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!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

FORGE YOUR OWN PATH


Have you ever met someone who set a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing?  Such individuals rarely seek to MAKE a difference – rather they tend to AVOID being “different” as much as possible.  They do not seek alternative solutions (often failing to even attempt identifying problems, investigating their root cause and acting to resolve them IF they even admit to there being something amiss), they tend to take the path of least resistance and “go where others are going” or focus on the “wrongs” of others so their questionable actions seem much more “right.”  Some feel that the ONLY way to travel somewhere is along paved superhighways, seeking the most direct route to a destination rather than finding “joy in the journey” along a scenic back road or unimproved path.  To those of you finding comfort in the familiar – being content to travel upon roads previously discovered while refusing to challenge the status quo – the rest of this article may hold little value.  To those, however, seeking to forge their own path as they investigate new opportunities and discover alternative rewards, these thoughts are written as testimony to your creativity and innovation – to your insatiable spirit of adventure and love for life.

Far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd (and even, perhaps, being seen as doing what is “right and prudent”) rather than following their own beliefs (intentionally acting upon their thoughts and feelings rather than refusing to acknowledge their existence).  They do what is popular rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose acceptance by the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone might initiate.  “Followers” accept that “things are as they should be” rather that seeking what “could be.”  They feel validated by thinking, “I am no different than anyone else” rather than believing, “I am a unique individual whose potential is limited only by my own actions and behaviors.”

Following the crowd is easy as you do what others accept, go where others are going, act as others expect and find a sense of community by blending in. Travelling familiar roads and doing “politically correct” or “acceptable things” can take the bumps and turns out of one’s journey BUT when we do things as they have always been done we can expect nothing more than has already been accomplished.  Only when we accept that unexpected results will come ONLY when we seek to create a different reality than that chosen by the crowd will we realize that loss can become gain, failure can breed success, and the decision to stop can be both a conclusion and a beginning.  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s vision as a final destination rather than as a foundation upon which an unrealized future could be built.

Too many supervisors seek acceptance from those they lead rather than respect.  Too many parents seek to be friends with their children rather than to be role models.  Too many teachers want to be “liked” by their students rather than viewed as being “tough but fair.”  Inventors and creators DO NOT accept “common knowledge” as being an ultimate end – rather they see what is (and what has been) as but the beginning of what could be or has not yet come to fruition.  Had Fulton listened to “common wisdom” he would never have invented the steam engine.  Could the Wright brothers have launched their dreams had “the crowd” influenced their actions by inhibiting their souls?  Is our nation stronger and more stable because our leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority thinks should be done – often choosing the more acceptable route rather than doing what might negatively affect those not fully contributing but best for the nation?  Might we be in a better place if our leaders simply governed by bringing the promises made to the people that elected them to fruition rather than acting in a “politically correct” manner that would re-elect them? 


What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – if you “marched to your own drummer” rather than listening to the tunes sung by others?  Make the most of your individuality in whatever you may say or do by taking “the plunge” this summer!  Though not as refreshing a jump as entering a cool lake on a hot day, you will find “being all you can be” is much more fulfilling (and rewarding) than being “all that your friends wish you were.”  Forging your own path may require more work than taking the road of least resistance BUT the rewards will more than offset the increased effort as you achieve greatness in both your dreams AND your reality.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR DESTINY...


I recently spoke with an individual ready to pursue additional education so that she could switch fields completely and move as quickly away from her current job situation as possible.  While she enjoyed the WORK she did, she did not respect her boss, was disappointed that an excellent co-worker recently left the organization, and felt the Organization’s Board of Directors had “no clue” as to what was happening within the company NOR did anyone care about its future.  Her choice was to leave what she enjoyed to seek a greener pasture (as she had done before) – flowing freely from one situation to the next without considering any collateral damage that may have been left in her wake.  Far too often we find that the easy way out is not necessarily the best choice BUT choose to follow the path of least resistance rather than working to change what we do not like – prefer to leave a “known” set of problems without considering the entirely different set we will most likely encounter.  When facing major life-changing decisions, looking into the “what can I do to alter this situation” rather than focusing on the “what is wrong and why should I tolerate it” might help identify alternative solutions.

When an individual is brought in from the “outside” to run an organization, the Board (or hiring authority) should make sure that the person’s skill, ability, experience and proven track record are much stronger than any internal candidate may have possessed.  In this case, the individual’s boss (new to the organization) did not (in her opinion) have the proven experience or demonstrated ability to do his job.  While she had not been a candidate for his job – nor did she want to do it - she was so wrapped up in her own frustrations that she never asked him how he felt, what he wanted to do (or needed help doing), or where he saw the organization going.  She had talked herself into running away from the work she liked because of things she did not know (she knew nothing about her new boss’ plans or the Board’s desires for the organization’s future – which may have been different than those expressed by the previous Director).  She was like a river flowing rapidly towards a fall from which there would be no return – building momentum as she moved forward without identifying why she was moving, what she was objecting to or what part of the “blame” for her unhappiness could be directly attributed to herself.  She felt that SOMETHING was wrong, could not really identify what it was BUT recognized she must act (rather than intentionally deciding NOT to act) in an effort to resolve the issue.

After talking to this individual a bit about her expectations and how she saw herself fitting into a new (but less significant) role she was able to move past the turbulent rapids into an area of relative calm.  She began to examine what she liked about the job (AND the organization), what she disliked, what she would be leaving should she move on, and what she would need from a different employer to overcome the issues she was facing (while providing similar opportunities and challenges).  Many of the things she was seeking were deeply imbedded within her current position but she had been so busy looking at “what was not” that she lost sight of “what was.” 

Many of us become disillusioned with our jobs (and our lives) at times.  Unless we step back and look at the “big picture,” however, we may base our actions (and assumptions) on part of the puzzle – trying to treat the symptoms rather than attempting to root out the disease itself.  We can miss out on the opportunity to “win the war” when we become overly consumed with our focus on winning each and every single battle.  The story of three blind men describing an elephant comes to mind when thinking in such a short-sighted fashion.  One feeling a leg may think the elephant to be a tree.  One feeling the tail may describe it as a rope.  One feeling the trunk may imagine a snake.  All might be right but not one of them will be able to identify the nature of the beast by focusing on a single component – as no one individual can possibly see all aspects of a situation without fully investigating and analyzing the results of his or her studies.

There are many ways to move from one situation to another – but often we embark upon the most obvious escape route before seeking alternatives resolutions.  We do not simply draw a line in the sand from which we can begin anew – we excavate a trench that will isolate us from our situation once we have crossed the line (sometimes the trench becomes an obstacle in and of itself as we fall to its bottom and have a difficult time regaining our footing.).  While such tactics WILL move us forward, they often create pain and close the door on any possibility of returning – or of improving our position. 

Perhaps there are “kinder and gentler ways” to move from a bad situation to a better one than to burn our bridges – no matter how good that might feel in the heat of the moment.  Before “moving on” we should identify ways to maximize the “good” things about where we are while minimizing the “bad.”  Many new supervisors or leaders wish to make instant changes – to put their mark upon the organization – without first seeing what works (and does not need to be fixed) and what is truly broken (needing immediate attention).  Often we seek to mandate change rather than trying to influence it – to “tell” rather than “sell” our ideas.  We rush headlong into situations that require skills we do not possess (without seeking the training that might equip us to handle them) or have “legacy” status (that must be identified prior to making a change).  Patience, tolerance and not caring who gets the credit for changes that are made are major factors that influence our reactions to situations. 

In the case of the person originally discussed, a change in HER attitude made all the difference in her situation.  Rather than focusing on what was wrong around her she began to identify areas that she could make a difference.  She began leveraging her experience to help others change.  She used her organizational knowledge to help identify “sacred cows” that would be difficult to change so that those in a position to set priorities would be able to maximize their success.  She became a champion of change rather than a detractor of new ideas within the organization – a part of the solution rather than a major part of the problem within her department.  She was allowed more freedom to do what she liked – what she was good at – as she demonstrated how it positively impacted the organization.  Rather than leaving a questionable situation she became an integral part of the company – without having to “pick up her tent” to move to a new campsite.
 

While seemingly difficult, changing our perspective will often make all the difference in the world.  When we identify (and utilize) our strengths, acknowledge (but commit to strengthen) our weaknesses, realize what we can (and cannot) change and intentionally act to resolve (rather than run away from) our challenges we will be able to fully realize our potential.  Rather than looking “outside” to resolve your problems, perhaps the first step towards success should be to look at yourself – at what you are, what you are doing, what you are saying and what you expect.  To “be all that you can be” you must identify how to communicate your ideas, influence your peers and initiate change.  Unless (and until) you do, escape may be the path of least resistance but it is often the first of many detours in life we face before eventually stumbling upon the road we should have originally taken.   

LEAD BY EXAMPLE


Though words and promises can be compelling, the true measure of a person is not what they say but rather what they do.  Following a leader’s actions is much easier than believing promises – especially if they change based on the audience.  We must measure our leaders NOT by what they say but rather by what they do (or what their actions initiate) – and recognize that those we lead will use the same litmus to measure our decisions, actions and thoughts.  A zebra does not lose its stripes nor does a leopard lose its spots.  Why do so many leaders believe that they can get away with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude?

How can you expect your employees to adhere to an “eight to five” schedule if your own day frequently begins at eight fifteen or ends at four thirty?  (Forget about the fact that you might have been doing company business the previous night, or that lunch was more of a thought than an action or that breaks are not part of the daily routine…people SEE you coming in late, or leaving early, and expect that to apply to them, too.)  I once worked for an organization whose engineering group participated in a Thursday afternoon golf league.  When things were going smoothly and all was running well, this was not a real problem BUT if an engineering problem on Thursday afternoon caused a disruption in production that forced employees to work over the weekend it was PERCEIVED that “engineers were never around and did not care if production employees had to give up their private lives just so that they could play golf.”  Perception often becomes reality when we choose a leadership role – and we must be vigilant to consider our integrity and how our choices might be viewed prior to taking any actions.  Parents tell their children to obey the rules (as they break the speed limit driving them somewhere), to respect their teachers (as they complain about the “boss that does not know anything”), and to take time to enjoy life (when they are “too busy doing their own thing” to play catch in the yard). 

True leaders do not worry about what they say to one group when speaking to another – they portray a consistent, predictable “story” to whomever they address.  They are not “flavor of the month” thinkers – rather they are grounded in their principles, driven by their values and willing to reveal themselves to anyone seeking to know more about them.  Individuals striving to become leaders (rather than struggling to be managers) would be wise to remember:

1)                  Words are but whispers when compared to the shouts of our actions.  We more often believe what we see than what we hear.  Regardless how you work with people, those around you establish their perception of you by what you do – by how you act – not by the things you say.  We may try to reinvent ourselves with words, polish and packaging – to sound intelligent or authoritative, to discourage challenges to what we want to do through our projected confidence – but we are no more than we appear to be to others – often unable to accomplish anything more than we are willing to do ourselves.
2)                  Look for the good in others, publicly praising their positive actions and interactions while privately addressing their attitude and enhancing their abilities.  People usually see what others do wrong – rarely recognizing or acknowledging what they do right.  Unfortunately, teachers rarely say to their students, “You are really extending your thinking today!”  Rather it is, “Do not bother the student next to you as he/she is trying to work,” “Could you help ‘Jamie’ with his work when you have done?” or “If you have finished, find something quiet to do while I work with the rest of the class.”  While we need to provide help to those requiring it – and to address and constructively correct negative behavior – we should ALSO make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well through our words AND our actions.
3)                  It is better to compromise than to criticize – to live in the house you have built through your actions than in the rubble of another’s house you destroyed with your words.  Criticism is destructive.  Competent leaders do not tear others down to make themselves look better.  One cannot lead if pushing from behind – leadership leverages the abilities of all to move the group into a singular direction that benefits the whole upon a road planned with good intentions and paved with sweat equity.
4)                  Look inwardly when assigning blame.  People often defend their inappropriate actions by shifting blame to others.  Rarely does an individual come out and say, “It was my fault.”  Far more often it is, “Sam over there did something much worse than I would ever do.  Address him before you talk to me.”  If speeding, how often do we rationalize our actions by saying, “I was going the same speed as everyone else” rather than recognizing that doing something wrong cannot be “made right” JUST BECAUSE everyone else was doing it.  When we measure ourselves against the actions of others, we will never truly see value in what we may have done (nor the full cost of what we may have done wrong) – we see only the relative value of how our actions compare to another’s.    
5)                  Judge yourself using the same standards you apply to others.  The greatest leaders of our times would never ask others to do what they would not do themselves.  Truly great generals lead their troops into battle rather than following them from behind.  Parents must “walk the talk” for their children – allowing them to follow the example of a role model rather than try to be someone or something they can only imagine possible.  Managers cannot expect full productivity without giving it themselves.


Rather than distributing consequences, we should seek truth.  We should focus more on what we are doing than on what others may not be doing.  We should lead by example rather than by edict – expecting others to do as we do rather than as we tell them to act.  Viewing life through the lens of relativity will never provide personal fulfillment – only a sense of “better than” whomever we are comparing ourselves to (or possibly worse than someone else).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

GREAT LEADERS MAKE INTENTIONAL DECISIONS


Everyone makes decisions throughout their life.  Whether meaningful or insignificant, life is an ongoing realization of the possibilities we consider, the decisions we make and the actions we take.  As much as we try to research and analyze our destination before beginning a journey, people typically take multiple detours along the way by making decisions based on “what feels right” rather than on an inflexible course of action and a reaction to current events or conditions rather than an analytical weighing of all that the facts.  Good leaders win more than they lose when faced with making quick decisions based on incomplete data.  Great leaders gain the respect of others by making a high percentage of “judgment calls” that turn out to be successful decisions.  In seeking to understand how great decisions are made, some thought processes that come into play would include:

Great decision-making requires us to utilize experience-based judgment when determining the likelihood that the road we choose will lead us towards our destination.  An inexperienced driver may think he or she knows what to do when encountering a patch of black ice on the road because of the study they went through during a driver’s training class but lose control before being able to intentionally act.  An individual having experience driving in winter may react more quickly – out of a “conditioned response” to the situation – taking control of the situation without really thinking about what to do if presented with the same challenge.  Experience allows us to act without having to consider all the ramifications of our actions before taking them because we already know (without thinking) what will be more likely to lead us to success.  Rarely will a truly exceptional leader step into a position of authority until he or she has performed many different jobs within an organization, demonstrated competency in a wide array of responsibilities and experienced (and taken credit/responsibility for) both success and failure.  Gaining life experience through watching, seeing and participating in a variety of different activities is critical to the decision-making process. 

Many individuals rush to act without thoroughly investigating all potential ramifications of their action so they will not lose what they see as a potential opportunity to excel.  Truly successful people take the time to consider the “possible” as they move forward to accomplish the “probable” before attempting what others might see as being “highly unlikely” or presenting too much risk.  Conceptualizing as many possible outcomes that could occur as a result of the actions we take – being willing to accept or respond to them appropriately using knowledge we have gained through experience – establishes a far greater potential than would doing what we know works in an environment that we know breeds success.  Before acting, great leaders tend to (quickly and without hesitation) ask not only “what should be done” but, more importantly, seek to determine “why” action should (or should not be) taken, CONSTANTLY weighing the potential benefits of doing something against the repercussions (or ramifications) of doing nothing.  A validation of any decision is whether one is in a “better place” after acting than they were before.  If doing nothing provides a preferable result, it is often more advantageous to intentionally hold back rather than to foolishly rush forward.

Great leaders ensure that the organization will continue to benefit from good judgment in the future by developing it in those with whom they work today.  They involve others in the decision-making process by leading them to a solution rather than pushing them to a conclusion, allowing them to see both the benefits and the potential pitfalls of any action taken.  They allow others to make mistakes so that they can experience resolving them rather than continually sheltering them from harm’s way by removing the risk of loss from the equation.  Unless (and until) an individual is given the opportunity to overcome the limitations of today’s reality by moving beyond “what works” towards “what has yet to be attempted,” developing a variety of experiences from which future decisions will be based, he or she may never be able to make important or significant decisions.  Involving the people needed for implementation in the decision-making process, adding to and gaining from their experience along the way, will allow them to make better judgment calls in the future.  Helping others to make better decisions will minimize the number of critical calls we must make ourselves.

Great leaders gain credibility and respect by allowing those around them to grow through exposure to new and different situations (often allowing them to grow by failing), rewarding progress as they move towards success (always monitoring the decisions they make to minimize catastrophic disruption) and encouraging others to analyze risk before acting (to recognize both the rewards of accomplishment and the ramifications of failure). 

The key to making great decisions is to maintain “mental flexibility.”  It is OK to change your mind if the conditions or situations driving your initial decision change.  It is never wrong to act UNLESS you act without first considering all the ramifications involved with the actions you take.  It is never wrong to INTENTIONALLY CHOOSE not to act UNLESS your failure to act is due to a fear of the unknown or an unintentionally missed opportunity.  Being unafraid to make a mistake from which you can ultimately learn is critical as our greatest rewards are often born through the painful experiences of our losses.
 
 As you move forward in decision-making skills, seek that which is possible rather than settling for what might seem probable.  Do not limit yourself to what you can see – reach for what you dream.  Recognize that dreams and imaginings often initiate great discoveries if we allow them to lead us to action.  Avoid, however, pushing others ahead as you go.  Pull them along with you as you discover new and exciting opportunities – allow them to reap the benefits of your work as they seek to establish the courage of their own convictions.  Take control of your life by deciding to act (or intentionally choosing NOT to act) – inspiring (or getting out of the way of) those seeking to advance.

Friday, March 10, 2017

PERCEPTION SHOUTS – reality whispers…


A person can show great proficiency without exhibiting imagination but an individual will never exercise their imagination by simply accomplishing the work assigned without asking “why” (or, “why not”).  Delivering a standard or anticipated response to a directive often satisfies those willing to do nothing more than the minimum. An understanding of what must be done as well as a verbalization of what might yet be accomplished is demonstrated when one researches enough – or is interested enough – to ask “why not?”  It seems that we often believe what we see without ever looking beneath the surface to identify “the other side of the story.”  Why is it that reality can seem so distant and removed from our everyday existence while what we think and feel - what we perceive - can become such an overpowering force in our lives?

Given the choice between being a “doer” or a “visionary,” between being “realistic” or  “lost in dreams,” many would prefer to hold tightly to the concrete – to those things that can be seen, touched, considered and accomplished.  I would prefer to live within my imagination than within my reality – to do those things that I might conceptualize rather than those that have been previously accomplished – yet in life our imagination is often tempered by our perceived sense of reality. 

A realist accepts what can be defined and demonstrated – rarely “making waves” or disrupting the status quo – being content to accomplish the dreams and desires of others.  Many people live within a sheltered world of previous accomplishments, dwelling in thoughts of the safe places that brought them happiness and security RATHER THAN seeking new beginnings and opportunities upon an uncharted path. When life is contained within established thoughts of “what is” and memories of “what has been,” can one ever realize his or her full potential – can he or she even identify “what could be but has not yet been considered?”  When our perceptions of comfort, success and accomplishment become a destination rather than a starting point for a new journey, how can we acknowledge the quiet whispers of a changing reality?  True innovation (and success) springs from those who imagine what has not yet been proven for they will accept nothing less than the great things they know can be accomplished in this world.

While our memories are necessary to remind us of what we have accomplished – of the things we can do – our dreams provide an indication of what has yet to be, leading us to places not yet discovered. As we bring today’s dreams to fruition, they become tomorrow’s memories, leaving behind the safety and stability that yesterday provided.  Only when we cast off the limitations of “what is” or “what was,” walking away from the perceptions of reality that we construct by choosing to reach for the promise and possibility of things not yet imagined, will we be able to bring to fruition our dreams.  When we truly consider how things might be different, believing that just because something “was” or “is” does not mean it will “always be,” the soft call of a reality far removed from the oppressive perceptions that dominate our everyday lives will begin to be heard.

For you who find fulfillment within the "way things are" and travel obediently upon the straight and narrow path that leads to a defined destination – good for you!  The world needs individuals that will “do without questioning” as it seeks to fulfill the mundane tasks required to close out each day while moving towards a new and predictable tomorrow.  The world needs people to fulfill the expectations of others and find comfort in the perceptions of peace and tranquility that a complacent life can create.  For those unwilling to live another’s vision or accept another’s explanation of “why” as they seek their own “why not,” however, endless possibilities that have yet to be imagined are waiting to become reality.  In whatever you do, look beyond the obvious to experience all that life might provide.  Seek what might be “possible” rather than settling for what might be the “probable” solution.  We need only our eyes to see that what we perceive as being real – and our ears to hear what others say is acceptable – but casting and pursuing a vision which defines a new reality requires our imagination.  We must imagine what might be possible THEN act intentionally to bring that vision to fruition IF we are to rise above our perceptions of accomplishment by managing the risk that prevents us from identifying, reaching for and realizing the potential of new realities in life.
 

A brave new world awaits those willing to question the things that are held as true because of past practice or long-accepted policy - those courageous enough to act in a manner not yet imagined by others to accomplish things not yet considered possible. While known actions result in predictable results, untested and unproven actions cause equal and opposite reactions - creating new opportunities and fresh challenges that will transform things once considered only possible yesterday into probable advances as we move towards tomorrow – allowing us to move from a perceived sense of reality to one that is quietly (and confidently) new.

Friday, March 3, 2017

CHANGE IS OFTEN FINAL BUT RARELY FATAL


Whenever a significant change in life occurs – whether it is something personal, professional or as seemingly insignificant as a store closing or a company being sold, the lyrics of a ‘60’s era song performed by The Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn) comes to mind.  Though rearranged slightly, the words were taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 – traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, the recipient of great wisdom as evidenced by his insights into human nature, change and moving forward through adversity.  The song, often used to promote peace while denouncing war during the Vietnam era, tells us there is…

·         A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted
·         A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up
·         A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance
·         A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away, and, above all,
·         To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens

Though probably not intended to stir feelings of remorse or deep thoughts during a closeout sale, these words came crashing down upon me recently as heard about the closing of stores that were around to help me grow.  Sears, Family Christian Stores, MC Sports – all West Michigan landmarks that provided clothes, tools, toys and food for thought – are closing.  Our landscape is changing – what was once significant has lost its value and things not imagined have rushed to replace them.  We face the choice of holding on to the past by immersing ourselves in the memories of what was OR of reaching towards the future by discovering the opportunities that have yet to be revealed.

While life does go on – everything having its season, time and purpose with new ideas and concepts replacing the old (which will eventually be replaced by other new ideas and concepts) – a sadness cloaks us whenever a landmark business or store must shutter its doors forever.  The nearly empty racks – their substance stripped from them by customers eager to find a bargain – stand as barren as the carcass of a living creature pounced upon by scavengers seeking sustenance.  The organization – once a provider of jobs for many – is but a final resting place for the few left behind to turn out the lights before locking the doors upon their last exit. 

Whenever an enterprise shuts down or a relationship ends, a cloak of darkness covers what were once fresh starts and new beginnings.  Even when the bright promise of a dream is replaced by another, it was seemingly discarded after losing its significance.  Life mirrors the finality that changing seasons bring to time – every end ushering in a new beginning, often from an incomplete perspective that shows us only the beginning of a new journey rather than the whole trip that is ahead.  It is hard to fathom a Phoenix rising from the ashes to fly once more if we dwell upon the decline and ultimate decimation of an organization (or of a person or relationship) that helped to form our beliefs, values and lives rather than on what could become of a new organization, opportunity or relationship IF ONLY we looked ahead rather than back.

Though it is hard to let go of our past familiarity when forced to enter an unknown and unexpected chapter in our life – whether it might be a change in personal relationships or the business interactions in which we participate – it is unhealthy to dwell upon the loss each season’s passing brings.   When faced with the reality of change, some choose to hold on to what will no longer be while others prefer reaching out to identify dreams that will provide opportunities to succeed anew.  We can stay silent in our suffering as we mourn the past or speak out in anticipation of events not yet realized – focusing our energies on what might become rather than clinging to what has been but will be no more.  If we hope to turn towards a better tomorrow we must cast away those things holding us back as we gather up new opportunities upon which we can establish a new foundation.  Our perspective determines how we embrace opportunities in life – how we “Turn, Turn, Turn” when given the chance to begin anew.  Our willingness to accept what has been as history and look ahead to what could be possible as our emerging future will transform our dreams and aspirations into reality as long as we truly believe that each end is but the beginning to a new sense of purpose.
 
The closing of a business can feel much like the end of a relationship.  No matter how much we may seek comfort in “what was” we cannot hide from the fact that each new season brings change.  How we react and respond to change determines whether an unanticipated event or action will result in crippling anxiety or exhilarating opportunity.  Our world is filled with choices that bring us new beginnings – that allow us to either “keep or to cast away” as we “plant or reap.”  It is up to us to make the most of our opportunities – to continue turning from each end towards each new beginning – if we are to thrive in the life we have ahead of us (rather than seeking refuge as we hide in our past success).
 

In regards to Sears, MC Sports and Family Christian Stores (and others that have closed or are yet to face change), remember the impact they had upon your life yet move beyond the past to express your hope the next time you witness the misfortune of others by reaching out to cushion their fall.  Make the most of your life as you close each chapter you have experienced to begin anew – as you turn the pages within the growing book of your life!  See in each void the light of hope – in each fall the chance to rise – as you turn from one season to another by embracing the finality of change and welcoming the opportunity to achieve a fresh start that each new beginning brings.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TO MANAGE OR TO LEAD? THAT IS THE QUESTION...


A manager mobilizes others to act in order to accomplish a defined goal or objective.  Managers identify (and communicate) expected results then train, direct or tell others what must be done to accomplish specific tasks.  The shortcoming with managing, however, is that doing things “by the book” and “as expected” inhibits innovation, creativity and change.  Unfortunately, many managers put what is accomplished above how it is done, inadvertently demonstrating that the ends are more important than the means.  Managers who dictate who does what, how is it to be done and what is an acceptable outcome can accomplish much BUT will rarely inspire others to greatness nor improve upon “what is” by discovering “what could be.”  Through the application of a specific and highly honed skill-set, managers successfully:

·         Identify objectives
·         Communicate expectations
·         Monitor progress and modify processes and
·         Acknowledge results

We know that when someone moves into their first management role it is common to do what their favorite manager did OR intentionally act differently than their worst supervisor.  Far too often, however, employees are promoted into management because they were great “performers” and are expected to pass their exceptional abilities on to others (without being equipped with the tools necessary to make this transfer).  Managing tends to be accomplished through “carrot and stick” directives – with an emphasis on the stick and a minimization of the carrot.  These traditional methods of managing people at work, however, are being challenged by social and cultural factors within today’s workforce.  Some Managers get frustrated with this emerging reality as they keep behaving the way they always have (believing that if they show consistency of style and predictability of reactions employees will eventually adapt) expecting to motivate a different workforce. 

A leader accomplishes transformational change through people.  While great leaders are typically good managers, a strong manager does not necessarily have the ability to lead.  Leaders accomplish change by inspiring others to act (without fearing failure) rather than expecting them to act as directed.  Leaders are able to leverage the strengths of employees having diverse backgrounds, experiences, values and expectations to achieve a common goal or shared outcome.  A Leader must be willing to change course while keeping sight on the objective, recognizing that anything worth accomplishing often presents risks and challenges that must be overcome – that changing conditions, new information, or unexpected obstacles are temporary obstructions in life’s pathway to success.  Leaders who embrace change and welcome different perspectives are open to new ideas and often accomplish much more than could have been done individually.  Successful leaders must periodically reflect upon “how” things are done rather than focusing solely upon “what was done” and must work with (rather than through) others in order to achieve success.  A great leader accomplishes much by consistently:
  •         Building and maintaining relationships
  •         Identifying and satisfying the needs of all those invested in an outcome
  •         Motivating and rewarding individuals while acknowledging the contributions of a team
  •          Establishing trust and showing respect
  •          Setting goals, communicating expectations and providing feedback, and
  •          Allowing people to learn from (rather than punishing them for) failure

It is difficult to get employees to act independently and take accountability for their actions – embracing both the lessons of their shortcomings and the success of their accomplishments – if they are “told” how to do what they have been assigned rather than being “sold” on why something must be done and allowed to participate in choosing how it might be best accomplished.  The days of an autocratic and directive management style are long gone, replaced by a need for adaptability, responsiveness and oversight.  A good leader NEVER lessens the requirements or expectations of a job nor diminishes individual performance standards or overall results.  Today’s leader must, however, understand how to leverage (and acknowledge) individual strengths to accomplish corporate objectives.  Clearly communicating expectations then effectively engaging others to establish processes and procedures that will accomplish required objectives then monitoring and measuring activities while staying out of the way of progress are the keys to successful leadership.  While managers can still help to identify problems, strong and effective leaders become a vital part of most new and innovative solutions.