Dr. Erika Michalski – Strategically Authentic – Founded in FoCo Podcast

About the Guest(s):

Dr. Erika Michalski is a beacon of authenticity in the consulting world, known colloquially as “Consultant Barbie”. Holding a doctoral degree, she has made her mark as an internationally recognized master performance consultant specializing in talent development and employee engagement. Erika has an extensive background in academic and corporate environments, assisting organizations through periods of growth, change, and mergers. A passionate keynoter, she values emotional intelligence and human evolution, infusing these concepts into her work to foster environments where individuals can thrive by being their true selves.

Episode Summary:

In this introspective episode of the Founded in FoCo podcast, Dr. Erika Michalski, the vivacious and recognized master performance consultant best known as Consultant Barbie, sits down with host Nick Armstrong to discuss the nuances of authenticity in personal and professional spaces. Erika’s infectious energy and depth of knowledge create an engaging conversation that digs deep into what makes authentic leadership and engagement so vital in today’s world.

The discussion opens with Erika’s take on authenticity and its importance in feeling valued within professional environments. She emphasizes the difference between being invited to a space and being expected to show up as one’s authentic self. The dialogue progresses to explore the implications of this distinction on employee engagement and the strategies leaders can employ to optimize team performance, avoiding the pitfalls of the “hard effort” versus “hard work” paradigm.

Key Takeaways:

  • Authenticity in professional settings transcends mere presence; it’s about showing up as oneself without performance.
  • Employee engagement is closely connected to perceived value and growth opportunities within an organization.
  • Emotional intelligence is critical for leadership success and should be approached as a systemic attribute, not reliant on a single individual.
  • The effort to do work versus the work itself being hard is an indicator of alignment or inauthentic behavior.
  • Strategic, authentic collaboration requires clarity, alignment, and understanding of each party’s goals and expectations.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Authenticity is lack of performance, it’s presence.” – Dr. Erika Michalski
  • “You can be an incredible person and not a good fit.” – Dr. Erika Michalski
  • “If you show up everywhere as yourself, then when you get invited to show up somewhere else, the invitation has been extended to you as yourself.” – Dr. Erika Michalski
  • “If you’re only having that conversation [about employee growth and engagement] once a year… you’re not doing it well.” – Dr. Erika Michalski
  • “Evolution teaches us that sometimes we add and sometimes we subtract…The goal should be optimization, not maximization.” – Dr. Erika Michalski


  • Dr. Erika Michalski’s professional insights are shared across platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram under the moniker, Consultant Barbie.
  • A deeper dive into Dr. Michalski’s philosophy and work can be found on her website, stratauth.com.
  • Mention of Daniel Kahneman’s research provides an academic backdrop to the conversation, particularly his work on decision-making processes.

Check out Erika’s talk at Founded in FoCo here: https://sched.co/1ZN6Z

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