The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

SEASONS OF CHANGE


Why is it that so many people “live for today” rather than planning for tomorrow?  Why do they live in the past rather than chasing their dreams of a brighter future?  What comfort can be taken in things that have already been “said and done” knowing that closing the door to those things not yet imagined only traps us in a world holding no new experiences and having no opportunities to grow?  Sadly – particularly to those living within the comfort of their present reality – today will never be tomorrow but it cannot escape becoming yesterday when tomorrow, no longer the future, becomes today.

Many individuals view work as being their “beginning and their end.”  While paid activities may not have started as being a reason for living, the daily tasks, responsibilities and accomplishments that we immerse ourselves in can become more important to us than relationships, activities or travel.  Work is somehow predictable and rewarding.  It provides a venue in which we can excel (or at least contribute) and thrive (or, at a minimum, survive) without unexpected or unanticipated roadblocks altering our paths or activities.  Routine can be comforting to many – knowing what to do, what to expect and what to anticipate is somehow reassuring to those seeking the satisfaction of being a contributor (rather than an initiator) and accepted (rather than questioned or feared).  Individuals having achieved a measure of success and recognition in their past (athletes, public figures, industrial leaders, politicians) – particularly if they are not motivated to grow beyond the success they once achieved by identifying and developing a different strength or aptitude – are great examples of this sense of acceptance.  One of life’ greatest travesties can be seen when an athlete leaves school early for his or her shot at professional sports then has no “fallback career” when the window of opportunity slams shut.  These gifted entertainers live for today based on the skills and abilities they nurtured yesterday but often give very little thought about tomorrow (which, unfortunately, becomes today sooner than they could have ever realized).

People once grew for a season, learned for a season, worked for a season then retired to rest for the last season of their lives.  During the season of growth, children identified their strengths so they could be developed (and their weaknesses so they could be bolstered or avoided).  They sought interests and areas they liked before having to focus upon one or two paths that might ultimately lead to the realization of their dreams.  The season of growth was never meant to be lived in – only to be passed through on the road towards the season of learning.

Individuals went to school, work or the military to hone and develop the skills they developed during their youth.  The season of learning allowed people to experiment in a “safe environment” before having to utilize their abilities to earn a living or support a family.  Socialization, the widening and paving of paths discovered as a child and the crystallization of goals came together to help individuals spring from their “today” as they ventured into tomorrow – to build careers, become successful and “make their mark on the world.”  Though some might hold onto this season by augmenting their experience with lifelong learning, many built their castles upon the foundation of learning as they sought the security of a season of work.

Work, a season starting as a necessary means to accomplish a desired end, has been fed by ambition and nurtured by a sense of comparison to others (rather than a measure of what each individual might be able to contribute and accomplish individually).  The season of work has provided wealth, growth, sustenance, recognition and success for many – allowing individuals to identify areas in which the strengths identified as children and nurtured through learning are able to be applied to give them internal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.  These achievers rarely feel they are working in this season as they love what they do and either plan for a season of rest OR intentionally seek to avoid ever tasting such a time.  Others have found work to be a “necessary evil” rather than an enjoyable release.  They seek an escape from their season of work rather than an elevation into more responsible and rewarding levels.  They often perform as they are told (rather than fully utilizing their skill sets) and do what needs to be done (rather than what COULD be done).  Regardless of an individual’s perspective, the season of work eventually comes to an end so that we can enter the season of rest (either with open arms or with trepidation).

If an individual has successfully “lived for tomorrow” rather than being content with today – has moved from their past by developing their strengths to make a difference in whatever was accomplished – each day in the season of rest may become but a step of the ladder as one continues to climb towards their future.  An individual who was content with “today” during his or her season of work may find themselves living in yesterday’s world rather than identifying and reaching future goals.  The season of rest may become one of disenchantment – wishing for something that was never to be since no planning was ever done to make it a reality. 

Though today cannot become tomorrow, yesterday will never be forgotten if we build upon the skills identified in our youth to enhance our abilities as we learn that can be applied as we work so that we can rest having made a difference to all around us. 


“Live for Today?”  I think not…for tomorrow will soon come and I will dwell but for a moment within each passing day as I move constantly from yesterday towards a not-yet-realized future…

Friday, January 5, 2018

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO (PLAN AS THEY) WAIT…

People used to work hard for most of their lives before stepping aside to enjoy the fruits of their labor in a seemingly short period of retirement.  They gladly left others to fill the void their absence created – seeking the time to do what they wanted to do rather than what they had to do.  Health insurance, an inexpensive benefit meant to prevent financial disaster caused by a serious health condition, was readily available at a reasonable cost upon retirement.  Designed to provide a source of income that would “give back” the money workers put into it to augment the responsibilities families shared with their aging relatives, Social Security became the primary resource for many aging individuals.  Employees fortunate enough to receive a pension while working often entered retirement with the thought of “living high” rather than of simply “getting by.”  Others planned to fund their golden years using equity from their home.  People focused more on “when” retirement was going to happen than “if” it could ever occur – rarely thinking about what they would do to fill their days.  Unfortunately, many live life "hoping for" a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow, seeking a hidden treasure buried within the caverns of their minds, rather than working to create a fulfilling life that can be supported and maintained through intentional planning.

Today, things have changed.  More workers are leaving the workforce than are entering it.  Family is taking a diminished role in caring for its aging members, often relying upon facilities that can provide appropriate medical care rather than putting their life on hold to help a relative in need.   Healthcare Insurance provides cradle to grave coverage for all conditions (or potential conditions – or lifestyle choices made to improve their perceived quality of life) but is so expensive that it is hard to pay premiums when no “condition” exists and harder yet to pay for unanticipated consequences should a major illness occur.  Our social welfare system takes care of individuals in ways that family and/or churches once did – with the responsibility to finance these services resting upon a minority of the population to support an ever-increasing majority of individuals choosing to leave the workplace.  Our Social Security safety net is no longer sustainable yet the meager funds available seem to be ear-marked for those that contributed least while disqualifying from benefits those that contributed most (since they probably saved individually for their own retirement rather than expecting some other entity to take care of them).  People COGNITIVELY understand that saving early in life for retirement makes sense yet few young people have the PRACTICAL ABILITY to begin saving when they really should – either because they feel invincible OR they cannot afford to save because of the high price of living and the relatively low available income stream.

Are YOU planning (and saving) for retirement or are you expecting a system that faces bankruptcy to care for you?  A recent survey found that the average retirement-aged American worker has savings of less than $50,000. Though housing prices are going up right now, and home equity is still seen as a source of retirement income, people are living independently longer so appreciated home value may or may not be available when needed to help fund retirement.  While the cost of living is relatively stable, the economy is precarious enough that a single “pebble” of economic or political unrest dropped into the sea in which we live could potentially cause a tidal wave that could destroy our unsuspecting shore.  While the best option for retirement savings would be to put as much away as possible from an early age, most do not truly begin saving until their mid- to late-forties.  There is no time, however, that is “bad” for beginning as long as we focus on the end we wish to achieve and take intentional and measured action to attain the security that comes with financial independence.  Take advantage of your organization’s retirement plan match (if one is available) to maximize your contributions and talk to your Plan Administrator to utilize investment options that “fit” your risk tolerance (how much you are willing to lose in the short run in order to maximize your gains in the long run).  We must think, anticipate, prepare, initiate, monitor and test everyday as we perform at work.  Unless individuals use the same perspective when taking on the responsibility for their own future they may find themselves woefully unprepared to enjoy the opportunities that a “different” lifestyle presents.

What are you relying on to help cushion your landing should you choose to escape the regularity of your work world and venture into the uncharted waters of retirement?  Are you preparing for the future or sitting passively on the sidelines waiting for life to happen?  Are you planning what you will do with the time you may have available if you do not adhere to a structured schedule?  We all have been “important” to others while working – fulfilling a vital need, supporting a necessary process, contributing to the success of others – what are you doing about filling that “satisfaction” void that many face when they leave the workforce EVEN IF they are financially prepared?  Most would say that “stepping aside” is never easy.  Having a sound plan as to how you will make yourself FEEL whole and a well-funded retirement nest egg that will provide financial peace of mind as you open a new chapter in your book of life will determine whether you begin your new adventure having a “golden goose” to support you or discovering that your “goose has been cooked,” providing you with short-term support but NOT the long-term comfort you had imagined.  Having fiscal peace, though important, is not enough.  Plan ways that you can continue to make a difference BEFORE you retire so that you can maintain the sense of value and worth you receive during your days of obligation at work throughout your days of opportunity beyond the work environment.

Friday, December 22, 2017

ARISE AND AWAKEN - KNOW WHAT (AND WHEN) IS ENOUGH


Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a place in life where they say “no more” while seeking “no less.”  They realize that life cannot continue at the insane pace we tend to pursue – that running towards a goal must be more important than running from something – but that both become equally important when we allow fear and emotion to drive our decisions.  We eventually (and inevitably) run into a wall when our dreams for the future are met equally (and convincingly) by our memories of the past – locking us firmly into a “present” that is not growing, fulfilling or likely to change. 

Some might say that “when we quit learning, growing or changing we die.”  Perhaps it would be better to simply say “ENOUGH” and move on without fighting, crying or struggling – without senselessly holding on to what we have (particularly that which does not contribute to our own or other’s growth) by over-valuing what has been (using our past accomplishments as destinations rather than foundations) rather than seeking what has not yet been revealed (looking over our shoulder to where we have been instead of ahead to where we wish to go).  When you quiet your soul and vanquish your fears – calm your apprehensions and begin to recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel into which you have entered may not be a train coming at you but rather a beacon leading you towards a dream that has yet to be realized – you enter into a new world of possibilities that sees life 
through a lens of “what could be” as an achievable alternative to “what has always been.”

We all awaken to a time we realize that our hoping for someone to give us something we do not have must stop – that we can no longer wait for change to “just happen” or happiness, safety and security to be waiting for our discovery around the next corner.  We must consciously and intentionally act to initiate change.  We must come to terms with the reality we all have strengths (and weaknesses) as well as beauty (and warts) – that nobody can (without intentional thoughts and actions) live like “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella” waiting to find or discover happiness in which to live ever after.  We must realize that life cannot be a fairy tale unless (and until) we recognize that peace and serenity is born through an acknowledgement of our own imperfections and an acceptance of the imperfections of others.  Once we awaken to realize that life must necessarily be an ever-melding mix of hopes, dreams, accomplishments and expectations – a fluid state of flux rather than a static state of entitlement – we can cast off the chains that hold us back so we can reach out to grasp the lifelines that will pull us forward.

As we travel through life we realize that people do not always say what they mean or mean what they say – that not everyone will always be there for us (though someone or a group of trusted individuals WILL BE if we allow it) nor is life ever “all about you and you alone.”  We must learn to stand on our own and take care of ourselves – building safety and security through our self-reliance (which, unlike an island, cannot truly survive life’s storms without external support).  We must stop complaining about other people and blaming them for things they may have done, instead looking to undo what we ourselves may not have done and learning that the only certainty we can count on is the unexpected entering our lives.  We must stop judging and pointing fingers and start accepting others as they are – overlooking their shortcomings and accepting their human frailties – if we are ever to accept ourselves as being similarly fragile and equally as imperfect while striving to grow and succeed.

We view ourselves (and the world around us) through a filter born of the messages and opinions ingrained in us throughout our childhood then reinforced by the successes or failures – the acceptances or rejections – we have experienced as adults.  Only when we begin to sift through the “junk” we have been fed about how to behave, what to wear, how to act and what to value – to determine what is real and important to us rather than reaching towards what was expected to be valued and significant for us by others – will we learn to open ourselves up to new worlds and different points of view.  We cannot begin to reassess and redefine who we are and what we really stand for until we recognize that our individuality is shaped by both external influences and internal desires, and that we must come to own what we can initiate and accept what we cannot change before we can move forward in life.

As we awaken to the possibilities of life we begin to learn the difference between wanting and needing – discarding the doctrines and values we have outgrown or should never accepted to begin with as we follow our hearts, instincts and consciences.  We learn that it is truly in giving that we will receive – that we can discover fulfillment and accomplishment through our creating and contributing ONLY if we stop maneuvering through life as a consumer long enough to recognize that creation and consumption are distinctly different paths leading towards opposing and conflicting objectives.  We must learn the differences between guilt and responsibility to thrive.  We must learn the importance of setting boundaries and knowing when to say “no” when necessary rather than always saying “yes” for when we extend ourselves beyond what we are capable by doing to relieve the pressure on those around us we may actually stifle the growth of others while reducing our own ability to try (initiate or master) new things.

In the depths of our confusion when we find ourselves at an inexplicable fork in the road we come to realize that, for the most part, we get from life what we believe we deserve (whether that be good or bad) and that much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In order to achieve success we need to believe that success is probable (or at least possible).  We must recognize that anything worth achieving is worth working for – and that wishing for something to happen is far different than working towards making it happen.  In order to initiate change we need to identify a destination we wish to achieve, establish a direction we will travel, then exhibit discipline and perseverance to stay on track.  Before embarking upon a journey of change, however, it is important that we recognize nobody can do everything alone and it is OK to ask for help (and not a weakness of shortcoming to accept it) as we move forward.

When feel that an impossibly large load has been dumped in front of us in life – that there is no reasonable or realistic way to get around the obstacle in front of us – we may come to realize life is not always “fair.”  We do not always get what we think we deserve and sometimes bad things truly do happen to good people.  We must learn to fight for what we want in life, however, rather than living under a cloud of impending doom if we hope to understand that fear of failure is not the only impediment to our growth – that a fear of success (and the unknown that accompanies it) may be an equally binding tie that binds us where we are, keeping us from moving towards what we could become.

We all awaken to a new dawn each day we rise.  If we are to make the most from the days we are given we must learn from our failures rather than allowing ourselves to be buried by them.  When we face life with and attitude of “Why Not?” rather than wallowing in one of “Why Me?” we seek the path leading towards the “what might be possible” rather than settling for “what is and will never change.”  When we courageously live our lives “as they could be” rather than being content to find comfort in “what they are” we will find ourselves awakened to a world of possibilities.  Share your world with those around you so that you all may gain and grow through your independent and intentional discoveries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

REALIZE SUCCESS BY CELEBRATING THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OTHERS



Much can be accomplished IF you do not care who receives the credit.  Though it is human nature to want recognition for successfully implementing an idea, an individual evolves from “doer” through “manager” to “leader” when he or she realizes that being responsible for something and achieving the results that one wishes is often more important than receiving credit for its accomplishment (or making sure that someone else receives the “blame” if something does not work out as hoped for and planned).
 
Any relationship will be strengthened by actively engaging in cooperative reasoning – openly discussing all possibilities before acting to bring to fruition one person’s desires without at least uncovering and exploring the thoughts of another.  Originating alternative ideas or concepts is critical to initiate change as time spent engaging all effected by a decision (even if their thoughts and ideas are not directly acted upon) can make the implementation of change more effective (when the “doers” are empowered to act so that the “dreamers” can more freely innovate).  Successful leadership reveals itself when the originators of ideas internalize the reality that they do not need to receive accolades for their thoughts – even if the “doers” receive credit for their performance in bringing ideas to fruition they would never have acted upon had a new idea or direction not been brought to the surface by a “dreamer.”  We far too often try to pull everyone in the direction we want to go or step over those that appear to be in our way rather than lifting those around us up and rising to the top upon their shoulders as we seek new processes, destinations and results together.  On the opposite extreme, some inexperienced leaders attempt to “overly involve” those around them in the “germinating” process hoping that great ideas will grow from a collective seed – failing to recognize that “too many cooks can spoil the broth.”  Sometimes we must determine what is appropriate to share so that “group-think” can occur while recognizing that decisions must be made and/or direction established (often singularly) so that collective action can take place (allowing the group to take the credit).
 
We unleash the potential of those around us to create change when we formulate an idea then communicate the results we wish to accomplish to those that implementing the change, allowing them to consider alternative paths that could be taken, rather than dictating what must be done AND how we expect it done.  Ordering another to accomplish a specific result MAY lead to a desired solution but often provides an excuse as to why something did not happen rather than a celebration about what did occur.  We create dependency in relationships and minimize autonomy (and independent thinking) when we tell others what to do and when to do it rather than simply defining our goals and monitoring progress towards their accomplishment.  Growth or success beyond that which one has already achieved cannot occur until a leader equips those around him or her with tools that prepare them for independent actions and a confidence that mistakes will be viewed as learning experiences rather than used to generate discipline.

Great leaders originate ideas, communicate expectations then get out of the way while constantly considering alternatives as they monitor the progress of those left to accomplish their initiatives.  Innovators are rarely around when the tasks they initiate are completed because they have built teams that can act independently and communicate openly thereby freeing themselves to focus on other opportunities so they may not be in a position to receive direct recognition for activities that produced results.  Leaders celebrate in the accomplishments and successes of their teams, recognizing that great rewards will ultimately come to those who can selflessly initiate change and deliver results.

Those focusing upon receiving credit for their ideas often lose sight of their long-term objectives and fail to meet their ultimate goals.  To achieve greatness, seek it within the accomplishments of those that you lead.  Leverage the capabilities of those you have equipped to act upon their ideas – that you have provided the confidence to move forward and given permission to learn from their failures – rather than limiting your potential to those things you can accomplish on your own.  Find your full potential as you lead others through their darkness and they will help to light your way as they begin to find themselves.  Make yourself too valuable to replace and you may find that you have nowhere to go as nobody else can do what you have done.

Friday, December 8, 2017

SMART OR WISE – THE SAME OR DIFFERENT?


Wisdom results from our application of knowledge – from using what we know to change (or intentionally stabilize) a situation, alter the life of another, or accomplish something that had not yet been considered.  One can be wise, however, without having (or demonstrating) much common sense or practical knowledge.  We can know all the facts and understand all their ramifications but cannot initiate or accomplish change unless we act upon the things we know rather than simply building upon them to form a hopelessly tall (and self-contained) tower.  Simply knowing many facts, always asking the right questions and appearing to have all the answers may make us smart but unless (and until) we apply the facts we have learned to change a situation or circumstance that we have never encountered we will never demonstrate wisdom. 

Today’s world is afloat with facts, data and information and resources yet it seems that problem-solving skills are less likely to be demonstrated than ever before as many have difficulty trying to apply their wealth of knowledge to un-related circumstances within their daily lives.  We run before we walk as our impatience rules the day.  We pursue the impossible (or at least the improbable) rather than finding comfort in the reality of “what is” and extrapolating it into that which has not yet become – far too often leaping ahead without thought or direction.  Knowing what to do and doing what is right within a given set of circumstances is not always the same thing (situational ethics?).  We are taught to memorize facts and regurgitate answers on tests that measure what we were taught rather than what we may have learned during the lessons.  While knowledge may be the building block of wisdom, it does not shine as a light in the darkness until it is appropriately applied.

Impatience and intolerance have become the driving factors in “effective” communication with the analysis of data initiating deliberate (and specific) action designed to resolve a known problem using the process developed by others in a similar situation – minimizing the impact of creativity in the face of reality.  Integrity was once an integral part of an individual’s make-up – it now seems to be an insignificant backdrop to life’s everyday drama. Relationships once rooted in honesty now seem built upon circumstance fed by individual desires, validated by sincere apologies and justified by “the wisdom of the crowd.”  It seems that the application of information to create a viable solution – taking the risk required to make a difference by being unique in thought and action – is less about “doing things right” and more about “just doing it.”  Knowing what to do (because we have learned facts or seen similar situations in the past) is a good start to transforming our knowledge into wisdom.  To be credible and effective in the demonstrative application of our wisdom we must say what we are going to do, do what we say and show others that we are predictable, consistent and fair in our actions.  We must recognize and consistently honor the values, likes, dislikes and preferences of others as we pull them along with us (rather than trying to push them ahead to test the waters before stepping in).

It is nearly impossible to move in the wrong direction when one does not care where they are going.  Little credit, however, can be taken (or praise given) for unanticipated results generated through unplanned activities. In order to transform knowledge into wisdom – to make decisions count – we must anticipate our destination before moving from one situation to another then plan where we want to land before leaping from where we stand.  Unless we look forward (rather than back) or we will find ourselves moving from the frying pan to the fire. When teaching our granddaughter to ride her bike we constantly reminded her to look where she was going rather than where she had been – a great piece of advice that most individuals seeking to accomplish any new objective should assimilate.  Success hinges upon the creation and attainment of targets so we can recognize and acknowledge that our actions (or intentional in-actions) are leading towards a definitive conclusion.  Many great innovations were a direct result of an initial failure.  Had someone not allowed their mind to wander, however, and fed their curiosity – had they not transformed their knowledge into wisdom while investigating previously unknown (and unconsidered) possibilities – today’s world would be a vastly different place.

We are able to leverage our knowledge to make wise decisions rather than blindly following the thoughts of others when we analyze the information around us, consider the results (and ramifications) of applying it to our circumstances then act (and monitor what happens) as we move forward.  When we look ahead to avoid the obstacles in our path rather than behind at what has already been accomplished we are able to sail towards what might become reality rather than anchoring ourselves within safe harbors of the past that discourage change.  Planned, intentional actions initiate change – and once we are able to demonstrate our ability to orchestrate the transition from “here and now” to “where we have not yet imagined” we will be wise beyond our expectations and experience more success than we ever dreamed possible.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AVOIDING MISTAKEN ASSUMPTIONS POSITIONS US FOR SUCCESS

Most people are “measured” by the success they have which becomes the results we aspire to emulate.  Little attention, however, is given to the small, commonsense, practical things that often lead to failure.  While we cannot avoid all missteps along the way – particularly if we are committed to initiating new solutions, forging alternative paths and seeking places where “no person has ever gone before” – there ARE some sure-fire mistakes we make that minimize our chances of success.  If we are able to identify and avoid these simple assumptions, pitfalls and roadblocks we will be able to avoid debilitating failure.  Some of these “common sense” areas that promote mistakes and disruptive missteps would include:

Mistaken Assumption #1:            PEOPLE DO NOT ENTER INTO A RELATIONSHIP (OR A NEW JOB) UNLESS THEY ARE FULLY EQUIPPED TO PERFORM.  THEY ABSORB AND IMPLEMENT NEW IDEAS AS THEY GAIN EXPERIENCE.  THERE IS NO NEED TO BUDGET FOR OR INVEST IN TRAINING – IF A PERSON IS NOT CAPABLE OF DOING, PARTICIPATING IN OR SHARING SOMETHING HE OR SHE WOULD NOT BE ENGAGED/INVOLVED.  Insecure individuals often feel threatened by others who “know too much” or are “overqualified.”  Unless a degree of “shared success” can be established, refusing to allow or permit one individual doing everything with the other accomplishing very little, a partnership cannot grow.  Individuals perform better when they have a high (but realistic) self –concept – knowing they are fully equipped to perform any job that is assigned or to contribute in the resolution of any problem that is faced while in a relationship.  Managers of excellence recognize that elevating their people’s skills will enhance their own ability to contribute more to their organization.  Individuals should be capable of assuming more than their basic job responsibilities so that both employee AND manager has time to seek new challenges.  Within ANY relationship, once part of the equation feels underappreciated – when all participants can no longer gain from expanding their knowledge base or trying new approaches – the beginning of an inevitable end has clearly revealed itself. 

Mistaken Assumption #2:            IF EVERYONE WERE TREATED EQUALLY THERE WOULD BE NO REASON TO COMPLAIN AND ALL WOULD WORK TOGETHER TO BEST COMPLETE WORK, PROJECTS OR RESOLVE STICKY ISSUES WITHOUT CONFLICT.  THE BEST WAY TO AVOID CONFRONTATION IN ANY SITUATION IS TO TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME REGARDLESS OF THEIR ABILTIY TO CONTRIBUTE OR THEIR CAPABILITY TO GROW.  Rewarding all equally for the work that has been done regardless of individual effort, while often the easiest thing to do, creates animosity within the “high achievers” in our world and NEVER results in everyone BEING the same.  All organizations and relationships need leaders – people of dreams, individuals of vision, contributors that take calculated risks to receive proportionate rewards.  Successful leaders will reward excellence rather than celebrating mediocrity – expecting all to rise to the top rather than pulling the top down to eliminate differences.  They identify and recognize individuals who can give back as much (if not more) than they take away from relationships – rather than those seeking comfort in “acceptability” or hiding within the shadows of doubt.  While giving across the board increases may be an “easy” way to go, it tends to encourage those who can truly contribute to take their talents elsewhere, leaving behind those who are ecstatic to be paid good money for average results.  Treating every individual “the same” will reduce opportunity as it blends individuality into a single “nobody wins – everybody loses” package.  One must climb from a solid base of support in order to grow – at work OR within a shared relationship.

Mistaken Assumption #3:            CRITICIZE INDIVIDUALS WHENEVER YOU CAN – IT BUILDS CHARACTER AND MOVES NEGATIVE ATTENTION AWAY FROM THOSE LESS CAPABLE OR MAY BE DOING AN INFERIOR JOB.  Finding out who caused a major loss and addressing him/her publicly may serve to make sure that the mistake is not repeated – and the example made may help ensure nobody else will make a similar mistake - but what is really gained by addressing the individual WITHOUT correcting the action that caused the problem?  Weak managers critique and criticize while great managers identify root causes then provide tools or training to minimize the chances of recurrence.  Accepting an individual does not necessarily mean we also accept his or her actions – it simply allows us to keep our mind open as we separate the “person” from the “action” in life.  We should not accept poor results or bad decisions but we must be careful to avoid criticizing the person rather than the action.  NEVER attack the offender – address the offense.  We seek to insulate the person from the action far too often in our “politically-correct” lives, making excuses for them or forgiving them without consequence.  While people learn from their mistakes, they must be given the tools and the opportunity to change their behavior if they are to become the foundation of an organization’s success.

Mistaken Assumption #4:              REST ON THE RESULTS OF YOUR SUCCESS BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SIGNIFICANT THINGS YOU DO.  Life is not static.  It is a continuum of change.  The sun rises and sets each day.  Life begins (and ends) each day.  Relationships come and go with little regard to those left behind.  Individuals comfortable with success rarely accept the status quo as being sufficient – they seek to expand it.  We should never accept “good enough” as being adequate.  Rather than seeing today’s accomplishments as an end to the day, some see them as where tomorrow begins.  While good things may come to those who wait, successful people often create their own future by acting in ways that are noticed by others, allowing their actions to speak louder than their words without having to raise their own banner inviting praise.    

Mistaken Assumption #5:            DO NOT EMBARRASS OTHERS BY PUBLICLY POINTING OUT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.  PRAISE PEOPLE PRIVATELY SO YOU CAN BE MORE PERSONAL IN YOUR COMMENTS.  If you compliment one person you may have to compliment everyone, right?  WRONG!  We must know when to criticize AND when to praise, recognizing that each individual has personal gifts, talents and abilities that ARE NOT equal.  Maximize the possibility of success by identifying strengths and creating environments that rely on or encourage the use of those strengths (while minimizing the need to act within areas of weakness).

Whenever we assume before we investigate or we think we know (and act on our assumptions) when we know we should think (prior to acting) we minimize our chances for success.  It takes practice, patience, perseverance (and personal sacrifice) to rise to the top.  Success and accomplishment does not come to those who take the easy way out or assume only the best and are unprepared for the alternative (rather than hoping for the best WHILE preparing for the worst).  Success tends to come to those who seek it, study alternatives that will help provide it, initiate actions that continuously promote it, monitor (and react to) results along the way and are willing to alter their direction (when conditions change) rather than staying the course regardless of what happens.  Do not assume success will find you – rather seek it out and make it happen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MAXIMIZING YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS


What must we do to navigate through the competitive world in which we live without drifting into a minefield – to set sail and arrive at our destination before struggling through a storm?  We are doing more with less in almost every area of our lives.  Our workplaces are more productive, on-line re-sellers with a limited selection of low-cost items are threatening more traditional retail outlets and we face more competition for the limited number of jobs available in today’s market.  Four characteristics seem to reveal themselves within the actions of successful individuals (and the endeavors they choose to pursue) – keys and values that are strangely absent from those striving to reach their targets rather than thriving while moving beyond anything they ever imagined. These four key characteristics are:
  1. Successful individuals recognize that things done within today’s world may not be good enough for tomorrow – that doing things as they have always been done may meet today’s needs but will not begin to satisfy tomorrows hopes, wishes or desires.  Since most individuals prefer not to “fix things that are not yet broken,” individuals able to anticipate when their “good thing” is about to end AND develop alternative ways to leverage their strengths into different avenues will most likely thrive within an ever-changing world. 
  2. Successful people recognize the need for change BUT understand that “change for change sake” is not a good thing.  They also know that being afraid to change when it is needed will hold them back when others less hesitant move forward.  Successful people do not typically spend much time asking “why things are the way they are” because they focus on “what else” might be or “why not” do things differently.  They do not worry about “who will let them do things differently” but rather try to identify (and overcome) who might try to stop them.  Achievers challenge proven methods, holding on to those that are effective while replacing and refining those that lose their relevance – constantly seeking what MIGHT work while moving from what USED TO WORK but has run its course or outlived its usefulness.
  3. Individuals driving change and achieving success typically live with a continuous sense of urgency – to investigate new methods, try new things, and implement new processes – NOW!  Rather than being content with the status quo, successful individuals defer to others the business of maintaining while they identify alternative paths and “roads less travelled” that will lead to new beginnings.  Initiators rarely become bogged down in detail (though they do like systems) as they take for granted a good idea will be implemented – a characteristic that allows for the free transfer of authority and accountability BUT that can be a fatal flaw to a “dreamer” whom does not see the need for a pragmatic and detail-oriented support team.
  4. Successful people maintain open communications with others as they gather the information necessary to make informed decisions.  They talk to other knowledgeable individuals, listen to their input, and readily act upon what they hear (rather than simply talking and listening without acting).  Asking questions with the intent to elicit solutions (rather than simply questioning others to elicit opinions or engage in conversation) signals productive communication.  It is critical that we NEVER believe contributing to the identification of an issue is sufficient.  Only when we galvanize the diverse input of others having different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge can we leverage the abilities of the team to accomplish those things which are “possible” rather than only achieving what has previously been done.

These four characteristics – sensing (and anticipating) the need to change, recognizing when change is needed (and when it might be best to stay the course for a moment), moving forward with urgency (after first imagining opportunities and considering obstacles that must be avoided to minimize disruptions), and seeking external input that will lead to alternative actions (allowing for the implementation of previously untested solutions and the realization of not yet considered opportunities). 

Each of us has the potential to become more than we are and to unlock doors that have kept us from reaching our dreams but must recognize (and understand) that nothing will change unless we truly believe that ANYTHING is possible.  Using the right “keys” will unlock your potential for future success.  Maximize your chances of success by identifying the “key” you might be missing as you seek to accomplish all you are destined to achieve.