As promised earlier, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erika Andersen, author of Growing Great Employees. Erika has some amazingly interesting takes on management and how to “grow” employees. Her garden analogy makes management seem (dare I say it)…FUN!

Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll share with you my conversation with Erika, and if you stick with me until the end, you’ll have the opportunity to win a SIGNED COPY of Erika’s great book, Growing Great Employees.

Let the gardening begin!

Phil: Who is the perfect audience for your book?

Erika: I think of the audience for the book in the form of a target. In the center circle, the bull’s-eye, are all those people managers who are hungry to improve—they can be at any level, from newly-minted managers of one or two people, to senior executives in large companies, to entrepreneurs with a small team, to midlevel managers…the “hungry to improve” is the important part. The next ring out is anyone who wants to be more effective in managing relationships with other people for whom they have some responsibility: teachers, parents, coaches, project leaders, HR people, etc. Then, the third ring is employees who want to help their managers be more effective. I really think that Growing Great Employees can give employees a blueprint to ask for what they need and deserve from their managers.

And after that—anybody who wants to read it!

Phil: The chapter topics (as I see them are):

Hiring Right
Giving the right information to new hires
Mindset of a coach
Individualized attention
Balancing responsibility between coach and employee
Firing Right

Phil: Which was the toughest chapter to write?

Erika: Probably Chapter 6, the one on SOCIAL STYLE. It was tough because I had to—in effect—condense a book’s worth of knowledge into a single chapter. I could easily have written a whole book on Social Style; I’ve been using it and teaching it for 20 years, and have found it really valuable—so it was a discipline to pick the highest leverage learning and still have it flow and make sense.

Phil: Which was the most fun?

Erika: At the risk of sounding eerily positive—it was all fun. I absolutely loved writing it. I know a lot of people find the process of writing difficult or daunting, but—fortunately for me—I really enjoy it. And I have to say the rest of the process has been very fun, too: my agent, Jim Levine, is a lovely, smart, extraordinarily skilled guy who’s a big fan of the book; and my publisher, Portfolio, has been and continues to be a delight to work with: supportive, clear, respectful, and collaborative.

Phil: I LOVE positive people. Great answer Erika.

Phil: So tell us…How is your book different from the millions of other leadership and management books?

Erika: I think the main difference is that it covers the whole craft of people management as a craft, rather than offering “tips and tricks.” It provides guidance through the entire arc of support—from deciding what kind of a workplace you’re trying to create and what kind of people you’ll need in order to create it; to finding those people and getting them on board; through helping them get established and developing them to be their best—and even to how to let them go with clarity and dignity if it doesn’t work out. The second major difference is that, at every point within that arc of support, it teaches actual skills, vs. simply telling stories about how others have done something.

For instance, one client of mine who’s the SVP of Marketing at a media company recently emailed me to say, “I just wanted to tell you that your book was invaluable in helping me get through a really tough meeting today. I had to let someone go and restructure his group. I must have re-read Chapter 11 four times between last night and this morning. It was so helpful in organizing my thoughts, planning the conversation and working out scenarios for potential feedback. Thanks so much for the direct guidance!”

That concludes part 1 of the interview with Erika Andersen, author of Growing Great Employees. Stay tuned for more insights from master gardener, Erika Andersen, next week Thursday. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Growing Great Employees, or go visit Erika’s blog The Simplest Thing.