovation and fun; less rigidity and obligation.

Here’s to foolishness!

Till next time,


Posted in Insider List